Breastfeeding 101: Weaning
At some point, breastfeeding will have to end. Whether you actively wean or allow your baby to self-wean, whether you're ready to be done at a few months or a few years, it won't last forever.
HOW LONG SHOULD I BREASTFEED?
As long as you and your baby want. I'll give you more references to help guide you, but that is the absolute bottom line. And I'm not just being politically correct. I won't lie to you – I may opt for not saying anything at all out of respect, but I won't lie. There is a reason you should nurse for exactly as long as you and your baby want: You do not want to end up resenting your baby for for continuing to breastfeed when you are no longer interested and you do not want to end up regretting your decision and resenting your mother-in-law (or whoever) for forcing you to stop early. This is an emotional time and an emotional decision. How you form your relationship with your baby is nobody's business but your own.
I will only qualify that statement with one thing, which I have brought up before: I still really think you should give it at least 2 months (assuming there are no health problems), even if you hate it for 2 months. (I did!) That length of time is hard no matter what, and you won't know what breastfeeding is really like until you get through it. Two months is what I refer to as “an honest shot.” After that, I really started bonding with my son and enjoying the experience. Only then did I feel like I knew how long I wanted to nurse.
WHAT DO THE EXPERTS SAY?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding “for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mutually desired.” You can check my facts here, but I don't really recommend reading this whole thing! pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content
The World Health Organization recommends nursing for two years and beyond. www.who.int/nutrition/topics/infantfeeding
For those of you who think the idea is weird, here are the benefits of toddler nursing: www.kellymom.com/bf/bfextended/ebf-benefit
IS IT WORTH BREASTFEEDING FOR ONLY A SHORT WHILE?
Absolutely! Any amount of breast milk is good. Here is a terrific article on what your baby gets if you nurse for different length of time, from a few days to several years: www.wiessinger.baka.com/bfing/breastvbottl
The bottom line is that benefit-wise: The longer the better, but any amount is good.
I should say measurable benefits. Because of course, only you know if factors in your life and your personal situation make continuing to breastfeed worse for your family and your relationships. I give you these facts only to educate, not to coerce. You know what breastfeeding does and can do. Now, it's up to you.
YOU AND YOUR BABY MATTER
No one else. Some of you will feel pressure to go longer than you like. Others will feel pressure to quit before you are ready. I started getting the comments at about 6 months of age... “How long are you going to nurse?” “I think it's weird to nurse a baby who can walk or talk.” Be strong. This is about you and your baby. You know those people are being ignorant. If you didn't know before, I just showed you the benefits of nursing older babies and toddlers. And I'm sure you realize that walking and talking has nothing to do with nutrition, boosting immune systems, and bonding!
YOU DON'T HAVE TO DECIDE NOW
For whatever reasons, I've heard moms set a time limits on nursing ahead of time, such as 6 months or 1 year. I'm sure they have their reasons, but the limits seem so random to me. If you don't have an overwhelming reason, I recommend deciding later and stopping when you feel ready to stop rather than putting artificial limits on nursing.
CHILD-LED VS. MOTHER-LED WEANING www.kellymom.com/bf/weaning/how_weaning_ha
Basically, these are just what they sound like. Child-led weaning allows the baby to decide when he is done. This usually happens sometimes between 2 and 4 and rarely happens before 18 months.
Mother-led weaning happens when the mother decides to wean before the child is fully ready. This can be done gently and should be done as gradually as possible.
Sudden weaning is not an ideal situation for mother or baby. It can be hard on your body and wreak havoc with emotions. If you don't have to do this, don't!
WEANING BEFORE 12 MONTHS
The American Academy of Pediatrics tells us that babies under 12 months of age should not receive cow's milk. They need either breast milk or iron-fortified infant formula. This means that if you begin an active weaning process before 12 months, you must wean to formula.
Some moms want their babies weaned “by their first birthday.” If this is true for you, then that's fine, but understand that medical opinion would have you wean to formula, even if you begin weaning at 10 or 11 months, and not switch to cow's milk until 1 year of age.
Ideally, if you're looking to end it at about a year, you would want to start actively cutting back on the first birthday in order to avoid needing formula. (I'll get into that in the next section.)
So to wean before a year you will want to cut back on one feeding every 2-3 weeks (ideally). Replace it with formula. If you can't go that long, just space this out as long as you can. The faster you go, the harder this could be on your body and your baby. Try to get at least 1 week between cutting each new feeding.
If your baby does not take formula, you may have to trick them into taking it by mixing it with breast milk, which is much sweeter. You can start with a 75% BM / 25% formula mix and gradually tip the balance to all formula.
Make sure that as you cut back on nursing, you continue to love and comfort your baby. Especially for younger babies, try to continue the skin to skin contact that was natural with nursing. Don't be afraid to take off your shirt (and baby's) and cuddle that way.
For those of you weaning older babies, you may want to consider going to a cup rather than a bottle. The AAP and the ADA (American Dental Association) want to see babies weaned form the bottle by 12 months, so if you start to wean from the breast after 6 months, you may as well skip the bottle entirely.
WEANING AFTER 12 MONTHS
First, let me point out that weaning actually starts when you start solids. This is not active weaning, though. It is more passive and baby-led. Yet you will notice that your 1-year-old nurses less than she did at 6 months. The numbers vary widely so I won't try to average this one out. If you are still nursing on demand (which you should be at this point) then you are nursing the right amount.
After 12 months, you won't be directly replacing nursing with a substitute milk, rather, you will be transitioning to a toddler eating schedule that includes foods at set feeding times. As much as babies need to nurse on demand, toddlers thrive on a schedule. (A lot of this is in the book by Ellen Satter that I recommended, “Child of Mine.”) You should already be serving table foods at regular times by one year of age to encourage your child to learn to eat.
If you want to actively wean your child then it is essential that they learn to eat table foods well. Many 12-month-olds are still not that great at eating. One thing you can do to encourage them is to start nursing on a schedule. Some toddlers won't be tempted to learn to like new foods if they know that they can ask for a substitute at any time. Many mothers will continue nursing on demand past a year, especially if they are interested in long-term nursing or baby-led weaning, but if you are ready to actively wean, then I encourage you to schedule feedings – including nursing – to help encourage your child to eat well.
Before one year, it's best to nurse before offering a meal. After one year, if you want to wean, switch it to after.
Also, start offering a cup with whole milk at mealtimes. Offer it on the table with the meal as another food choice and allow your baby to explore it at leisure. (Whole milk is the best for toddlers because it has a higher fat content which is good for their developing brains. At 2, they can go to whatever you're drinking.)
Make sure you are offering frequent meals. Typically, 3 full meals and 2-3 small snacks is good.
When you are ready, drop one feeding at a time. As I said before, the more gradual this process the better. If you can go 2-3 weeks, that's great. Honestly, I wasn't in any hurry and did a month between. It was very gentle on both of us and in the end, my son dropped half the feedings on his own.
Start with the feedings that your baby is least interested in anyway. Since you are not directly replacing the feeding with any food, you will need to replace it with something else – time and attention. Or possibly a distraction. You may want to plan an outing at the time your child normally nurses or get them involved in an activity.
Whatever you do, make sure to spend quality time cuddling and loving on your toddler.
Each weaning process is going to be a little different. That's the best basic advice I can give you. You'll have to tailor it to your child and your situation.
Since I didn't choose to do this, I'd appreciate some personal stories to help us through this one!
If you plan to let your child self-wean, then you will probably continue to nurse on demand. You should, however, schedule solid food meals and give your child opportunities to learn to eat and experience a wide variety of foods.
If your child weans himself, he will gradually cut back on nursing. Abrupt stops are usually a nursing strike. www.kellymom.com/bf/concerns/baby/back-to-
A child will usually not self-wean before 18 months unless something else is going on, such as mom getting pregnant. (Some babies won't like the taste of the milk after mom gets pregnant.) If you are willing to fully let your child wean, then you may be looking at 2-4 years. If you are planning to have more children, you may also be looking at tandem nursing
Of course, you can always compromise by, say, allowing your baby to nurse “for two years or until she is done.” There are as many ways to wean as there are babies and mothers. I hope you can find something in here that works for you.www.kellymom.com/bf/tandem/links-nursingpr
So, that's it! Questions/Comments?
I would like to give a sweet mama from babyfit a special thank you for giving me permission to use her info. Thank you Christine Amsden!! Also, I want to invite you all to look at her new website! www.christineamsden.com
Edited by: ROAD2HEALTHY at: 1/5/2009 (16:26)
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