How to wean your baby off of breast milk

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How old should your baby be before you start weaning them?

Deciding to wean your baby is a personal choice that every mother must make. Some women decide to continue breastfeeding at least intermittently into the early toddler years. The American Academy of Pediatrics does strongly recommend that mothers stick to breast-feeding for the first six months of a child’s life, followed by a combination of small amounts of solid foods and breast milk until the age of one. Some children will start weaning on their own. They may deliberately seek out other sources of nutrition or get fidgety when breastfeeding. Others may happily continue breastfeeding into toddlerhood, if not stopped.

It is ever a good idea to wait? When?

Weaning, while a perfectly normal process, is a major change for a very young child. Try to avoid starting it when either you or your baby are sick. You may also want to avoid weaning if there’s a major life change happening, (i.e., moving, lots of travel, one parent being away, etc.). Finally, some evidence suggests that at least six months of breastfeeding reduces the risk for certain allergies and eczema later in life.

How do you get started?

An important thing to remember is to take your time and go slowly. Trying to cut your child off all at once will be tough not only for them, but also for your painfully engorged breasts. Get your body used to the process by slowly cutting down on feedings. You may find that your child loses interest in daytime feedings on their own, especially after they have been fed other sources of nutrients. Your body will start to decrease it’s milk supply in response. Use ice packs to minimize discomfort during this time.

Try distracting instead of denying.

Telling a child that they are not allowed to nurse may just make them want to do it more. Instead, draw their attention away to other activities. Try feeding them a meal of solid food around the time they might normally nurse, then engage them in a fun game or other diversion afterwards.

How long will the process take?

How long the process of weaning takes depends upon you and your child. Some children can be weaned in just a few days, especially if you start the process a bit later in life, while others may take weeks or even months. The important thing is to be supportive and attentive to their specific needs during this time. Try to avoid comparing yourself to other mothers and their children; weaning schedules will be as different as each child – some require more time and some less.

References.

1. Mayo Clinic: Healthy Lifestyle – Infant and toddler health – Weaning: Tips for breastfeeding mothers. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/weaning/art-20048440?pg=2. Accessed on March 31, 2015.

Photo Credit: bradleygee via Compfight cc

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Expecting Expats is the online resource for parents in and around Thailand.

We provide lifestyle and medical content to our visitors, with new content posted daily. Our lifestyle contributors are themselves expat moms who share their experiences and lessons learned through blog articles. We also provide medical content from our partner doctors at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Articles of interest span from before pregnancy through the toddler years and cover medical, behavioral and cognitive issues.

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