Happy and Healthy Weaning
Weaning doesn’t have to be hard. Oh, the horror stories you have probably heard about mothers trying to wean their babies from pacifiers, the breast, or a bottle. In many cases, a calm parental disposition can make all the difference. To be honest, while weaning brings with it many conveniences…it also means your baby is growing up. That, in and of itself, is enough to make any mom or dad weepy enough when considering weaning.
One important step in the weaning process is to know your goals. Some parents want or need to be breast, pacifier, or bottle free by the one-year mark. Others may not have any particular schedule in mind. If you have the goal to wean by a year – then your best bet is to start early. Around 8 months of age, your baby will not have the presence of mind to realize that just because something is out of sight – it still exists. Parents who want to wean early should capitalize on this developmental weakness by eliminating daytime uses of the breast or bottle. Make the switch to sippy-cups. You can continue to give a bottle or breast at nighttime if you so choose. This helps bring your child down in the likeness of a step down process.
You will find that this process can be pretty painless, especially if started early. Waiting past the year mark or beyond to begin weaning will mean that your baby will be more resistant to the change – because they KNOW that the bottle is somewhere in the house. However, most kids can be weaned in a week’s time as long as the parents stick to their guns.
Starting later can be more difficult. You should still use the step down process to wean, and save only the nighttime bottle or breast. This is normally the hardest for your child to go without. If your baby is older, resist making any other monumental changes in their life during this time. You will find that older children often see the lack of a bottle or breast as a graduation of sorts into being a grown up. Some kids frankly like being babies. (And what’s not to love?) Instead, be nurturing and look for replacements for the bottle or breast. At nighttime, this could be reading a book together, a back massage, or something else that your baby enjoys. If you are trying to wean from the breast – realize that a child clinging to your shirt is emotionally difficult to handle. Find someone else to take your place for a few days so that you are not put through the heartbreak.
The biggest consideration in weaning is readiness; yours and your baby’s. Some babies seem ready to wean themselves, while others due to their personality will cling to the breast, bottle, or pacifier. If you don’t have to rush weaning, then don’t! Just because a friend – or a book said your baby should be weaned by 18 months, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. In fact, extended nursing has been proven to boost a child’s immune system. Likewise, as long as they aren’t suckling on a bottle all day, a nighttime bottle of water (no sugary drinks or milk are advised) won’t wreak irreparable havoc on your child’s dental health.
Once you commit to weaning, follow through. You can use a reward system or anything else that seems to work for your child. Be consistent. Be patient and be kind. If your child just doesn’t seem ready, then put the idea on hold for a week or two. Remember that while in the moment it may seem like the hardest thing you ever faced, there are very few (if any) elementary and middle school students who still take a bottle or pacifier to school. Time will work it all out.