The mistake many young mothers make is in suddenly weaning a child. Weaning is a gradual process, not an act to be determined upon on some particular day of the week, and insisted on in spite of loud remonstrances from the baby.
When baby reaches eight or nine months he should be given part of his food from the spoon, and be gradually accustomed to this method of feeding. It is always a good thing when the bottles are dispensed with, but, at the same time, there is no harm in giving baby a bottle when he goes to bed, even after the age of nine or ten months. He takes his last meal quietly and comfortably, and it is always a hard struggle to induce him to lie down without his bottle at bedtime.
It is never a wise plan to wean baby during a spell of very hot weather ; that is, if the child is being naturally nursed by the mother. Weaning under such circumstances means the sudden change to unaccustomed artificial food, and the risk of an attack of summer diarrhoea, which is a very serious ailment.
Baby should never be weaned when he is indisposed. When a child is feverish and fretful, for example, from cutting a tooth, it is positive cruelty to insist upon weaning.
Choose a time when baby is well, and spread the weaning processes over perhaps two weeks. Gradually reduce the number of times that baby is fed from the mother, or from the bottle, so that at the end of the first week baby is taking most of his daily meals from a cup or spoon. By the end of the second week, perhaps, he should be nursed only at bedtime, after which it should be stopped altogether.
It is sometimes necessary to wean a baby from the mother even before six months. This should be done, for example, if the mother's health is over-strained by nursing, or if the child is not thriving and increasing in weight. In some cases the mother's nursing should only be supplemented by extra feeding; and there is no ground for the fairly common idea that mixed feeding - that is, partly natural and partly from the bottle - is not a good thing.
Foods for Baby when Weaned
When baby reaches the age of eight or nine months he is probably getting an occasional meal consisting of a good reliable malted or patent food. He is even given a crust of bread to bite or cut his teeth on, and at nine months a tea-spoonful of the red gravy from a joint is excellent fare two or three times a week. A little potato or the head of a cauliflower, well mashed, may be mixed with the gravy.
He must still have a good deal of milk; and the reason why many children do not get on so well after nine or ten months is that they are not getting sufficient food. Encourage baby as much as possible to take his little mug of milk at meals, as it is the very best food he can have, and the most easily digested. But he can now and again have a little arrowroot or ground rice pudding, made with the yolk of an egg. The reason the yolk is used is that it is more nourishing than the white, and the whole egg is too much. He may not be able to take more than half of this pudding, if as much. At ten months some of the yolk and white mixed will make an excellent meal.
At a year old he may be able to take half an egg, but occasionally children do not care for eggs, and cannot digest them. When a child shows distaste for egg as an article of diet, it should be stopped entirely for a few weeks. A few breadcrumbs may be mixed with a soft-boiled egg occasionally.
A Dietary at Ten Months
Then bread-and-milk is quite a suitable meal for babies about ten months old. It must be carefully prepared. In the first place, the bread should be twenty-four hours old. A fairly thick slice should be cut, and the crust removed. An ounce of this bread is sufficient, and it should be cut into small cubes, put in a clean saucepan with six or seven ounces of fresh milk, and brought to the boil. It may be gently boiled for a minute or two, being stirred with a spoon, and served when it is sufficiently cool.
It may be a little difficult at first to make baby drink from a cup. The milk has to be warmed until it is at the right-temperature, and then the nurse must patiently teach the baby, without forcing him or making him irritable, to take a little from the cup at each meal, giving him the bottle afterwards if necessary.
As a guide to feeding children after weaning, at nine or ten months, the following dietary will be found very useful :
For breakfast at seven o'clock give the usual bottle containing seven or eight ounces of milk. Then at ten some of the milk should be given in a spoon and out of the cup, but the mother must be careful to see that baby gets his due allowance. Now at dinner-time he should have a little of the red gravy with potato or cauliflower, and on alternate days perhaps some yolk of egg and breadcrumbs, or milk pudding. When he takes this, halve the usual allowance of milk - i.e., four ounces should be taken from the cup or bottle. Baby may be tried with a cup at four o'clock, and at 6.30 he should be given the bottle as he goes to bed.
The four o'clock meal should sometimes take the form of bread-and-milk, so as gradually to wean him still further ; and by twelve months he may be having bread-and-butter, or rusks and milk occasionally.