Weaning a Toddler off Breastfeeding: How I did it?

Weaning a Toddler ain’t easy, how many times have we heard this statement? It wasn’t so for me, I did it in three nights. Want to know how? Read on!

As a Mother of an exclusively breastfeeding toddler, I can never undermine the role that breastfeeding plays in our day to day lives. Most of us would love to continue breastfeeding for as long as possible, however, there comes a time when you really want to wean him/her off, whatever be the reasons to do so!

Until my baby turned 18 months, I hadn’t even given a thought to weaning him off but I was silently reading up others’ experiences. After his four canines cut through simultaneously and I had two weeks of sleepless nights, I knew my time to wean him off is around the corner. The fatigue and sleep deprivation made me cranky and irritable and that’s when I decided to take the plunge.

All I wanted to do was “Gentle Weaning”, which means I was opposed to the idea of using any medication/neem/karela/chilli or any cruelty to wean my toddler. At the same time, I wasn’t prepared to wait for him to Self Wean.

What did I do to wean my 22 months old toddler?

The following are the steps that I took to wean my toddler:

  1. Preparing him for sleeping without nursing: Somewhere around January, my son started sleeping off while my husband would take him on his lap and sing rhymes/songs. After this, we graduated to sleeping off in the baby carrier. This first happened while we were on a vacation and he would inadvertently sleep off while I would back-carry him in our carrier. This was the first time he realised he doesn’t really need nursing to sleep. After this, we would ensure that at least one nap in the day happened without breastfeeding him.
  2. Dropping the feeds one by one: This is the most important step in weaning. You can’t wake up one fine day and decide you want to wean your child. It not only affects the child but also the mother. From ten feeds in a day, if you go to zero, your body would continue producing the same for a few days. In such a scenario, you will not face engorgement but also your child will not be comfortable with the feeling of going without nursing. So, drop the feeds one by one, till you are down to just nursing to sleep. Ideally, about 4-5 feeds in 24 hours, which means two naps in the day, one for the night and two feeds in the night, is the easiest situation to wean
  3. Make your child eat every 90-100 minutes: It may seem over the top but a child of 18 months and above is super active and needs the energy to run around. With any child, or for that matter, even an adult hunger pang hits hard. What does a child do in such a situation? Ask for breastmilk because he/she knows that as the best way to satiate hunger.
  4. Tire him out but not over-exhaust: Tire your child out in the day so that he/she is more ready to accept food and put him to sleep. Again, the catch here is to not over-exhaust your child. In the case of over-exhaustion, the child is going to ask for being nursed only and not food.
  5. Be prepared mentally and emotionally to wean your child: If you do this half-heartedly, this is never going to work out. Be strong enough to let him cry for a few minutes, it is okay. You aren’t being cruel, you’ve done your best feeding him/her for as long as it was possible for you and your health. Trust me, kids forget it easily.
  6. Always be there for your child: A lot of people advocate staying away from your child while trying to wean him. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. If your child has had a good dinner and is still waking up for night feeds, it’s more for comfort than hunger. While you are trying to wean, hold your baby close, hug him and comfort him. let him believe you are there for him.

My Story

When my child was 21.5 months old and down to 5 naps in the day, I decided to wean him off. Expecting a sleepless night along with a lot of crying, I decided to do it on a Friday (weekends is when the Daddy is at home). Co-incidentally, my son was off breastfeeding for 14 hours that day. I knew if not that day, I wouldn’t be able to do it any day.

First Night:

He slept in the night without nursing because he was already used to it, the challenge was when he woke up two hours later demanding a feed and I refused. This led to incessant crying for 25 minutes, which also meant both his Daddy and me were crying. I knew I had to be strong and not give in to the crying. After this he slept holding my legs, it was the most heartbreaking situation ever. He woke up again after a few hours and this time he cried for ten odd minutes and slept off. In the early morning hours, I fed him for a couple of minutes before he slept off.

Second Day/Night:

The next day, we were out of the home, as much as it was possible. When it was his nap time, he slept without a fuss out of tiredness. When the night came, he slept without any tantrums but woke up after a couple of hours. When I refused to nurse him, he cried for five minutes but slept off. This scenario repeated after another couple of hours and he slept within ten minutes. In the morning I fed him for a few minutes and not when he was awake.

Third Night:

In the entire day, he didn’t ask to be fed, which was a major win in itself. In the night, he woke up and when I refused to nurse, he slept without crying and didn’t wake up till the morning.

AND WEANING WAS DONE!!!!

If you want to read about my breastfeeding journey, click here.

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10 thoughts on “Weaning a Toddler off Breastfeeding: How I did it?

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  1. That’s it! I am surprised Tammy. We tried for whole 2 weeks unsuccessfully and eventually I surrendered to kid’s demand. Now, I am ready for self weaning and God knows when would it happen. Taking one day at a time.Thanks for sharing.

  2. Like the mom above has commented I guess even your child was ready to be weaned off. I did not try to wean off my first one, and by the time he did he could talk well. So, I actually kept telling him for 2 to 3 months that we needed to stop when he used to feed exactly once before sleep.

    My second one I don’t usually feed him to sleep. Don’t think I will wait for self weaning with this one

    Namratha from #firstgreenstep #MyFriendAlexa

  3. That’s a great post Tamanna.im sure it will help many moms planning to wean. I am still nursing Avyukt and my trials on weaning have failed with changes in schedule, I’ll health etc. For now I will let it take it’s own course.

  4. I have been so inspired by your story but I am still not ready to wean off. There are days when I feel angry at night when I am not able to sleep properly but then that goes away. I am waiting for Ayu to get well and then see how it goes from there

  5. I wish I had this post 6 months ago. Night weaning was really hard for us. It literally took months. But I continued nursing during the day till he self weaned which was about a week ago. It’s a strange and emotional feeling. Part of me is so tempted to offer mum mum to him but I know the time has come now to let it go

  6. #MyFriendAlexa#DelhibloggerReads thanks a ton for the valuable information i am also sailing in the same boat will follow the same .

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