Six Methods To Wean A Toddler
Breastfeeding your child into toddlerhood has plenty of benefits. From them getting extra nutrients incase they are picky eaters to helping you stay at a healthy weight because breastfeeding burns calories!
But, there comes a time when you will want to stop breastfeeding your toddler. Maybe you think they should be done breastfeeding, that they’re getting too old to. Or, you’re pregnant again and it simply hurts too much to breastfeed. Either way, if you’re ready to stop breastfeeding and your child is not, it can be tough to wean them.
I breastfed my two older children until they were about three years old, until I was about three months pregnant with the next child. At three months pregnant, breastfeeding was excruciating for me and I had to find a way to wean.
I had tried so many different ways to wean my toddlers. Different things work with different toddlers. So, I want to share the many ways I had tried weaning my toddlers, in hopes that one of the ways will work for you!
The easiest way to wean your toddler, if you’re able to, is cold turkey. Simply stop offering to nurse them.
If they don’t ask when you stop offering them; then great!
If they do ask to nurse when you stop offering, tell them no and see how that goes.
Maybe they’ll be fine with it and will understand that you’re no longer going to nurse them anymore. But, more likely what will happen is that they will keep asking to nurse, and you will have to stay strong and keep your answer as a firm no every single time.
Sometimes this will be enough to wean them.
If it’s not, or if you’re too easy to give in, don’t worry- I was too, then try the next approach.
Let Your Spouse Takeover
Sometimes weaning a toddler is a two person job, and I’m not talking about just you and your toddler. Having the help and support of your spouse or a close friend can make weaning your toddler so much easier!
The best way to use their help is to have thembe with your toddler during the times you would normally nurse, and for you to leave the room or be out of sight.
This may very well be during your child’s bedtime routine. Tell your toddler goodnight, give them a hug and kiss, and then let dad takeover tucking them into bed or getting them to sleep.
And, it may mean that someone else should greet your child and get them breakfast first thing when they wake. This way, by the time they see you, your child will already be full from their meal and won’t be hungry to nurse.
If you work during the day and already don’t nurse them to sleep for their naps, then this method may work very well for you. This is how I was able to wean my first daughter at almost three years old.
But, when you’re a stay at home mom, or work at home mom, it may prove more difficult to wean, since your child may be used to nursing more. If this is the case, move onto the next couple of ways to wean your toddler.
Keeping your toddler busy, especially during the times they would normally be nursing, may help your toddler to wean.
They may be so busy playing with you, or by themselves or with friends, that they will forget to ask to nurse.
This may look like you setting up their toys in their room for them in a way that looks enticing for them to want to play for longer periods of time. Maybe getting them a new special toy to play with.
Or, having more playdates, either where other children come over to play with them, or taking them over to other children’s homes. If the other children aren’t nursing then that may influence your child to not want to be nursing anymore, either.
You could also try keeping them busy by grouping a bunch of outings together for a few days straight. Such as grocery shopping, or taking them somewhere fun like the zoo, or even staying at the park longer than you usually do.
By the time those few days are over, they may simply forget to ask to nurse, or they won’t get as much milk as they’re used to and a regular snack would be more satisfying to them than nursing.
Give Them A Snack
When your toddler is nursing because of hunger, rather than comfort; giving them a snack when they would normally want to nurse, will prove beneficial!
For example, if you nurse your toddler mid morning before their morning nap or in the afternoon before their afternoon nap (if they still take one), then try instead to give them a small snack.
Giving them a snack will help fill them up. You may still need to nurse them for a minute or so to get them to sleep at first, but you can cut back on nursing them for longer periods of time. Then try cutting back nursing them even more by only holding them to get them to sleep for their naps, instead of nursing.
Talk To Them
By the time your child is a toddler and can talk and show you that they understand what you’re saying; talking to them and expressing how you feel about nursing may help to wean them.
Let them know that they will still get special time with you, even when they are not breastfeeding anymore. Sometimes they just like to know that they get to have their special time with you everyday, and may fear that it they stop nursing then they won’t get that anymore.
Let them know that they can ask for a snack or a drink, or will be given one, when they are hungry or thirsty, instead of being nursed. This should help alleviate some of their anxiety, if they have any, about not getting what they believe they need and when they believe they need it.
If breastfeeding is starting to hurt, let them know by telling them. This can be very useful, especially if it’s true, such as if you’re pregnant again.
Talking to my second child and telling her how badly it hurt to breastfeed her while pregnant was how I was eventually able to wean her, after she had turned three.
If they don’t believe that you are really in pain when you breastfeed, try the next method.
The Bandaid Method
I have my children’s doctor to thank for this method!
And, it sounds just how it is; place bandaids over your nipples. This way, if your toddler goes to nurse, they’ll see the bandaids.
If they don’t just try to rip the bandaids off you (which I hope they wouldn’t), tell them why you have bandaids on. They may seem concerned, or it may help solidify their understanding of why you can no longer nurse them.
Children tend to be caring and wouldn’t want to intentionally hurt you, at least not at this stage. Which is what makes this method work so well!
Your Child Will Wean
Eventually, your child will wean.
No mom will ever have to worry about nursing their teenager!
Even the most strong willed of toddlers, like my second daughter, will eventually wean. It may take trying five or six different ways to wean them, but you will find a way to do so.
Weaning a toddler is different than weaning an infant; toddlers understand more. I remember someone telling me that if they can walk, talk, and ask to nurse, then they are too old to nurse. But, that’s simply not true with all of the benefits both you and your toddler receive from breastfeeding.
Never have shame in breastfeeding a toddler; when you stop breastfeeding is up to you.
But, when you’re trying to wean your toddler and are getting nowhere, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether that help is having your spouse do the bedtime routine and breakfast; the two hardest times to stop breastfeeding. Or, that help is asking friends, or your child’s doctor, for evenmore ways to help wean your toddler.
Don’t feel ashamed for needing help to wean your toddler; some toddlers are very independent, know what they are doing, and know what they want. And, if it’s breastfeeding that they want, it can be very challenging to wean them. But, they will eventually wean; you won’t be breastfeeding forever!