how to wean a toddler who loves to nurse
Toddler Development

How To Wean A Toddler Who Loves To Nurse

Learning how to wean a toddler who loves to nurse can be a difficult task.

Some toddlers will gradually wean themselves off the breast, but some may not. These types of toddlers usually need a little help as they have formed a very nourishing habit. For them, it is the perfect bonding time but after a while, you may just feel like you’ve nursed them for long enough.

In this article, I’ll share the 10 best tactics to learn how to wean a toddler who loves to nurse.

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Often times parents will have no choice but to wean a toddler who loves to nurse faster than they usually would. The most common reason is planning to have another child in the near future or if you’ve already gotten pregnant and need some time to regroup.

Whether you “just want’s your breast back” or you’ve got something else brewing in the pipeline sometimes enough is enough.

Here’s how to wean a toddler gently and with as least friction as possible.

How To Wean A Toddler Who Loves To Nurse: 10 Practical Solutions

Explain yourself

You understand the reasons behind getting your breasts back, but it may be a lot harder for your attached toddler to see the same.

Try to explain yourself as much as possible about what’s happening and reinforce the fact that it won’t just happen overnight. Even if your toddler has a hard time expressing their frustrations, by telling them what’s happening you give them some context about the decision and why you are doing it. 

You can say things like “You are a big boy now, you don’t need as much milk from mummy” Or, “mummy is going to take a small break from feeding soon, but we can still play and have fun together

Keeping them informed and creating a dialogue of empathy will always start the process off on the right foot.

2. Choose an appropriate time to start

If your child is unwell or not feeling 100% themselves then reframe from weaning until they feel better. Also if there are any big developmental or social milestones that are on the horizon then it’s probably best you wait until those things are over.

Things like teething or starting nursery will just add more uncertainty and anxiety to the situation which won’t help you to wean successfully In the long run.

3. Incremental reductions

Learning how to wean a toddler who loves to nurse takes changing your strategy a bit. Try to reduce the amount of time you breastfeed each session by shaving off a few minutes each time. This will gentle ease your toddler away from the breast and onto something else.

This will also have the added bonus of transitioning them for a longer period which should help them deal with the lack of breastfeeding overall.

4. Reduce voluntary contributions

A smart way to learn how to wean a toddler who loves to nurse is to not voluntarily offer the breast. Instead, only give them access when they ask and even then make sure it’s a genuine request. Breastfeeding is inherently linked to bonding and you may be able to react to your toddler’s frustrations by doing something else instead.  

For example, if your toddler has just bumped into the door and your usual reaction is to pop them on the breast, refrain from doing it. Instead offer rub, kiss and provide aid with other ways (ice packs)

It can be surprising how often you offer your breast for routine day to day interactions. Try to instead solve them with other methods of communication or react in a different way.

5. Change your daily routine

A great way to learn how to wean a toddler who loves to nurse is by changing your daily routine. If you know your child routinely feeds at a certain time of day and you specifically want to cut those feeds out then plan an outing or an adventure or a playmate at that exact time.

Initially, it will feel very odd for your toddler as they are used to feeding at that time. Eventually, however, it will become more common and acceptable as they learn a different and more acceptable routine.

For example, if your toddler loves their afternoon feeds before nap time you can try to get them outdoors on a “nature walk” for 10 – 20 minutes around that time.

Being outdoors will distract them away from their usual routine and hopefully by the time they get back in they will be a tired and kick up less fuss to fall asleep.

6. Be gentle and show compassion

Your toddler is still going through big developmental changes and every day they encounter new and exciting things to do and say. All this learning can take its toll on a young mind and when you throw in your unwillingness to breastfeed them, things can take a turn for the worse.

Instead, be proactive about the tantrums and mini meltdowns and try to start weaning in a safe and secure environment at home first. If your child is particularly sensitive then try to reduce any unnecessary trauma by spreading your weaning efforts out over a few weeks instead of days.

7. Distractions (your best friend)

Just like for tantrums distractions can work to change the subject and keep your toddler’s mind away from your chest. You know your child well, so will know when they are getting fussy, tired or exhausted.

Try to replace your breast with their favourite food or drink and reward them with good behaviour by giving them fun foods to eat and drink. If all else fails, put on their favourite show or go out for a brisk walk.

Remember, distraction works well, especially for younger children.

8. Don’t restrict bonding time

One of the main reasons babies are attached to breastfeeding is the 1 – 1 personal time they have with mummy. This unique bonding time allows them to feel secure in the fact that whatever else is going on they know they can depend on you.

Try to go overboard with the cuddles, kisses and 1 – 1 time to re-enforce bonding whilst weaning as this will make all the difference for a successful transition.

9 Ask for help

It’s difficult to wean when your breast are always there and always “open for service” (well, in the eyes of your toddler that is)

Instead, try to enlist some specialist help! Ask your partner, or a relative to lend a helping hand in meal times so that you don’t feel so compelled to whip them out on the dinner table.

10. Set clear boundaries

Toddlers crave structure and a clear framework. Whilst weaning is difficult setting clear boundaries on when and where they will be able to breastfeed is not.

Set a clear time of day and a clear place that your toddler can feed. Once that time slot is over try and withdraw your services. Eventually, this will lead to more discipline and more refined feeding timetable.

11. Take a break

This may seem a bit counter initiative at first, but if you are able to make it work it could work very well. It’s a more passive way to learn how to wean a toddler who loves to nurse.

One important reason why your toddler will continually attack you at mealtimes is they are used to having you around. Toddlers are very smart and they will do what they are used to doing to get the things they want.

 This is one of the reasons they act up with some people and don’t with others. Try to avoid this ploy by taking a set time to be away from the home.

By doing this you are purposefully forcing your toddler to meet their needs with another source of food and drink. This is best left as a last resort but you shouldn’t rule this out until you’ve at least tried it

Weaning A Toddler Cold Turkey

Some mums decide to take the instant route and go down the route of weaning a toddler cold turkey. There are mixed reviews about the effectiveness of this strategy and whether it does more harm than good.

Whether you prefer the more gradual approach or opt for the sudden shutoff, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Weaning A Toddler Cold Turkey: Tips & Advice

You will leak everywhere

For the 7 days expect to be soaked very often as your body tries to catch up with your new-found breast independence.

Hormonal imbalance

You may have a sudden surge in hormones. This can send your emotions and sensors into overdrive as your body isn’t able to release hormones they way it used to.

Your child may show erratic behavior

It’s an extremely confusing time for a toddler when mummy decides on weaning a toddler cold turkey. Be prepared for fits, tantrums and mini meltdowns and ensure you have enough patience to deal with the verbal abuse!

Depression

You may go through a surge of emotional and physical pains as your body goes through significant change at an alarming rate. All this change can have an effect on your emotional wellbeing and can cause anxiety, fear and anger.

Reach out to friends and family and explain what’s happening. You need all the support you can get. Just as soon as you’ve hit rock bottom, you’ll find yourself feeling upbeat and convinced that you are doing the right thing for you and your family.

You’ll want to give in but don’t!

The reason why weaning a toddler cold turkey works is that you both go from 0 – 100 really fast. However, if you feel the urge to give in it will all be for no reason so it is in everyone best interest for you to stay strong and see it through to the end.

It takes at least a few days before you’ll start to see any steps in the right direction, so stay strong and try and remember what you are doing this all for.

Weaning Resistant Toddler

If your toddler doesn’t want to stop breastfeeding then there are a few things you can do and say to get them back on the right path. Tips for weaning resistant toddler include:

Don’t compare

This usually does more harm then it does good and all children are unique so won’t be going through the exact circumstance that your toddler is going through. Save comparisons for other areas of development but leave breastfeed and bottle feed comparisons out of the question.

Change the routines

Try to change the feeding times so that it doesn’t interfere with bedtime or other important times of the day. Toddlers usually feed to at night as a habit as opposed to it being necessary for sleep. Change the routine by changing the order that you do things in.

For example, if you feed as the last thing before bed, change it to the first thing, then bath time, then brush teeth, then book time etc. This will help break them out of the cycle and help to for weaning resistant toddler.

How To Wean A Toddler From Night Nursing

Learning how to wean a toddler from night nursing is usually the hardest part of figuring out how to wean a toddler who loves to nurse. The night-time feeds are connected to bedtime and these feeds are usually the hardest to give up. Night weaning bottle fed baby can still be quite difficult to do.

This bond has formed over many months and years so it’s usually a struggle for you and your toddler to really see this one through.

Rest assure that it is possible and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Here are the 9 most effective strategies to learn how to wean a toddler from night nursing.

(Note these strategies will also work for night weaning bottle fed baby)

1. Always read a bedtime story

Find a place that you can both snuggle up together to read and have 1 – 1 time before bed. Introduce a bedtime drink at the same time so that the process of night nursing is being replicated, albeit, in a slightly different way.

2. Provide Moral Support

Try to stay with your toddler until they are feeling very sleepy. Rub their back, cradle them and try to sing a bedtime song. This will help mimic the closeness of breastfeeding without the need for a nipple.

3. Give them Options

Give them the option of having a midnight drink or small snack to fight hunger. You can also offer an early morning snack or warm drink to help transition between the 2 different stages.

4. Delay feeds

Try to delay or shorten feeds just before night time or offer the nipple up to a certain time. This will restrict their willingness to feed on demand and will help you transition from breast to other forms of food and drink.

5. Stay close

Try to be there for your toddler in the night time by sleeping near or by their side. It’s very difficult to wean a toddler by removing both your nipple and your physical presence.

Instead, choose to restrict breastfeeding and for now, try to sleep closely so they can transition between the 2 stages more problem-free. 

Ensure that your toddler isn’t going through any other developmental milestones. If they are waiting until they have shows signs of it being over before you wean at night.

6. Give more breast during the day

A smart thing to do for learning how to wean a toddler from night nursing is to give them more milk during the day. This will better for younger toddlers as it gives them the chance to intake more milk upfront and then feel less fussy at night.

7. Reduce Proximity

Try to reduce your proximity with baby during the night if they are very susceptible for on-demand feedings. For example, if you are used to having your nipple out while you co-sleep then remove that option and provide a bit more distance between you both.

This will have the intended consequence of reducing on-demand feeding and will better help the night time weaning process.

8. Get dad involved

Get dad to assist your toddler at night when they wake up to for comfort. Not every time a toddler wakes up is it solely for milk. Sometimes they just need a hug, kiss and a gentle rock back to sleep.

Get dad involved by taking over this routine and use it as a gauge of how hungry your child really is. If dad is unable to rock your toddler back to sleep after a little time then you know maybe it’s more then a bad dream.

9. Say No!

Saying no sounds harsh, but it really works. By 18 months your toddler will know the meaning of the word no, so use it to your advantage. It’s not always easy to do but it does show your toddler that there are some new boundaries that are being created and new rules to start following.

Always remember that night weaning a baby is always a phase and is completely temporary. If you follow the guidelines above you’ll be 10 steps ahead and will be on the right pathway to figuring out effective ways to learn how to wean a toddler from night nursing!

How Long For Milk To Dry Up After Weaning Toddler

It’s not unusual for milk to still be available for weeks and sometimes months after breastfeeding. The amount and time frame will vary from women to women. However. once you stop breastfeeding most women usually take a few days to 1 week to completely dry up.

Learning how long for milk to dry up after weaning toddler takes a bit of time and patience. You will have to take drastic measures to reduce the pain and engorgement by using ice packs, ace bandages, jog bras and maybe even ibuprofen. It’s very normal to have cramps after stopping breastfeeding.

It’s not uncommon to have fluctuating hormones around this time as your body battles to find the new normal. Usual side effects of milk drying up is anxiousness, anxiety and irritated over small things. The drop in the prolactin and oxytocin levels is usually the reason for this.

Remember breast milk works very close to a supply and demand basis so your body will give you as much as it thinks you will need for baby. The more your baby demands it from you, the more your body will produce.

If you go drying up milk supply cold turkey in the middle of a large production cycle then it can take longer for your breast milk to dry up as your body needs more time to make the shift. This is very smart advice for parents who want to know how long for milk to dry up after weaning toddler.

The best thing you can do is wean gradually as this will give your body a more natural flow minimising the risks of block ducts and mastitis.

Ava Miller

Mom of 2 who enjoys blogging, travelling, cooking and spending time with Taylor & Olivia

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