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My little girl turned 1 yesterday, and two days before her birthday marked the end of her (and my) breastfeeding journey. At 10 1/2 months, she had already naturally cut down to a morning and bedtime feed, and by 11 months, she decided she didn’t want her bedtime feed anymore, and was down to only one feed a day (on waking).
What I must stress at this point, is that giving up breastfeeding was not my choice. It was entirely my baby’s. I kept putting her to the breast over a 3 day period, and she simply pulled her head away, and clearly didn’t want it. If it was my choice, I’d have probably carried on for another few months, to help get the last couple of pregnancy pounds off! I have mixed emotions about it – slightly sad as she will be our last baby, but also pleased that I can now go away for the day and she won’t need me.
It is well recognised that breastfeeding for the first 12 months provides significant nutritional benefits over other milks. After this, it is down to mum’s choice (or babys’ choice!) whether to carry on breastfeeding for the emotional and comfort benefits that it can bring. By 12 months, a baby who is eating 3 meals a day with snacks in between should be getting the majority of their calories, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals from food. From 12 months, cow’s milk can be introduced as a drink. This is exactly what we have done. I offer water from a free-flow cup at mealtimes and between meals, but I also offer her cow’s milk mid-morning and mid-afternoon. She will usually only drink around 3oz of cow’s milk a day.
Most mums I speak to are concerned about reducing (or stopping) breastfeeds or formula post 12 months because of calcium intake. A 1-3 year old requires 350mg of calcium per day (decreased from 525mg per day for babies under 12 months). Calcium requirements reduce after 12 months because a child over 1 is growing at a slower rate (from birth to 12 months, a baby usually trebles her birthweight). In reality, if your child is having a variety of different foods, it’s easy for them to meet their calcium requirements. If you have a baby, who like mine who has stopped breastmilk or formula milk, here is a list of common calcium-containing foods, along with the amount of calcium they contain, to help you ensure your child is meeting their calcium needs, or reassure you that your child is meeting their calcium needs.
Milk & Dairy foods:
Meats, fish, eggs & alternatives:
Fruits & vegetables
What about vitamins? The Department of Health recommends vitamin supplements (vitamins A, C and D) for all babies from 6 months to 5 years of age, regardless of whether they are breast or bottle-fed (some babies will need vitamins before 6 months, e.g. if mum didn’t take vitamin D supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding). Healthy Start Vitamins contain the right amount of these vitamins, and are free to eligible children, e.g. if parents are on low income or are in receipt of certain benefits. Some local Trusts are offering free vitamins for all babies / children, so check with your Health Visitor for information specific to your own NHS Trust.