Weaning a toddler is intimidating, but taking it one step at a time makes it a little easier!
So if you’re here, you’re likely a mama who totally believes (believed?) in the whole “let them choose when to wean!” BUT life happened and now you need to get your stubborn, boobie loving toddler weaned!
Let me give you a little backstory here so you know that I may have been in the same struggle as you. I exclusively breastfed my son from the day he was born – he took MAYBE one bottle up until the week before he was to start daycare (3 months )
Unfortunately, he hated the bottle. And it didn’t stop there – his daycare lady was amazing, but she also was barely able to get him to drink even 4 ounces the whole day! He was supposed to be taking like 16! He would instead scream all day, unless I managed to jet there from work during a slow time to breastfeed him.
It absolutely destroyed me, so I quit work. I was very lucky that my husband was able to support us, but I don’t know what we would have done if I this wasn’t an option!
My sweet baby HATED any bottle we tried! He only wanted the breast, and would not go down for naps or bed any other way.
I acknowledged that yes, that did suck, but this was a short chapter in my life yaddah yaddah…
But then came my twin pregnancy, and the advice by my OB that I NEEDED to wean him by the time I was 18 weeks pregnant for a multitude of serious reasons. The biggest one was the risk of pre term labor, and being Mono-Di Twins (one placenta, two sacs) they were already at a serious risk of tons of health issues.
So this had to happen, and you bet I was going to out-stubborn my 18 monther and figure out how to wean my toddler!
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Step 1: Wean your toddler from non-nap nursing sessions
This is likely going to be the easiest!
It’s also the perfect time to perfect what’s going to work for the HARDEST session to drop – the ones before bed.
If he still nurses on and off, even at times other than naps, you’ll have to find ways to distract him!
I had a box of super special toys that came out during difficult times where he was insistent upon nursing which seemed to work pretty well.
You can feel free to try cups with water just to feel better about ensuring he’s not thirsty.
Step 2: Drop the daytime nap nursing sessions, add a comfort item or drink
Alright guys, we’re in the first phase of the battle!
If your toddler is old enough to understand some things, just talking to him about it may help!
I told my guy that my milk was running out, and that we needed to save it for night time!
Sometimes that worked if he was super tired and just didn’t have the energy to care, but if he had the urge to fight it things got a little more difficult!
I eventually brought in a sort of replacement. I had heard that goat milk was a lot easier to digest, and had heard it had been used for ages as a replacement for women who could not breastfeed.
I also knew that it tasted pretty darn good warmed up and with honey!
I found a good transition cup (It’s recommended no bottles after 1…. not that I have always followed that!) and started offering that to him instead of the breast. I made sure to keep everything else the same – we still sat in the rocking chair while I held him, and we also created some new routines such as reading some books and talking about the day.
These were all a great distraction to keep him from thinking about nursing!
Also.. DON’T WEAR REVEALING SHIRTS!
V Neck shirts seemed to always invite a hand down it for comfort, which soon after reminded him that he wanted to nurse too!
Here’s the cliff notes for those who prefer to skim!
- First try explaining logically – tell your toddler that your milk is running out, and that you have to nurse less or else you’ll get ouchies from not having enough milk!
- Try introducing a new comfort drink – Warmed goat milk and some honey is tastey and easy to digest! You can offer it in a sippy or transition cup. Make sure to keep the same routine and cuddles as you would when breastfeeding!
- Avoid “easy access” revealing shirts – It sound simple, but the saying “Out of sight, out of mind” is true! T shirts and things are good, just avoid v-necks and tanks and such!
Pick out a couple weaning books for toddlers to prepare for night weaning
If you have a book worm, this should work especially well!
Find some books that you think will resonate with your child that have to do with weaning, and start reading them a week or two BEFORE you start!
I find that kids like to know a plan ahead of time – being creatures of habit, knowing when change is coming and being able to understand and prepare for that really helps with overcoming the stress of something new!
Here are some of my favorite books to help toddlers with the weaning process
Loving Comfort – This has to be one of the BEST toddler weaning books out there. It really goes into the emotions and stages of weaning (both for mom and child!) and provides a way to have conversations with your child before actually weaning. The pictures are helpful and descriptive. My lactation consultant / OB recommended it to me, and I think it’s one of the reasons why our weaning went alot smoother than I thought it would!
Mama’s Milk is All Gone – While the pictures are a little funky, it is a great book that describes all the ways mama will still be there for the child, even after the milk is gone. It emphasizes all the big kid things that the toddler can do, and how great it is that milk isn’t needed as much!
A Time to Wean – For all the animal loving toddlers, this book will be a hit! It looks at how each familiar animal starts off nursing, but as they get bigger and do cool big animal stuff they end up needing milk less and less! It’s repetivie enough that toddlers can understand and get the idea, and the pictures are super cute to hold their attention!
Step 3: Night Wean Your Toddler
This is the hardest part, but just know that many other mamas have been here, and that you will STILL have an amazing bond even after weaning!
If your toddler really started to love their special drink, or responded well to the books, this should make the process a little easier.
You’ll want to make sure to not do this while your toddler is sick or some other major change is going on – it can make it WAY more stressful for everyone involved. Nursing is a way of providing comfort, and it may be making it more difficult to change if you choose a bad time!
If needed, get your partner or other help involved.
Some toddlers are super stubborn, and if they even smell you, will absolutely refuse anything else (even if they LOVED their new drink!)
My husband went into my son’s room the first one or two nights because he would get hysterical with me. As much as that broke my heart, he needed to be weaned and my husband was just able to do it better than me.
Kids pick up on emotions, and if you find yourself being too emotional (it’s a hard thing to move past!) then definitely get help!
Also don’t be worried if you have to drop night nursing sessions in phases. For example, if your toddler still wakes up 2 times a night, work on one session at a time.
I personally found it easier to drop it all at once, because it seemed to confuse him if he was allowed to nurse sometimes but not others.
Cliffnotes for fellow skimmers about night weaning your toddler
- Be sure to offer the comforts that worked during the day – their special drink, songs books etc when it comes time to night nurse
- Don’t be afraid to drop night nursing sessions in phases – taking it away all at once can be alot to handle!
- If all else fails, ask for help from your partner or family and friends to assist those first couple of nights. Sometimes just your smell can make it alot harder for your toddler to accept a bottle / comfort from you than someone else!
Other PRO tips from mamas who have had to wean their toddlers!
OK, so this article was titled weaning information for STUBBORN toddlers right? Well here are my top 3 tips to really bring the “milkies all gone” idea home!
- Put band-aids on your nipples (you can even let your toddler help and see) and tell them that they have ouchies now since they are out of milk. Add that trying to nurse more will hurt more! THIS has worked for a couple of moms I know!
- Vinegar on your nipples – I know it sounds harsh, but when all esle fails and you NEED To stop nursing… try this! This is what I did as well as everything above. I told him my milk had gone bad, and if he didn’t believe me, to try! He did and boy was he grossed out!
If NONE of these methods of weaning have worked, then try this mama must have for stubborn kiddos!
The SUCKER BUSTER Balm!
“I cannot express enough how this weaning balm is a mother’s dream come true!!!!!!! After months of attempting to wean (tried vinegar, tried boobies are sick, you name it – tried it and nothing worked) my 22 month old daughter that refused to part with “the boobs” — tantrums that I know our neighbors heard in the middle of the night…one application and my daughter refused to breastfeed on her own!!!!!!! Thank you to whoever has put this out on the market!!! I strongly recommend this product!”
This is just one of MANY reviews from mamas at their wits end trying to wean their kiddo!
While I am thankful that vinegar worked for my guy, you should try this if none of the above methods are working.
It has a super bitter taste that will absolutely repel your toddler, and it can be used for other habits like thumb sucking!
It’s also completely safe and non toxic – all you do is rub some on your nipples and watch the magic!
Do you have any other weaning hacks that you haven’t heard mentioned before?
I’d love to hear them! It’s a tough choice to make, but when it’s time to wean, it’s best if the process isn’t dragged out!
P.S. If you’re reading this and thinking these solutions are a little advanced, check out this article on weaning a baby!
Don’t forget to check out these other tips to help your weaning / new baby process!
- How to painlessly dry up your milk supply
- 6 fun ways to get your toddler excited about the new baby!
- This article on how to supplement with formula has a great snippet about picking a good formula your baby will love if your trying to wean a child under one!