My goal was to nurse my daughter until she was a year old. Yea that ship sailed a long time ago. We hit our goal. And then some. She is now over two years old and I am happy to announce that it has been over a week since she’s had mommies milkies. She’s a big girl now! Turns out, it’s no easy task to gently wean your toddler!
Nobody tells you that babies don’t just wean themselves. It takes effort, time, and patience. You have to work at it.
For some moms and babies it goes smoothly and easily. But not always. Sometimes (as in my daughter’s case), nursing becomes a habit, and a difficult one to break at that.
Breastfeeding is a team effort. When you want to try and wean, you have to both be ready.
When you have decided to make the leap, there can be a lot to think about. Do you go cold turkey or do you try to wean slowly over time? What drink can you use to replace nursing? What ways can you find to bond with your baby that replace nursing?
As someone who is on the other side of a 27 month breastfeeding process, I can tell you… your baby won’t nurse forever. There will be an end.
For my daughter, we took weaning in a 3 step process. It wasn’t always easy, but we made it! If you’re thinking about weaning, hopefully, this can help you make an action plan for quitting nursing.
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1) Cut out night nursing
Initially, my daughter nursed on demand all day. And all night. One thing we had going for us is that she would fall asleep on her own in the crib. But, when she woke up several hours later we would bring her into bed. And she would nurse the rest of the night.
I remember traveling with her to Florida to visit my grandparents. She was just under a year old. We had to put the mattress on the floor because I was worried she would fall off the bed when she slept with us and nursed all night. Yea we transitioned her to her own crib all night after we got home from that trip.
Fast forward a few months to when she was 16 months old. We found out we were pregnant. I had a moment one night while I was nursing her where I imagined myself with a huge belly trying to nurse my toddler in the middle of the night. I knew it wouldn’t work for us. It was time to quit.
I knew that it would be difficult for my daughter and I wanted to do this as gently as possible. For both our sakes. My daughter loved reading books so I started researching books on weaning for toddlers. That’s when I stumbled on the book Milkies in the Morning. Perfect! A book specifically about night weaning. I decided that would be a great place to start and ordered it.
When the book came in the mail, I read it with my daughter. I told her that milkies soon had to go night night and that she wouldn’t be able to nurse when it was dark. She could only have a sippy of milk. The look on her face told me that she understood and was processing the transition.
A few nights after reading the book it was time.
I’ll be honest, the first night was a little rough and there was some crying. But not as much as I had anticipated. I recruited my husband to take the night wakings. I went in there with him at first and told her I was there but that milkies had to go night night so Dad would rock her to sleep. Then, I hugged her and kissed her and left the room.
The next night was significantly better. There was hardly any crying. It only took a few nights to transition to no milkies at night. By the start of the next week, we were already in a new routine.
The book Milkies in the Morning was amazing and I’m convinced that it helped our daughter transition to night weaning as smoothly as possible. The illustrations were beautiful. The only problem was that the pictures showed the mother and little girl bed sharing. That made my daughter want to sleep with us again. So we had to explain to her that we all sleep best in our own beds. By then she got the picture so we took the book away and there were no more questions.
2) Limit daytime nursing
After we cut our night nursing, it was easier to limit nursing during the day. I stopped offering her milkies and only let her nurse when she specifically asked for it.
Before, I would nurse her to comfort her when she was hurt or upset. I was surprised at how easy it was to transition to just cuddling her, rocking her, or singing to her instead. She hardly seemed to notice.
Before I knew it, we were down to nursing just two times a day, morning and night. We continued this way for a long time.
We could have easily weaned at this point, but our second baby was due in a few months and I decided that I didn’t want to push my daughter. I didn’t want to tackle too much before the baby came because I had heard that there would probably be a regression.
My daughter was still struggling to sleep through the night so I decided I wanted to work on that before weaning or potty training.
So, baby came and I tandem nursed them both. For over a month.
And there was a regression. Our two times a day nursing schedule became her nursing every time brother nursed and asking for milkies even when he wasn’t nursing. She just always wanted to nurse. I think she just felt the pull of attention from another sibling and wanted to be close to mom. And I couldn’t bear to say no.
3) Go cold turkey
At that time, I started to notice stains on my daughter’s teeth. And, there was one spot on her front tooth that looked like a hole. I suspected it was a cavity and dreaded taking her to the dentist. But, I knew that if I even suspected a cavity that she needed to go.
My husband took her to the dentist while my still postpartum self stayed home with the baby. When they walked back in the door, I could tell by the look on her face that she had a cavity.
Six cavities in fact.
She had just been to the dentist for the first time a few months before and didn’t have any cavities. The dentist told us that the sugary breast milk could be contributing to the cavities.
I had a decision to make. Either continue nursing in hopes that it wouldn’t affect the decay in her teeth and maybe wipe her teeth each time after nursing.
I tried this for awhile. But, finding time to wipe her teeth after every time she nursed while simultaneously catering to a newborn just wasn’t working out for me.
I knew it was time to wean completely.
Again, I turned to children’s books on the subject hoping to find a solution. It was then that I found I’m a Weaned Kid Now. I read it to my now 26-month-old daughter, explaining that the Dentist said that milkies were giving her cavities which were like ouchies in her teeth and would make her have to go back to the dentist. I knew that she hated the Dentist enough to not want to go back.
When I asked her if she thought she would be ready to not have mommies milkies anymore, she said yes. It was then that I realized that she had been ready for awhile. But I wasn’t ready.
I took a day to cry about it. And then that night as I tucked her in bed, I told her that this would be the last time that we got mommies milkies. We snuggled and nursed and then she was done. She seemed fine with it. It was harder on Mom. But deep down I knew that this was best for her. My husband and I both had a lot of cavities growing up and I didn’t want that for her. If there was even a chance that nursing was causing her cavities, it was best that we stopped.
The next day and for the past week, whenever she asks for mommies milkies I know she needs one of two things
1) Milk in a sippy
I replaced milkies with sugar-free caramel steamers that I make at home. She loves these and the milk is warmed up which she loves.
2) To be close to mom
I’ve noticed that sometimes when she asks for milkies and refuses a steamer that she just needs some Mom attention. I still see the hurt in her eyes sometimes from missing constant one-on-one interaction with Mom before she had to share me with little brother. I try to carve out special quality time with her while brother naps because I know that quality time is her love language.
My advice for weaning? Do what you need to do. Wean by 13 months or go til age 4. I totally get it. Every baby and momma nursing team is different and has different needs surrounding breastfeeding. This was my 3 step process but you might need to wean even more gently or go cold turkey from the beginning who knows. But, so long as you’re following your heart and your mom gut, you and your baby will be ok.
Have you already weaned your baby? What advice would you give someone thinking about weaning and what steps did you take to wean?