Weaning a baby from breast is probably the most challenging and if not done properly will cause lot of emotional trauma to the mother and baby.
As mentioned in the article on breast feeding, nursing your baby confers many benefits on you and your baby. Not only is your baby protected by the regular dose of antibodies he gets through your milk, these nursing session are also a emotionally secure spot for him. This is the time when he is just content to let his defences down and just suckle. So the more you nurse the more beneficial it is for you.
But how long should you nurse?
There is no arbitrary time set for weaning your baby. Most text books of paediatrics will recommend that you introduce food similar to adult food when the baby is six months of age. You should initially start with small quantities of liquid or semi solid food which can be easily digested. Mashed vegetables and fruits are good starters. You can also supplement your breast feed with plenty of pre-packed baby food as well. Foods like eggs and nuts are not easily digested by your baby, so avoid them.
Introduction of solid food in your baby’s diet does not mean that he no longer requires to be nursed. He is still your baby and he requires the sme emotional sanctuary as he did before. As he grows up he will require you less often. For example babies around 1 yrs of age will not nurse more that 4-5 times a day. So it is best to follow a baby centric model of weaning. Most babies will completely stop breastfeeding by the time they are 2-3 yrs of age.
2-3yrs may seem like a long time in many advanced societies including US, but the benefits of extended breast feeding far outweigh any silly cultural issues its opponents may claim.
You must remember never to stop nursing abruptly. Stopping abruptly will cause your breasts to swell up and cause an infection. Stopping abruptly will also emotionally hurt the baby.
Weaning an older child who isn’t ready can be a real challenge. You should not feel guilty if you decide to wean your toddler, because only you know when the time is right for you and your family. Allow several weeks of concentrated time and attention to the process of weaning. Any baby who has nursed for a year or more is obviously really into it, and isn’t likely to give it up easily.-Don’t offer, but don’t refuse. Nurse him only when he is really adamant about it, but don’t offer to nurse at other times.-Make sure that you offer regular meals, snacks, and drinks to minimize hunger and thirst. Remember also that babies nurse for reasons besides hunger, including comfort, boredom, and to fall asleep. If he demands a feed try distracting him with a snack or a walk outside. You can take the help of your husband to put him back to sleep at nights.
With older toddlers (two years plus) you can begin by setting limits on nursing. Substitute nursing on demand for nursing at your convenience. You also shorten the duration of any given feeding.
Weaning is a process that begins as soon as you introduce other foods into your baby’s di Babies wean at different ages, just as they get teeth at different ages. When you wean your baby is a decision for you to make, ideally based on signs of developmental readiness. Breastfeeding provides benefits for both you and your baby no matter how long you nurse.