Breastfeeding is such a job (once you overcome the obstacles at the beginning of course). But at some point you may be ready to be done but baby is still going strong.
There are two ways to approach breastfeeding and weaning.
#1. Have a goal of when you want to be done and then begin the gradual weaning process. The most common is 12 months, this avoids having to incorporate formula as well as a great time to wean before baby associates it with bonding vs. food.
#2. Allow baby/toddler/child to self wean. The average age for this worldwide is 4 years old. That means some children decide to be done around 1-4 years while others go longer to about 5-8 years old. In our culture, it is seen that most children self wean around 3-5 years old.
Once you decide which way you want to go that makes it easier to help you in the weaning process. If you want to be done around 12-16 months it begins with the introduction of solids. Please take in mind that some children can self wean when solids are introduced because of their love for solids, and a lack of milk offerings at the breast with solids. A good way to avoid this is to alway offer time at the breast before baby if given solids.
Also, be sure to read our blog on introducing solids and baby led weaning. It is important that you don’t give baby solids too early.
To be fully weaned by 12 months you will want to make sure first that toddler is sleeping thru the night and there are no more night feedings. These are the first milk sessions to be removed. Offer them less often and for less time at the breast. Working with a sleep training specialist can be very helpful so that you avoid regressive newborn sleep habits. Once toddler is weaned at night (this may take a few weeks, begin offering less milk sessions throughout the day, doing so gradually will help your little one still sleep well at night and not want to nurse more at night. The ones that most people keep are the morning wakeup, midday nap and night time before bed. Once you are down to 2-3 feedings a day, you will want to work on one of those and allow for less time at the breast while verbally communicating this all to your child. “Okay sweetie, Mommy is going to nurse you but just for 5 minutes”.
Depending on how soon or fast you want to be done is depend on how slow you will using the weaning times. In other words, if you want it to be done fast you will keep the three feeds a day with one of them at only 5 mins for a day or so and then drop it to 4 mins and then a couple days later drop it to 3 mins. If you have more time you can keep them shortened for a longer period of time.
Once you and your little one are down to 1-2 minutes on the breast 1-2 times a day it becomes quite easy to allow child to forget by using the “Out of sight out of mind” technique. A weekend get a way with hubby at this point is a great idea! A few sleep overs at grandmas house might work too!
I prefer to never use the words “all gone” or “no more” to avoid any negative association with nursing. Another technique I’ve suggested is redirection. When they ask to nurse simply say, “Oh my goodness, look at this delicious fig bar, would you like one!?” Or use a toy or activity to distract. If you tend to always nurse in a specific chair or rocker, that might need to go so that they don’t keep associating it with nursing.
Some of you many decide to do extended nursing, which is considered past the age of 18 months. At some point, your child may want to continue and you may find your self emotionally and/or physically drained. For what ever reason, you want to wean your older toddler but they want to part of the weaning process. This is quite common, you see, at some point after one year of age, their brain growth is intense. They begin to really associate nursing with “cuddle time with mom”. It is a lot more challenging to wean after this age, this is why I suggest nursing until then unless you are okay with extended nursing and self weaning at an older age.
Some extreme ways of weaning that I am not fond of but can be used and success may come are such as duct taping your nipples or putting a safe non toxic bad or sour taste on your breast so that child does not want them anymore.
Many have asked what its like nursing an older child. My son self weaned at 3 1/2 years old, my daughter at 19 months. She just refused it and I didn’t pressure her. He on the other hand kept going…..I was okay with is only because he was a sweet, gentle and respectful nurser. From the ages of 2-3 1/2 he would nurse in the morning if I was still in bed when he woke up, and during these ages there were days that he wouldn’t chose to nurse. My milk supply slowly disappeared, but because he was comfort nursing and bonding he didn’t care. The days when he was sick, he would want to nurse every 45 mins and sleep at my breast. During these weeks, I became engorged again and had more nutritious milk for him to heal faster!
I don’t think extended nursing is for everyone, but it worked well for us~
Act in Love.
Go in Peace.