How to wean a toddler from breastfeeding

Given that I wasn’t all that keen on the idea of breastfeeding while I was pregnant, I’m still not quite sure how I ended up nursing Romy until a few months after her second birthday.

It probably boils down to one thing: convenience. Toddler upset? Get a boob out! Child doesn’t want to nap? Boob!

Two years and a bit into our boobing journey and Romy had self-weaned to a few feeds dotted through the night. She wasn’t quite done with it all yet but to be honest, I was. After more than two years of severely interrupted sleep every single night I was ready to move on.

Once I’d made up my mind I was surprised to find very little support or tips on weaning an older child. Neither the NHS nor breastfeeding support groups had anything meaningful to offer. A found a few blog posts but not much else.

So, want to know how to wean a toddler from breastfeeding? 

After much googling, asking parent friends and reflecting on the situation, this is what we did:

  • Talk to your child. The great thing about weaning an older child is that they will have some understanding of what will be happening. I talked to Romy about how we would stop boobing and how we would cuddle instead. I told her I’d be feeling quite sad to give it up and reassured her it was OK for her to feel sad too.
  • Pick a date. My gut feeling was that going cold turkey would be better for us than gradual weaning. I only had a small milk supply by then so the chance of getting mastitis was fairly low. I picked a Saturday as our first non-boob day and would remind Romy about what would be happening in the run up.
  • Be honest and acknowledge your and your child’s feelings. As she wasn’t boobing during the day, things didn’t fully hit home until bedtime on our cut off day. I felt sad, Romy felt sad, we both shed a few tears. Whenever Romy would get sad or upset, I’d sit with her and acknowledge her feelings. Over the three or four days the weaning took place, she got upset and sad but she never screamed or cried uncontrollably. Then she simply moved on and that was that.
  • One thing at a time. It’s kind of tempting to change your entire routine when you wean but in my experience it works out better if you focus on one thing at a time. We kept our bedtime routine the same and didn’t change her coming into our bed at night.
  • Be prepared for the come down. One thing I had not expected at all was the hormonal change in me. On the second day of non-boobing I really started to feel out of it. I was dizzy, nauseous and incredibly tired. After an early night, I woke up in the morning drenched in the remainder of my milk supply — it had ‘drained’ overnight — and the weird feeling of being myself again after two years of being slightly out of it. It felt great.

As a final thought I’d also say: don’t feel guilty.

Breastfeeding is a mutual thing and can only work if both mother and baby/ies are happy. If you’re done, you’re done. Neither the relationship with, nor the bond with my child has in any way changed since we’ve weaned.

Sometimes she looks fondly at my breasts — she still likes to hold them when she’s upset and she’s a master of yelling ‘boobs’ very loudly in public, so all is good.

By Lena, who is mother to Romy

Read more about Lena here.

What are your experiences of weaning a toddler? We would love to hear from you. Contact us, comment below, or tag #WokeMamas on social media.

Read: The nutritional benefits of breastfeeding past 1 year are awesome

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