My 15-month-old daughter refuses to eat normal meals and always wants to breastfeed. I’m trying to limit breastfeeding to naptimes and bedtime and feed her proper meals during the day. After two or three bites she stops eating. I know she’s still hungry because she wakes up at night crying, wanting to eat. Is it OK to force her to eat normal food instead of breast milk?
I think it’s wonderful, Riri, that you’re continuing to breastfeed your baby into her second year of life! You’re both receiving lifelong benefits, which increase as she gets older.
You can’t force a child to eat, and refusing to nurse her may cause her to dislike eating solid foods entirely. I think you have been trying hard to do what’s right by limiting her times at breast, but she may not be quite ready to cut back on a good thing. Remember, too, that little ones also associate nursing with comfort and mummy time, so this may actually be what she is trying to avoid changing.
I would recommend making a deal with her: She can breastfeed for a few minutes after she eats her meal—kind of like dessert—but she must eat the foods you are offering first. After a few attempts at trial and error, she will understand that this is how it’s going to be. A few bites may be all she needs, and if your pediatrician feels she is growing appropriately, stop worrying.
Finally, your daughter is probably waking up during the night to nurse because it comforts her. It’s not unusual for children to wake in the middle of the night, but if it is the same time every night, it’s a habit not hunger. If you wish to break her of this habit, take her back to her own bed and stay with her until she falls back to sleep.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.