Experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that during the first six months of your child’s life, you exclusively breast feed them. They then recommend that you start adding in a bit of solid food but continue breastfeeding your child until they are at least one year old. Experts point out that there is no specific time that you should stop breastfeeding your child as it depends entirely on your personal opinion as well as the actions of your infant.
Most new mothers discover that the easiest time to start weaning their child is when the baby initiates the process and this can happen at any age including earlier or later than some people predict. Many babies begin to naturally wean after they reach six months and begin eating solid foods in addition to breast milk. Other children wait until they reach one year old or even two years old. This article will provide tips on how you can wean a toddler from breastfeeding successfully.
How to Wean a Toddler from Breastfeeding
1. Make Your Toddler Understand the Concept
If you are planning on starting to wean your toddler it is crucial that they know what you are doing. It is important to keep in mind that children rely on their set routines and weaning them from breastfeeding will be a big change. What you need to do is talk to your child ahead of time and let her know that you are going to stop nursing soon and that everyone does this at some point. Be sure that they understand that you enjoyed nursing and it was a special time for you.
When talking to your child about weaning, be sure to start the conversation a few days ahead of time. Then keep repeating the same type of comments so they can start to get used to the idea before you begin the weaning process. Be sure to talk to them using short sentences and words they understand so they don’t get confused.
2. Don’t Offer
In many cases simply not asking your toddler if they want to nurse is enough to help them begin the process of weaning off of breastfeeding. He or she will of course still ask you for breast milk occasionally, especially at first. When they ask try to offer them an alternative instead of breastfeeding. Good options include water, milk, juice, a snack or even a game. If you haven’t actually started weaning yet and your child doesn’t want any of the alternatives, don’t feel bad about breastfeeding. Just the fact that you offered other choices first will help the process.
3. Make the Milk Taste Bad
Most moms want to try gentle methods to help their toddlers wean over time but sometimes it just won’t help. If your child is being stubborn about weaning and continues to ask to be breastfed, a good option is to change the taste of the milk. A simple way to do this is to slice up a lemon or lime (after making sure your child doesn’t like the taste) and keep them with you in a small bag or container. If you notice that your toddler wants to wean, rub the slice on your nipples and then offer to breastfeed. Most of the time your child won’t like the taste of the lemon (or lime) and stop nursing. They will probably try to go to the other side so it is important to do this on both nipples.
One mom used this method with great results. Her 18 month old daughter was still insisting on breastfeeding constantly, especially when in public and even at music classes. Once she tried the lemon method, however, her child stopped breastfeeding in just a matter of days.
The important thing to keep in mind is to give your child extra attention to make up for the lack of breastfeeding.
4. Wean Gradually
If you want the weaning process to be easier on both you and your toddler, then it is best to try to do it gradually. If you suddenly stop breastfeeding the experience can be upsetting for the child and even lead to breast-related problems for you, the mother. Instead, you should try to slowly decrease the number of times each day you nurse your child. If you follow a regular nursing schedule, a good idea is to eliminate one of the nursing sessions for a week. Then the next week eliminate another one and continue this process until they are weaned.
5. Avoid Triggers
Another good way to wean your toddler from breastfeeding is to avoid triggers that will remind him or her of nursing. This means you should try not to let him see your breasts, make it a point to hold your baby in a different way than you would normally nurse and avoid using your normal nursing chair.
6. Offer Distractions
If you keep your child distracted, they are less likely to remember about breastfeeding and may not even realize they are being weaned. The goal here is to keep your child busy as this will prevent him from thinking about nursing instead of doing something else. Ideally you should try to keep your baby busy until he falls asleep and you can even try new ways to get him tired.
7. Follow the Feeding Routine and Tips
- Morning Feeds. If you sleep with your child there is a good chance they nurse in the morning. To help them forget about this, try to get dressed and have their breakfast ready before they wake up. Your toddler will probably eat and then play, completely forgetting about nursing.
- Daytime Feeds. During the day, try to limit your breastfeeding to several set times. In order to make your child accept this, use the other methods mentioned such as keeping them busy or offering them other food choices.
- Night Feeds. Many moms nurse their children to sleep so the toddler begins to associate these two things. The best thing to do is to gradually increase the amount of time between the night feed and bedtime. This will eventually lead to a new bedtime routine where you read, sing or rock them to sleep instead.
8. Avoid Long Feeds
Some moms let their babies feed until they fall asleep or finish, but you should try to switch out of this routine. Instead, encourage them to finish breastfeeding so they can go play with a new toy or go for a walk.
Watch a video for tips on weaning a baby from breastfeeding: