Weaning Your Breastfed Toddler

By in Parenting on 14 March 2008

Breastfeeding does many wonderful things for our children, and it is absolutely the best choice for infants. Eventually, it will be time to wean your toddler from breastfeeding. Either you will feel it is time or your baby will, and there are several things to look for.

Often, a baby is ready to be weaned if he or she is not satisfied with the breast milk. The baby will be fussy and continue to act hungry after the feeding. The feedings usually increase at this point and become very frequent. The mother will typically suffer at this time as the child starts to bite or becomes rougher with the feedings.

Slower Is Better

Researchers have found that babies who are weaned very quickly can become distressed. This may result in your child becoming needier and more attached to you, demanding feedings more frequently, or even displaying physical symptoms of upset such as constipation and allergic reactions. Child Specialist Patricia Ray agrees with this point. “Your child has become so accustomed to having that time for bonding as well as feeding. Often, the problem lies more in missing the closeness than having anything to do with the breast milk. By gradually decreasing the feedings along with providing extra time for bonding, you can really ensure that the child continues to feel secure.”

The mother will also typically have issues, such as engorgement and pain. It has been shown that gradual weaning is much easier with a better transition period and a smoother switch from breast to solid foods.

One important thing you can do that will make the gradual weaning better is to replace the breastfeeding times with cuddling and closeness with your child. Since breastfeeding is such a great time for bonding, often the child will miss the close moments with you. Having close, quiet time with you will help them feel more secure and ensure they are getting the affection and time they need.

What Age is the Best for Weaning?

As with anything else, children develop at different speeds. Experts agree that babies and toddlers are usually ready to make the transition to solid foods anywhere from 9 to 15 months. However, it can be earlier or later, depending upon your child. Don’t panic if your 15-month-old child still isn’t eating solid foods all the time. He or she may be eating solid foods and supplementing that with breastfeeding. The key is to watch for the signs mentioned above so you can tell whether your child is ready or not.

Tips for Weaning Your Toddler from Breastfeeding

Everyone can tell you a different story about how they weaned their child from breastfeeding, and you have probably heard many different stories from family members or friends. That doesn’t mean their methods will work for you. You will need to work at your child’s pace and your own pace. Stopping breastfeeding abruptly isn’t a good idea, either, and should be avoided if possible.

Some mothers are perfectly comfortable breastfeeding until the child has outgrown the need for it. This is called ‘baby-led’ weaning. It is not unusual for toddlers up to four years old to breastfeed. If you and your child are comfortable, so be it. Remember to take your time, and do not set a particular time for your child to be weaned. This would be like setting a time for them to sit up or walk.

Don’t give in to pressure from your family or friends about the ‘proper time’ to breastfeed. Some people think you should breastfeed for as long as possible, while others feel the baby should be weaned at nine months or a year. Use your own judgment because you and your baby are what is important, and ensuring that you are comfortable weaning your child should be first priority.

Simply remember that every child and mother is different. What works for some may not work for you. If you attempt to wean your child and feel as if it is not working or perhaps it’s not the proper time, you can try again in three months, or six months. Don’t force the issue simply because ‘Aunt Becky’ thinks your child should be weaned. Utilize the knowledge you have of your child along with helpful advice from experts. The happiness and health of you and your baby depend upon you making your own decisions regarding breastfeeding.

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