I believe in the child led weaning philosophy (I like to say, "a met need goes away") but I'm worried it might be interfering with my son's nutrition. My 30 m/o DS has been refusing to eat most foods during the day and just keeps requesting milk. I am wondering if I should set limits around his bottles/begin working towards weaning from the bottle, or not. I am reluctant because he seems to rely on the bottle for soothing, and to limit his bottles seems incongruent with child led principles. But some days he barely eats any solids and we burn through expensive milk so quickly.
DS was EBF to 9 mos and primarily BF to 12 mos, when I had to start working F/T (I am now only working ~10 hrs/wk). I had trouble pumping enough, so the bottles he got from Daddy became increasingly attractive to him and he weaned fully by 18 mos. (If this had not happened, I would likely still be committed to a child led approach with breastfeeding). He has been drinking organic cow's milk in a bottle multiple times a day since (sometimes mixed with almond milk). He also came to rely on the bottle for soothing, and still uses it for that purpose quite frequently. Once solids were started, he grew to eat a nice range of good, whole foods, but he has become more picky as time has gone on.
BTW, I realize this forum is primarily about breastfeeding, but since child led weaning principles are important to me, I thought this might be an appropriate forum in which to post my question.
I think you may want to cross post this in Toddlers or the Childhood Years (or Nutrition & Good Eating).
How much milk is your 30 month old drinking? Unlike nursing, children cannot control the flow of a bottle so they can easily have too much cows milk. Additionally, cows milk does not change with age so it is really not an appropriate source for the vast majority of a child's nutrition. There are limits as to how much cows milk a child should drink and it should like your son may be going over them.
Can we have some more information? Like a rundown of his day and what he is eating/drinking? Does he nap still? Get a bottle before bed? Many children at that age are notoriously picky, but I would be concerned if a 30 month old was getting a majority of their nutrition from cows milk.
I would try giving him milk in a sippy cup or straw cup, rather than a bottle, and see if he will naturally decrease the amount he's drinking. As PP says, bottles are difficult for babies to control the flow of, and he may be taking more than he needs inadvertently. Drinking from bottles can also be worse for the teeth, so you have every reason to try and discourage him from drinking from them all day long. I'm not sure how other people will see it, but I would see it as a problem that warrants some changes. My son drinks only from a sippy or straw cup now that he's 15 months, but we do still nurse,so that's a little different.
Thanks for your responses.
He IS getting too much cow's milk. In an average 24 hour period, he'll drink 36 to 42 oz. of milk at six different points through the day/night (if it's 2 percent or whole milk, I'll add some water). He mostly asks for milk around transition times: at 4am, 6am, 8am (while transitioning from sleepy mode to awake), 1pm (going down to nap for 2 to 3 hours), 3pm (while transitioning out of sleepy mode and into play) and 7pm (beginning of bedtime routine). I've started cutting some of the servings in half, so on a good day, his intake will be around 32 oz. In addition to this, he'll often ask for milk when he's feeling stressed or upset about something. Often I will give it to him (2 to 3 oz.). Sometimes I will try soothing him in other ways (holding, snuggling) and then get him playing so that he forgets about the milk. I've started doing this more in recent days. Sometimes this works, but not always. If he's sick, or if I'm low on emotional energy and less consistent in my responsiveness, he can drink upwards of 72 oz. a day and barely eat any solids!
If I don't time snacks and lunches just right, (if I'm busy or distracted) he'll ask for milk and I have to work very hard to get him to eat food once he's got milk on the brain. I've tried night weaning (no milk from 7pm to 5am), but he continued to wake at 3 and 4 crying for milk, despite weeks of saying no, offering water, soothing by holding or rocking, etc. So I finally decided to adjust my expectations and give him a bottle at 3:30 or 4 and I leave a cooler bag with a second bottle for 6am in his bed so he can help himself.
He's always been somewhat higher needs. It's always been very difficult to get him to sleep longer than 6 to 7 hours at a time. He seems particularly sensitive to my emotional state and those of others; he seems to be a pretty sensitive and empathic little person. I have always tried to be very responsive to his emotional needs; we are well connected and he's not an insecure boy, by any means. I think he has just come to rely on the bottle as his primary means of self soothing. I know I've helped it along, too, in that there are times that it is far easier to let him sit on the couch and soothe himself instead of staying with him longer. In fact, now that I've started to offer to stay with him longer, he often rejects my offer and prefers the bottle. (This is the double edged sword of no longer breastfeeding; you don't have physically stay with them for them to be receiving some form of soothing. I loved breastfeeding, but with him, it was also utterly exhausting to me!).
I've tried a couple types of sippys, but every time I put milk in anything that is not a bottle, he gets upset and refuses it. I'm reluctant to spend more money on other kinds because I'm not convinced this will be an effective route for him at this point (it might have worked if I'd tried it when he was younger).
I think I need to begin teaching him that there are other effective and healthier ways to soothe. And I probably should change my self talk and start thinking about it as introducing gradual, developmentally appropriate limits so he'll learn and grow, instead of thinking of it as "taking away" his primary means of self soothing (which makes me feel uncomfortable and anxious, and is not what I'm doing anyway). Any suggestions on how to do that? Do you think that is still consistent with child led weaning principles?
That is a LOT of milk, IMO. My DD is younger, but at 13 - 14 months or so I started having to decrease her bottles We still do a wake-up, pre-nap, pre-bed, and middle-of-the-night bottle (4 oz each), even thought she doesn't suck to sleep anymore. I had also wanted things to be more child-led, but I realized at some point that the bottle was deceiving her into thinking she was nourished when she really just had a full belly. I think you're right to that your LO may need to learn some other ways to self-soothe - and also rely a bit more on you again. My DD has, for some reason, never fed herself a bottle, so she still really relies on closeness to me for soothing. And she DID gain interest in solids as soon as we started dropping bottles. Her weight went up in the percentiles from 5 to 15 between her 12 and 18 month check-ups, and she started sleeping better at night. (Well....sometimes.)
My ds1 was bottle fed (with BM) and I also wanted him to be the one to regulate how much he drank. But when he was over a year and drinking 11oz for his morning bottle and then not eating actual food for hours and then still wanted MORE milk throughout the day, (which I had to pump) I started oz by oz decreasing the milk in the morning bottle until it was 6oz. When he showed me he needed more milk, I got down to his level, pointed at the bottle, and would say things like, "Uh oh! Milk all gone! Lets find a cracker!" In a happy, this-is-it, factual voice. He did cry occasionally, but lots of repeating of, "I know you want more milk. Milk is done. How about a (whatever)?" or we would change the scenery and go outside. Eventually all his bottles were 6oz, then 4-5oz, which is the lowest he ever drank. Then I would stop offering the bottle and give him 4-5oz whenever he would ask, which sometimes would follow his usual schedule, sometimes not. Little by little it slowed down to one little bottle in the morning. One day he got up and asked for oatmeal, which he usually had after his morning bottle, and after that he never had another one :)
Maybe if you don't change the times he drinks, since his body is likely wired to drink his bottle at that specific time, but slowly decrease the amount? That's the only thing I can think of, and it really worked well for us. It definitely won't happen overnight so in a way, if you only slightly help your LO along, it could be like child led bottle weaning. Just with a teeny little extra push
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What else is he drinking? Does he have a water bottle or juice cup that he has free access to throughout the day? I had to teach my DS that his desire for "milk" was often just thirst, and water/juice can take care of that just fine. At 28 mos we're still buying formula, but he's phasing it out finally. He's refused cow's milk until the last few weeks.
I would also recommend night-weaning. It's a PITA, but it will cut down on his milk consumption during the wee hours. I would also start regularly watering his milk, instead of only part of the time. Water it a little more each day until he starts refusing it, and then you know his tolerance threshold. And work on more regular meal/snack times. Maybe give him his own snack tray that you fill and he can eat from whenever he likes instead of waiting on you to get him a snack.
By doing the above, I was able to get my DS from about where you are now to 2 bottles/day in about 2-3 mos. Now he gets one at bed time and one in the wee hours (up from 3 or 4 wakings with a bottle each time). The rest of the day he has a juice/water cup that he has free access to and that I keep filled. I do have to really think about feeding him breakfast early each day (since he gets up before I do), but so long as I keep food in his tray for him he seems to do okay.
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That is a lot of milk, particularly out of a bottle, and I'd worry about his health more than I'd worry about the dogmatics of "child led weaning." If he's still getting cows milk three times in the middle of the night, the milk sugars are sitting on his delicate little teeth and contributing to decay and cavities. Bottles in particular are bad for the teeth and for oral development. So you've got a double whammy there. I don't know if you've taken him to a dentist yet, but I'd be surprised if he didn't already have decay as a result of the milk sitting on his teeth all night long.
Obviously you know that cows milk is not a great food for a kid to consume as their only nutrition. It lacks a huge amount of nutrients that growing children need. Milk is also extremely filling. He's not eating a lot of food because he's drinking a ton of milk and he's not hungry. We had some nutrition problems and feeding problems, and one of the things the nutritionist said to us that was an "ah-ha moment" was that kids need to feel HUNGRY to be successful at eating. If you keep giving him milk all the time, you're sabotoging your efforts to give him food because he won't eat unless he's really hungry. Obviously he's going to want milk, because that's his most favorite food. If you take milk off the table, but offer an array of other foods, he'll probably throw a fit. But the truth is that he won't starve, and once he gets hungry enough, he'll eat something else. Our pediatrician told us that children won't starve themselves, and I think it's probably true. If you keep offering other foods and don't give him milk, he'll recognize that you're setting limits on the milk and grow to accept this new system.
I don't mean to be harsh, because I know that getting your kids to give up something they really enjoy (especially one that helps your kid relax) is really hard. Sometimes as parents, we have to do things that really upset our kids, because we're responsible for their safety and health and their growth, and they're too young to have that responsibility on their shoulders. We have to set limits and boundaries sometimes, and we have to be firm. Letting him continue to drink over a quart of milk every day is dangerous for his overall health, and it's totally within your right to set a limit on something that affects his health, even if he loves it.
I don't necessarily think that he'll drop the milk on his own, even if his need is seemingly met, because the need isn't necessarily for milk but for comfort. A child will ALWAYS seek something for comfort, particular toddlers who are especially drawn towards "transitional objects," and that need will never totally be met. The bottle has become his transitional object in the same way that a child who has a blankie needs his blankie to relax. So I would try to redirect him to a new transitional object, and only give him milk (even if it's in a bottle initially) at the table with his meals, so he understands that milk is a food and food is eaten at the table. When he needs the comfort, give him something else to snuggle and if he begs for the bottle say "No bottle. You can cuddle blankie (etc.)"
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