How do you wean a co-sleeping toddler? Before I begin, I’ll let you know that it’s only been about two weeks since my little girl last nursed. She still looks longingly at my chest like she’s remembering a really good meal and I can almost see her salivating.
Having said that though, she doesn’t nurse anymore…and that’s that. My process was a bit of a mish-mash of some of my mum friends’ experiences HERE. I didn’t want to go cold turkey but I didn’t want to drag out the process too long either. I also knew I wanted to gently wean her. So I set a two week deadline.
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I cut out all nursing to sleep so both night feeds and nursing during the day for afternoon naps. I went with putting plasters/band aids on my nipples and it surprisingly worked very well considering that she doesn’t know what a plaster is used for yet. She just seemed to understand that it meant my breasts were a no-go zone.
Bed sharing makes the weaning process harder. We had to change up our bedtime routine. My husband took over bedtime each night rather than us taking in turns like we usually do and that probably also helped her a lot to disassociate my boobs from sleep. I refused her the two-three times she’d wake up at night to nurse herself right back to sleep. It sometimes took me sitting up in bed with her while she calmed down but it never took too long for her to sleep again. If she asked to nurse at any other times of the day apart from sleep times, I’d let her.
I cut out all except morning feeds for the first three days. When she woke up, she hardly ever wanted a feed anyway, but at some point in the morning, she’d come for a little milk snack. The rest of the day, I wouldn’t let her have any and kept explaining to her that the milk was “all gone now”, “finished”! By Day 4, I was explaining this to her pretty much all day long as we were now completely done (in my mind).
From the very first week, all refusals – especially the night waking/middle of the night ones – were met by back-arching, guttural screams, moans, cries of “Noooooo!” and even some hitting (she hitting me and not the other way around, in case you were wondering :-D). Nighttime parenting while weaning a toddler can make you feel like you’re in the twilight zone.
Two months later
She still gets upset when she comes for breastmilk and I start to explain why she can’t have it. Her protests don’t last as long as they used to though. She comforts herself by sticking her hand in my bra and caressing her old friend and that’s just fine by me as long as I don’t have to physically wrestle with her to stop her from trying to stick my nipple in her mouth!
I suppose the next step is to figure out how to get her hand out of my bra…
Four months later
She sleeps through the night…most nights. A few nights a week, she’ll wake up insisting on putting her hand…guess where. Yep. In my bra. She still thinks my boobs are hers. I do my best to remember the nights of being woken up a minimum of 4 times and that helps to keep me patient with her and sometimes even grateful to be getting some sleep!
To conclude, I’ll leave you with some things to keep in mind when you’re weaning your toddler or baby off breastfeeding.
My 5 biggest tips on how to wean a co-sleeping toddler from nursing
- Be patient with yourself and baby. Expect anger and sadness from both yourself and baby. Know that there may be days when you wish you could reverse the process and go right back to breastfeeding.
- Don’t expect them to be “over” it within a couple of days
- Is weaning off breastfeeding painful? It can be. Prepare yourself physically for the pain of possible engorgement by having painkillers and ice packs to hand. Get ready also for the sheer exhaustion that will affect you physically if your little is ready to physically fight you for your boob.
- Prepare yourself emotionally and mentally for the possible sadness you may feel once weaning is complete.
- Have a good support system in place to keep you uplifted and remind you why you wanted to wean for those times when you’re ready to give up
Have you been wondering how to wean your toddler from nursing?
How did/has full weaning off breastfeeding gone for you? Did/do you wish you’d done anything differently to wean your toddler?