WE DID IT!
I feel proud that we made it so long, and it’s bittersweet that it’s over, but I’m gonna be real with you, we’ve been trying to wean for a while now! Months, actually.
A little background for us: My goal for nursing was 12 months. Around the time 15 months came around, we began “officially” working on weaning. It got to the point to where about 60% of the nursing was just comfort nursing and not for actual nutritional value, and so I figured we could go ahead and at least start the weaning process. Buttttt it ended up taking 5 months.
But here we are now, and all that matters is that we did it. 20 months and I’m beyond proud. But I’m also proud that we’re finally done!
And now that we’re done and I’m looking back, I realize the things that did work for us, as well as the things that didn’t and could have saved us time in the long run.
So today I’m going to share those tips with you! Lets get started!
Like I said above, we weaned at 15–20 months. And while most of these tips will be “general” tips, some of them are specifically dependent on age and are from our personal experience only. (Example: In our case, we couldn’t opt boob for a pacifier or bottle, which I’ve heard as a tip for younger babies, because he didn’t take either one.)
I’m trying to be as “general” as possible, because I know weaning can happen at any age, but just wanted to give a heads up that a few of the “tips” (although not all!) are specific to “toddler” weaning and our specific child, of course. (every baby is different!)
So, here are my weaning tips and tricks based on our personal experience!
I felt like I needed to start with this one. I spent way too long stressing over Holston being weaned. For us, it came down to where he was no longer doing it for nutritional purposes, it was strictly comfort nursing. Which began to become UNcomortable to me. It started to hurt, and he was 20 months old still waking up to nurse (for hours) through the night. So it was rough.
But honestly, looking back, I probably could have saved myself a lot of tears and made the entire weaning experience better if I had just taken a breath and not stressed so badly about it.
I know it’s easier said then done, but I mean did I really think he would be nursing through college? No. I knew it wouldn’t last forever. But in the moment I was just so done. If you’re reading this post, you may know what I mean.
With that being said: I should have been patient with the weaning process. That’s not to say I shouldn’t have attempted weaning. Holston was ready (Like I said, he was just comfort nursing. Not doing it for milk) And I was ready, too. So these tips still helped/would have helped. I just wouldn’t have been so rushed and stressed while doing them.
If you’re still “offering” the boob, the first thing to do is to stop.
As long as you aren’t quitting cold turkey, a good rule for the first few days is this: Don’t offer. Don’t deny.
Basically this means don’t offer your baby the breast, but for the first few days, don’t deny baby the breast if they come to you for it.
This is a good relaxed starting point to the weaning process.
KEEP YOUR BOOBS COVERED
Each time Holston saw my boobs, he would immediately think “Boobs. Boobs mean nursing. I see boobs, so I have to nurse!” So I started to wear higher cut shirts to distract him.
Obviously he still knew they were under my shirt. There were times where he would pull my shirt down and point to them, asking for them. But keeping them essentially “hidden” did help some to distract him from wanting to nurse just because they were conveniently available.
CUT OUT A LITTLE AT A TIME
Take it slow. If you aren’t wanting to stop cold turkey then work on cutting out a few nursing sessions at at time.
For us, we started out by cutting out the “extra” feedings.
As in, the ones where he was just randomly nursing with no motive for it.
We eventually dropped those out and made it to where we only nursed before naps and bedtime. The middle of the day nursing we took away first, and then went from there.
This was how we personally cut them out.
-Dropped the random/extra nursing throughout the day.
-Dropped the BEFORE bed nursing.
-Dropped the nap time nursing.
-Dropped the overnight nursing (the hardest to drop at first, but once we finished all the others, he didn’t even care anymore. And sleeping through the night came easily)
(I MENTION MORE ON CUTTING THESE FEEDINGS OUT, BELOW!
Another disclaimer: This is just what worked for us. I know moms who STARTED with dropping the overnight nursing. That wasn’t what worked for Holston. He was most connected to that one, and so we improvised and started with the other ones. Do what’s best for you and your baby, and what works best for you.
TIPS FOR CUTTING FEEDINGS!
Distracting Holston helped a lot, especially for the nursing sessions he really didn’t “need”
So for instance, when he would walk up, grab my shirt, and ask for it, I would tell him “No more booby, do you want to play a game?” or “No more booby. But hey, let’s go outside!”
It gave him something else to do that was fun, and got his mind off of the “extra” feedings until eventually, they were out of his routine and he didn’t ask for them.
For certain nursing sessions, depending on when/what they were, I would try to find an alternative for him.
Morning nursing: This was one of the nursing sessions where I knew he actually used it for milk vs. comfort. So our alternative in this situation was offering a sippy cup of milk.
Extra/Random nursing: the alternative was the distraction I mentioned above.
Nap/Bedtime nursing: I would deny breastfeeding but offer cuddles and ask if he wanted to snuggle up. (There were tears at first, I’m not going to lie. EXPECT TEARS. But eventually, he began to love cuddling up instead of nursing. We always cuddle before bedtime now, and let me tell you, sooooo much better)
Honestly, I was very open with Holston about what was going on. Even if your baby is young and you think they can’t/won’t understand, try.
I would explain why we couldn’t nurse anymore. Telling him that he was a big boy and that big boys don’t need boobies, anymore. I would tell him that mommy was running out of milk in her boobs and that we didn’t need to nurse If there wasn’t milk (which he did a lot of-comfort nursing) I would explain that there were alternatives and plenty of other things along those lines.
Of course he didn’t accept it that easily, like I said, there were still tears and some whining but I think communicating with him helped him to understand that I wasn’t just randomly changing his routine. There was a reason.
AVOID FAMILIAR NURSING PLACES:
When you do nurse, make sure to avoid familiar nursing places, or spots that your child may associate with nursing. The goal here is to switch up the routine.
NIGHT NURSING TIPS
DECREASE THE TIME SPENT NURSING:
Take it slow and start by narrowing down the time you’re spending nursing. Cut out a little more at a time each day, and try to get to a point where you are not nursing baby all the way to sleep.
Try to nurse until baby is pretty groggy/sleepy and then offer cuddles or rocking. (It may be hard at first, but again, take it one day at a time, and remember that consistency is key.)
SEND DAD TO THE RESCUE:
For us, Elijah took over Holstons night time routine, eventually, and it made the biggest difference!
Holston KNEW Elijah couldn’t nurse him or give him boobies, and because I wasn’t around or in the room, he adapted and accepted it.
It took some getting used to from Holston. The first little bit took some time getting him to bed without them. But after staying consistent, it became a habit in his routine for Elijah to put him to sleep, and boom. Pre-bedtime nursing was done. (Again, have patience, be consistent, and stay strong.)
We tried this technique for the middle of the night sessions as well, but it didn’t work for us, personally. The only thing that helped us for those were cutting out all other nursing sessions so he knew breastfeeding was over in general. But it’s worth a try to send dad in in the mid-night feedings, too! Every baby is different. Give it a shot!
CABBAGE IS YOUR FRIEND:
As you begin to cut out feedings you’re going to deal with engorgement. Cabbage will be one of your BFFs.
Seriously, it helps with the pain. I used it all the time.
What to do: Buy a head of cabbage and keep it in your fridge and when you begin to “fill up” and it gets painful since you’re missing feedings now, peel off 2 leaves of the cabbage and stick them in your bra. It will feel so much better. (photo below for reference. They literally go in your bra and you swap them out when they start to whither or if they aren’t cool enough to provide comfort anymore.)
Disclaimer: I’ve heard the cabbage method to actually DRY UP YOUR MILK SUPPLY, not only for comfort. If you aren’t necessarily weaning, just looking for comfort from engorgement, this might not be the best route for you!
WEAR A COMFORTABLE/TIGHT BRA:
Another engorgment tip is to wear a tight bra. If your breasts aren’t supported while they’re engorged it’s just going to make the pain way worse.
As far as over the counter medications, ibuprofen is a safe option for breastfeeding mamas if the pain gets to be extreme.
I know I sound like a broken record, but seriously if there was just one thing I would want you to take away from this post to truly help you, it’s that consistency is key.
One of the things that held us back the most was sticking to it. If we had just held out and stayed a little bit stronger when it came to these tips, I don’t think it would have taken us as long to get Holston weaned.
There were nights where I was just so exhausted and I gave into him, which in the moment gave me relief, but looking at the big picture, it only made things more difficult and drew the process out even longer. It confused him in a sense.
I know how tempting it is to give in, and I’m not advocating you let your baby scream for your boobs all day/night, but as much as you possibly can, with whatever you find that “works” for you, stick with it.
Develop a habit and routine and eventually you will all adapt to that, baby included!
Stay calm and enjoy it while it lasts.
I desperately wanted to get Holston weaned. It was taking a toll on me and although it took some time to finally get there, I still rushed through those last few months.
I didn’t actually realize the last time we nursed would be the last time. Because of how quickly I was going through the motions of weaning. And if I had known, I would have enjoyed and cherished it more.
Because when we finally did finished, I mourned the joy breastfeeding once brought me.
I wish I would have just been more patient with the process. I know it’s easier said then done when you’re “ready” to be done. But trust me, it’s so bittersweet once it ends. So enjoy it. It will be over before you know it. I promise.
To all the mamas weaning their babies out there, good luck. You’ve got this.