Additional reading recommended for you: Breastfeeding: A miracle Cure
Have you ever heard that breastfeeding into toddler years is a bad idea because it is hard to wean? I did, many times. There are a couple of reasons why I found it easy to wean a toddler, though.
I tried to wean my first baby many times when he was aged between 8 and 18 months because I was worried about rules, social expectations, etc. It was going against instinct to wean him though, so, naturally, it was stressful in every way for both of us. I listened to my intuition and waited until he was 26 months and weaned much more easily.
For my second baby, I trusted my intuition all the way.
This is my rationale on why it is actually easy to wean a toddler.
When a baby is born, it is instinct to move to the breast for breastmilk. It quickly becomes more than just instinct behind the baby’s desire to breastfeed though. The baby becomes reliant on the breastmilk.
- To stay connected to its mum’s heartbeat and warm skin and breath.
- For nourishment.
- For relief of heartburn and belly-ache and teething pain.
- To have a safe place in this big bright world.
- And many more reasons.
The baby grows, and the instinct and reliance on breastfeeding continues well into its infant and crawler years. Even into its toddler years, especially for teething relief and ongoing nourishment while the toddler learns about eating regular, everyday foods. The toddler also takes emotional security in nursing and adapting to the social world. A mum’s heart beat is the ultimate comfort, along with sweet and warm milk and the perfect skin connection.
The toddler grows and can communicate when he wants to nurse … this is a beautiful thing.
As the toddler grows and becomes reliant on everyday foods and water and milk, breastfeeding is still an important part of diet, but mostly feels like comfort and cuddles. I love the idea of breastfeeding older toddlers for the health benefits to both toddler and mum.
And this is when I feel that the instinct or reliance on breastfeeding is replaced by a comfort or security. Those little fingers going down the shirt without little one noticing he is doing it. The quick 5 second lip to nipple before running off to play. The glancing at mummy every 15 minutes to make sure she doesn’t go far away.
So when it’s time to encourage a little one to feel safe without the nipple, what will work in weaning? For me it was simply comforting our little boy in his regular homely routine. And then introducing a slight, exciting, change to the routine, a new bedtime ritual with more stories and lighting (and snuffing) a candle during story-time. A couple of days into this routine, while my toddler was still excited about the new ritual, I made the change to release the habit to breastfeed.
Instinct –> Instinct plus Reliance –> Reliance plus Habit –> Habit
Changing a baby’s instinct or reliance on breastfeeding is trying to change natural biological needs. Releasing a habit and changing a daily rhythm, on the other hand, can be fun, and easy – yes, very easy.
More support for breastfeeding your toddler? Read this blog: Spreading the word that a toddler’s health and happiness counts too.
Joanna Becker, Author and Wellness Medium
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