Supporting Breastfeeding

La Leche League Canada

What if I Want to Wean my Baby?

on March 2, 2015

Breastfeeding your baby for even a day is the best baby gift you can give. Breastfeeding is always the best choice for your baby.  If it doesn’t seem like the best choice for you, these guidelines may help.  Talking to a La Leche League Canada Leader or Public Health Nurse may help you sort out your options or resolve any challenges which are leading you to want to wean.

IF YOU WEAN YOUR BABY AFTER A FEW DAYS, your baby will have received your colostrum, or early milk.  Packed with optimal nutrition and antibodies, it helps get your baby’s digestive system going and gives him his first – and easiest – “immunization”.  Breastfeeding gives your baby, by far, the best start and helps your own body recover from the birth, too.  Since your only job in the first week should be to get to know your baby, it just makes sense to nurse while you’re getting to know each other!

IF YOU WEAN YOUR BABY AT FOUR TO SIX WEEKS, you will have eased him through the most critical part of his infancy.  Breastfed newborns are much less likely to get sick or be hospitalized, and have many fewer digestive problems than artificially fed babies.  After 4 to 6 weeks, you will probably have worked through any early nursing concerns, too.  Make a serious goal of nursing for a month, call La Leche League Canada or a health professional if you have any problems or questions, and you’ll be in a better position to decide whether continued breastfeeding is for you!

IF YOU WEAN YOUR BABY AT 3 OR 4 MONTHS, her digestive system will have matured a great deal, and she will be much better able to tolerate the foreign substances in commercial formulas.  If there is a family history of allergies, though, you will greatly reduce her risk of allergies by waiting a few more months before adding anything at all to her diet of breastmilk.  Breastfed babies do not need juice or water.

 

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IF YOU WEAN YOUR BABY AT 6 MONTHS, she will be much less likely to suffer an allergic reaction to formula or other foods.  At this point, her body is probably ready to tackle some solids whether or not you wean.  Exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months helps ensure better health throughout your baby’s first year of life.  Studies indicate that nursing for more than 6 months may greatly reduce the risk of childhood cancers as well as improving lifelong health.  Do not over feed solids.  At this age 80% of his calories should come from milk.

IF YOU WEAN YOUR BABY AT 9 MONTHS, you will have seen him through the fastest and most important development period of his life on the most valuable of all foods, your milk.  You may even have noticed that he is more alert and more active than babies who did not have the benefit of their mother’s milk.  Weaning may be fairly easy at this age… but then, so is nursing!  If you want to avoid weaning this early, be sure you’ve been available to nurse for comfort as well as for nutrition!  Baby still needs lots of sucking time and milk is still a large part of his daily diet.

IF YOU WEAN YOUR BABY AT A YEAR, you can avoid the expense of formula.  Her one-year-old body can probably handle whole cow’s milk as well as most table foods.  Many of the health benefits this year of nursing has given your child will last her whole life.  She will have a stronger immune system, for instance, and will be much less likely to need braces or speech therapy.  The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends nursing for at least a year, to ensure the best possible nutrition and health for your baby.

IF YOU WEAN YOUR BABY AT 18 MONTHS, you will have continued to provide the highest quality nutrition and superb protection against illness at a time when illness is common in other babies.  Your baby is probably well started on table foods, too.  He has had time to form a solid bond with you – a healthy starting point for his growing independence.  And he is old enough that you and he can work together on the weaning process, progressing at a pace that he can handle.

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IF YOUR CHILD WEANS WHEN SHE IS READY, you can feel confident that you have met your baby’s physical and emotional needs in the most natural and healthiest way possible.  In cultures where there is no pressure to wean, children tend to nurse for at least two years.  The World Health Organization strongly encourages breastfeeding through toddlerhood.  Your milk provides antibodies and other protective substances as long as you continue nursing, and families of nursing toddlers often find that their medical bills are lower than their neighbours’ for years to come.  Mothers who have nursed for two or more years have a lower risk of developing breast cancer. Children who were nursed long-term tend to be very secure, and are less likely to suck their thumbs or cling to blankets.  Some studies indicate that they adjust more easily to school.  Nursing can help ease both of you through the tears, tantrums, and tumbles that come with toddlerhood and helps ensure that any illnesses are milder and easier to deal with.  It’s an all-purpose mothering tool you won’t want to be without!  Don’t worry that your child will nurse forever.  All children wean eventually, no matter what you do, and there are more nursing toddlers around than you might guess.

Whether you breastfeed for a day, a few months or for several years, the decision to breastfeed your child is one you need never regret.   And whenever weaning takes place, remember that it is a big step for both of you.  If you choose to initiate weaning be sure to do it gradually and with sensitivity to how your baby is coping with the changes.  Taking it slow also allows your body time to adjust to producing less and less breastmilk which is healthier and more comfortable for you.

http://www.lllc.ca/thursday-tip-what-if-i-want-wean-my-baby

 

If you need more information or have a breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to an accredited La Leche League Leader.  In Canada, Leaders can be located by clicking http://www.lllc.ca/find-group or Internationally http://www.llli.org/

 

If you have found this article helpful, La Leche League Canada would appreciate your support in the form of a donation at http://www.lllc.ca/ so we can continue to help others breastfeed.

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