Breastfeeding was never an optional thing for me. It was as natural as giving birth to my lovely babies. I loved and enjoyed every minute of breastfeeding my children and bonded with them over it. Things were different, however, when the time came to wean. How I successfully weaned my toddler son forms the matter of today’s post.
Whereas weaning my first born – a girl, was super easy, my dear son would simply not wean. With a lot of patience (he weaned at 20 months!) and perseverance, I managed to successfully wean him a few months before his 2nd birthday. Weaning a toddler came with its own set of troubles, but his age kind of, made it easier for me to explain things to him and get things to work with mutual understanding.
Here are my golden rules and tips for weaning a toddler that helped me and I hope, will help you too:
1. When to Start Weaning is a Personal Decision
Some women like to juggle with breastfeeding and bottle, and delay the withdrawal deadline as long as possible. Others, depending upon their situation, try to stop breastfeeding in a few days time. There is no perfect time to start weaning your baby. This is a personal decision that needs to be taken by you and by your companion.
More often than not, it is others – your friends and family – who start pestering you to start weaning. They might be genuinely concerned about you, your work or even your weight, but the weaning decision is for nobody to decide but the parents of the child.
2. Know When to Wean
In my case, I wanted to start weaning right after my son’s first birthday for two simple reasons:
- That is when I had successfully weaned my older daughter too
- I was craving to get a life of my own and start getting back in shape
As much as I wanted to do it (I might even have tried), it seemed impossible as my son had a completely different personality compared to his elder sister. Each child is different and comes with his own set of skills and talents. My husband helped me realize, accept and respect this face and we put off weaning until we thought he was ready for it.
So, do not hesitate to backtrack if necessary if you realize you have started too soon or that it is not the best time. Also, it is best to avoid starting weaning if you are going through a bad phase, are tired, feeling depressed, or if your child ill or grumpy due to some reason. Wait for things to be on a normal level. A few days will not change anything.
3. Weaning is Best Done Gradually
The best idea is to remove the breastfeedings for some part of the day and replace it with bottle feeding. Gradually, increase the bottle feedings until, one day, breastfeeding completely stops. It is not as simple as it sounds, but that is the best way to go about it. A good idea would be to start replacing the feeding in the afternoons. Your kid will easily accept a bottle at that time.
4. Be Patient
You are going to need a lot of patience and if you have a deadline for getting back to work etc., it would be a good idea to start weaning 2 to 3 weeks prior to it. Throughout the process, be there for him. Kiss him, talk lovingly to him. It is a big change and you want him to stay as relaxed as possible. You will have to persevere, but don’t lose your cool. My toddler refused the bottle when he was pushed. One day, when we were not pushing him and he felt like it, he just accepted the bottle and emptied it.
Try losing patience and make an announcement that there is going to be no more mommy’s milk and you will see just how big a tantrum your little bundle of energy can throw. You could get your shirt pulled up in public!
5. Ask for Help
If your toddler simply refuses the bottle when you hand it to him, it is probably because he can smell your breast. You need to be away while the bottle is being given. Daddy would be the best person to ask for help here but did not work in my case since my husband and I both work together from home. I asked Grandma to help! My mom managed to put my son on the bottle throughout the day when I left him with her. This was possible, at first, only when I was not present. Gradually, even if we were both at Grandma’s, my baby started to care less and less and was content taking his afternoon nap with Grandma alone.
Going without breastfeeding all day gave me back most of my time and I was able to start work full force. The night weaning still remained, though.
6. Talk to Your Child
For me, since we were co-sleeping, the night time feeding was the most stubborn of them all. My son simply wouldn’t go off to sleep without sucking until he passed out. It sounds crazy but his was a case of ‘breast addiction’ because he wanted to suck to sleep even AFTER he had had a full bottle of milk! And that’s not it. Every time he woke up during the night, he just wouldn’t go back to sleep without milk. You have no idea how sleep-deprived that made me!
I overcame this very slowly by talking to him every night as I fed him. Toddlers being to understand little things and you might want to take advantage of his age.
I would tell my son that his little friends (whose names he knew) were now sleeping without Mommy’s milk and that they loved the bottle. I would count the names of every kiddie character he likes (from Mickey Mouse to Sesame Street to ‘In the Night Garden’) and tell him that slept without Mommy’s milk too. I also praised the bottle milk and told him that it tasted delicious. He seemed to think about it and repeated it several times too. My daughter repeated the same thing and he seemed to enjoy drinking the same milk as his sister. It took a long while for him to actually, completely wean but it paid off one day and he dozed off after he had emptied his bottle and I had successfully might weaned him.
7. Make the Alternative Appealing
Okay…so this might not go very well with the purists, but my son has anyways had a bite of junk food owing to the fact that he an older sibling around. Feeding him plain milk, while my daughter had chocolate milk made him very rebellious. So, we gave him chocolate milk – mildly sweetened and mildly chocolaty. We did not just give it to him. We practically sang praises of how wonderful the ‘chocolate milk’ was than Mommy’s milk. Don’t worry – the baby continues to love our milk better than anything else. But gradually, he seemed to like the idea that he got to drink chocolate milk like his sister.
I have read about adding drops of honey to the nipple to get the baby to accept a bottle, but honey is not really recommended for babies under 1 year old. If your baby is older than that, you can try doing that to. The idea to make the bottle milk more interesting. If you’d rather not give honey or chocolate, you can wean from with apple juice.
8. Keep Your Toddler Well Fed
Finally, increase the amount of solids in your toddler’s diet and give him fuller meals several times a day so his dependence on milk for nutrition reduces. Once the child has his required nutrition inside his body, you are only left to deal with the breast addiction and his emotional needs to be around your breasts. Then, even if you have to be somewhat abrupt for the lack of time, you will at least have the pleasure of knowing that his nutritional requirements have been taken care of without depending upon your breast milk.
There you go! These tips helped me wean my baby and keep him happy at the same time. Since I work from home, there was no urgency to deal with, but I was on breaking point, feeling tired and drained out all the time. Add to that the lack of sleep due to feeding at night. And now, after all these efforts, I actually miss having him in my lap and looking down at him while he fed. But let’s not get there. That would make a good memoir for my personal diary. For my blog, I hope to soon have a successful post-partum weight loss story to share!