Written by Liza John
Breastfeeding is an incredibly personal process. Weaning your child from breastmilk has not only nutritional implications but also emotional and psychological ones as well.
Each parent may feel differently on when to stop breastfeeding a child and that’s alright. Every parent and child duo has different needs that should be considered before deciding to put an end to breastfeeding. Thus, there is no right time to wean your child from breastfeeding but generally, people stop nursing their children by the age of one.
Major health organizations recommend breastfeeding for at least one year, where the child is exclusively breastfed for about 6 months. The later months can be breastfeeding combined with the gradual incorporation of solid foods.
Both the World Health Organization (WHO)and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommend breastfeeding for a longer duration as long as both individuals benefit from it.
Why Should You Wean Your Kid Off Breast Milk?
Even though the nutritional value of breastmilk does not deplete with time, prolonged breastfeeding can damage the natural course of your child’s development. Apart from nutrition, a child comes to their mother for comfort and while nursing can be soothing in the initial days, children should learn to comfort themselves without breastmilk.
Not weaning the child from breastfeeding in the appropriate age bracket can reflect behavioural issues. On a related note, some experts view prolonged nursing as an indulgence for the mother and the baby. Separation anxiety seen at the time of weaning teaches a child to cope without the parents, which is critical for the child to grow and evolve.
Transitioning your child’s diet from breastmilk may have different reasons. The results depend on the child’s age and other scenarios in your surroundings. Experts generally advise parents to carry out this process gently and gradually. While weaning, you need to make sure that your body and the baby’s health are coping with the change.
- If you start weaning the baby before six months, you need to supplement their diet with formula. Start with one bottle of formula a day and gradually increase it. While substituting for breastmilk, ensure that you choose a formula that meets your child’s nutritional needs. Occasionally nursing the baby, while they are reliant on formula is only going to be beneficial.
- If you decide to start weaning your child from breastmilk at 6-12 months, you can incorporate some solid foods into their diet. In such instances, remember that the baby is not used to solid foods. Fill your baby’s diet with a combination of breastmilk, formula, and solid foods. Try one type of simple solid food at a time, such as mashed bananas or potatoes. While gradually removing breastmilk from the equation, check in with your body to make sure that there are no engorgement or breast infections.
- Once your child is a little older than one, breastfeeding becomes more like a source of comfort instead of a nutritional one. Since your child has taken to drinking water and other fluids by this age, it is not necessary to include a formula in their diet now. Build your baby’s diet by feeding them soft and easy foods like pureed fruits, mashed vegetables, and oatmeal. Emotional attachment may result in the child being persistent in their attempts to be nursed. Distracting them with something while they express the desire to be nursed has been proven to be effective in weaning kids.
- Sometimes, children need to be weaned off breastfeeding suddenly when the mother faces some health complications. This may be medication, an unprecedented life event, or due to their work demands. In such cases, substitute breastmilk with formula and other simple foods depending on the child’s age. At the same time, the mother has to take extra care to prevent leaking, engorgement, or infections in the breast. Weaning suddenly can be very taxing on both the parent and the child, so try to cope by maintaining emotional closeness.
Breastfeeding a baby is essential in forming their immunity as well as their personality. Most children self-wean by the age of one, so parents need not be overly concerned about forcing the process. Once the baby is weaned, remember to provide your baby with other forms of TLC so that they become well-adjusted individuals.