The benefits of prolonged breastfeeding
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with your baby breastfeeding for a prolonged period of time – in fact, if you look at his digestive enzymes you’ll see that he was designed to breastfeed for at least 2–3 years! If Baby has been breastfed for a minimum of 9–18 months he’ll be very reluctant to stop; this doesn’t mean he’s spoilt, he simply knows what’s best for him!
Breastfeeding for a prolonged period is one of the most precious and beneficial gifts you can give to your little one – especially during Baby’s first year when it plays a very important nutritional role. After that Baby’s overall need for milk will start to dwindle, although breast milk will continue to provide excellent nutrients, immune strengthening benefits, and emotional security. It’s because of this emotional value that weaning can be tricky, especially if there have been changes or stress in the family. If you’ve been breastfeeding for a prolonged period it’s quite understandable that you start to contemplate weaning your baby, but know that breastfeeding becomes so quick and easy over time that it’s quite all right for you to decide to continue nursing too; rest assured that there’s nothing wrong or abnormal with prolonged breastfeeding. Societal norms are fortunately changing and know that it’s not you that needs to feel shame or guilt!
Tips for weaning
Going ‘cold turkey’ and refusing all feeds will work, but the emotional pay-off will mean you need to be strong or you may want to decide to simply wait for spontaneous weaning. When the time comes to wean your toddler, take these general tips into account:
- Offer up a distraction when Baby wants to feed and keep him happily busy until it passes
- Give Baby lots of extra love and attention
- Don’t pressure Baby – he’ll notice that you desperately want him to wean and will cling to the breast even more
- Give Baby a combination of cup and bottle feeds so that his sucking reflex is satisfied
Often, one of the best – and kindest – ways to wean Baby is to simply make peace with breastfeeding and decide to do it as long as Baby wants to. Because you’re more relaxed, you’ll usually find that Baby needs to feed less often! Remember that Baby is used to a nipple and might not want to take a bottle teat.
Weaning Baby from night feeds
This can be tricky because it’s often more of comfort habit than a need for nutrition. It can help to:
- Offer Baby a feeding cup during the day but use a bottle at night or before naps
- Cuddle with Baby at night to provide emotional comfort
- Wear a firm top so that Baby can’t get to your breasts
- Refuse to feed and try to comfort Baby in other ways instead