Learning about approval and disapproval
Toward the end of his first year, when he is nine or ten months old, the baby begins to know the difference between his parents’ approval and disapproval. The time is coming when they will begin to teach him the things he must learn. But they cannot yet count on him to remember, from one time to another, what he has been told. He is taking his first steps in learning and will have to be told “no” each time he reaches for something forbidden. He can understand at the moment that this is something he may not have, but he is not old enough to remember the lesson. For many months he cannot take much responsibility for what he does. At this stage it is enough that when his mother says “no” or seems disapproving, he realizes for the moment that this is something he may not do and so pulls back his hand and stops. There should be no scolding or punishing, for a child of this age cannot understand cause and effect and would be simply frightened by punishment. It is best to turn a baby’s attention from the thing he may not do to something he may do.
When it is time to wean
Sometime around the seventh to ninth month, the doctor will probably recommend weaning the baby from the breast or bottle. Whenever weaning is started it should be done as gradually as necessary. Because of the close emotional relationship between mother and baby at feeding time, one must remember that weaning involves not only the change from breast or bottle to cup but also the giving up of a close relationship between mother and child. The child must have plenty of cuddling and holding at other times during the weaning period to make up for this loss.
It is wise to prepare for the weaning period by giving the breast-fed baby a bottle feeding once a day, so that he is already used to the bottle when he must finally give up the breast. If the weaning is from breast or bottle to cup, it is a good idea to place a cup on the baby’s tray some weeks ahead, so that he has had time to experiment with it. At first, he may merely look at it and play with it. Gradually, with a little encouragement, he will drink a few drops from it. Some mothers are very successful in beginning at about six months, when the baby can sit up, to give him orange juice from a cup. This makes the ultimate use of a cup at weaning time much easier.
Babies differ in the ease with which they are weaned. Some youngsters take easily to the bottle or to the cup and can be weaned quite rapidly. Others find it difficult to give up the comfort of sucking. Weaning goes more smoothly if the baby’s mother can stay relaxed. There is usually no reason to hurry weaning or be concerned if it takes some time. Weaning should rarely be faster than the child can accept it, and rarely should it be forced. It is wise to remember that children differ in the amount of sucking needed. Some babies seem to need a bedtime bottle until well along in their second year, even though they may take all the rest of their meals well from cup and spoon. Others stop much earlier. When a child keeps his bedtime bottle into his second year, the time usually comes when, of his own accord, he pushes it aside and the weaning process is ended.
It is often best to try weaning one meal at a time, starting with the meal at which the child gets his greatest quantity of solid food. Some children learn to drink from the cup better if they are still held in their mother’s arms, others by having the cup offered to them while in their chair. The cup should not be forced on the child. If he rebels against it let him have some milk from his bottle and then offer the cup again a little later. Praise him a bit when he drinks from his cup and show him approval. Some babies prefer a small cup; others seem to do better with a thick-edged small glass. If a glass is used, however, care must be taken to see that the baby does not bite a piece out of the edge. Since this has happened quite frequently, it is better to use a plastic or unbreakable cup or mug if possible. Many babies do not seem to like the feeling of pewter or silver cups. (Continue below to page