Gently Weaning Your Breastfeeding Toddler
Extended breastfeeding has many benefits for mom and child, and today it seems more moms and babies are nursing into toddlerhood. But eventually there will come a time when nursing mom, or nursing toddler, are ready to wean from the boob.
If your toddler decides it’s time, well it’s time. But what if mom decides it’s time?
Do you need to wean your toddler because you are pregnant? Perhaps you are weaning because you are trying to conceive another baby. Do you need to wean your toddler because you are returning to work? Or have you been prescribed a medication not approved for breastfeeding mothers?
Gentle weaning from the breast is easiest on mom and toddler. If you want to wean with as few tears as possible, try some of these methods to help wean your toddler from breastfeeding.
- Don’t offer. Only nurse when your toddler really wants to. Try a gentle distraction – if your toddler can be distracted easily, then they don’t really need to nurse. If your toddler really does want to nurse, you’ll know!
- Make sure your toddler is drinking well from a bottle or cup. Is she drinking plenty of milk or formula? If not, spend a few days or weeks getting her milk intake up. Here’s some tips to get your toddler to drink more milk. Also, have plenty of snacks about to encourage snacking on food, not mom.
- Analyze when your toddler nurses. When does your toddler nurse? In what situations does he ask to nurse? For instance, If you have always nursed in when you sit in a particular chair, avoid sitting in that chair if possible.
- A change of fashion. If I wore a v-necked top, my son could yank it down and help himself. Wearing a higher necked top lessened the attraction. Switch out your familiar nursing tops, get some of your pre-pregnancy clothes out. Or even treat yourself to a new shirt. Out of sight, out of mind!
- Be busy. Get out of the house, and do something fun. Toddlers forget about nursing when they are having a blast at the playground, or a playdate at a friend’s house.
- Start gradually shortening nursing sessions, or only nurse on one side per session. Nurse where you can see a clock to keep an eye on how long you nurse, and reduce the time gradually. When you nurse less, there is less demand on your milk supply. Your body will respond by producing less, and your toddler may naturally get less interested in nursing with less milk avaliable.
- Eliminate middle of the day nursing sessions first. Keep “special” nursing sessions like the first, and last of the day, and nursing to sleep, as the last ones to go.
- Night weaning is often the hardest thing to do. Toddlers are usually most attached to nursing at nighttime and are very reluctant to stop. But it can be done! Elizabeth Pantley’s books, The No Cry Sleep Solution, and The No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers, both have lots of wonderful advice for gently night weaning a toddler.
And always remember to replace the nursing sessions with plenty of love, cuddles, and attention. It may be rough at times but toddlers will forget all about it frighteningly quickly. The toddler who nursed 10 times a day will soon not care less.
Remember it’s you she loves, not the boob. Many moms say that once they have weaned, they feel closer to their toddler because they know that their child really loves them, and not just for nursing.