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How to Wean a Toddler Off Breastfeeding (Easily and Painlessly)
Some babies lose interest in breastfeeding on their own. Others need their mothers to lead the way when it comes to weaning.
As a nursing mother, I often hoped my baby would eventually lose interest in breastfeeding so I wouldn’t have to struggle through the weaning process. Yet at the same time, I wanted to just keep nursing my daughter because stopping would mean that we would no longer have that special time together. And it would mean that my sweet little baby was growing up.
As time moved forward, my daughter continued to take a liking to breastfeeding. So I began to think about when and how to conduct some mother-led weaning.
I kept coming up with deadlines to stop breastfeeding, but as I approached each one, I didn’t quite feel ready to stop.
So I made the decision to wean very gradually, which really worked out for me. It ended up being much easier and painless compared to the other weaning stories I read about online. And although I was concerned about my daughter not eating enough solids at first, I could see her becoming more interested in them as I continued weaning.
So I want to share that process with you, as well as some tips on how to wean a toddler off breastfeeding.
How I Weaned My Almost 2-Year-Old Off Breastfeeding
Prior to starting the weaning process, I was nursing between 3-5 times per day.
3 Feedings Per Day
When my daughter was almost 15 months, we planned on taking a small trip to visit an aunt. So I cut down to a solid three feedings per day to make things easier. Keeping my daughter engaged during the trip helped to keep her mind off the missed feedings.
I originally planned on reducing feedings from there but decided there was no reason for me to stop breastfeeding, given that neither my daughter nor I seemed ready to stop.
2 Feedings Per Day
When my daughter was almost 20 months, our family was planning a trip to Vermont. So shortly before the trip, I decided to wean down to two feedings per day. I nursed once in the late morning and then another time in the late afternoon or early evening.
When I did some research on weaning, I discovered that the bedtime feeding is usually hardest to cut out. However, this wasn’t the case for us. My daughter wanted her second feeding earlier. Furthermore, reading her books and doing other bedtime routine activities made it easier for her to forget about nursing at bedtime.
1 Feeding Per Day
After our trip, I knew that my husband and I wanted to start trying to have our second child soon. So I then weaned down to one feeding per day.
I waited until my daughter requested to be nursed before nursing her. She usually made the request in the early evenings.
At this point, I would occasionally see if I could skip a day of nursing here and there, as long as my daughter didn’t request it. (Shoving a pillow onto my lap was her signal that she wanted to be breastfed).
One Breast Per Day
In November, when my daughter was about 21 months old, I still didn’t feel ready to fully stop breastfeeding. So my goal became to stop nursing at the end of the year.
At that point, my husband and I had recently started trying for our second baby. My daughter and I stilled seemed to enjoy nursing so much that I needed an extra push to actually stop. So I felt like if I became pregnant, I would feel more emotionally ready to “let go of my baby” and stop nursing.
Anyway, at 21 months I still nursed once per day but only from one breast. I was worried that my breasts would constantly feel lopsided by doing this, but I actually didn’t notice any issues. That’s probably because I had been weaning so gradually over several months.
Also, my daughter suddenly started requesting to be breastfed immediately in the mornings. So for the rest of the day, I had to engage her in other activities to keep her distracted from wanting to nurse again.
The Final Stop
When my daughter was 22 months old, I hadn’t gotten pregnant yet but decided to stop nursing because I read that some women don’t regain full fertility until they’ve completely weaned off breastfeeding.
So I decided that Christmas was the perfect day to stop breastfeeding. That day was so busy and exciting that my daughter forgot all about nursing. My husband was also off work the following week, so he was able to get her out of bed in the mornings (when she usually wanted to nurse).
Doing this process slowly helped keep temper tantrums for my daughter at a minimum. On the other hand, if I would’ve weaned more quickly and created a more abrupt transition for her, I imagine it wouldn’t have been as easy for her to deal with.
Is your toddler throwing temper tantrums as a result of weaning or some other stressor? Check out my free mini email course on dealing with temper tantrums below!
The Drying Out Process
After I stopped breastfeeding, it took about a week before my breasts felt full. It likely took that long because of how slowly I had been weaning. Also, the feeling of fullness was nothing like the engorgement women experience in their earlier days of nursing. Thank God.
Over the next few days, my breasts randomly leaked a little once or twice per day as part of the drying-out process. I had very slight pain because of the fullness I was feeling. However, I imagine that when you’re weaning less gradually, you experience a lot more leaking and pain.
The only thing I really needed to do to complete this process, aside from keeping my daughter’s mind off nursing, was to wear nursing pads. And that’s it! I would say it took around 10-12 days for me to dry out completely. But I experienced minimal leaking for only about 4 of those days.
Tips on Weaning Easily and Painlessly
- Wean as gradually as you can. You don’t have to wean as slowly as I did. But consider giving a couple weeks for your body and toddler to adjust after each time you reduce feedings.
- Find other activities to engage your child in during nursing sessions that you’ve cut out.
- Have solid foods and alternative beverages handy when your child is hungry. Sucking on these organic fruit pouches was a great alternative for my daughter.
- Give lots of physical affection and snuggles to your child to replace the nursing.
- Hide the nursing pillow or any objects that might trigger your child’s desire to nurse. That includes trying not to wear low-cut shirts.
- Be sure to have nursing pads handy for weaning. I used washable, reusable organic nursing pads, which I especially love because you don’t have to waste disposable pads when you’re just hanging around the house.
- Although I didn’t need this while weaning, a warm compress on your breasts can help relieve pain.
The whole weaning process was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be because I listened to my instincts. I kept nursing and waited until both my daughter and I felt ready to let go.
By the way, my daughter naturally started eating like a little piggy as I cut back on nursing. So I didn’t need to worry about whether she was getting enough nutrients.
It’s been almost three weeks since I stopped nursing at the time of writing this. And so far, there haven’t been any major problems. My daughter cries for a couple minutes in the morning until I get her to the kitchen to get some breakfast, and she still tries to shove a pillow on me at times. But we’re getting by just fine!
How did you wean your toddler off breastfeeding? And how did it go?
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are based on my own experience and research and should not be taken as medical or therapeutic advice.