When it comes to weaning from breastfeeding many of us have many questions. While some women do want to wean quickly for various reasons, I have always been a firm believer in letting my babies wean when they are ready.
This doesn't mean I did not ever want to encourage weaning though.
When this happened to me while tandem breastfeeding a newborn and a toddler, I decided to encourage gentle weaning and it went really well. Better than expected actually!
Be prepared with patience.
Weaning can take time, from weeks to months. When I started to think about encouraging my son to stop breastfeeding I did not have a timeline in mind. In fact I nursed him during my entire pregnancy, and kept thinking he would wean so I was already kind of encouraging it.
These are my tips for weaning gently from breastfeeding and what worked for me.
If you are looking to wean quickly then these tips may not work for you.
Be sure to substitute breastfeeding with other food or drinks. Besides being sure your baby or toddler is eating plenty, and getting their nutritional needs met, it works as a distraction.
Use distractions if you would like to breastfeed less frequently during the day. If we are out playing, having fun, or doing any kind of activity my toddler doesn't really think about asking to breastfeed.
When they do ask just distract them to something more fun or delicious to eat if you really don't want to breastfeed right then. I don't do this all the time but it does work sometimes.
Cut out feeding gradually, one or two a day, whatever works for you. With my children I tried to get to a place where I was only nursing before sleep.
I have always nursed my babies to sleep. I don't think it's a bad habit or there is anything wrong with it. When it got to the point that I wanted to cut back I would have my husband take over bedtime. It was always hard for me to let that go but he deserved time with the kids at night too. Having him put them to bed makes them less dependent on breastfeeding. This worked well with my son.
Cut out overnight feedings if possible. Now, I am still nursing my almost two year old at night if she wakes, because she is my last and I don't mind! But when I am done with the nights, I will have my husband take over those night wake ups too.
Stop offering to breastfeed but don't refuse if asked. Now I mentioned above that I do distract sometimes but I don't think this counts as refusal. If my toddler is insistent on nursing I will but usually distractions work really well.
These are my super gentle tips for weaning gradually. This is not an overnight method of weaning, and it can take weeks to months. I call it cutting back.
My two year old son weaned pretty much on his own in the end. With these tactics he eventually decided Daddy was more fun for putting him to bed, and just stopped breastfeeding before bed at some point. I actually don't remember the last time we breastfed because it was so gradual.
My first baby, my daughter, weaned when I was pregnant with my second and it was very abrupt. I am currently still breastfeeding my third and have no idea how she will wean or when, but I am in it for the long haul since she is my last baby.
Breastfeeding is more than feeding, it is an emotional bond and comfort for our babies and toddlers, so in my opinion gradual weaning is the way to go.
Good luck and please let me know if you have any questions!