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How to Wean a Breastfeeding Toddler?

We’re both ready. How do I wean my toddler from breastfeeding?

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We’re both ready. How do I wean my toddler from breastfeeding?

The Bump Expert

Great job for nursing into toddlerhood, mama! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least a year, but only about 27 percent of moms and babies actually make it that long -- you did it! And while it might seem tough to wean now that you both are so used to breastfeeding, the fact that you guys are pros can help make the process a positive experience.

Go slowly

Your child is eating table foods, and that will make weaning easier, because she’s no longer completely dependent on you for nutrition. In other words, you won’t have to substitute bottles of formula for each feeding; you can simply drop feedings gradually.

And when we say gradually, we mean it. Go slowly, since feeding less frequently could cause engorgement for you and could be tough for your kid to handle, if you do it abruptly. Make it a smooth transition.

You can decrease the time of each nursing session, or skip one entirely. Be sure to provide your toddler with plenty of attention while weaning, so the emotional effect isn’t as extreme. Remember, breastfeeding is far more than nourishment; your child also enjoys your closeness and proximity when you’re breastfeeding. After you’ve successfully eliminated one feeding -- it will probably take at least a few days -- try cutting out another.

Distract

Your toddler is curious and easily distractible? (Yeah, ours too.) That can work in your favor. If she’s in your lap during a feeding, let her go and button up. Keep her distracted with a toy or story. The first steps of weaning really can be that easy.

Many moms find that if they simply don’t suggest breastfeeding, they can successfully skip a feeding here and there. Don’t sit in the usual chair you would sit in to nurse, and keep her busy during that time. Plan some extra play sessions, or head outside -- it’ll take both your minds off breastfeeding and the fact that you’re together will mean you’re still bonding, despite not nursing.

Concentrate on daytime first

You’ll probably find it a lot easier to cut out daytime feedings than evening feedings. During the day, your toddler is busy and her mind is occupied. At night, she’s come to expect a cuddle session and breast milk before she goes to bed. So start by cutting back on daytime feedings. The before-bed feeding is usually the last to go.

Going fast? Get guidance

If you need or want to stop breastfeeding sooner rather than later, talk to your physician or a lactation consultant, who may be able to suggest medication to decrease your milk production. You don’t want to rush it without help.

More from The Bump:

The Benefits of Breastfeeding After a Year

How Breastfeeding Changes as Baby Gets Older

Worst Breastfeeding Advice -- Ever!

Jennifer Ritchie, IBCLC, author of I Make Milk…What’s Your Superpower?