There is still considerable debate as to when breastfeeding should be stopped. While breast is best, especially in the first year of baby’s life, at some point your baby or toddler has to give up breast milk. It is usually accepted that stopping breastfeeding altogether by the age of 2 years will be suitable as it will not deprive your baby of any essential nutrition. However some mothers choose to breastfeed till the age of 3 years and this is not necessarily a negative undertaking. Persisting beyond this point could be considered harmful to your young child’s social and emotional development, although the odd suckling, even if you are not producing any milk should not be reprimanded.
Reducing Baby’s Breastfeeding
After the age of one, your baby will be drinking less breast milk as they derive most of their nutrition from food. Breastfeeding around bedtime and upon waking may still be part of baby’s daily schedule and this contributes to the emotional bond between mother and child. However if baby is attempting to derive most of their nutrition from breast milk then steps need to be taken to discourage this behavior. Breast milk may not be adequate to sustain a growing child at this age and if the toddler is averse to food, you should consult with a pediatrician to discuss the matter further.
‘Cold Turkey’ Breastfeeding
If you are planning to stop breastfeeding, then going ‘cold turkey’ may be the best option. A baby or toddler cannot understand that they will only get breast milk at certain times if they have been previously used to being breastfed whenever they demanded. It may be a bit of an upset, with a lot of tears and power plays, but once your baby realizes that you will not relent, he/she will have to succumb. Of course, it is not advisable to shun your baby because you have stopped breastfeeding. Find other activities to ensure that you baby does not feel neglected as they may misunderstand your efforts of holding back breast milk as emotional rejection.
Bottle Feeding in Place of Breast
The debate continues to rage as to whether babies should be switched from breastfeeding to bottle feeding as a means of being weaned off breast milk. Bottle feeding should only be considered if your baby is still too young to drink from a cup or straw and has rejected the breast. Alternatively, bottle feeding may be necessary for those working mothers who have to return to their career but their baby may not be at the age to give up suckling. If you have to bottle feed, do not always choose a baby milk formula. If you can express your breast milk and store it for baby’s drinking at a later stage, then this should be encouraged. In the event that this is not viable, then a baby formula will suffice but speak to your pediatrician and carefully select the brand and type of baby formula.
Breast Milk to Fruit Juice
Another common practice that should be discouraged is switching a toddler to bottle feeds of fruit juice as a means of weaning the child off breast milk. This is never advisable as fruit juice can be detrimental to the child’s newly formed teeth. Tooth cavities, weak and brittle teeth, as well as a range of gastrointestinal symptoms, like indigestion and diarrhea, can be triggered by an excessive intake of fruit juice.