Are you trying to wean your nursing toddler?
Weaning a toddler can be tricky.
In some cases, the weaning went so smoothly, but on the other hand, weaning never seems to end.
Which one is yours?
Let me admit, I had the second one.
I have a strong-willed toddler who simply loved to nurse.
Even when she’s turning 2 years old (my initial planned age to wean her), she was still nursing quite a lot of time, and yes, she insisted on it.
To be honest, I was wondering back then how I should start weaning her.
Initially, I thought I would just let her self-wean, but that plan faded after knowing I was pregnant again, and got a pretty bad uterine cramp after nursing her.
So, I don’t have much choice, I must do it.
And now, after a few weeks (or months?) of trying this and that, struggling with her screaming and cries, she’s finally weaned.
And I’d love to compile several useful tips that really helped us during the weaning process. So if you are facing the same problem, here are some weaning tips to deal with your nursing toddler.
Table of Contents
- 1 1. Go slowly (as much as you can)
- 2 2. Communication is a key
- 3 3. Introduce other types of milk
- 4 4.Do not offer to nurse
- 5 5.Make them busy during the day
- 6 6.Gradually taper off the nursing duration.
- 7 7.Gradually cut off the number of nursing sessions
- 8 8. Weaning sleep-related nursing
- 9 9. Use a bottle/sippy cup
- 10 10. Let your spouse be in charge
- 11 11. Go cold turkey
- 12 12.Be consistent
- 13 A Reminder…
1. Go slowly (as much as you can)
Don’t expect to wean in just a few days, especially if your toddler is still nursing a few times a day.
It’s best to allocate at least a few weeks, and depending on your toddler’s needs (and characters), the weaning process may drag longer to months.
You want to end this nursing journey peacefully, and making a great, fond memory for you and your baby.
2. Communication is a key
A toddler understands what you are talking about.
Discuss with your child about your weaning plan a few months before your final weaning day.
With my first baby, my major weaning attempt was done with hypno parenting.
Basically, starting from a few months before the planned weaning date, I started to tell him that when he turns 2 years old, he would become a little boy, not a baby anymore.
“Only little baby nurses from mommy, a little boy drinks milk from a glass”
And he did it. It only takes a few days of adjustment and he’s totally weaned right when he was 2.
My daughter, on the other hand, plays a smart trick.
If she was asked in random timing, ‘are you a little girl or a baby?’ She would proudly say, I’m a little girl.
But when it’s time to nurse, she would say ‘baby baby’, trying to convince us that she’s still a baby.
Ha, toddlers nowadays are surely smart!
Nevertheless, never underestimate the power of communication.
Your toddler may complain and protest at first, but slowly s/he will understand the meaning of weaning and stops nursing gradually.
3. Introduce other types of milk
If your child’s milk source relies solely on you, you have to switch him to other types of milk.
No, don’t do this 1 or 2 week before weaning.
You should start introducing the new milk 3 months before or even 6 months, to help him/her adapt to the new milk taste.
Do you know that after turning 1, you can introduce fresh milk to your baby?
Yes, you can use formula milk, but from my experience, an exclusively breastfed baby would transition to fresh milk better rather than formula milk.
It’s the taste.
Fresh milk tastes, umm.. fresher.. than formula milk.
Try to introduce it as kind of snack first (NOTduring feeding time), and if you observe no rejection, you can slowly use it during their usual nursing session.
Some toddlers are more stubborn than the other.
Ever heard a toddler who rejected all types of milk other than mom’s milk?
My friend had this before.
Her son, despite not nursing directly from the mother (breast milk obtained from exclusive pumping), rejected all other milk.
For this kind of case, you can try the following tips:
- Mix the expressed breast milk with formula / fresh milk before giving it to your child. Admit it, breast milk has a unique taste that is different from fresh milk and formula milk. By mixing them together, your child would hopefully sense a similar taste and scent and accept the transition. Slowly, you can adjust the mixing ratio until it is fully formula / fresh milk.
- Let other caregivers (such as daddy) handles the milk time. Some children, once they see the mother, they only want breast milk. Whereas, if daddy gives them the milk, they won’t complain so much. My friend actually used this technique to gradually wean her son, and it works.
4.Do not offer to nurse
Toddlers get adequate nutrients other than your milk. She has started on solid and she can also drink fresh milk if she dislikes formula (you can start introducing your baby to fresh milk as young as 1 year old).
Additionally, she’s not a little baby anymore. She can communicate better.
She can let you know when she needs to nurse.
Thus, as you start the weaning process, do not offer to nurse if they don’t ask.
And you might be surprised on how long your toddler can stand in between nursing.
5.Make them busy during the day
A boring child asks to nurse more often.
I speak this from my experience.
When we just stay at home (doing no special activities), she would come to nurse anytime she wants it. Even though, she does not actually need it.
But when we were out and about, she would get distracted with all sort of things she saw or people she met such that she totally forgot about nursing.
6.Gradually taper off the nursing duration.
If previously you let your child nurse as long as s/he wants, it is better to reduce the nursing duration before cutting it off completely.
There are various ways to do this.
It can be based on timing (say, set a timer for x minutes and when the alarm goes off, then it’s done, or count to twenty, etc).
Or, perhaps, limiting which boobs s/he is allowed to nurse to.
If your child has a stuffed toy, make a play that it’s time for Teddy to nurse from mommy once the time is up.
My daughter has a little panda that she adores so much. Whenever it’s time to nurse, we will bring the panda together with us, and I told her that once she finished with two sides of boobs, it’s panda turn to nurse, no more nursing for her, and she agreed.
7.Gradually cut off the number of nursing sessions
It is easier to do it during the day when the child is easily distracted with toys/meeting other people.
With this method, soon you will end up with only two more sessions, before and after bed time. Or three if your child is still nursing in the middle of the night.
Now, up to this point, you will be left with nursing sessions that are associated to sleep: before sleep, waking up from sleep, and at midnight.
Personally, I would try to eliminate the nursing after waking up from sleep first, the before sleep, then midnight nursing.
Some parents may find better luck doing it in a different order, so it’s totally up to yours.
a.Waking up from sleep
Distract him/ her from nursing by doing a dramatic wake-up, let her siblings play with her, or offer some drinks.
I noticed that my child gets cranky easily if she doesn’t get a sip of water immediately after waking up.
Some mothers had better luck with a warm/hot beverage, such as hot natural tea with honey, hot milk, etc.
If your child is so used to nurse before sleeping, offer an alternative (e.g. drinking from bottle or sippy cup).
Also, one thing that really works is to add a new bedtime routine to slowly replace the nursing before bedtime.
I found that ‘bedtime prayer’ is a great alternative.
We have a longer version of prayer which includes reciting some chapters from the Holy Book.
Your toddler may not be able to recite some prayers, but you can do it for her, or let the big bro/sis be the prayer leader.
If you don’t have specific bedtime prayer, you can try with longer bedtime stories.
This is a tough one.
If she wakes up feeling thirsty, you can offer her a glass of water.
I always have a water bottle ready for this kind of occasions.
She might refuse or, even worst, scream.
In my case, my daughter screamed so badly such that she managed to wake all people in the house.
You can also offer some hugs, cuddles, or back rubs.
You can also rock her to sleep, but I think that’s a non-sustainable solution. Toddlers are heavy!
Don’t worry too much about your toddler will ask about patting/ rubbing all the time. They’ll wean from it much faster than breastfeeding.
Surprisingly, some toddlers still love the sensation of sucking something, even if they’ve already drunk their milk in a glass.
I found this is true with my daughter.
Even though she already finishes a glass of milk just before bedtime starts, she would still happily gulp another bottle of milk (about 4 oz)with a sippy cup.
It turns out, she still loves kind of ‘chewing‘ the soft spout of it (I use Avent spout system by the way, totally in love with it since I can reuse my Avent bottles and simply screw the spout up, they are compatible!)
Just make sure that they brush their teeth again before sleeping (or at least take a sip of water after finishing the bottle.
10. Let your spouse be in charge
Let daddy takes over and helps to put the child to bed and handle night waking.
Note: this is not for every family.
Some dads are just too light-sleepers, such that they cannot handle less sleep or having difficulty in falling asleep again in the middle of the night.
But if you can get your spouse’s help, that’s really a tremendous help.
Toddlers are smart and they know they can’t ask breastfeeding from their dad. This will make them settle in faster.
Did I say 10?
Wait, I have two more tips!
And yeah, these two are especially important when you deal with a strong-willed toddler.
Check them out.
11. Go cold turkey
I’m not asking you to let her cry until she’s asleep alone.
Well, to be honest, I just can’t do that.
But you can let her cry for a few minutes and then offer to have some water, back rub, etc.
This works well with my daughter’s midnight weaning.
Initially, she would cry and cry (and scream) and only be consoled by nursing (Yep, my give-up moments)
But, I know I would go nowhere if I keep doing this.fter a few days of consistently doing this, she stops her midnight tantrum and sleeps better.
So, I tried to let her cry for a while. No, not that long, perhaps 5 minutes?
Then, I offer her whether she would like a drink or some back rub, and she agreed.fter a few days of consistently doing this, she stops her midnight tantrum and sleeps better.
And so, after a few days of consistently doing this, she stops nursing at night.
Happy ending =D
None of these would work if you just do it for one day or two, then come back nursing her back and forth.
You need to be consistent.
I know, it’s difficult.
The moment your toddler scream and cry for you in the middle of the night.
Or if your toddler suddenly falls sick.. or you are traveling (in which you don’t want to deal with weaning tantrums).
Or you are traveling (in which you don’t want to deal with weaning tantrums. Nope, I don’t want to).
But inconsistency will just make the weaning process longer.
The more consistent you are, the faster it will end.
So, promise me, be consistent, and without knowing it, you’ll be surprised that your toddler no longer asks for mom’s milk anymore.
Every toddler is different.
Some of them wean easily, while some others are more strong-willed and take a longer time to wean.
And how frequent your toddler nurses when you decide to wean also impacts how long the weaning process will last.
Having known that, now you understand that your toddler will have a unique weaning story that cannot be compared with others.
Listen to your heart, go with the flow, and I sincerely hope that you will have the best ending breastfeeding journey that becomes a sweet memory between two of you.
Do you have a weaning story to share? What’s is the most important tips that you feel plays critical role during your weaning process?