When it comes to weaning, breastfeeding toddlers are the minority. If you have breastfed your baby up to toddlerhood, congratulate yourself for being able to give your child the best nutrition possible for the first few years of your baby’s life.
Weaning a toddler from breastfeeding is in itself a milestone for mother and child since it marks an important change in how mom and child relate to each other. Moms who have breastfed this long often find it hard to imagine what it would be like to be no longer breastfeeding their toddler. Breastfeeding has become a staple of their everyday routine, a natural and important part of their relationship.
At this age, breastfeeding is no longer the primary means to satisfy your child’s nutritional needs. Perhaps more than its role in feeding your child, in breastfeeding, your toddler gains a sense of security and comfort knowing that you are there for her.
When you are ready to stop breastfeeding, here are ways on how you can encourage weaning your breastfeeding toddler:
- Explain. Now that you have a big boy (or girl) who can somewhat understand you, it’s easier to explain that you will have to make a couple of changes, specifically when it comes to breastfeeding. Try to be as honest as possible when you talk to your toddler that one day, when she is ready, she will no longer need to breastfeed.
- Be inventive. Now is the time to serve nutritious and eye-candy food to your child. This is an experimental stage for toddlers when it comes to eating, so try a variety of foods. Exposing her to different kinds of food will help you avoid a fussy and picky eater later on. Try to combine different dips and spreads with vegetables or crackers so that your child can eat and enjoy his meals at the same time.
- Eliminate a feeding as gradually as possible. If this wasn’t done when she was a baby, now is the time to do this. Take out one feeding at a time to allow your toddler and your body to adjust and gradually introduce giving the milk in a cup. When it’s almost time for the breastfeeding session that you are trying to eliminate, avoid going to the usual place where you breastfeed your toddler. You can also try to distract him by giving him a toy to play with.
- Let your child take part in the decision to stop breastfeeding. If you decide to do natural weaning (letting both baby and mommy decide when to wean), one way to do this is to let you child choose her weaning day – that’s the day when he will no longer breastfeed. You can celebrate the milestone with a little party and give him a weaning present.
- Give him time to adjust. At this stage, your baby nurses not only to feed, but also to feel a sense of security that only a mother can give. If you take the breast away abruptly, the toddler may think that you are abandoning him. Weaning doesn’t just happen overnight. If you notice that he wants to nurse when he’s bored, then give him something to play with or read to him. Observe his wants so that you don’t have to force him into anything he doesn’t want to do.
Remember: Should you decide to wean at this stage, you have no reason to feel guilty. The modern mother (especially a working one) breastfeeds an average of 6 to 10 months from the time the baby is born.
Breast milk is good for the child and is always recommended no matter what the age, but if you feel the need to wean (and if your toddler wants to do so as well), then now is a good time to do it.