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Despite the many struggles that are part of it, breastfeeding can be a moving experience for any new mother. The connection that she makes with her baby is instant and most gratifying. And thus, weaning proves to be an exasperating ordeal for most mothers.
You may hear different versions of how long a mother has breastfed her young one and most importantly, when she finally decided to take on the challenge of weaning her baby. The only way forward is to figure out what suits you and your toddler best.
When Should You Ideally Stop Breastfeeding?
The biggest dilemma with weaning toddlers is how to decide when it is time. Doctors recommend exclusive breastfeeding for all babies for the first six months. This helps to boost your baby’s immunity. With time, the baby grows and other forms of nutrition are introduced in the diet.
Although there isn’t any particular age for weaning, some mothers may begin soon after the baby’s first birthday while some may prefer to wait for a little while longer. Doctors argue that weaning should be baby-led. But that would mean arduously-long breastfeeding months for mothers, making it a frustrating experience for most.
Find a balance between your needs and that of your toddler. Weaning your child when you aren’t ready yourself can be difficult. Toddlerhood is the time when the child grows and adapts to the changes around her. Thoughtfully and slowly weaning at this stage would ensure that your toddler is able to organically outgrow infancy without being forced to do so.
Why Should You Stop Nursing Your Toddler?
Here’s why you may want to consider weaning your toddler:
1. Nutrition Needs Are Met
A toddler is ready to wean when her nutrition requirements are met by solid food. She may still continue to breastfeed but that is more for the security and comfort that it provides.
2. Your Needs
After many months of nursing your young one, you may reach a point when you would want to stop. Breastfeeding can be taxing and it takes a toll on the mother. It is, therefore, essential to pay heed to your body too.
3. Dwindling Breastfeeding Sessions
As your toddler grows, you may find that the frequency of suckling sessions reduce. Gradually, your toddler would also cut down on the length of these sessions and you may realize that it is time to wean.
How to Wean a Toddler from Breastfeeding?
Mothers must be sensitive when weaning toddler off breast milk. The road to gently weaning a toddler from breastfeeding is slow and shouldn’t be rushed. Here’s how you can begin:
1. Commit and Continue
Take the step and commit to it. Perseverance is the key to this journey. It may take an emotional toll on you too. Be prepared but stick to your guns.
2. Communicate with Your Toddler
As you begin the process, speak to your child about it and prepare her for the transition. Be honest. Let her know that you will always be there for her and that you will continue to snuggle and shower your love for her but in other ways. Talk about all the different things you would do together like playing games, reading stories, going for walks, etc.
3. Make It Special!
Make the weaning process a special event for your toddler. Encourage her in this “growing-up” phase with a new glass or sipper. Indulge in a small celebratory party of cupcakes or with a trip to the nearest ice cream parlour.
4. Offer a Substitute
5. Shorten the Sessions
Gradually reduce the length and frequency of nursing sessions. Do not be abrupt and understand your toddler’s needs.
6. Take It Slow
Start by dropping sessions one-by-one. Give your child enough time to get used to the change. Allow a week or so to pass by before dropping another session. You can begin with daytime suckling sessions. Night-time nursing maybe harder to drop.
7. Discourage Long Feeds
Gradually start cutting down on the length of nursing sessions. Keep the feeding session short.
8. Wear Different Clothes
Start dressing differently, such that your breasts aren’t easily accessible to your toddler. Refrain from undressing in front of your kid during the weaning period.
9. Change the Routine
Bring about small changes in your routine in order to help your toddler forget about feeding. Avoid sitting in places where you usually sit to feed your little one. Do not nurse when lying down. Engage in other fun activities like reading, drawing, playing together, going for walks, etc.
10. Ask for Help
Involve your partner and older kids to pitch in and do their bit. You can even ask your partner to take over night-time duty. When your child starts to interact with others, she may not feel the need to feed very often. Take breaks from being around her all the time.
11. Make Note of Her Tantrums
Sometimes if the weaning is going too fast, your child may start showing signs of anxiety or toddler tantrums. She may become more clingy. Take a step back and slow down, otherwise, the entire experience might become traumatic for the little one.
How to Stop Breastfeeding a Toddler at Night?
Many toddlers have the habit of nursing before naps or at bedtime and also to settle down if disturbed during the night. This one isn’t easy to tackle so remember a few things:
- There is no need to rush. Don’t drop the feed suddenly.
- Never coerce your child. That might make her cling to your breast even more.
- Talk to your toddler about how your milk is going to be over. Tell her that she is growing up.
- Introduce a bedtime ritual like a song or a story to distract her from thinking about feeding before going to bed.
- Change the feeding routine; try a different room, snuggle and hug before sleeping, etc.
- If your child wakes up from sleep, hug her and hold her close. Refrain from feeding.
- Gradually move focus away from feeding to other fun things you can do before bedtime.
- Comfort and coddle your little one adequately.
You may still be riddled with doubts about weaning your toddler. Read these FAQs to put an end to all your confusion.
1. Can Weaning Affect My Toddler’s Nutrition?
The most pressing concern for all mothers is meeting her child’s nutrition requirements. Breast milk is loaded with nutrients and calories and it strengthens the immune system. Solid food and drinks help replace breast milk in the weaning phase. Plan a balanced diet that will sustain your child’s growth and development.
2. Will Weaning Affect My Child’s Development?
Weaning is as much a part of a child’s development as growing up. Breastfeeding provides security and comfort for your little one and is part of her daily routine. Substitute this routine with other routines and rituals that meet your toddler’s need for security – a glass of hot milk or water, a story, soothing music, and loads of hugging and snuggling.
3. Will There be Any Physical Effects of Weaning I Will Face?
Weaning is a slow and time-consuming process. It is bound to affect you in one way or another. For some, it may prove to be quite stressful. This is a trying time both for the child as well as the mother. Be kind and progress gradually. Remember never to stop suddenly.
The breasts produce milk in abundance when they are emptied regularly. This comes down when you reduce the length and frequency of feeding sessions. If you stop abruptly, it can lead to painful, clogged milk ducts and breast engorgement. In worst cases, it may get infected and result in mastitis. So it’s important to go through the weaning process quite gradually.
4. What If My Toddler Won’t Let Go of Breastfeeding?
Firstly, don’t lose hope if you have a weaning-resistant toddler. Be patient and persevere. Weaning a toddler who loves to nurse can be taxing but it definitely isn’t impossible. It is normal to face resistance from the child. But if she persists, then she may not be ready yet. The best time to wean is when both you and your child are ready. It is quite a sensitive phase, so don’t rush and take your time.
As you see, there are no set rules to weaning. It works differently for every mother-child duo. Have faith in your strategy, be mindful of your child’s needs and also of how you feel, and take it slow. Don’t let guilt bog you down. Self-care is also equally important. Strengthen the bonds of love with your baby and enjoy the growing years of your little one.
Also Read: What is Extended Breastfeeding?