Weaning a breastfed toddler is a different experience. No two will be alike but I can tell you that both of mine had one thing in common, bittersweet.
I breastfed both of my babies past a year old.
Yes, I am “that” mom as some might say. I never imagined what it would be like to nurse a toddler or even thought I’d do that sort of thing! In fact, I remember resenting the idea of still breastfeeding a person who was able to walk and talk.
Oh, but I was so naive and oblivious.
How could I have possibly known? Even the best could never begin to describe our story. The story that begins with a precious newborn baby boy who refused to latch. Despite the pain, the struggles, and tears we persevered and found our way along this beautiful journey.
Soon enough, this was our routine and way of life. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have our bad days because we did. That “one year” mark was looking better and better at times. But you know, the closer that date appeared the more I couldn’t imagine us stopping.
So we didn’t, at least for a while longer!
How To Wean, “The Short List”
1.) Decide when it’s time.
2.) Pick your method of choice.
3.) Grab a support person (or 2 or 3).
4.) Stick to your guns!
Sometimes Weaning Is A Piece Of Cake!
When our son was 19 months old I got pregnant again. At the time I had zero interest in tandem feeding so I knew our breastfeeding relationship wouldn’t be lasting much longer. By this point he was only nursing to sleep so that meant once during the day for his nap and all throughout the night as well.
Honestly, weaning kid number one was a piece of cake and incredibly spontaneous. It kind of just happened with no research, no help and forget having a go to method!
Wyatt always used a nipple shield to breastfeed and one night we lost it. I decided that was it and we started the weaning process at 21 months. I remember about 10 minutes of crying before he fell asleep. He woke 3 or 4 times the rest of the night but crying was brief. I comforted him, told him, “Mommy is here! Mommy loves you!” and he would go back to sleep.
On night 2 he only asked to nurse a couple of times and by the 3rd night he was sleeping like a rock! This was SO big for him because up until that point he was still waking sometimes up to 10 times a night for his “boobie.”
Wyatt is now 4 and still a great sleeper. Also, I finally found that lost nipple shield 2 years after we lost it. (no, I didn’t keep it! ha!)
When Weaning Is Hard…
One of my many flaws as a mom is that I am constantly comparing my kids. I assume whatever worked with my son will for my daughter too. I couldn’t be more wrong! Wren and Wyatt are total opposites.
Yet, I wonder why I was STILL surprised when weaning didn’t go near as smoothly the second round?
Breastfeeding my daughter was a completely different experience compared to my son. Although I believe Wyatt enjoyed nursing, he was never one I’d consider a “boob monster.” For example, he would much rather play with toys as opposed to nursing with me on the couch.
Birth of The “Boob Monster”
But Wren? Oh my where do I even begin…
Well to start, I chucked that nipple shield before she even thought about getting attached. Learned my lesson on that with the first kid! This made my life a lot easier because I could nurse her anytime and anywhere without the concern of wondering where the shield went or looking for a clean one.
With no nipple shield, this made breastfeeding SUPER convenient. I have always loved the bond breastfeeding gave me with my children but with Wren it seemed even more special. It was almost like we were connected in a different way. She was most definitely a “boob monster” and thought of my breasts as more than a food source.
I was her comfort object, her pacifier, her source for thirst, hunger, warmth and love. My breasts were her cure for all of her owies and they were just what she needed when big brother hurt her feelings.
The thoughts of taking that away from her were gut wrenching!
I Met My Breastfeeding Goal
My goal was to breastfeed until age 2. This is what the WHO recommends and what I was comfortable with personally. Honestly, though I never even imagined what it would be like to wean my little girl. All children will self wean eventually and to be honest that’s what I wanted. No tears, no pain, no struggling.
Things don’t always work out though…
Despite how much I LOVED breastfeeding it quickly became something I despised. How can a breastfeeding advocate even say that? Gasp!
I’m speaking the truth. After Wren’s second birthday I imagined the need for “boobies” would start to decrease. She would become interested in more things, better things. That couldn’t have been more far from the truth!
Instead, she CONSTANTLY wanted to nurse. Every second of every day it seemed like she was attached to me. They tell you this about newborns but toddlers? Yep, this was new to me. And at night it got worse too. She would wake over and over again and I was so tired of not getting any sleep.
Our Time Has Come
Eventually, the idea of weaning sounded not so bad. Wren was 26 months when I decided on a gentle approach and no longer offered my breasts to her. If she wanted it she would have to ask. I tried to keep ourselves busy because the second I sat down on the couch she would be right back on like a leach.
The next step was to day wean. This is where it went a little nuts. If you haven’t told a toddler no when they asked to breastfeed you should try it sometime. I mean, if you like to hear high pitch screaming that is…
So yea, this didn’t end well. I’d end up caving sometime throughout the day and then back to square one. I can’t tell you all how many times I attempted gentle weaning but Wren was having nothing with it. I chalked it up to her not being ready and convinced myself to keep going despite how much it drained me to continue.
Cold Turkey For The Win!
One day I had enough and decided this was it. I decided cold turkey was the method and if it worked for the first kid it would work for the second. I could almost imagine how it would feel to sleep all night again! On night one I prepared myself for the screams when I refused to let Wren nurse to sleep. She screamed, and cried and threw the worst tantrum I’ve ever seen. I comforted her and told her “Mommy is here! I hold you. I love you,” just as I did with my son.
Then something magical happened, she went to sleep! I was up all night with her crying and it was an awful experience in general but we made it. I couldn’t stop now.
Cue My Support Person
For night two I decided it would be a good idea for Wren to spend the night with her Mimi (my mom). I had a meeting to attend early the next morning so it would work well. Mom said she woke several times crying throughout the night but was pretty good otherwise.
On night 3 I was expecting her to forget about nursing just as my son did. Well, she didn’t forget! The crying continued throughout the night but she no longer asked during daytime. Progress!
I’d say she was good and weaned within a week from start to finish. As far as her sleeping throughout the night, we still aren’t there. So much for my hopes and dreams!
How Does It Feel To Wean Your Breastfed Toddler?
I’d say this question is completely different depending on who you ask! For me, it feels bittersweet. I’ll ALWAYS treasure the precious moments and the bonding. There’s nothing quite like having the ability to provide for my children in a way that no one else could.
I’ll be honest and say that I did picture weaning going a bit differently. I assumed that I’d remember our last nursing session. I’d play a sweet song as I nursed my babies for the last time. I’d probably take a picture or record our last moment together and shed a tear or two.
I pictured this all being one big sentimental moment that I’d look back on for the rest of my life.
But did I have that? Absolutely not. My last moments of breastfeeding will be remembered as a sleep deprived mom with her boobs hanging out at 2 am in the morning. I have no recollection of anything remotely precious but to be honest I’m not upset by that.
It feels good to have my body back and of course I miss it but just as any part of life, it was a stage. That stage is gone now but the memories will be forever etched in my heart.
My Other Breastfeeding Posts
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