Our two years of breastfeeding is up, something I have been silently dreading for quite some time now. We were planning to start weaning our son by two and a half years until our pediatrician gave an ultimatum to cut it when our baby wasn’t gaining enough weight. She was able to pinpoint that the main reason our boy doesn’t eat much is that he relies heavily on my milk. It was easy for him to turn away from his solid food, thinking he’d be full of milk anyway.
So I tried to apply it right away: no dede until he eats. Tikoy cried so much we didn’t know what to do. Should we put it off? No. Breastmilk isn’t enough for him anymore. He needs to get more nutrition for his growth and development. I declined his requests with a river of tears. The next day, I decided to go out of the house and leave him with his grandparents with plenty of food. While doing our grocery, I told my husband: “I have this feeling of sadness since yesterday,” which I can’t figure out why.
As you would have expected, my plan to wean him didn’t work, and it pushed me to find other techniques on how to do it. And this point came like a slap on the face:
Do not wean abruptly.
I didn’t realize that I pulled a cold turkey on him. Milk has always been present since our baby was born, and having it taken away suddenly just doesn’t make sense. For this foolish action of mine, our Tikoy felt betrayed. And for mothers, the happy hormones secreted by the brain as we let down milk suddenly stopped as well. So that’s where my sadness was coming from!
After learning this, I apologized to Tikoy and explained (in a way I can) why I did it and what we need to do. I let him latch that night until he fell asleep and started a new weaning plan.
What You Need to Start Doing
If you’re planning to wean soon, here are some things you need to start doing.
As always, do it slowly
Remove one breastfeeding a day. I decided to let go of the afternoon nap time feeding because it was the one where Tikoy seems to just comfort suck to sleep. After all, we feed him solids for lunch. He wouldn’t be starving.
Before he took a nap, our mantra was “No-no dede. Sleep only.” The boy seems to understand this very well when he recites it, but come our nap time, there were still tears involved. I offered cuddles and read lots of books to put him to sleep. It took a couple of weeks before napping happened without a crying episode, but it was a start.
Later, we cut out the early morning feeding as well. It was easy for him to forget dede when we’re out of the house, or when he plays or finds something interesting. So, in a sense, we distracted him from dede with activities (which will make him hungry later on) until all the breastfeeding we had was at night before he sleeps.
Cover up, mom!
Don’t tempt your baby by wearing clothes that have easy breastfeeding access. Put your nursing clothes away and start wearing dresses or tops that are fully closed in the chest area. At times, Tikoy pulls up my shirt to latch, so I replaced the nursing bras with my old conventional ones with no breastfeeding access. “Buffet is closed, son. ” (wink)
But the main thing about weaning is to build his interest in food. Here are a few tips that worked for us:
How to Build Interest in Food
1. Let him go hungry
This is something I read that French moms practice and was recommended by our pedia. Do not offer snacks at least two hours before a meal so he’ll be eating a lot when his solids are served.
2. Play before meals
Toddlers are filled with so much energy. They’re meant to do actual activities. So go outside and ride the bike or take a nature walk (whatever that means under this pandemic) before meals. This will help boost their appetite.
3. Make food interesting
The point of weaning, aside from rescuing mommy’s sore nipples from a baby’s chompers, is to introduce them to the appropriate food they need: solids.
For us, we introduced Tikoy to different flavors. He eats Ampalaya, Paksiw, Durian, Seaweed, and other “normal adult food.” Eating a more extensive range of food will also help parents secure their nutrition, as our doctor ninang says, “eat your vitamins! Don’t rely on supplements.” It also saves you from the struggle of having a picky eater.
It’s fascinating how it turns out. I don’t like paksiw so much, but the boy loves it.
4. Model It
Kids are not good at following instructions, but they’re great imitators. So we eat well and we voice out our appreciation of food in front of Tikoy and describe their flavor and texture.
“This fish is nice and soft.”
“The strawberries are sweet!”
“I love Adobo!”
This influences him to be excited with his food.
5. Remove distractions when eating
That means no toys and gadgets on the table, and the same goes for adults. We think eating, even at home, is a social event, so talk to each other while enjoying the food. Your toddler will pick up this good habit soon.
A weaned Tikoy
We started weaning Tikoy last July 2019. When all of his teeth grew out in February this year (he was about two years and five months old), I had to stop him from his nighttime feedings because it was too painful already. I said to him, “Mommy is yayay (his term for hurt) when you dede because you have so many teeth already!” And, as if to say he understood completely, he hugged me and fell asleep. He didn’t ask about it the next day.