If you told me before 2015 that weaning my toddler would be one of the largest parenting hurdles I would face during our children’s little years, I would have thought you were crazy. Our oldest two littles self-weaned around 6 months as we transitioned them over to formula; one because I couldn’t pump enough while working and the other because of weight/health concerns. This third miracle of ours though, she was one heck of a dedicated nurser completely attached to her “booboos”.
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Mommy Needs a Break
Around the time Little Miss turned 18 months old, I had, for the most part, been pregnant and/or breastfeeding for over 4 years straight. I was pretty much done with being used as an incubator or milk supply. The hormones, the weight gain, the exhaustion of having your body constantly drained of nutrition…over it all. It is recommended though that children breastfeed until at least two years of age so, I trudged on, trying to happily supply my little with the comfort and nourishment she preferred and needed.
Fast forward to her second birthday: I cheered. “Yay! We can begin weaning, right?” Well, she wasn’t a fan of this idea and made that very clear. Over the next 6+ months, we would struggle with our relationship; me tired of being a milk bag and her still clinching to infancy. My attempt at weaning my toddler had begun.
The 5 Methods That Failed Me:
1. Just say “no”. Okay, can we be realistic here? Someone who has forced themselves to continue breastfeeding for over 6 months just because it is the healthier option physically and emotionally for their child probably isn’t someone who can allow their 2-year-old to cry it out, even while being comforted. This just didn’t work for us, at all.
2. Distraction. This method works for so many breastfeeding moms that I was sure it would be our go-to, at least for daytime weaning. When your little comes over to nurse, offer to snuggle with a book, break out a favorite or rarely played with toy, or head outside. For nighttime, you would try to read until they fall asleep or have someone else, like Daddy, lay with them for bedtime. While him laying with her would work initially, we found that she would wake every few minutes for the entire evening searching for me. Even if I gave in and laid down with her, she would either be latched all night or awake every few minutes. Exhausted Mommy = No Bueno.
3. Offer various warmed milk alternatives. Fail. Super fail. We tried almond, cashew, coconut, and even goat milk. We tried them warm, cold, with chocolate syrup, with agave, and every combination in-between. She loved it! Then she wanted booboo afterwards.
4. You’re too old. Explain that booboo milk will taste gross when a child is too big for booboo milk…and then make it taste gross. To do this there are several methods. We tried both vinegar and vanilla extract, at separate times. You can either apply it to the nipple directly before nursing or you can soak some onto a cotton pad to place discretely inside your bra. I used the latter method for a more potent approach but alas, it was a failure as well. She simply made a face and continued to nurse then winked a lot once the grossness wore off.
5. Reward. Massive reward. This method makes a celebration of the toddler no longer breastfeeding by allowing them to select any item they want as their reward. You take them to the store, you pick something out, they stop nursing, they get the prize. Our 2-year-old didn’t fully grasp why she couldn’t have her present and for the most part didn’t care as long as she still got booboo. Can I get a collective “whomp whomp whomp” here?
Weaning My Toddler (What FINALLY Worked)
One day, while chatting in a group for “crunchy” moms, someone mentioned that they had recently weaned their child using Band-Aids. She simply placed one over each nipple, explained to her toddler that Mommy had ouchies, and that they needed to heal. *drop mic* Say what, now?! I knew I had to get on board with this idea. My overly sympathetic Little, being obsessed with ouchies, might just get this one!
We planned it out and decided to wait until after the holidays when we would be somewhat stable in a familiar environment. I bought the wide sport Band-Aids that have no antibiotic ointments and are made for breathability. This meant I could wear them all day long, confirming I still had ouchies anytime she asked. I wouldn’t recommend using ones that do not offer extra breathability since you may experience some engorgement and leaking. Days 1-3 we had some crying but no full on meltdowns other than bedtime. She knew Mommy was hurt and pretty much accepted she needed to wait for me to heal.
After Day 3, we started talking about how Mommy’s milk would be drying up because of her not being able to drink any but that it was okay because she’s such a big girl. Cuddles, we had lots of cuddles, and we kept our bedtime routine similar to normal except for the nursing. Her little arms clung to my neck as she drifted to sleep and then I was free to go to my own bed. The amazing part is that she’s been sleeping through the night. This same Little that, at 2.5 years old, was still waking up every few hours just a week before is now sleeping solidly for at least 8 or more hours a night!
Why I had never heard of this method for weaning my toddler before is beyond me but I am here to share it with you. If you have a toddler who has been reluctant to wean, try it out and let me know how it goes. Or if you have found something that worked for you but isn’t listed above, comment with it below for other moms who are struggling!