Plan to wean
For most toddlers, breastfeeding is about security and comfort as well as about food, so weaning can be quite stressful. Because the end of breastfeeding is a significant change for a toddler, avoid weaning when other major changes (such as toilet training, starting child care or moving house) are taking place.
Talk to your toddler about what will happen a few weeks or months before you start weaning – this will give her time to get used to the idea.
Here are some different ideas for how to go about the weaning process. Start with the one you think will suit your toddler best, or use a few if that suits you both.
- Consider dropping daytime breastfeeds first, then gradually drop any bedtime or night-time feeds – these are the ones your toddler probably feels most needy about.
‘Never offer, but never refuse’ is a good way to start the weaning process.
Introduce a few limits, such as not breastfeeding when you’re out, or only feeding after lunch during the day.
Remove breastfeeds one at a time, taking weeks (at least) before you drop the next one. It will also be easier on your breasts, which may become engorged if you stop too suddenly. Begin with the feed your child will miss the least.
Introduce lots of activities and outings into your daily routine so your toddler is too busy and distracted to think about breastfeeding.
Occasionally replace a breastfeed with a ‘grown up’ alternative. An ‘exotic’ drink at a café when you’d normally be at home having a breastfeed is likely to be greeted with enthusiasm.
The ‘out of sight, out of mind’ principle can work well. You can try leaving your child with someone he’s comfortable with at those times when he’d normally have a breastfeed, as he’ll be less likely to miss it if you’re not around.
Try to organise for her dad or someone else to settle her with a cup of milk or water if she wakes for a breastfeed at night.
Try to avoid dressing and undressing while your toddler is around, and wear clothes that make access to your breasts difficult – for example, dresses rather than separates.
Morning and night feeds
Your child’s last remaining breastfeeds might be at bedtime and when he wakes in the morning. To drop the morning feed, try to be up and dressed before your toddler wakes, then offer him a cup of milk and breakfast. To drop the night feed, a change of routine, such as a sleepover at her grandparents or your partner reading her stories, can help break the old routine.
If your toddler is used to being fed to sleep, change the routine by offering a story after the feed, as an incentive to stay awake. Over time, drop the feed.
Feeding in another room, and not just before bed, can also help break the association between feeding and sleeping.
When weaning your toddler off night feeds, make sure her bedtime still involves a relaxed, warm routine with lots of cuddles.