Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world. A mother’s milk is not only nutritious for a newborn; it also has many important factors that will help in protecting your baby from some of the most common pathogens that most adults and older children are immune to.
In this article, we are going to focus on weaning toddlers and we’ll give you some advice on how you could go through this process in a natural way.
What is Weaning?
Weaning is the process of introducing alternative diet to a toddler besides breast milk. When should other foods be incorporated into a baby’s diet? Here’s a very useful table that indicates the kinds of food and frequency for such a transition.
Now, this is a complicated topic and there are many different opinions on how and when to wean a toddler (for the purpose of this article we will consider a children upto 1 to 2 years old as toddlers). One of the first things we should make clear is that, after the second year of life, the benefits of breast milk become less important. Several studies support the idea that weaning even after 4 or 6 months causes no negative effects for the baby.
The World Health Organization states that breast milk is essential from the first hour after birth until the second year of a baby’s life. The important thing is to make the process of weaning smooth and healthy for both the baby and the mother.
This can be something frustrating and there’s no need to impose deadlines. Keep things flexible and try to focus on smaller goals like breastfeeding less frequently. Stress is not good for you or your toddler, there are going to be setbacks and challenging moments, just go slow.
Replacement and Distractions
At the end of the day, this is about changing habits. There are 2 valid strategies for this. You can start using some kind of replacement for milk at the moment of feeding. Something that your child likes or can grow to like over time. There are lots of options like tea, cow milk, juice etc. are perfectly good alternatives. You can start incorporating this element gradually, if he/she likes it, then it can eventually replace breast milk completely.
Some prefer using toys, a TV show or a book as a mean of distraction during the time of feeding as a way to keep your child’s mind away from the idea of having breast milk. This, again, should be done at a slow and gradual pace. Doing this drastically is not recommended.
Show him/her that the bar is not open 24/7
It might sound harsh, but if you reduce the length of the feeding sessions, you’ll send a message saying that things are changing. How you limit the time depends entirely on you. One minute for each boob is a popular practice.
Get other people involved
Dad, grandma, aunt, uncle, cousin, it doesn’t matter; people other than you should be involved in the process of soothing your child. Night is the moment in which this becomes most important. Weaning at night is recommended at the beginning and having someone other than you to attend your kid are going to make easier for both of you.
Be clear and decisive, but not unyielding
Things will be easier if you have your mind made. If you have doubts, then the process will be more difficult and confusing for your child. Give yourself permission to say NO sometimes, however, if you observe a negative change of behavior be prepared to take a step back. Your child may be having problems adapting, retaking breastfeeding for a while may be needed.
Many mothers report experiencing difficult times while and after weaning, this is called “Post-weaning depression” Which is caused by a hormonal alteration related to this process. This is completely normal and natural; the link above will give you some tips on how to deal with it.