HOW TO WEAN A TODDLER OFF BREASTFEEDING
There are many methods on how to wean your toddler off breastmilk. Some are good and helpful, some not so good.
Weaning your child off breastfeeding can be quite an emotional time for both mother and toddler.
Personally speaking, when it comes time for me to wean my toddler/baby, I really don’t enjoy it.
It means that my baby is growing up and I have to accept that.
It is also emotional for my child because they have to come to terms with the fact that they can no longer use the breast as a comforter.
That takes time and patience.
In order to stop your toddler from breastfeeding, there are a number of things that have to happen.
Your milk supply has to dry up. Your baby has to stop looking to you for comfort and they have to seek an alternative dietary method.
I am now a huge fan of baby led weaning, which can make things so much easier for both of you.
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IS NOW THE RIGHT TIME TO WEAN YOUR TODDLER OFF BREASTFEEDING?
Mothers begin to wean their babies for various different reasons. Some wean because they are forced too.
Perhaps they have to return to work. Some wean because they feel that they cannot keep up with the pressures of it anymore, and some mothers wean because their child seems ready.
Whatever the reason is behind weaning you just need to be able to resolve that decision within yourself and make sure that you are happy with it.
Once you start weaning you can’t suddenly decide not to do it anymore because that could be traumatizing for your child.
If you’re going to wean you have to do it with purpose and intent.
IS THERE AN APPROPRIATE AGE TO STOP BREASTFEEDING?
The answer is no.
Children develop differently, some could be ready to begin weaning as early as 6 months of age and some may not be ready until they are 1 year old.
Neither age is necessarily better than the other.
Don’t get confused by when you think your baby should be ready for solids and their mental developmental abilities.
They are not one and the same thing.
Never let anyone force you into giving your child solids if you don’t think they are ready yet.
The more children that I have the more confident that I become in my ability to be a mother to them.
I didn’t begin to wean my youngest until he was about 10 months old.
Although I was getting some pressure from outside to give him food, I didn’t think that he needed it at that point.
He was sitting up himself and all the other traits that you would associate with being ready to wean but I never actually gave him a proper meal until he was 10 months of age.
We opted to do baby led weaning and I think that made things very easy for us.
I didn’t have to stress about trying to puree food for him or have to do “here comes the airplane”.
It was a seamless transition and makes me wonder why I didn’t do things this way with my other children too.
Today, my son is now 16 months of age and although he eats solids he is also still very much on breast milk too.
Choosing to wean your toddler does not mean that you have to stop breastfeeding or giving formula altogether. It doesn’t have to work like that.
HOW DO YOU START WEANING A TODDLER OFF BREAST MILK?
To begin with, you have to know that it is not going to be an easy process.
Your toddler will most likely get a little frustrated and you may well do too. As long as you are prepared for this then you are good to go.
THERE ARE DIFFERENT WAYS YOU CAN TACKLE TODDLER WEANING
1. IMMEDIATE CUT OFF
Some people like to completely cut off breastfeeding from day one.
Just realize that if you choose to do this your baby will probably get very distressed and won’t understand what is going on.
If you have the stomach to take this route (I don’t because I’m too weak lol) then you can make it a little easier by making sure you are not around for most of the day.
If you don’t make yourself scarce each time your toddler sees you in the room it will be even more upsetting for them.
Perhaps you could think about leaving them with a trusted friend or family member while the transition is taking place.
2. NIGHT FEEDING ONLY
You can choose to switch to nighttime only feeding. I’ve done this with my children in the past but again it’s not the easiest method to take.
Using this method means that during the daytime you do not give your baby any breast milk.
Instead only give it to them in the evening.
This is much more friendly than full on cold turkey to wean your baby but it still takes lots of patience and will power.
3. SHORTEN NURSING TIME
Choosing to go slow by shortening nursing time is a great way to wean.
If you are looking for an easy option on how to wean your toddler this would be it.
Doing things this way is a lot less distressing for your baby and they will soon begin to understand that they are being weaned off the breastfeeding and onto solid food.
If your child is old enough I would encourage you to talk to them and tell them what you are doing.
You’ll be surprised how much a young child can understand.
Be warned although this is a great method on paper, depending on your child it can be difficult to get them to give up the breast early on.
4. SKIP SOME FEEDS
This works particularly well if you feed according to a schedule.
Skipping a feed means that your baby is getting less milk time.
Perhaps consider swapping that time with doing something else as a distraction.
Make it a fun snack time so they don’t think too much about the breast milk. Or you could do a fun activity with them.
The key here is to distract as much as possible.
I have also used this method with my children. I was on-demand feeding so I had to find all kinds of things to do to distract my children.
Try to delay feeding for as long as you possibly can. It will take some time but eventually, your child will understand.
***HOW TO WEAN A TODDLER TIP ***
One key piece of advice that I have for you which is extremely important is, don’t wait.
Don’t wait for your child to be screaming with hunger before you decide to give them a snack or dinner.
If your baby becomes extremely hungry, no matter how hard you try or how tasty that food looks they will not eat it.
When a child gets to that point of hunger it’s too late.
They want something fast in their stomachs to fill them up. They want breast milk.
I have made this mistake countless amounts of times and each time I had to cave and give the breast milk, even if it was not a full feed.
It can be easy to forget to give your child a snack when they usually feed on-demand.
If this happens to you, don’t knock yourself just keep trying.
ARE THERE ANY HELPFUL PRODUCTS TO HELP WEAN MY TODDLER?
It’s always a good idea to be prepared. You can start with some basic items and then add more things if you feel the need to.
Remember it’s not a good idea to go out on a spending tangent and buy everything in your eye line.
So if you are going to buy items make sure that you will actually use them.
The items listed below will help you on your journey to weaning your toddler off breastfeeding.
Your baby’s first year of life doesn’t have to break the bank.
- Food blender – You can use these to puree your baby’s food
- Suction Bowl – Suction bowls are revolutionary because they stop your child picking up their bowl and throwing the whole thing on the floor.
- Storage containers for your baby’s food. These allow you to store and freeze baby food in advance.
- Splash Mat These are great because you can put them under your babies high chair and you don’t need to worry about if they drop food on the floor.
- High Chair – Handy so that your baby can sit down to eat with minimal distraction.
- Mesh Food Feeder – These are really handy because you can let your baby eat snacks without worrying about choking on small bits of food.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CHILD IS EATING ENOUGH FOOD AND GETTING THE RIGHT NUTRIENTS?
If your child is under 1 year you may need to supplement your breast milk with formula (if you have decided to stop breastfeeding altogether) to make sure they are receiving the right nutrients.
If your child is above 1 year old then you just have to make sure they are eating a balanced diet.
Introduce foods slowly and don’t go overkill on different spices and seasonings, your child doesn’t need that.
It’s a good idea to make sure your baby has their own plate of food so you can easily see what has been eaten and how much is left at each meal.
WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR BREAST MILK SUPPLY WHEN YOU START WEANING?
This is where it gets painful for mom.
Once you start to wean, your milk will still be coming through with nowhere to go. Your breasts will fill up and become very hard.
It will be painful to even the slightest of touch. Even walking too aggressively can hurt your breasts.
It will remain this way for a few days until your body begins to slow down producing milk.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to avoid this pain you just have to go through it.
If the pain is unbearable you can try taking some painkillers or try putting gel pads on your breasts. These gel pads are designed to stay inside your bra so they are perfect.
Even a good supportive bra can help ease the pain.
Truth be told you can never fully avoid the pain until your milk supply dries up.
You may also need to go back to wearing breast pads for this short time in case you begin to leak milk through your clothes.
The plus side to all of this is that your breasts will look absolutely amazing for those few days.
I have hated it each time I stopped breastfeeding because of the pain I have experienced. I’m pretty sure I even shed a tear or 2 along the way.
This time around I will try things a little differently.
As I intend on long term breastfeeding I will slowly wean my son off breastfeeding as naturally as possible.
I’m hoping that this way my milk supply will be lower and cause me much less pain.
If you are new to breastfeeding there is an amazing course that I have discovered that teaches you everything you need to know about breastfeeding.
In the course, you will learn all sorts of things about breastfeeding, from the benefits of breastfeeding to getting the correct latching position.
If you want to take a peek you can take a look here: Milkology Breastfeeding Course
If you have any useful tips on how to manage the pain of having engorged breasts I really would love to hear them.