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Extended Breastfeeding: Weaning Your Older Child Gently

My daughter loved breastfeeding. Weaning wasn’t even on our radar when we hit the one year mark. We simply kept on going and I found myself in the world of extended breastfeeding. It hadn’t been my goal. Yet there I was, wondering if weaning my toddler was ever going to be possible.

Extended Breastfeeding: Weaning Your Older Child Gently   l   www.BreastfeedingPlace.com   #breastfeeding #weaning

At times extended breastfeeding was wonderful and at other times it was an emotional struggle. Part of me wanted to cherish those precious moments and part of me wanted to just be done. Here are six things I did to help make the weaning process a positive experience for me and my little one.

6 Tips for Weaning Your Older Child Gently

1) Consult with Your Doctor – One of my big concerns with my daughter was that Grace wouldn’t drink any kind of milk in a cup. I tried cow milk and breast milk. Grace was not interested. How was I supposed to wean my daughter if I couldn’t replace my breast milk with another kind of milk?

Based on Grace’s diet, my doctor had no concerns about her eliminating milk from her diet by weaning. I had thought I couldn’t wean Grace until she was drinking milk. I was wrong. This might not be your story, but perhaps your doctor can give you some advice or ease some of your concerns about weaning.

2) It is Okay to Say No (or Wait) – As Grace got older, I started to feel more uncomfortable nursing her around other people. At times I felt embarrassed to be extended breastfeeding. Occasionally, I would tell Grace no when she asked to nurse. I would often tell her that we would nurse when we got home.

At first this was about my insecurities. However, it was also about setting limits with Grace, which is an extremely valuable and important lesson when it comes to weaning.

3) Don’t Offer, Don’t Refuse. – I was frantically searching online for answers to all of my “Will she ever wean?!” questions when I came across this weaning philosophy. The idea is simple. If your baby asks to breastfeed, then breastfeed. If your baby doesn’t ask, then don’t offer.

Clearly, I refused to breastfeed Grace plenty of times when she asked, but that was usually when other people were around or when we were out of the house. I used the “Don’t Offer – Don’t Refuse” philosophy when I wanted to start dropping feedings. If Grace didn’t ask to nurse before I laid her down for her nap, then I didn’t offer.

4) Replace Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding isn’t all about nutrition. It is also about comfort, snuggles, and love. I tried my best to encourage Grace to cuddle a blanket. When we nursed before bedtime, I always grabbed her blanket and brought it with us. I was hoping she would want to snuggle her blanket while I read her a bedtime story instead of breastfeeding.

In the end, Grace was already super attached to her pacifier and wasn’t all that interested in adopting a blankie. My husband and I purposefully waited to take away her pacifier until after she had been fully weaned for several months. What comfort objects is your toddler interested in? Encouraging that behavior might make weaning a little gentler for your little one.

Extended Breastfeeding: Weaning Your Older Child Gently   l   www.BreastfeedingPlace.com   #breastfeeding #weaning

5) Mix Up the Routine – Do you always nurse in the same spot?  Try not to sit there. Put Daddy in charge of bedtime. Children thrive on routine, but now is the time for mixing things up.

The very last feeding that Grace and I were holding onto was the morning nursing session. We had a routine that I loved. Grace would wake up, I would stumble out of bed to get her, and we would go back to my bed to snuggle and nurse. I’m not a morning person. I cringed at the thought of giving up those precious moments first thing in the morning.

My mom came to stay with us for a week and took over getting Grace out of her crib in the morning. It was perfect. Eventually, we went back to our morning snuggles, but it just didn’t include breastfeeding.

6) Take it Slow – All of the tips I’ve mentioned are helpful, but the number one thing that will make weaning your older child a gentle experience for both of you is to take it slow. Drop one feeding and then wait a few weeks before tackling another.

I was slowly weaning Grace for months. We did it so slowly that she didn’t seem to notice and I didn’t experience any negative side effects. I never felt engorged or uncomfortable.

What advice do you have for weaning an older child? What are your tips for moms who are concerned about their milk supply as they start to drop feedings?


Rebekah Hoffer is a breastfeeding mom who has over come the struggles of excess lipase activity.  She shares frugal lifestyle tips, going green baby, and all of life in between at SimplyRebekah.com.

Comments

  1. melissacohen0214 says:

    My three year old is still nursing – mostly just at night, because I’ve managed to eliminate all (most) of the daytime sessions. The downside is that she’s compensating by waking up at night to nurse. This was helpful, thanks 🙂

  2. Thank you for the tips! I am starting to wean my 12-month-old and it’s been a slight rollercoaster. My son wasn’t really keen on taking a bottle but he is starting to warm up to it now. I’m hoping we can gradually trade that bottle (and eventually the cup) for nursing!

    Amy @ http://livinglifetruth.blogspot.com/

    • Rebekah Hoffer says:

      Amy, weaning certainly can be a roller coaster! May I suggest something that has been helpful with both of my children? Skip the bottle at this point and go straight to the cup. At 12 months old, he is certainly old enough to be able to drink out of a cup and it will be one last thing habit that you’ll have to break him of. If he isn’t doing well with a cup, take the stopper out. Let the liquid easily flow. It is a bit more messy, but it is a great way to help little ones learn how the cup thing works.

      Good luck to you, Amy!

  3. V helpful! I’m making slow progress in weaning my 18 month old…she seems to have suddenly increased her demand feeds. She does drink goats milk but declines that through the night and pre nap time. Feeling tired! This helped a lot!

  4. Rebecca Wright says:

    I know this post is super old now but this has been so refreashing to read someone’s story that is so much like what I’m going through right now. My daughter too won’t drink milk and she goes to sleep nursing. She is almost three and going strong. She is very attached and not sure how I’ll ever get her off. She come to my room in the middle of the night to sleep with me and nurses on and off through the night.

Trackbacks

  1. […] can read my 6 Tips for Weaning Your Older Child Gently over at Breastfeeding Place, a blog dedicated to educating and supporting nursing […]

  2. […] I weaned both of my children around the age of two.  Despite my struggles with extended breastfeeding and even my feelings of embarrassment, weaning my children rocked me to the core.  The wind was nearly knocked out of me the first night that I laid them down in their beds without nursing.  My children aren’t babies anymore and it grieves me. […]

  3. […] 12. Weaning from extended breastfeeding can be done peacefully. – When you wean a child who is over the age of one, it can come with some special challenges, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be dramatic. I was able to gently wean my daughter with these 6 tips. […]

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