The Ultimate Guide to Weaning Your Toddler Off Breastfeeding

The Ultimate Guide to Weaning Your Toddler Off Breastfeeding

I don't need to tell you that breastfeeding a baby takes some serious determination!

While many moms nurse for the first year, others go well beyond that into toddlerhood.

But, once your child gets older, it can be difficult to stop nursing since they’re so used to this personal process.

But, it is possible to wean your toddler without drama and stress.

Read on to learn how!

Nutrition & Breastfeeding

Many moms nurse their children for a long period of time in order to give them plenty of calories, nutrients, and fat.

So, when making the choice to wean, it’s essential children get plenty of these things through foods they eat.

Since they are a toddler, some days may be better than others in regards to what they eat.

So, there’s no need to panic if their appetite is less than ideal on some days more than others.

In order to ease your mind, it’s important to remember that when you were nursing, there was no way to determine how much milk you were producing.

Be sure to give your child a multivitamin, introduce them to new and healthy foods, and strive for balance as you eat together each day as a family (yes, this is important, as your child will take nutritional cues from you).

Kicking the Routine

Toddlers are creatures of habit, and the ritual of breastfeeding was something that your child not just expected when they were hungry, but actually looked forward to.

Nursing also provided security for your toddler!

So, it’s important to have other comforting objects and activities in line, to replace this bonding act.

Offer a Sippy Cup

So, the first step to kicking the routine involves offering them milk in a sippy cup.

You can make the sippy cup a huge deal by enclosing it in wrapping paper, or by simply picking out a special cup that they’ll love because it’s in the shape of their favorite character, or it’s their favorite color.

They may be hesitant to drink out of it at first, but give it time: they will adjust.

How to Choose the Best Sippy Cup

So many sippy cups, so many choices! Check out our guide to choosing the best sippy cup for your little one!

You can introduce the cup slowly by replacing a breastfeeding session or two throughout the day with it, until you are down to not nursing at all.

Pacifiers and Water Bottles

In order to alleviate any anxiety or anger this could ignite, have their pacifier on hand to suffice for the breast (only if they are still using a paci—don’t reintroduce one if they’ve kicked the habit).

You can introduce a water bottle at this point as well. They explain to their toddler that they are growing up and they can start to drink from a small water bottle.

This will surely put them in awe and will serve as a welcome distraction from the breast.

You can also offer new and interesting snacks that replace a scheduled feeding. Let your toddler get involved in choosing the solid food they want to try!

This way, they’ll be distracted, getting necessary nutrients, staying full, and off the breast!

Time to Chat

After you “distract” your toddler with a sippy cup, paci, and/or water bottle, it’s discussion time.

Your toddler is at an age where they can listen and process what you’re telling them. They may not like what you are saying, but at this point in the game, they are capable of comprehending.

So, strike up a dialogue about how they are a big kid now, and big kids learn to eat their nutrients and vitamins on their own, without their mom’s help.

They may even have questions for you, so be ready!

The most important thing that your toddler gains from the conversation is that they are not allowed to nurse, so they will have no choice but to eat more, try new foods, and learn how to enjoy cow’s milk by using a cup.

In order to replace the bonding time, simply partake in an activity that still involves the both of you, but one that doesn’t center around the feeding.

A story or two, a snuggle on the couch, a special walk, a trip to the park, or even a gentle massage to soothing music will make your child feel special and loved.

Other Helpful Tips When for Weaning

Here are some other helpful steps to take when it comes to weaning:

Be strong! It’s hard to say no to your baby. But, when you decide it’s time to stop feeding (for whatever personal reason), then stay strong on your decision. Wavering back and forth, and not remaining consistent will not only confuse and upset your child, it will disrupt your own body system that is trying to regulate and reduce your milk.

Get support. There’s lots of mom groups to join who have members who can sympathize with what you’re going through. Literature is also useful during this process! It’s also a great time to take up a new hobby or craft that will take your mind off the weaning process by doing something solely for you (after all the time you put into doing something solely for your child).

Reduce your nursing sessions slowly. Your body is also going to feel the effects of not nursing anymore. Cut down on sessions one minute each day, until you have your child nursing for three minutes or less. Your milk production will decrease and by weaning slowly, you’ll avoid engorgement, discomfort, and blocked milk ducts.

Choose to cut carefully. When weaning, you have to decide which sessions to cut down on. It’s recommended that night nursing is dropped first, because that’s generally the hardest one to stop. Once you cut that session out, the rest will be smooth sailing. Always replace whatever session (besides bed) you’re cutting off, with solid food or a cup of milk instead, to keep them on a routine, full, happy, and well nourished.

Pass off bedtime responsibility. Since your toddler was used to nursing before bed, ask your partner to handle bedtime responsibilities like bath, dressing, and tucking in, so your toddler stops associating you with eating and bedtime. Again, this could take some time to get used to, but it will be a great distraction for your child, and also a way for your partner to get in some more bonding time when you and your child need it the most.

Try a sticker chart. If you can get your child to not fuss about feeding, they can earn a sticker for the day. Once they earn a sticker each day for a week, they can earn a small gift or extra time with you!

What About Your Body?

You read above about lots of tips to stop weaning, and some effects that may occur to your child once they stop nursing, but what about your body?

As you cut down on nursing sessions (remember—the key is to go slowly), your body will in most cases respond well and start to lessen your supply.

But, if you stop nursing too quickly, there are some things that can occur and it’s wise to learn about the signs and symptoms that happen from weaning too fast.

They include:

  • Engorgement. When you get too much milk in, too quickly to keep up with.
  • Clogged milk ducts. Pain in your breast that can restrict milk from coming out.
  • Mastitis. An infection from clogged ducts.

If you're engorged, it’s important to express your milk right away (so keep a pump handy in order to not confuse you toddler if you want them to stop feeding), and wean in a slower manner next time.

If you think your milk ducts are clogged, you can use massage techniques to get them to open up and release milk. If massage fails, warm compresses tend to do the trick—just be sure to express milk from that side until you think the duct is unclogged.

Once you feel that you have a clogged duct, keep a close eye on your symptoms. If you still have problems after a few days, call your doctor.

A duct that stays clogged for too long can lead to a serious infection (Mastitis) that requires antibiotics to clear up.

It’s important to remember that your breasts should never feel swollen, bruised, tender in one specific spot, hot, and there should never be small or hard spots in any of your breasts.

Always seek attention for these symptoms and start compresses and massage in the meantime!

Wrapping Up

All nursing moms know that the day will come when their little one will no longer be breastfed.

Stopping is a personal choice and needs to be handled in a slow, strategic way.

While you’ll miss the bonding time and satisfaction of directly providing nourishment to you baby, it’s great to know that you were able to play such an important role in their development thus far.

Consider some of the tips above to start the weaning process, be safe during the process, but most importantly, successful during the process!


Hi there, I'm Kate! I started Maternity Glow to be a place for new and expecting moms to come to for practical pregnancy advice, parenting tips, and baby care tricks.

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