Thursday, January 21, 2016

Gently Weaning a Toddler: 5 Tips

I never thought I'd nurse Mira until she was two years old. I remember the extremely accomplishing feeling of making it to 6 months, because those were honestly the hardest months breastfeeding. Then making it to one year, I couldn't believe. By that point I was working and having to pump 3 times a day, though. It sucked. After a few months of pumping at work, I decided to stop. Pumping that is. I just hoped that I was able to produce for Mira in the evening. Which I was! It was the best of both worlds; my production slowed down enough for me not to get engorged, but I had enough for her once I got home.

For a long time she was nursing 3-4 times a day (and getting up in the middle of the night to nurse). When she hit 18 months, she started asking for it herself, which was adorable. "Hummy?" she would say. She was also finally sleeping through the night! 18 months seemed like a significant enough age to start weaning; I just wanted to have my body be completely mine again. So I tried to wean the cold turkey way. Kind of. She would ask for it, and I would turn her down. She didn't take that too well. She'd throw an absolute fit and it broke my heart. For a child who had always nursed on demand, of course this was going to happen. I'd end up giving in within 20 seconds. I tried several times to replace her hummy inquiry with a sippy cup of milk. She was not into that. The worst was when we got home after picking her up from daycare. She wanted to nurse the second we walked in the door; I literally couldn't even take my coat off or go to the bathroom without her having a mental breakdown. She's one hard kid to wean!

After trying a few different things, we eventually cut down to two feedings a day, and after a couple months, once a day. Then towards the end it was once every other day. And as of today, it's been 10 months since she's nursed. All through trial and error. But every child is unique and handles weaning differently, so here are 5 things that worked for us.

1. Have daddy put her to bed. This can be any significant other, babysitter, etc., but not every mama has someone at home with them for bedtime, so I realize this can't work for everyone. Really anything you can do that changes the normal night routine could suffice. This made cutting out our bedtime feeding the easiest one.

2. Replace with a favorite snack or drink. I thought that giving her a sippy cup of milk every time she asked to nurse was the best thing, since it was the closest thing to the boob, but it wasn't. She wanted nothing to do with a sippy cup when it came to nursing. I tried a few other choice snacks and that didn't work either. I figured out it had to be her absolute favorite snack, something that brings her comfort like nursing does. For us, it was puree pouches, like Happy Tot and Plum Organics that got her to forget about nursing. She is definitely food motivated, this is the *key* thing that really helped the weaning process.

3. Do not wear low cut shirts. Out of sight, out of mind. Mira would be just fine crawling all over me like a jungle gym, unless I had cleavage showing. Then her face was all up in the hummy and there was no turning back

4. Set times of day to nurse and stick with them. This is mostly the hardest for weekends when you're not on a schedule. I always made sure to tell Mira "it's not hummy time" if she asked mid-morning or at supper time. I also started the "no nursing in public" rule after she was already a year and didn't rely on it for food. Part of it was that people get judgy (unfortunately), but most of it was just me wanting to keep my boobs to myself.

5. Don't cut out more than one nursing session at a time. Go slowly. Like you can read from above, each time I cut out a session, I would leave it like that for months at a time until deciding to cut out another one. Trying to wean too fast will make your littles feel betrayed and hurt.

So happy for our nursing time together, it was truly a joy :)

Some kids are easier than others. Some are just plain stubborn (like mine)! Take it at their own pace because after all, this is their nourishment, their comfort, and probably their favorite past time that you are taking away, so do not rush them.

Now let's hear from you!
What are some tips or tricks you've learned from weaning?


  1. I am going through this right now! It's much harder to wean a toddler. It's also an emotional process for me since it's our last child. We're taking it nice and slow, but we often take one step forward and two steps back. Thank you for the great tips! I'll be using a few of them :)

    1. It really is harder. At first I thought it was cute when she could hop up on my lap herself and tug at my shirt, but then I was like "hey, this is my body!". Lol.

  2. Love these tips because they're so practical. So much of working with toddlers is meeting them in the middle and easing them into any change. I'm looking forward to more of your posts :)

    1. Thanks! Weaning was the first time I truly had to learn to compromise!

  3. Love this! My daughter will be 2 next month (ack!!) and Im kinda over the boob, lol. We want to cut out night feedings first but are waiting for the FOUR teeth she is cutting right now to come in. I figure night weaning with a sore, achey mouth is a bad idea. Im definitely ready to have my body back to myself and Id really love some cuddles that dont involve nursing. Your post gives me renewed hope and courage :)

    1. Middle of the night feedings were the hardest to cut! We actually had to get tubes in her ears for chronic ear infections and after that she slept through the night. Once she went 2 days without nursing, she didn't even ask about it again, it was weird! To this day, she doesn't remember what "hummy" is!


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