How To Stop Breastfeeding a Toddler!
When Leo was born I was adamant that I would feed on demand until he was ready to stop. I’d read lots of research on the benefits of breastfeeding for the both of us and the role it played in forming a healthy attachment. My milk-monster finally weaned with little help at 2 years and 8 months. By that time, I’d Googled “how to stop breastfeeding a toddler” about 237 times between the hours of 2am and 5am! If you feel like I did then this post is for you!
So, here are my tips on how to stop breastfeeding a toddler…
- Stop putting pressure on yourself. There is no reason to stop breastfeeding a toddler unless your ready to do so. If you can carry on until they want too stop then that’s amazing. If not, then cut yourself some slack and wean as gently as possible.
- If weaning doesn’t feel right then stop. I’ll admit that after Leo turned two, I was pretty desperate to stop breastfeeding my wriggly toddler (although feeding his younger brother didn’t bother me). I read a lot about weaning…most of it only talked about the benefits of breastfeeding a toddler and how one day your child would just stop asking! Most of the ‘gentle’ methods advised just stopping and saying ‘no’ until your toddler got the message! I don’t know who these toddlers are…but mine wasn’t wired that way. When I gently explained that he didn’t need it he went into full blown melt-down! Screaming, crying, thrashing around, kicking! It felt horrible! It made him ask to breastfeed way more than he ever had before. I stopped refusing pretty quickly as it wasn’t working for us. If you feel uncomfortable doing something then it’s probably not the right thing to do. Stop and rethink.
- Distraction. This worked most of the time during the day. Keep them busy, leave the house, nap times in the pushchair, snacks etc.
- Make sure your toddler is tired at bedtime. Seems obvious but you don’t want your toddler having so much sleep during the day that bedtime becomes a feeding frenzy! If they’re exhausted then they’ll fall asleep much faster and there’ll be less fussing and feeding.
- Don’t let breastfeeding aversion get you down. I’d never heard of this and it was horrible! It basically felt like it does when someone scratches their nails down a blackboard everytime my toddler fed. It didn’t ‘hurt’ but it was unbearably uncomfortable. I could feed my youngest child without feeling this way at all. If this happens to you then try distract yourself while breastfeeding. I used to read, write, browse the internet, listen to music….anything to distract myself. Also, I found that if I got too tired or hot then I felt much worse so rest when you can and keep cool and hydrated.
- Introduce some other comforters. We chose a teddy together, played Celtic meditation music and out lavender oil in our humidifier (UK Amazon Link)
- Stop saying no! I read a lot of advice saying that you should tell your child that they could feed for ten seconds or until the end of a song. Brilliant if your toddler responds well to that. Mine is like many other toddlers I know…strong willed, determined, persistant…and loud! He was never going to say ‘oh ok’ and forget about breastfeeding. The opposite happened infact…he asked more the more I asked him to stop. It became more about being told he couldn’t have it than actually wanting it.I
- Ups and Downs. Leo seemed to go through periods of barely feeding to feeding constantly again. It was quite difficult to deal with as you think you’re getting close to weaning and they go back to new born feeds again. All I can say is…it will pass! I know it doesn’t help but pretty soon they will laugh when you offer them milk! You can do this!
- It’s worth a try! In my desperation to stop breastfeeding my toddler, I tried something that some people have implied isn’t very ‘gentle’. I totally disagree though. He didn’t cry…he actually didn’t get upset at all. This was ridiculously easy compared to the screaming a week earlier when I’d attempted to say ‘no’. So, what did I do…how do you stop a toddler breastfeeding? I made it his choice…not me telling him he couldn’t breastfeed anymore. I set the scene by telling him that breast milk would taste a little different when he got bigger and that he might not like it anymore. We talked about all the yummy food he could eat now. I put a tiny amount of vinegar on my nipple before bed and we went up as usual. He asked to feed…had one suck and said ‘oh I’m big now’. He never asked again, despite me actually offering a few times! It was so easy! I would like to add…if your child isn’t ready for this approach then please listen to what their telling you. Leo was definitely ready…he looked relieved to not have it…like I’d finally let him say ‘no’ instead of being told ‘no’. He relaxed and hugged me while he had a bedtime story. His first real bedtime story when he hadn’t just wanted milk the second he jumped into bed.
I loved breastfeeding Leo and still love feeding his brother Bastien. But, it was hard! Elements of breastfeeding are definitely much easier than formula feeding but other aspects are undeniably difficult. I am in admiration of mothers who breastfeed their children until they stop on their own (without the use of vinegar!) but I could tell my child was ready and I was past ready! It was definitely time to wean! It took me a while to figure out how to stop breastfeeding a toddler. I hope this post makes things a little earlier for you…even if it just makes you realise that you’re not the only one who feels this way!
A few months later and he doesn’t even remember breastfeeding now! He falls asleep beautifully after a story despite sucking to sleep every night since birth!
Kids are all so different and what works for one won’t work for another. I really think that the key to happy parenting is learning to let go of your fears and trusting your instincts!
Thanks for reading “how to stop breastfeeding a toddler”. Please share with anyone you know who’s struggling to wean.