How and when to stop breastfeeding

The Brazilian Pediatric Society (SBP) guides breastfeeding up to 2 years or older and gives advice for gradual weaning. Photo: Bigstock

In addition to providing a unique connection with the baby, breastfeeding stimulates its development, increases its immunity, improves its cognitive abilities and prevents various diseases and allergies. “So much so that the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) is that children be exclusively breastfed for at least six months and that breastfeeding continues for up to two years or more,” says Dr Roberto Mario Issler, from the Brazilian Society. of pediatrics (SBP).

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What’s more, studies show that breastfeeding also contributes to a woman’s health, by reducing the rates of breast and ovarian cancer, preventing osteoporosis and cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure. “Not to mention that it is practically free, so there is no reason to suspend breastfeeding, even after the start of the introduction of a healthy diet”, guarantees the pediatrician, encouraging weaning only after the second year of life.

At this age, according to him, the child walks correctly, understands what is happening, is able to express himself better and be easily distracted, reducing the search for the maternal breast. “So this is the ideal time to start the natural weaning process,” he advises. However, “as everything will be led by the woman, it is she who decides the best moment, according to her reality”, he specifies.

Respecting this is essential, according to Issler, because the breastfeeding process demands a lot from the woman, so she needs to feel good physically and emotionally to continue to feed her baby. “The pediatrician then has to listen to this mother, ask her how she is feeling and even when she wants to breastfeed,” she says. “Then, depending on the answers, they can work together to maintain their physical and mental well-being.”

“That’s what happened to me,” says 32-year-old architect Camila Linhares Freire. Mom of little Bruno, she decided to breastfeed on demand, thinking about the benefits for her health. “But not sleeping through the night started to make me sick,” she reports, citing that her performance during the day was impaired, her memory was failing and her bad mood bothered her. “So when Bruno was 1 year and 7 months old, I decided to start weaning”.

To do this, she first reduced the morning feedings, as the boy ate well during the day and was not hungry. “It was more a matter of habit,” she says, saying her husband was instrumental in the process by calming the boy down for three nights of crying. “Afterwards, Bruno started sleeping all night and all that was left was to take the feedings before the nap and at bedtime.”

The strategy chosen was to tell stories at these times and wait for the child to ask to be breastfed. “He started asking every other day, until he stopped alone at 1 year and 10 months,” says Camila, happy to have finished breastfeeding gradually. “As we were gradually reducing the number of feedings, my milk was already scarce and it did not harden once”.

Mercury, Aloe and Coffee

According to SBP’s Breastfeeding Scientific Department, Camila’s way of weaning is ideal, as she prepares the body of the woman as well as that of the baby. “And since the child is already able to speak, the mother can calmly talk to the child about what is going on,” Issler guarantees, condemning the methods in which the family lies to the child during the process.

“We must not apologize or use mercury, aloe vera and even coffee grounds to say that the chest is injured,” he says. “The situation must be managed with clarity and honesty so that it happens smoothly, gradually and with good memories,” he concludes.

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