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Disclaimer: The information in this post is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider.

Weaning off Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding into Toddlerhood

One thing is certain about breastfeeding: it seems like everyone has an opinion about it! A quick stroll around the old interweb will show you that many people who aren’t breastfeeding are offering opinions and suggestions for weaning off breastfeeding once baby turns one year old.

It seems to be a popular notion, as experts say that at one year old a child can be introduced to cow’s milk. This leads many moms to decide to call it quits at that time, switch baby to a cup with cow’s milk, and move on with life. 

Most babies who reach one year old are breastfeeding less than they did six months prior, but they are still getting a great deal of emotional and nutritional benefits from nursing. Let’s take a look at breastfeeding your toddler and some of the benefits it offers!

Do you need to worry about weaning off breastfeeding when your child turns a year old? This post answers that question.

Weaning off Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding into Toddlerhood

Breastfeeding into toddlerhood can seem like a challenge. After all, toddlers are busy little people with their own agendas! But breastfeeding your toddler offers nutritional and immune support as well as comfort to your little one.

The good news for busy moms is that toddlers are typically speedy nursers, and nursing sessions are usually shorter. Little people like to get a quick sip of milk and some comfort from mom before they continue on with their busy play schedules. Most sessions will last only a few minutes! This makes breastfeeding your toddler a bit easier than during the early months, as the sessions are shorter in frequency and duration.

Breastfeeding frequency will vary from child to child. Some days your child may nurse a handful of times, other days, particularly during busy developmental times, your little one will want to be at the breast more often. Each child’s development and level of need is individual and unique. In my own personal experience, my toddler will sometimes go five or six hours between sessions during the day most days while wanting to nurse every two hours as developmental milestones catch up with him. It is simply up to him and what he needs that day.

Toddlers use breastfeeding sessions as a form of comfort. Any nursing mom knows that a sick or fussy baby will generally want to nurse more frequently and will usually settle down when offered mother’s breast. This is no different when baby reaches toddlerhood. The close comfort of mom and her familiar milk offers toddlers a time to reconnect with mom during a busy day of exploration and learning or a time of comfort when sick or grumpy.

Nutrition is usually a key reason moms choose to breastfeed, and breastfeeding into toddlerhood continues to offer your little one both great nutritional and immune benefits. Breastmilk continues to change to accommodate the needs of the growing child. While your child will need to incorporate solids to meet all of his needs, breastmilk is a great foundation to offer him. Also, immunity protection continues for as long as the breastfeeding relationship lasts. In fact, the AAP states that children who are weaned before age 2 are at increased risk for illnesses.

Weaning off breastfeeding after your child reaches the one-year milestone is not any more difficult than weaning earlier. It does not create a challenge later on! Most children will self-wean between two and four years of age, with some cultures encouraging nursing for several years beyond the norm.

A child who self-weans will gradually, over a period of months, reduce the frequency of feedings. My oldest child began nursing less once I introduced him to a cup. He gradually cut back on nursing, and several months later, gave it up altogether.

Weaning off breastfeeding is a developmental milestone that each child reaches when he or she is ready. 

Do you have any experience breastfeeding a toddler?


Ashley is a stay-at-home-mom and a former English teacher. Ashley and her husband, Jeramey, have two young sons and one angel daughter. Ashley loves to chat about breastfeeding, babywearing, and blogging. Connect with Ashley at her personal blog, Hiccups and Heels where she writes about topics such as parenting, miscarriage, relationships, and humor.

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