When you begin weaning, it is customary to set realistic expectations, taking one day at a time. However, in the long run, very few parents can keep it up after a year because there are so many challenges with breastfeeding, not to mention the dedication you have to put in.
It can also wear your patience and have you yearning for when you are free. For example, you might desire a good night’s sleep, but your toddler demands milk. After about a year or 18 months, you might start wondering when it will be time for the weaning process, but it doesn’t come, or your child is just not having it and still demands breast milk. Some parents try so hard by offering their toddlers alternative milk, which works for some but not permanently.
For toddlers, rituals and routines give them a sense of predictability and routine, and when done for a long time, it gives a sense of stability. But unfortunately, some toddlers will grow attached and try to resist weaning. So what do you do in such a case? There are a few tips you can try out to wean your attached toddler. The following are some of the things you can try out.
Children may not be able to communicate comprehensively at their age, but they do understand. Towards the end of breastfeeding, let them know what is happening. Show them you are proud of their growth and what they have learned. Explain to your child that they do not need to be breastfed anymore.
However, this does not apply to all toddlers; your toddler might receive this news negatively, and it is okay. Just be patient and wait until they are a bit older. There is no need to rush the process; take a gradual approach.
Don’t refuse, but do not offer either
When dealing with a newborn, you might have a solid schedule or offer when demanded. Instead of sticking to the schedule, wait and see if the toddler will ask for milk. If they do, offer, but if they don’t ask for it, don’t offer. The schedule is more likely to decrease if you allow things to go with the flow. Observe and see how your child reacts and responds to the schedule.
Have short sessions
Putting a limit to how long these sessions will last is essential. Your children might be involved in activities throughout the day yet still want long breastfeeding sessions. Try to observe and talk it out.
To keep proper track of time, you can use a timer. For example, decide to breastfeed for 15 minutes today, then 10 minutes after a week or two until it decreases ultimately. Find other activities to substitute the breast milk.
Limit the places and timing
Most parents are busy and have most likely breastfed in many places. However, when you are weaning, start limiting the places where you breastfeed; this can be limited to only at home or in the bedroom.
You can also limit the time period by having a nighttime routine; this can be by letting your toddler know that before bedtime, you can breastfeed, but when the lights go out, it is done. Being strict and standing by your timing will help the process be more effective.
Instead of breastfeeding, you can opt for finding alternatives to replace it. Depending on the time of day you breastfeed and considering your child’s likes and dislikes, you can substitute breastfeeding for activities like an extra song, a puzzle game, or any other particular bedtime routine like telling bedtime stories.
Don’t do too many things at a go
We would not recommend weaning when other significant events are happening. For example, when getting your child to adjust to moving to a big bed from a crib. Significant changes happening all at once can be difficult for children and result in tantrums and tears.
Suppose significant changes are happening currently; we recommend dealing with them first and then trying to wean. The weaning process requires a gentle approach; don’t just go for abrupt weaning.
Make your breasts unavailable
This method might be necessary for the more resistant and stubborn children who are not interested in why they are cut off. If your child likes to be nursed during the night or has a particular nursing routine, put on a bra or a layer of clothing to let them know that your breasts are unavailable.
Some parents opt to cover their nipples using a bandage and let their children know breastfeeding is not happening. Other moms even rub vinegar on the nipples so that when the toddler tries to suckle, the unpleasant taste discourages them. Some instances might require you to take yourself out of the equation entirely and let someone else do bedtime duties; this can be for a brief period or a long time.
Stop on your terms
There is no specific time to stop weaning your toddler. Both parties have to find a way to come to an agreement. By parties, we refer to the mother and the toddler who have grown together through times like sleepless nights and countless feeding sessions.
For some parents, breastfeeding ends naturally; the toddler loses interest in breastfeeding as time passes, and they become more intrigued by the world around them. Your feeding sessions, in this case, will decrease and eventually fade. The steps above can help ease into the transition.
However, in some scenarios, it might not be as simple. For some, you might want to keep going with the breastfeeding journey, but the people around you, including your partner, friends, or even parents, let you know that maybe it is time to stop. Different cultures have different views on breastfeeding, but you should always trust your own intuition.
It is incredibly important to realize that the decision is entirely yours even though other people might have their opinions on the matter. The process, however, can sometimes cease to be a warm connection and become a struggle.
You might feel like you’re always on call even when you want to do other things like go out with your friends and have fun or get some uninterrupted sleep. All this is normal, too, as just because you decide to start weaning does not mean you are a terrible parent.
Things to Keep In Mind During Weaning
After you stop breastfeeding, your toddler might have a hard time adjusting as they might lose the sense of stability they had; you will therefore be required to find and reinforce the need for security by getting a nursing substitute. Some of the proven substitutes that have worked include:
- Using a pacifier
- Giving them milk from a special sippy cup they pick for themselves
- A good bedtime story
- Snuggling time
Remember, weaning may emotionally affect you and your toddler as it might become stressful. Your breasts are used to making milk, and production is aimed at keeping the supply equivalent to the demand. As you reduce breastfeeding and nursing, so will your body with the milk production.
We recommend doing this gradually as abrupt weaning can lead to breast engorgement and painful clogged milk ducts. If infected, it can even result in mastitis. Some symptoms of clogged milk ducts include swelling and bruising, a hot feeling in the breast, and localized breast tenderness.
If any of these signs and symptoms show up or you think you may have a clogged milk duct, you can try to massage it to release the milk, compress it with something warm and nurse it until the clogged duct is gone. However, if the discomforts persist, we recommend seeing a physician as it is likely to be mastitis requiring antibiotics.
It is normal for children to be difficult; after all, that is part of growing up. However, to parents, such moments may feel never-ending, but eventually, they do. The same can be said for breastfeeding. Even though it might seem stressful and challenging at the moment, it is just a phase that will most definitely not last forever.
It is important that you also remember that choosing your own time is healthy and normal when you want to stop breastfeeding. Depending on the scenario, it could be easy, but it can also be challenging; either way, you and your toddler have had such a fantastic time together, and as all beautiful things must end, so does the breastfeeding relationship.