Weaning is often a tricky and emotive period for toddlers and parents alike, because regular milk feeds are replaced with wholesome, nutritious meals. Don’t rush the process if you aren’t ready. As long as milk isn’t forming the main part of your toddler’s diet, you can continue to enjoy those comforting moments.
Q: Is it OK to continue to breastfeed even when my toddler is eating a varied diet?
A: There is absolutely no reason why you can’t continue to breastfeed as long as both you and your toddler are enjoying it. There is plenty of research to suggest that breast milk continues to offer antibodies well into toddlerhood, which can help build up your little one’s resistance to infection.

Breast milk also contains a whole host of vitamins and minerals. It is important, though, that your baby has a healthy balance between breastfeeding and solids. The majority of nutrients at this age should come from food, and not breast milk. Filling up on breast milk can lead to reduced food intake, which may lead to vitamin deficiencies.

Most importantly, perhaps, is that breastfeeding offers emotional nourishment and comfort to your child, and helps to build a healthy mother-child relationship.

Q: My toddler shows no desire to stop breastfeeding, but it’s starting to get embarrassing. What do you recommend?
A: If you are feeling pressured because you are breastfeeding past the point at which many moms give up, try limiting it to morning and evening feeds, when you can feed in private. If you are ready to give up altogether, take it slowly. Start by losing one feed at a time and offer a drink or snack in its place. It can take time, but weaning needs to happen sometime .
Q: Should I stop the nighttime bottle?
A: It is easy to fall into the habit of offering a night-time bottle because it’s comforting. The longer this goes on, the harder it is to stop, and drinking from a bottle at night can wreak havoc with children’s teeth (see Should my toddler be drinking her milk from a cup?). It’s a good idea to offer a cup instead. However, if you’re finding it hard to get your toddler away from his bottle, gradually water down his evening bottle over a few weeks, until it is virtually tasteless, and encourage other comfort items, such as a favorite toy. SeeDid you know…, to ensure he gets his calcium requirements though.
Q: My child doesn’t seem to like water. How can I make it more appealing?
A: If your toddler is used to sweet drinks and milk, water probably does seem boring. Buy her a water bottle, perhaps with her favorite character on it, and keep it filled throughout the day, so she gets into the habit of drinking whenever she is thirsty. Sometimes offering water with some ice cubes and a straw can make it more fun, too. If this doesn’t work, try adding a tiny bit of juice and then reducing the flavoring little by little until she’s drinking water alone.
Q: Does it matter if my child won’t drink any milk?
A: Lots of children can’t or won’t drink milk, and grow and develop perfectly well. The most important element of milk is calcium, which is required for healthy bones and teeth. Calcium is found in all dairy products, so if he’s eating yogurt, fromage frais, and cheese, he’s probably getting enough. Leafy-green vegetables are also a good source of calcium, and use milk when you can in cooking: in rice pudding, creamy or cheese sauces, or even mashed potatoes or other root vegetables.
Q: Should my toddler be drinking her milk from a cup?
A: It’s a good idea to wean your baby on to a cup by the age of 6–12 months, when the sucking reflex is replaced by an ability to sip and swallow. A cup is less damaging to her teeth because the sucking action when drinking from a bottle causes milk to “swirl” around the mouth, bathing the teeth in the natural sugars that it contains. A cup will also limit her association of milk with comfort, which can sometimes lead to problems with comfort eating and weight problems later on—and also difficulties settling without a bottle. Start by switching the teat on her bottle to a “spout,” so that she becomes used to drinking rather than sucking. Then buy a few brightly colored cups with lids and ask her to choose the one she’d like to have her milk or water in. If she feels that she has some power to choose, the disappointment of not having a bottle will soon be forgotten.

Did you know…

that children over the age of one should get about 20fl oz (570ml) of milk a day? Remember, though, that this is to provide the total amount of calcium required, so if your toddler has a yogurt or two, some cheese, and milk on her cereal, she’ll need correspondingly less. In fact, a glass of milk a day, plus a yogurt and a small piece of cheese is actually just about right for most toddlers, even though it’s tempting to offer more than this.

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