There are so many articles and forums online that discuss weaning your baby from the breast when the time comes to end your breastfeeding relationship. We’ve noticed a distinct lack of advice pertaining to toddlers though. Many of us breastfeed our children for a couple of years and when the time comes to wean there really is not the same level of advice on the subject.
So here we are – covering the topic in the hopes that it will help some of you guys. I personally breastfed my son until he was two years and three months. When the time came that it felt right for me to wean him from the breast it was really important to me that it was done in a gentle way. I was essentially removing something that had been part of our relationship since the moment he was born. Something he associated with comfort and security. It was daunting and I wanted to do it in the kindest way possible, for the both of us.
Here are my tips for weaning
a toddler from the breast. I really hope they will help you.
- Make a decision and stick to it. This is probably the hardest part because it highlights the emotional connection that you have to breastfeeding. It will never be straightforward emotionally but if you make a concrete decision it will eliminate the temptation to go back and forth or change your mind which will ultimately make things harder for you and your child. It will also require the support of your partner or loved ones so it really pays to embrace the decision and have them on board too.
- Shorten nursing sessions and phase out the “on demand” breastfeeding. Limit it to certain times to help break the association with it being available at all times. If your child is upset by the nursing session ending too quickly, offer them a different drink. These shorter nursing sessions will be kinder to your own physical comfort as well as your child’s emotional adjustment.
- This might sound a bit controversial but I would recommend finding a “replacement”. This won’t make a lot of sense to some people but I actually offered a bottle. I needed something that would replace the comfort, warmth and taste that he associated with feeding from the breast. I know that logically I am replacing one thing with another but the name of the game here was to wean him from breastfeeding so I kind of had to do what I had to do. At the times that he regularly fed I let him have a small bottle of warm milk and this worked well. In a perfect world, it might be a drink from a cup or a beaker but you’ll know best.
- Start with weaning at night as this may be the hardest place to begin. Once you’ve made progress there it will gradually feel more manageable to work on the day time feeds. Breastfeeding is generally connected to the comfort of sleep so gently phasing out that association will help when weaning. Explaining to your child that Mammy is tired and will give the milk in the morning is a good place to start. The feed will come in the morning so it will soon become a trusted sentence. If you are co-sleeping it helps to change the dynamic in the bed. Encouraging your child to sleep on the other parent’s side can help in this regard.
- Expect it to be a slow process. Putting pressure on yourself to have it “done” by a certain date is certain to make the situation a lot harder for all involved. Expect it to be a slow and gentle process and it will make a big difference to how you manage your expectations. Replacing one regular feed with a different hot drink is really effective. Gradually reducing the feeds is also better for you in terms of avoiding engorgement and managing the dip in hormones which can be emotionally difficult.