Your growing toddler no longer needs to rely on his “baby” milk for the nutrients that his varied diet now offers, but he may still enjoy the comfort of regular feeds. Breastfeeding can continue for as long as you feel comfortable. Full weaning can be a slow process, and it’s best to go at your child’s pace.
Q: How much milk do children need at this age?
A: The maximum amount your toddler needs is about 18fl oz (500ml), but it’s important to remember that this figure should also include other dairy products she eats. So if she gets plenty of cheese and yogurt in her diet, she’ll need correspondingly less. Most toddlers who have a varied, healthy diet with lots of dairy can get by on about 9fl oz (250ml) per day. Some children meet their requirements from dairy products alone.
Q: Is there any nutritional value in my breast milk at this point?
A: Breast milk continues to be a valuable and nutritious addition to your child’s diet; it’s a good balance of nutrients and although your toddler will by now be getting most of what he needs from his diet, it can help to make up any shortfalls. Moreover, breast milk contains your antibodies to disease and will help to protect your child from illness. Mothers produce antibodies to whatever disease is present in their environment, which ensures that breast milk is perfectly and individually “designed” to combat the diseases with which their children are in contact.
Q: I enjoy the closeness of breastfeeding my two-year-old, but it’s starting to feel a bit odd; should I stop?
A: Negative emotions are often the result of concern about what other people might think of breastfeeding a toddler. Unfortunately, breastfeeding past a year appears to be frowned upon in some areas, which doesn’t help.

Breastfeeding is a personal decision, and the length of time you continue should be based on how you and your toddler feel about it. If you are both enjoying the closeness, there is absolutely no reason why you should stop completely. You may, however, feel more comfortable dropping the daytime feeds, which are more likely to be in the company of others. It’s worth mentioning that later weaning has positive psychological benefits, allowing your little one to outgrow infancy at her own pace, and giving her emotional security and comfort.

Q: My child still drinks a lot of milk, and isn’t very hungry at meal times. How can I cut it down?
A: Firstly, make sure you’re keeping to the recommended 18fl oz (500ml) a day. If he’s drinking much more than this, the best thing to do is to avoid offering milk between meals. If he’s still taking a bottle, move him to a cup, and see the tips, right, on how to wean him off his nighttime feed. If he is still demanding milk, try to work out what’s going on. Is he hungry, thirsty, or looking for comfort? Too much milk is the most common cause of iron deficiency. Toddlers with low iron levels have a poor appetite and do not sleep well, and hence demand more milk, which makes the situation even worse. See your doctor if you’re concerned.
Q: How can I wean a toddler who has become reliant on her nighttime feed?
A: Many babies and toddlers associate breastfeeding with sleep, and it’s important to try to break this link. But go slowly, as gradual weaning tends to work best. Many experts support the “never offer but never refuse” school of thought, which means changing your routine so that breastfeeding is no longer “offered,” but equally, remaining open to responding to your toddler’s needs. It’s best to start when there are no other changes afoot such as potty training or starting day care, as children are more needy in times of change.

Try to ensure, also, that your little one isn’t hungry or thirsty at bedtime. Offer a bedtime snack an hour or so before bed, with some water or milk.

It’s also worth talking to your little one. While she won’t understand completely what’s going on, you can explain that she won’t be having mommy’s milk at bedtime anymore because she is a big girl now, but that she can have proper drinks in her special cup instead. Show delight and pride, too, when she goes for an evening without a feed.

Offer distractions at bedtime, such as curling up together with a book, away from the bedroom. Spending time together will compensate for the loss of closeness of breastfeeding.

Q: Should I be offering water only between meals?
A: Because of the risk that fruit juice and sweetened drinks pose to teeth, it is a good idea to offer water only. Water is the perfect way to keep your little one hydrated, and goes to work as soon as it enters her body, whereas fruit juices have to be “digested” before beginning the hydration process. Water encourages healthy digestion and increases the flow of saliva, which both protects and remineralizes teeth, and makes the digestive process more efficient. It also ensures that she has more energy, and that her immune system works efficiently. 
Q: What should my child be served to drink with meals?
A: Sipping water or a little diluted fruit juice during mealtimes is fine, although it’s important to remember that little tummies fill up quickly and if your child drinks too much, he’s likely to eat less, which may mean an inadequate intake of nutrients. Milk can prevent iron from being efficiently extracted from food, so is best offered after a meal, rather than during. For similar reasons, diluted fruit juice is suggested, because vitamin C encourages the uptake of iron from food.
Q: My child drinks juice throughout the day—will this harm her teeth?
A: Sipping on juice means that her teeth are constantly being bathed in sugars that can encourage tooth decay. It’s much better to serve fruit juice with meals, or at a set snack time, when the other foods offered can help to neutralize the sugars and acids. It’s best to offer water between meals (see A “grown-up” cup?), but if she does have fruit juice, encourage her to rinse her mouth with water afterward.
Q: Are flavored waters or milks appropriate?
A: The single greatest advantage of flavored waters is that they tend to be more appealing to kids. It’s undoubtedly easier to get little ones to drink more water if it doesn’t taste like water. Look out for brands with a little added fruit juice or fruit juice concentrate, and avoid those that contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. Flavored milks are normally high in sugar and artificial flavorings and additives, so should be avoided.

Did you know…

that warm milk will help to soothe your child to sleep? The reason is that it contains a chemical known as tryptophan, which encourages the production of serotonin (the feel-good hormone) that is responsible for enhancing sleep. It doesn’t have to be warm; however, many little ones associate warm milk with comfort, companionship, and settling down for the night. Offer it in a cup rather than a bottle, to prevent damage to teeth, and try to rinse her teeth before she drifts off.

A “grown-up” cup?

From about 21/2 to 3 years, most children have adequate hand-eye coordination to get at least some of the contents of a lidless cup into their mouths, but be prepared for spills. You can most certainly offer one earlier, but you’ll need to help him with it, and keep a cloth handy to mop up spills! A little advice: when you’re out and about or away from the kitchen, it’s probably best to keep the lid on. If he resists, try putting his drink in a small bottle with a sports cap, which is much more “grown up.”

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