By: T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., and Joshua Sparrow, M.D.

Q. How can I wean my 13-month-old daughter? She’s on at least three feedings a day, won’t take a bottle and isn’t interested in formula or cow’s milk. She’s also pretty skinny so I’m reluctant to withdraw without a substitute.

A. The second year is a likely time for struggles over food. Many children seem to shut down, taking in the bare minimum and only what they want. So we’d hate to see you take away such a wonderful nutrition source.

What else is your daughter eating? Has she started drinking from a cup? Before you stop breast-feeding, see whether you can interest her in other approaches.

Will she take breast milk from a bottle or a cup? She may try a new food if it’s doused in breast milk – a pasty cereal, preferably with lots of protein and iron. (Ask your pediatrician to check your daughter’s height and weight to be sure her growth curve is on track. A multiple vitamin or vitamin D and iron may be in order.)

We recommend keeping these experiments low-key and relaxed. Your daughter will sense your anxiety, which may turn her off.

Without making a fuss, you should expect to introduce a new food 10 to 15 times before she even tries it. Some children’s taste buds are very sensitive, and they need a while to get used to anything new.

So don’t give up – but don’t push. Just place a small amount on her highchair. Say nothing. Any suggestion to try it is likely to backfire. You may find you can mix a favorite food with a tiny amount of a new one, gradually increasing the proportion.

Breast-feeding is important to your daughter for more than nutrition. Do you and she have special quiet times together when you’re not nursing? How else can you soothe her, and how can she soothe herself? She may become more interested in other ways of feeding if you have other times when you’re close.

At this age a child already toddling may no longer spend as long at the breast to soothe and cuddle. But breast-feeding is important in many ways. For now, your daughter must face her own ability to get away from you and from her mixed feelings of fear and excitement when she does. It is reassuring for her to come back to you and to nurse again.

Responses to questions are not intended to constitute or to take the place of medical or psychiatric evaluation, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a question about your child’s health or well-being, consult your child’s health-care provider.

Dr. Brazelton, prior to his passing, was the founder and head of the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, which promotes and supports community initiatives that are collaborative, strength-based, prevention-focused sources of support for families raising children in our increasingly stressful world. Dr. Sparrow, a child psychiatrist, is currently the Director of the Brazelton Touchpoints Center. Learn more about the Center at www.touchpoints.org.

Reprinted with permission from the authors.