Weaning a Toddler (General Advice)

Wisdom compiled from PSP members for those looking to kick off the weaning process.

Also check out our pages on Night Weaning and Baby Led Weaning.

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March 2021 advice compilation:

Hi breastfeeders, current and former -

Have you weaned your child during the pandemic? Do you have tips for me? Here's my deal -

I bf'ed my daughter til she was two...had my son when she was four and decided I'd prefer to wean him when I went back to work rather than bf quite as long. I was supposed to return to work when he was seven months old, last March, and of course I never did get to go back to the office. I've been working from home ever since and he's at the house most of the day, but with his nanny. I usually don't bf during the day but he's still nursing (a little for nourishment, a lot for comfort) at 18 mo and i'm so ready to move on but i don't know how!

Like most of our little kids, mine have gotten very very reliant on us all being together all the time. It's so clear to me how different my son is in terms of his clingy attachment as compared to his sister at this age when i was out of the house working and sometimes going out after work with friends (ie, had a life outside of home and family). He is very very clingy, sleeps terribly unless he's with us, and wants to nurse all night. I feel like a barn cat.

Looooong story short - how are those of you in a similar boat dealing with all this? I too feel comfort in the closeness with him but I feel a deep need to move on as well. I also think his sleep will improve if we discontinue nursing. Is this even possible or advisable given the current state of affairs? Does anyone have nuts and bolts strategies for weaning that work in the situation we're all in of constant contact? I'm not really finding any tips online.

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Hey not sure if this will help. I was in the same situation with my son up until Jan. He’s 3 and I kept telling myself for at least 6 months I want to stop breast bg wedding but he was still nursing at sleep for comfort. In January I had to take antibiotics and I couldn’t breast feed so I just told him mommy has to take pills and you can’t have milk because you’ll get the medicine too and at first I said it was just for 5 days and he asked the next day are you done yet mommy? And the next day he asked are you done yet mommy and I kept saying no not done yet...after a few days he stopped asking so there you have what worked for me! My friend put bandaids on her breasts and said they were bruised and needed to heal and that worked for her. We still snuggle a lot. He was going to bed without milk with my nanny or my mom so I knew he didn’t actually need the milk....also we started giving him yogurt or ricotta right before bed to also fill him up so he didn’t need that milk fill me up feeling you know?

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I would recommend the La Leche League Park Slope toddler zoom - once a month.  I went to this to get tips on how to cut my toddler son's daytime BF, which also picked up when the pandemic began and was too much for me after many months.  We still BF morning and before bed but that is by choice.  because I was only cutting back and my son has not nursed during the night since he was a lot younger i'm not sure the tips they gave me would apply but they are a supportive community!

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I started exclusively pumping when my son was about ten months old because he was getting really distracted while nursing and it was driving me crazy. It felt incredibly silly to pump while he was in the next room, but I have to say that it made weaning much easier because, like you said, it dissociated nutrition from comfort. We just started mixing cow milk in his bottles progressively when I decided that I was ready to wean. I had all the pumping gear already from my few months back at work, so maybe it wouldn't be worth investing in a lot of stuff just as a transition. But if you're only pumping a couple of times a day, you might also get away with just a hand pump, which is cheap and very easy to use.

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I breastfed our daughter until she was 2 years and 5 months. The goal was to breastfeed until she was 2 but it was sooooooo hard to wean her. I was working so much at the time and felt that it was our time to bond. However, I was motivated at the time bc flying was impossible. As soon as she turned 2, she could no longer sit on my lap and I couldn’t breastfeed her during take off and landing. It was miserable and it was around the holidays where everyone was tired and stressed. Anyhoo- all the books we read and advise we heard did not work. What actually worked for us was bandaids. A friend told me that she put bandaids on her nipples and told her toddler that her boobies were hurt and that she can’t breast feed. We tried this and lo and behold, it actually worked! Our daughter was concerned at first but I kept changing out the bandaids and kept saying they were hurt for maybe 2 weeks? She had to resort to cows milk and eventually got used to it. It’s not a popular method bc I’ve never heard of anyone else doing it other than my friend and I, but it’s what eventually worked for us.

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I'm so sorry, you must be exhausted!! I'm nursing my 10 month old baby girl, and pumping during the day, and I'm already wondering when it's okay to be done... you've done a phenomenal job getting this far! Reading over your post I think you have two issues to deal with: sleep, and weaning. It may be difficult for you and your son to tackle them both at once. Personally I would prioritize sleep - getting your son sleeping through the night, without nursing - and then you could decide if/when you want to phase out the remaining nursing sessions. Do you have a separate room / bed you can move him to for the night? It sounds like he will need to learn to fall asleep / fall back to sleep on his own. Does he sleep on his own for nap? It sounds like he has a nanny he's comfortable with during the day - maybe you could convince her to stay late for a few nights and put him to bed at night in the same way she does for nap (so he's not nursing to sleep). Then the difficult part is finding a technique to get through the nights, if / when he wakes up. You could go cold turkey, or try to phase out the feedings, or have your partner go in for other types of soothing. It might be worth talking with a sleep consultant about your situation - we used one with my older son and it was totally worth it, she gave us our marching orders and he was sleeping through the night within a few days. It is really hard not to fall back on nursing as a crutch at night just to get everyone back to sleep... but it will be so amazing when he sleeps through! And then you can greet him with a morning feed at a nice reasonable time like 6 am :) (Or not... let your partner get him breakfast and hit snooze...)

 

 

January 2012 advice compilation:

 

Dear Folks,

Many, many thanks for your kind and supportive replies re: my request for advice re: weaning a toddler. I truly appreciate it. And one of these days, I'll actually make the leap! In the meantime, here are the responses I received (w/o identifying information).

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I found this info very helpful when I weaned my older son: http://www.kellymom.com/bf/weaning/index.html
If you know now that you want to start weaning, plan. Go slowly. When you are completely done nursing, you shouldn't have any engorgement and it will not be a shock to your system or your son. I started out with the "don't offer, don't refuse" plan. As in, don't offer to nurse your child, but also don't refuse to nurse when your child wants to nurse. You may already be at that point, but if not, it can help start the process.

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I weaned my son when he was 22 months. It was so much easier with my older son, who weaned himself at 1 year. But my younger son was determined to keep nursing, and as long as we both still enjoyed it ... we continued. However, it just reached a point where he was way too clingy to me, and was starting to demand to nurse at inappropriate times. (Like when we were at Disney, on a boat launch between the Magic Kingdom to the Wilderness Lodge. He was getting so agitated and wanted to nurse RIGHT NOW. I was like, "Woah, kid, this is NOT a dinner cruise!!")

He usually wanted to nurse 1st thing in the mornings when he woke up. Instead of the breast, I gave him a sippy cup of warmed chocolate milk, and I cuddled him while he drank it. It was mostly just the comfort he wanted from me, the cuddles and closeness.

I also timed the final "cold turkey" weaning with a 4-day business trip. So I had to still take my pump or I would have been in serious pain, but totally removing access to me also helped break the habit.

Sorry I don't have any other advice. I don't think the tears -- from either of you -- will be completely avoidable. But hopefully you can make it a gentle transition.

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I would go to the LLL toddler meeting. I am sure they will have great suggestions. I'm not sure when the next one is but they post on this list.

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I was exactly like you. I nursed my son until he was 22 months old and had someone asked me how long I was intending to nurse I would have said 6 months. I was def ready to stop, though my son was not. He nursed for comfort, to sleep and when he did not want to eat was was offered.

The first thing I did was stop the nursing before bed, which was rough and I hired a sleep trainer for that. I read a lot of information about what not to do (ie. leave him for a few days with the father or grandparents), so I tried spacing feedings, just saying no - all of which was unbearable.

So I did what the books (some of them) said not to do and I left my son for 3 nights at his grandmothers.

My stomach was in knots the whole time. When I saw my son again, he asked for "nana" and I said mommy has no more milk left, she had a boo boo and now there is no more milk. I had to repeat that of course throughout the day. I think he only got mad at me once and I had to repeat my new mantra a few times and then poof, like magic or a miracle, he did not ask again for weeks.

It was the best decision I ever made, he was ready and I was ready and we both needed that extra nudge.

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Distraction is what did it for us. I would buy new books - and then we would give those to him to unwrap and then I would read them to him while giving him the bottle. I won't say that he liked it initially. He would protest but I also had my mom come stay with me so we kind of together changed his pre-nap routine/bed time routine. That made it easier for me because I was very fearful of doing it.

Introducing the bottle with milk instead of the boobs with some new toys/books did distract him and gave him something else that was fun and new to focus on.

I think my fear of having to do this was overwhelming but actually doing it was not as bad as I thought. And after that I was very happy because it gave me my body back. It was liberating because I think it also physically started to take a toll on me to bread-feed exclusively for that long.

One thing I also did before I stopped was that I asked my husband to film my son breast-feeding. This way, I was able to really document this amazing experience. Now I still look back at that video and love it.

I wish you the best of luck with it. It is not as hard as you think but getting some emotional and practical support from family or friends will help.

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My son will be two in two weeks and I just started the weaning process with a suggestion I read in a website (I don't have the link now). Let me just say that my son is on my breast almost all day if I allow him. We are also co-sleeping so that doesn't help with weaning either.

What I'm doing is I put lemon juice on my nipples (very little) and tell him my breasts taste bad because they are not well. I speak in Spanish and we have a word for this type of little pains or illnesses that he understands clearly and goes along with it every time I say it. It's "na-na". This is true since both my breasts have been sore for the past weeks (I'm not sure why but this is a separate issue).

He still insists on nursing but before he tries to latch he remembers that they taste awful so he removes himself from the breasts and hugs me saying something like "mommy feel better soon". I started with just the afternoon feeding and washed off the lemon for the night and morning. Now, after about a week, I'm only nursing during the night and early morning (still in bed) which is a huge step for us. He doesn't cry. The only thing is that every time he wants breasts, we hug, kiss and stay like that for a long while. Sometimes until he falls asleep (he nurses to sleep).

My plan is to continue until he learns to sleep without nursing. Also, I'm giving him lots of attention and treats. We have a very healthy diet and these days I'm giving him sweets and things I would not normally give him just to distract him. Also stickers and balloons and more play time together.