Weaning toddler. It ain’t easy.
I knew I wanted to nurse my son Griffin when he reached 2 years of age. It’s recommended by the AAFP and WHO, and research shows the most benefits for mom and child nursing this long. But I also knew I didn’t want to be pregnant and nursing. In this post, I’ll show you how I weaned Griffin without much drama.
First, let me say that many, many moms nurse while pregnant with great success. Many go on to tandem nurse, which means they nurse both their newborn and their older child. And that’s great.
But I knew this wasn’t for me. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I knew I needed a break, and that managing a pregnancy was enough for me.
So, right around Griffin’s 2nd birthday, I started figuring out how to wean my toddler.
Weaning toddler. Here’s how I did it.
1. Create a replacement
I remember when I gave up Diet Coke over 14 years ago. I drank six DC’s a day and loved the whole ritual of it… the crack of the can, the fizz down my throat, the little caffeine kick. To all of a sudden take that away would have been a huge shock and loss. So, I replaced my habit with another drinking ritual. I bought a fancy water bottle. Each morning, I filled it with filtered water and added lemon and ice. Then I drank it throughout the day. To my surprise, I really started enjoying it.
With Griffin, I used “hot teas” as a replacement for nursing. I made these “hot teas” with:
- 1 cup of raw (from a trusted farmer) or at least organic whole milk
- 1 tsp to 1 TB of raw honey or maple syrup (taste for the sweetness you like)
- And a dash of sea salt
Then I steam it all to a froth in our espresso maker.
I introduced these slowly. First, I made it seem like it was a big deal and Griffin only got small sips of mommy’s. I then asked him one day if he wanted his own hot tea. He was thrilled. I then said, do you want hot tea or nummies (our word for breastfeeding)?
He chose the hot tea, sipping it while we read stories. By the time we were through, he was filled up, satisfied, and I put him down without a word.
So find a drink your kid LOVES—smoothies, sweetened kefir, hot milk with honey, even milk shakes can be healthy and nourishing—and introduce this as a replacement. Weaning toddler win No. 1.
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2. Limit nursing sessions
At some point, Griffin caught onto the fact that he wasn’t getting the nummies at naptime, and he starting asking for them right as I put him in his crib. Sometimes I’d cave, but, when I did, I put a time limit on his nursing session. He accepted this because he was already so full from the hot tea! This was an important step because it shows the child that their days of unlimited access to the breast are over.
Some moms say 1 minute for each boob. Some sing a short song and the child has to stop when song is over. Be creative. And of course, it’s a whole other ball of wax when you’re co-sleeping with your child. Weaning toddler win No. 2.
3. Go slowly
I didn’t want to wean Griffin quickly, as nursing had been a constant in our lives for literally years. So, for several weeks, I just replaced the nap time nursing with the hot milk. Griffin still nursed before bedtime and first thing in the morning.
I took six months for the entire process. You could do it in three months for sure, or even two. But I wanted to take my time. And I had no major engorgement or other issues. Weaning toddler win No. 3.
4. Get daddy or others involved
After about 2-3 weeks, I replaced the night time nursing session with the hot tea. Here’s where daddy came into play. I had Mike put Griffin down at night. This was a big change, because I’d nursed Griffin down at night for years. And Griffin protested at first. But the stories daddy read him were good, and the hot tea was good, and soon he got used to it.
Several weeks later, we did the same thing for the morning nursing session. Mike was the one to get up and play with Griffin—and give him that morning hot tea.
Know that this doesn’t go on forever and after a few weeks, I was able to put Griffin down at night or go in in the morning without nursing.
For co-sleeping mamas, I recommend weaning night feeding first, then daytime. To help you wean, you can have the child sleep near dad instead of you. Tell your child that the nummies went night night too, and that they will have to wait to nurse until morning. Weaning toddler win No. 4.
5. Make the decision
My final tip is to commit to the process. And this was probably hardest for me. After 3 months, Griffin was basically weaned, but I couldn’t end it completely. Griffin would get hurt and want to nurse for comfort. Or he’d get sick and I wanted to give him the extra nutrition and antibodies.
I said I wanted to be done, but part of me didn’t. I loved the idea of Griffin choosing when he would stop nursing, not me.
But then I got pregnant. At that time, Griffin was nursing every 3 days or so. But I found that, within 24 hours after he nursed, I had slight uterine cramping. Probably nothing too serious, but it freaked me out enough to decide I was done.
Once I made the decision, there was no turning back. When the moments came when Griffin wanted to nurse, I dug deep and found other ways to comfort him. Cuddling, singing, foot rubs. Especially the foot rubs. I give him one every night before bed.
Now nursing is a thing of the past. Weaning toddler FTW!
Weaning toddler. How did you do it?
Did you intentionally wean your toddler? Or did they self-wean? How did it all go down? And at what age? Share with us in the comments below.