When is the right time?
Breastmilk (or formula) is recommended exclusively for the first 6 months of your babies life, with solid foods introduced from 6 months as an ACCOMAPANIEMENT to the milk feeds. It is recommended that your babies main source of nutrition be breastmilk or formula until atleast 12 months of age. This means, that if you decide to wean baby (or baby weans self - which is rare prior to 12 months) that they need formula or donor breastmilk to meet their nutritional needs until 12 months old - even with the best of diets! Other milks (eg nut milk/coconut milk/soy milk) do not meet the needs for growth and development under 12 months as their main milk feeds.
When solids are introduced the portions usually start out small, and gradually and naturally over time the food portion sizes will increase and the milk feed consumption will gradually decrease. This will portray in your breast milk which will gradually decrease subtly over time. After 12 months of age, if weaning is on your mind you can start to offer a range of nutrient dense foods prior to the milk feed - so the food is the priority over the milk. In regards to formula feeding if you wish to wean this at 12 months of age you could gradually decrease the amount of formula and/or follow babies cues of satiety after a meal, or offer less bottles - whatever you and your baby feel comfortable with.
Replacing breastmilk/formula - is it necessary after 12 months?
Ive touched on this before but its a well known belief that when you have weaned that your breastmilk/formula should be replaced with cows milk. However, replacing milk feeds with cows milk is just not necessary - so, what do you replace breastmilk or formula with if you wish to wean? The answer is - a well balanced and nutritious diet (after 12 months at earliest). Think about it this way - our bodies are designed to provide breastmilk to baby, then baby gets an interest in food, babies food intake gradually increases and the breastmilk intake gradually decreases. Soon, over time, the baby will choose food as a priority and breastmilk will be more for comfort, closeness, or in times of illness/growth may demand more - so why are we then introducing MORE milk when the idea is that baby gradually decreases milk intake?? What if your baby wants a comfort bottle if formula feeding after 12 months? My choice (for over 12 months) if you wish to wean would be bone broth, goats milk, coconut milk, or nut milk. I would advise against soy milk. I When looking for milk options please read the ingredients at the back, as many have fillers, additives, preservatives and sweeteners added. Or even better - make your own! While being mindful that baby is still getting the nutrients they need in their diet that they were getting through breastmilk/formula in particular calcium, DHA and if necessary probiotics.
How do you know when the right time is to wean?
As mothers, we are prone to feeling guilty no matter what we do, and weaning your baby or toddler is often one of the most guilt ridden experiences we can come across. However ‘natural weaning’ can go both way’s - where baby and mothers needs to be honoured. There may come a time in your breastfeeding journey where you no longer feel able to, may not be able to, may not want to, may need a break/rest, where your boundaries feel overwhelmed, where you feel touched out and it is ok to honour this. It DOES NOT make you a bad mum for putting your needs first, and while I am all for extended breastfeeding, Im also all for maternal mental health!! Because mama, if you go down, the whole ship goes down with you!
Weaning can bring up deep emotions for you and your child, no matter the age. These emotions are normal, and the best thing you can do is help them feel safe, loved and heard during this process. During the time of weaning make sure you provide your child with lots of physical touch - this physical touch will meet your needs as well as your babies. Hold them close and smother them with kisses - spend time together and establish a connection in other ways to fulfil both your needs other than breastfeeding.
Nutritionally supporting yourself during weaning
We’ve discussed nutritionally supporting baby through weaning, but what about you mama?
Did you know that when weaning (especially suddenly) you can experience feelings likening to the ‘3 day baby blues’ or PMS symptoms. Not only can this be a time that is stressful, emotional and guilt ridden, but you will also be losing that extra production of the magical hormone oxytocin which is released while breastfeeding (this hormone promotes happiness, deep relaxation and good feelings/love).
Symptoms of weaning can include mood swings, lack of motivation, skin breakouts, irritability, weepiness and anxiety. So, how can we minimise these effects?
1. Minimise sugar and caffeine as they disrupt the endocrine system/hormones.
2. Minimise soy as this can interfere with oestrogen receptors and disrupt the bodies hormones
3. Keep blood glucose levels stable - eat nourishing foods often. Eat foods high in protein and good fats to sustain the energy.
4. Introduce maca - an adaptogen with a beautiful nutty caramel flavour - maca promotes balance in the body, balances hormones, increases energy levels and nourishes the endocrine system. This recipe is an exert from my ebook coming out.. its a beautiful hormone balancing smoothie!
It includes maca, contains healthy fats and protein that will keep your blood glucose stable is as follows:
1 frozen banana
300 ml coconut milk
1 - 2 tsp maca
1 tbsp nut butter (delicious with macadamia or almond)
1 tsp MCT oil
5 ice cubes
1 tsp cinnamon
1 date (optional sweetness)
Optional: 1 serve vanilla protein powder (I use this)
Blend all together and enjoy!
What if you don’t want to wean?
So even though you can wean at 12 months- should you?
The world health organisation recommends breastfeeding until Atleast 2 years of age, this is because no matter the age, breastfeeding is ALWAYS beneficial. Not only is breastmilk extremely an nutrient dense food - high in omegas like DHA and EPA, protein & carbohydrates.
Breastfeeding your toddler can provide:
* 29% of their daily energy needs
* 43% of their protein requirements
* 75% of their vitamin a requirements
- it is also ALIVE! Which means the nutritional and immunological components of breast milk change every day according to the specific needs of your child! Breastmilk is full of microbes, filled with good bacteria and much like fermented foods (like sauerkraut or kefir) keep your child’s digestive system functioning optimally! And did you know if your child is sick your breastmilk will provide the antibodies needed to fight that exact illness?! And also, breastfed kids have less incidence of illness due to the immunological components of breastmilk!
This post isn’t intended on a guilt trip for anyone who chose to wean prior to 2 years, but to empower those who choose to continue feeding. According to the ABA only 21% of Australian women are still breastfeeding after 12 months, so obviously more education and information is necessary to normalise this very natural process ❤️