Tips for Weaning a Clingy Toddler!!!

 Tips for Weaning a Clingy Toddler!!!
(Written on: 14th December, 2010)    

QUESTION: Assalaamu Alaikum. My son is almost 16 months, and he is still breast-feeding quite a lot! At night he still wakes up just for comforting. How and when did you start to Wean your baby from the breast? I don’t want to stop him altogether as I know he will when he is ready, but just to drink much less! Basically, he gets up at fajr time, nurses, plays and I TRY to get him to eat breakfast, be it a sandwich or cereal. Some days he’ll eat, other days not much. After that he’ll play, bathe, nurse and sleep for about 1-2 hours. Wakes up about 12-1pm. By this time he has nursed again, and I TRY again to get him to eat. He MAY eat or he may not. From this point till evening, he hardly eats and he cries to be nursed when he wants. He refuses milk from the cup, and he ALWAYS refused the bottle. At night time, he’ll bathe, eat dinner with his father, nurse and play and go to bed. That’s about it. These past few nights he goes to bed early at about 7:30pm, cause he’s only sleeping once in the day. He only likes water and he likes fresh mangoes. He’s a picky eater and likes some finger foods, like cereal. Jazaak’allah [“Late night Mummy”(Friday 10th December, 2010 3:13 PM), Trinidad]
ANSWER:-

Wa Alaikumu Salaam,

Firstly, I apologize for the late response. But I’ve been digging through all my ‘Mummy logs'(I’m totally chronic at keeping records on well, everything! lolz:p) and my old diaries and one fact is very clear! You need to know and come to terms with the fact that ‘Every child is different and what works for one may not work on others’. You also need to disregard any stereotypes people try to place on you. Here are few annoying favorites:-

–          “He’s 16 months old and not drinking a bottle yet?!!!?? Where will he get his calcium?!?”

–          “He’s too old to be breastfeeding!!! He will start to embarrass you in public!”

–          “Breastfeeding will start to drain your body!!! Stop nursing him! He’s getting too big!”

Now although there are some truths to the above, these statements are still highly exaggerated and mostly false. Yes he needs calcium, but breast milk is a perfect substance that is packed with nutrition. Alhamdulillah! You also need to try and give him normal balanced meals to ensure that his body is properly nourished. Thus this is not a reason to stop nursing.

Secondly, sure he can embarrass you in public, but that has more to do with your child’s general behavior and they way you as the parent handle tantrums at home. See my article entitled “Dealing with a Clingy baby” for some tips on how to nip tantrums in the bud! Thus, still not a reason to stop breastfeeding.

Thirdly, yes, breastfeeding can definitely put a strain on your body. One of the many trials of motherhood! I got mild arthritis in my knee because of it! But that was because I wasn’t taking any supplements at the time! After a few weeks of Calcium, Glucosamine and Omega I was back to normal and the knee was working better than ever! Alhamdulillah! Thus that has more to do with how well mummy takes care of herself, and has nothing to do with whether or not you should stop breastfeeding.

 SO with those important points aside, I noticed you said “My son is almost 16 months, and he is still breast-feeding quite a lot”. At this age, allow me to reassure you that there really isn’t such a thing as ‘too much’. Studies have shown that the longer you breastfeed the better! The health benefits are phenomenal! Some women have continued breastfeeding their children for well up to three or four years of age and the kids weaned themselves off naturally. The prescribed time for nursing in Islam is around two years or so. Thus, weaning really is more a personal decision on the part of the mother and sometimes the natural preference of the child, as some of them just stop on their own before two years of age.

I slowly weaned my first two sons off of nursing four to five months before they turned two years of age and just stopped the day they both turned two years of age. It was so gradual that they didn’t even notice. I thought the situation would be the same for my third son, but while I was pregnant with my fourth son, he just weaned himself off at nineteen months old. So fortunately, Alhamdulillah, I didn’t have to take turns nursing both him and the new baby when my fourth son was born:) Then again, that was my third son’s personality. Very independent and adventurous! So he didn’t even miss it and willingly gave it up to the new baby!

Now I’m looking at your toddler’s schedule here and if you’re a mummy who has the desire to reduce his feeds and make them less frequent, then yes, he really is nursing a bit much as is and continuing this schedule will make it harder for you to wean him off as time passes. Remember, the older he gets, the smarter he gets, so you have to act now if you’d like to change his pattern. To get through this, always remind yourself that ‘CONSISTENCY IS KEY’.

There’s is absolutely nothing wrong with nursing him to sleep at night. Night time and bedtime is a special time in which children should be comforted by their parents in the most loving and nurturing of ways. In this case and at this age, nursing will fulfil that need. What is making this difficult for you, is the constant nursing throughout the day. He’s sixteen months old, which means he probably walking and sitting comfortably by now. What I suggest is that you get/make him a little table with a short stool or heavy chair (something that can’t tip/fall over easily) for eating. Giving him his own little table will give him a sense of independence as it’s not a high chair and it resembles a grown-up’s table. You can paint something attractive to a child’s eyes on the table or spread a really pretty fabric over it. The idea is to make him WANT to sit at that table.

I would like you, for the next few days to stick to the schedule below! There may be some crying involved (both for you and him lolz:p), but if you are consistent, firm, but loving and reassuring, everything should work out nicely Inshaa Allah:)

– When he gets up at fajr time, DO NOT NURSE HIM. Instead, put on your hijab, take him with you to pray. Hold him in your arms throughout salaah if he’s crying. This is perfectly acceptable by islamic law. When the sun rises, give him some water to drink and take him for a walk outside or in the porch.

– Blow a balloon and give him to play with it while you prepare breakfast (See some meal options below as he is a picky eater)

– Pop the balloon and say “Opps!”, pick him up and cuddle him. Carry him for a walk to porch to take his mind off of the balloon and talk to him about a tree or bird or something. The goal is to keep his mind occupied on different things;)

– Come back inside, put the food in a plate on the little table and sit with him at the table to eat your breakfast on a separate chair. You can give him water in a Sippy-cup, or whatever he is accustomed to drinking from on his own.

– After breakfast, let him play a little while you wash wares or do chores.

– He may start whining again to nurse, so give him a bath at that point and squeeze some shampoo in a bucket and mix/lather it with water to make bubbles for him to play with in the shower.

– When sleep time arrives, don’t rush to nurse him right away, try swaying him in a hammock or rocking him to sleep in a rocking chair first. If this doesn’t work, then nurse him to sleep as it’s perfectly acceptable to nursing at least once during the day.

– When he wakes up DO NOT NURSE HIM. Give him a walk again outside to get his mind off of it. When you bring him back inside, have a little cupboard/bowl of ‘very light’ snacks and let him point to which one he wants. While he is in-between eating his snack and playing, prepare lunch for him. Give him a distracting toy you don’t usually let him play with;)

– Bring his lunch to the table and do just as you did at breakfast time. Make sure there is at least one thing on that plate he never refuses, even if you have to put sprinkles on your scrambled eggs. I actually did this when my son gave trouble to eat pancakes. And now it’s his favourite breakfast food (he now eats it without the sprinkles :p)

– At this part of the evening is his most fussy time! So prepare yourself! It won’t be perfect, but you’ve got to stay firm! ‘DISTRACTION’ is your goal here! From what it looks like so far, he has clingy issues. It shows because he only eats with daddy willingly. This is  because he knows what he can get from you he can’t get from daddy. Most kids are rational this way and you can use this to your advantage. This also means he is very smart. It may very well seem like he would prefer daddy sometimes but it’s really a mummy thing underneath. Their mind at that age works like “I want my mummyyyyyyyy, but she doesn’t want to nurse me, so I’m gonna’ run by my daddy for attention!!!”
Kids are pathetically defeatist sometimes! So what you need to do is give him the impression that mummy is fully ready to give attention, but in different ways. That’s why it’s so important to do things with your kids from a very young age. You can try art & craft, read him a story book, simple ball games, get him a swing set if you can afford it, etc! These things give him the quality time with mummy that he craves, outside of breastfeeding.

– When daddy comes home, prepare a nice dinner while your husband plays with the little one and has that special one-on-one ‘daddy time’. Let Daddy feed him dinner as usual.

– You can then bathe him and nurse him to sleep at bedtime:) 7:30pm is a perfect time!!! Mashaa Allah!

*EXTRA NOTES:-
– “It’s totally fine to wake up at night to nurse. Once or twice is perfectly reasonable until he evens out. As he gets older he will sleep longer Inshaa Allah.”

– “With regards to rocking, many doctors try to discourage parents from rocking their newborns to sleep claiming it will give them bad habits. But honestly, after rocking all four of my kids, I can’t understand how your kids wanting to have that close comfort to you could be branded as a ‘bad habit’. Parents complain about the rocking as well, but listen…please take some gentle advice…when you reach baby #2 or #3 you will PRAY for another method of putting your other kids to sleep (inshaa Allah). It is very important, from very young, to have two to three different ways of putting your little ones to sleep. This way Daddy can help out when you aren’t able for whatever reason.”

*MEAL TIME ‘TID-BITS’:-
“Remember, just because you kid doesn’t eat cooked food all the time, doesn’t mean he’s not eating healthy. Also, don’t fill him up on juice before a meal. Instead, give him little sips throughout meals or let him drink after the meal. Proper eating habits are all part of getting him to sleep through night. You need to get him to love eating food and to enjoy mealtime. One benefit of eating plates like those listed below, is that it feels and looks more like a snack than a meal to a child, which would obviously be more appealing to them!!!

Almost every category of the Food Pyramid is covered in the meal options below for your little one when combined throughout the day. Be sure to give him his own little fork:-

Plate #1:- tiny triangles of bread toasted with jam on it, raisins, little blocks of cheese, 3 small carrots sticks, a few grains of cereal (cheerios, Apple Jacks, fruit loops, etc).
Plate #2:- slices of mango, multigrain bar (break it into little squares), dried fruit pieces, crackers, Yogurt (mummy can help feed him this).
Plate #3:- cut & cooked sausage, little triangles of butter toast.
Plate #4:- Sliced Strawberries, seedless grapes, yogurt covered raisins (sells in grocery), Multi-grain crackers.
Plate#5:- Small Chicken Nuggets & French fries!
Plate#6:- Little cubes of watermelon (remove seeds), cheese sticks, bite-sized PB&J sandwiches & tinee-tiny bite-sized pancakes.
ETC!!!

 Little assorted plates always do the trick!!! Use lots of colour and creativity for every dish Inshaa Allah.

 “May you both experience more joys than hardships during this tender phase…Ameen

Yours Truly,
Azizah…

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