The American Academy of Pediatrics prefers mothers to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of every child’s life. But at some point, a point that either the mom or the kid determines, it’s time to transition away from the breast. How to know that moment, what to do then, and how to be a supportive partner is complicated. It’s also not about you, dad. That’s not to say you can’t help. Here’s what you need to know and how to step in.
When to Say Wean
This bears repeating: none of this is a dad’s decision. While, hopefully, you’ll be part of the conversation, it’s really between your partner and your kid. That said, most moms decide to wean around toddlerhood. That’s because your kid has started to “eat” solid foods (if that’s what you want to call putting bananas in their hair).
A new diverse diet might even prompt a kid to hop on the weaning train themselves. This is, hands-down, the best time to wean. When a parent can follow a kid’s lead and start the weaning process, it usually happens naturally and smoothly. But some kids will be more reluctant to give up the breast. Just as you were when you had to give them up to your kid. In these cases, the weaning process might be a bit more difficult. Although it will probably be difficult for your partner regardless. That’s where you come in.
How to Help Weaning From Breastfeeding
Your helpfulness will depend on how your partner has decided to go about weaning. She might start dropping feedings during the day first, or she might start with the night feedings. You can have a role in either method, primarily by helping to distract your kid and emotionally support your wife.
Dropping feedings during the day might be harder for you to help out with depending on your schedule. But when you are around, you are going to use the secret weapon of dads everywhere: distraction.
- When a normal breastfeeding time is coming around, get in the game. Time to play and distract with new, interesting or favorite foods.
- Let your partner disappear during feeding times. If she’s around, your kid will be focused on her breasts.
- Understand what and how your kid is eating to encourage non-boob related nourishment.
- Keep your kid physically close. They’re not only losing a meal, they’re getting a bit less parental closeness. Lots of hugs, a bit of wresting, and cuddling are necessary now.
Here is where dads can become a superhero. The problem with night weaning is that if your kid wakes up and your partner does not unleash her bosom when she tries to soothe them back to sleep, all hell will break loose. And that means that you’re on the clock. Because your kid understands you’re incapable of the boob magic. Here’s your nighttime checklist:
- Become a bigger part of the nighttime routine and keep your kid physically close to provide some of the comforts they might be losing from your partner.
- Take the night shift for a while, and remember that while you’re soothing you want to be as boring as possible.
- If you’re offering a nighttime bottle, make sure to read up on some night feeding methods.
- Don’t complain. If you’re tired at work, there is help for the long days. Remember, this too shall pass.