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When and How to Wean Your Toddler

As a Private Practice Lactation Consultant it's my job to make breastfeeding as easy as possible. I get the baby latched, comfortable and send you on your way to nursing bliss. Happily ever after, right?

Well, who ever teaches How To Wean?

This subject is near and dear to my heart because I cold turkey weaned my 18mo. Eight years later, I still have tremendous mom guilt about it. There are definitely situations where sudden weaning is medically necessary and that's not what we are talking about today. When and how to wean is different for everyone, but how do you do it?

The most important step is to be consistent.

Weaning can bring a rollercoaster of emotions for you and baby. With any change, it's easiest done when you can be consistent, give clear guidelines and offer empathy to yourself and baby through the process. With a Mother/parent Led Weaning approach, every few days, you replace a nursing session with something equally enjoyable to your little one. You can shorten the length of feedings or use distraction tools to help guide your baby to these substitutes.

Typically, the nap and bedtime nursing sessions are the last to go.

Some good replacements include:

  • Milk (under one year old Infant Formula or breastmilk or donor milk.) in a bottle or sippy cup

  • Snuggle time (this is important- babies need more touch and interaction when weaning, not less.)

  • Reading a book

  • Playing a game

  • Going outdoors

  • Taking a walk

  • Having a snack

  • Baby wearing

At around 18 months, toddlers can understand simple sentences.

If your toddler has her own word for nursing, you can simply distract, or redirect to another activity. Offer a sippy cup of water and a snack and use a simple sentence to let her know when you can nurse again. "We are going to nurse before our nap later. Let's go do bubbles!"

If she is teething or going through a transition like starting a new daycare, nursing may be a comfort. I love these tips from Dr. Sears on alternative action steps for the all night nurser. They can apply to day time and nap nursing too! Tantrums come with the territory of being a little one but they can amplify when you take away those boobies! These tantrums require empathy and comfort. Try and remain calm, offer lots of cuddles, remember your simple sentence and allow them to work through those emotions safely.

Remember when I talked about regretting cold turkey weaning my kiddo? Well, make sure you are using baby as a measuring tool of weaning gradually. If baby is clingier, or distant, it may be a sign that the weaning process is going too fast. Another good reason for gradual weaning is your hormones will slowly return to pre-pregnancy state. If your oxytocin levels drop like a hammer; some women experience sadness, mood swings and irritability. If you experience breast discomfort try these tips to help and get some relief.

Interested in developing a Personalized Weaning Plan? Virtual Weaning Workshops are available through Lactation Counseling Services with an experienced IBCLC. Insurance may even cover these visits!


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