If you are not experiencing any health problems, you can continue to breastfeed your baby as long as you want. This can go on until your baby turns 2. You don’t need to wean your baby off breast milk until both of you are ready to do so. Even though breast milk is no longer the main source of nutrients for your baby, it still continues to be a source of health and happiness for him/her.
Some mothers plan when they will stop breastfeeding. However, the length of time you will continue breastfeeding your baby depends on your physical and emotional state as well as other factors. Regardless of the date you plan to wean your baby, you should breastfeed your baby during the first 6 months of his/her life and continue breastfeeding even after your baby is introduced to solid foods. This will ensure that your baby starts his/her life healthy.
If you decide to stop breastfeeding you may need to implement this in different ways, depending on your baby’s age and the circumstances that led you to this decision.
Get ready for the change
Some babies refuse to be breastfed and thus naturally bring an end to this process. On the other hand, some babies are difficult to wean from breast milk. There are various ways of preparing yourself and your baby for this separation.
For example you can replace the breastfeeding with formula in a bottle or some other food. You can reduce the frequency and duration of breastfeeding, starting with the time your baby shows the least interest in it.
If your baby is used to being calmed down by breastfeeding you can have her accustomed to a soft toy or a blanket to be used later on to calm him/her down. You can change the places you use to breastfeed your baby with those that distract him/her. You can move from a quiet and soft armchair to a room full of interesting toys.
If you child is old enough, you can talk to her about why you need to stop breastfeeding, and explain to her the positive aspects of growing up and how there must now be some changes in her life. You can tell your child that your breast milk is all used up or offer her a different reason by saying that it hurts to breastfeed.
Take care to wean your baby when he/she is happy and healthy and could be peacefully prepared for the separation process, rather than doing it when he/she is unhappy and restless. Tell and show him/her frequently that your time together will not be reduced and you can still cuddle together and hug each other.
Implementing each step within a few days or if necessary a few weeks with intervals in between would ensure an easier achievement of your objectives.
If your baby is not enthusiastic at all…
If your baby is not as enthusiastic as you are but you are determined to conclude this process and wean your baby from breast milk, you must be patient. Your baby might like the calming effect lying in your lap gives him/her as much as sucking the breast milk. You can implement the following tactics, bearing in mind that he/she finds calm and comfort through breastfeeding:
• Offer your baby different alternatives that will relax and reassure him/her. Show him/her interest by singing him/her, hugging and playing with him/her.
• Postpone your breastfeeding time as much as possible. When he/she asks to be breastfed, tell him/her you will do it a bit later and try to distract him/her with a different activity. For example; you can tell your child, who wants to be fed in the evening, to wait until bedtime.
• Periods like when you are going back to work, when the child is ill, or when you are moving house might not be the right times to wean your child. Choose the times when your child is familiar with his/her environment, comfortable as well as healthy, to wean him/her off breast milk.
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