Weaning A Toddler Cold Turkey 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 Wean A Toddler Cold Turkey
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Often times parents will have no choice but to wean a toddler 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 your breast back” or you’ve got something else brewing in the pipeline sometimes enough is enough.
Here’s how to wean a toddler cold turkey, but with as least friction as possible.
Weaning A Toddler Cold Turkey – 10 Practical Tips
1. 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
Weaning A Toddler Cold Turkey involves 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 gently 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 wean a toddler 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
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.
Final Tip: 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 toddler weaning tip.
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
What To Expect When Weaning A Toddler
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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!
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.
5. 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.