Breastfeeding can be an extremely rewarding experience for mother and child, but like most good things, there’s always an end in sight. While some babies self-wean, others are more resistant to weaning, especially toddlers who are older and wiser! Having breastfed all my children well past their first birthdays, here are a few tried and tested tips to help ease your toddler off breast milk.
- Get help: Weaning a toddler is not easy and if you are a single mum or your partner is out of town, it will be even more difficult. Try and schedule weaning for a period when your partner is able to help or get someone close to your toddler to stay a few days with you while you try to wean. Dropping off your toddler with your mum for a week may or may not work as toddlers do not forget so easily.
- Separate beds: If your baby still wakes up to nurse, then, sleeping in separate beds is the first step to successful weaning. Night nursing can be a bit hard to stop but be rest assured that once your toddler is eating properly he can actually go a night without waking up to nurse.
- Don’t ask, don’t give: Try not to breastfeed your toddler unless she asks for it. Sounds simple right? Wrong! If you have been breastfeeding for a while, sometimes, you almost instinctively bring out your breast at the slightest sound your little one makes. If you learn to stop offering, along with other tactics, you may be able to wean faster.
- Talk about it: Many times even when your child cannot talk, he understands a lot. Explain to your toddler that it’s time for him to stop taking mummy’s milk and it’s time for grown up milk. Once he gets the message, he will stop asking to be breastfed as often.
- Substitute: When your child asks for breast milk, try offering her yoghurt or toddler milk instead. Make sure the substitute you offer has full cream milk so that the full benefits of milk are gotten by your baby. Many milk brands have special formulas for toddlers, so, try seeing if your toddlers takes to them. If she doesn’t, try yoghurt, hot chocolate or some other calcium-rich snack.
- Switch it up: Toddler love routine! They thrive on it, so, if you want to wean quickly try switching up routines. If you normally breastfeed as soon as you walk through the door from work then try and distract baby with either a snack or some sort of fun activity like going for a walk or playing with a new toy.
7. Comfort toy: If you suspect your toddler is nursing for comfort (for instance he uses it to soothe himself to sleep) then try and get him a comfort toy. A teddy or a soft cuddly blanket may help. When I had to wean my son, I got him a toy from one his favourite cartoons and it helped distract him from breastfeeding.
- Cuddle up: Remember to also give your toddler lots of hugs and cuddles, weaning is an incredibly emotionally tough process for your little one. Imagine being told you can no longer have access to your favourite thing in the world? Let your toddler know that even though she won’t be getting ‘mummy’s milk’ she will never stop getting lots of warm hugs and cuddles.
- Don’t be too quick: Lastly, try to avoid going ‘cold turkey’ i.e. stopping suddenly. Weaning a toddler suddenly is usually very tough on them, may lead to severe engorgement and even worse, could lead to mastitis. Weaning should be done over a few weeks by cutting out the night feedings first, followed by the day time feeds.
If you are particularly desperate to wean your toddler, you can try weaning over a couple of days but only if you must! Also, while weaning, make sure you do the following:
• Wear a firm bra: Do not suffocate your breasts but make sure you wear a bra that gives you good support throughout the weaning process. A sports bra that has a little allowance may do the trick.
• Use cold cabbage leaves: No one seems sure why this works but for some reason, ice cold cabbage leaves (put them in the freezer for a few hours) over your breast will relieve any engorgement you may experience while weaning your little one.
• Drink Sage tea: Sage is a natural herb that has been shown to reduce the amount of breast milk your body produces.
• Don’t over empty: If you do end up getting engorged during the weaning process then express some milk. However, be careful not to empty the breast completely as the body may just think you need more milk and your breasts will keep getting full.
Here’s hoping you and your toddler have a hitch free weaning process!