Breastfeeding Preschoolers

Submitted by Pregnancy and Baby Care team on April 26, 2012

It is recommended that you breastfeed your baby till the age of 1. After that, during the second year, breastfeeding will provide a preschooler with only part of his or her daily nutritional requirement. 500 ml of breast milk will provide only about one-third of the protein and energy, 45% of the vitamin A and most of the vitamin C that a preschooler needs. The rest of a preschooler's nutritional needs will need to come from solid and liquid foods that have to be introduced gradually. Some doctors even suggest breastfeeding till the age of two or later, supplemented by liquid and solid foods.

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Weaning the baby can prove to be quite a challenging task as breastfeeding also provides the child with a feeling of comfort and security. This process marks the beginning of a new stage in the baby's life and therefore should be done carefully. It is best to avoid starting the weaning process at the time when there are other changes taking place like toilet training teething and so on.


5 Tips For Weaning a Preschooler From Breastfeeding

While you will surely be anxious about the results and the behavior of your child here are 5 suggestions that will make the overall process of weaning a lot easier to accomplish.

  • Firstly, remember that you need to start slowly. You should eliminate one breastfeeding session a day every two to three days. By slowly tapering the number of breastfeeding sessions, your milk supply will automatically diminish and will help prevent discomfort caused by breast engorgement. Try eliminating the mid-day breastfeeding session first as children tend to be more attached to the first and last breastfeeding sessions of the day. Avoid sitting in your usual breastfeeding spots when trying to eliminate a breastfeeding session.
  • When starting the weaning process, follow the principle of "never offer, but never refuse".
  • When you start the weaning process, make sure that your child is not too hungry. Your little one would obviously prefer to breastfeed rather than accept the bottle, so your spouse can be the first to bottle-feed your child on a regular basis. Once the weaning process is established, you can share the bottle-feeding responsibility along with him.
  • Try distracting your child when substituting a breastfeeding session with the bottle. You can try singing or telling a story. A change from the everyday routine can also help.
  • When weaning your child off his or her night feed, try changing the location. This will help to break the idea that breastfeeding is associated with sleeping.

You should consider delaying the weaning process in case:

  • There is a history of food allergies in your family. Talk to your doctor about the benefits of delaying weaning in such a situation.
  • Your child is unwell. If your child is teething or sick, it would be better to postpone the weaning process. Both of you will be able to handle the transition much better if you are well.
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