Weaning

Questions cover if, when, and how, to wean

Do toddlers really need to continue breastfeeding?

Many toddlers and preschoolers nurse primarily for comfort and to “touch base” rather than for food. However, breastmilk can still contribute significant nutrition and calories to the toddler’s diet. Also, many mothers find that a short nursing session will defuse a tantrum, cure a “boo-boo” or soothe hurt feelings. Breastfeeding is an important mothering tool that can work magic in stressful situations.

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Why would I continue to breastfeed after my baby starts solids?

Your breastmilk continues to be a highly-nutritious, easily-digested food even as toddlers or young children add other foods to their diets. There is no age at which breastmilk loses its nutritional or disease-fighting value. The antibodies in breastmilk actually increase after the baby is 12 months old. This provides added protection for toddlers who have more opportunities to pick up germs. In addition, glands in the breast can produce antibodies against illnesses the toddler is exposed to.

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What can I do if my baby has a nursing strike?

During the time that your baby is refusing to nurse, you will need to express your milk either by hand or by pumping, in order to maintain your milk production. Do this as frequently as your baby would normally nurse. If your baby has refused several feedings, you can offer your expressed milk in a cup. Avoiding bottles and pacifiers is recommended during this period in the hope that your baby's sucking urges will encourage him to start nursing again.
 
Spending lots of time skin-to-skin with your baby can be very helpful. You can also try:

My baby is suddenly refusing to nurse. Does this mean he's weaning?

Very unlikely. Occasionally, a baby who has been nursing well will suddenly refuse the breast for no apparent reason.  This is called a nursing strike.  It is very rare that a baby will wean on his own during his first year, and weaning usually happens gradually. On reviewing the situation, a cause for the nursing strike can sometimes be identified. Common causes include: an earache or stuffy nose, a scary sound that happened while breastfeeding, a different lotion or deodorant, too many bottles or pacifiers or a recent change in routine.

To encourage, promote and provide breastfeeding, chest feeding and human milk feeding support and educational opportunities as an important contribution to the health of children, families and society