The best way to wean your toddler from breastfeeding is the way that works best for your family. With that being said, here are a few tips that I found helpful while weaning my toddler.
I breastfeed Alexa for 18 long months. There were times along the way I thought I was ready to stop. Especially when she discovered biting 😳
I loved breastfeeding my daughter though. I loved having her snuggled up to me and knowing that I was providing her with the best nutrients available made me feel so important. While there were times I wanted to stop because of biting, the inconvenience, and because she was getting older, I just couldn’t do it. It made me so emotional to think about this time being the last time.
When she turned 18 months I knew it wasn’t going to get any easier to stop so I just had to do it. That brings me to the first tip to wean your toddler from breastfeeding, committing.
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Tips To Wean Your Toddler From Breastfeeding
When you decide you are ready to start weaning your toddler you need to commit to the decision. Toddlers are notorious for throwing tantrums to get their own way, and they are bound to do this when you start the weaning process.
If you give in to these tantrums you’re letting your toddler knowing that they work, so they are going to keep throwing them to get what they want. Telling your toddler they can’t nurse, and then nursing them once they throw a fit is only going to confuse them.
Have A Plan
It’s a lot easier to commit to your decision if you have a plan. It isn’t recommended that you quite breastfeeding cold turkey because this can lead to engorgement and even infection. Instead it is better to eliminate one feeding session at a time until you are done.
How long this will take will depend on how often you are feeding your toddler. When I first started weaning Alexa I was feeding her before naps and before bed but also on demand during the day if she would ask or if she was upset.
So first, I got rid of the on demand feedings. If she would ask, I would say not right now, I will nurse you before your nap. Although she wasn’t very happy being told no at first, it did make her feel better to know when she could nurse. Being consistent and not giving in is crucial.
A good rule to follow is dropping one feeding per week. This will help you avoid engorgement. However, I had a hard time giving up breastfeeding, almost as hard of a time as Alexa. If I remember correctly I believe we gave up one feeding a month 😂
You have to do what works best for you and your toddler. If you are 100 percent ready, feed up, down to be done, then that’s great! The drop one feeding a week will work great for you. Buuuut if you’re like me and you’re having a hard time letting go there is nothing wrong with dragging the process out, as long as you don’t backtrack and give a feeding that was already dropped.
Offer A Substitute
Every toddler is different and will have slightly varying reactions to weaning, ranging from a small look of confusion to a down right ugly temper tantrum. Offering your toddler something special once you tell them no to nursing can help soften the blow.
Here are a few suggestion:
Special Stuffed Animal
Or offer doing a different activity together like:
Read a book
Do a puzzle
Sing a song
Have a snack
Prepare For Side Effects
Aside from a cranky toddler, when you start weaning you yourself may experience a few side affects.
When you drop a feeding you may experience more leaking than usual until your body adjusts. You will definitely want some good breast pads, I like these because they are reusable.
You may also experience engorgement because your breast aren’t being emptied. Until your body adjust and stops making milk this can be uncomfortable. Warm compresses, cold compresses, and pain relievers like ibuprofen can help ease the discomfort.
Sometimes engorgement can lead to an infection called mastitis. If you experience flu-like symptoms and painful breast and redness of the breast you should call your doctor right away.
Weaning your toddler can also cause some women to become very emotional. This is caused by changing hormones, of course. It’s perfectlly normal to feel sad, a sense of loss, or even irritable. I definitely cried every time I thought about dropping the last feeding, which is why the process dragged out for so long.
If your little one is having an especially hard time giving up breastfeeding it can take a toll on you too.
Having Dad, or another family member, take over nap time and bedtime can help. It gives you a much needed break, but your toddler may also be less likely to throw a fit when you aren’t right there for them to ask to nurse.
Words of Encouragement
Weaning your toddler from breastfeeding isn’t always easy. Every mother is different, every child is different, so every experience is going to be different. Some find it easier than other, while some find they have a harder time letting go than their child does. The best thing you can do is follow the tips you’ve read here today and most importantly follow your instincts. Good luck Mama!