Like all things parenthood you may have a bullet proof plan to wean your toddler smoothly. And just like all things in parenthood, the second you initiate the plan, all bets are off and nothing goes as expected. Weaning a toddler doesn’t happen overnight, it is a process. Because the transition can be complex and scary, we spoke with Susan Bekken, Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Parent Educator for some of her tips during the transition. Here are 10 tips for what to expect during the toddler weaning process.
1. The Right Time
There is no “right” time. Unless it is something that is medically necessary, the “right” time is different for everyone. According to Susan, “It is the time that just happens. It’s the time that both mom and baby are ready to be done. We must all enjoy the time given to us to nourish our babies both physically and spiritually.” Although there is so much pressure to breastfeed a baby, there is just as much pressure to suddenly stop breastfeeding a baby. Make sure the decision is your own and not fueled by societal pressure. Ultimately, you must choose the time that works for you and your family. No time will really feel “perfect.” Make the time that you choose to wean your toddler a priority and that will prepare your family for success.
Expect an influx of self doubt because you will have conflicting emotions. One moment you are content with your decision to wean and the next you are in tears because you are weaning your child. Hang in there. It is okay to feel insecure during the process – trust in your decision. It is a big but bittersweet step in development for your child to grow up before your eyes, needing you less everyday.
Expect physical pain. However, know that physical pain can also become your emotional pain. It can feel worse. There is a possibility you may become engorged similar to when your milk first came in. Many of the tactics you used when your milk came in are the same tactics that can be used now. Here are some tips from Susan to treat the physical pain:
- Try putting cabbage leaves inside your bra (avoid wires and any bra that is too constricting).
- You can take ibuprofen every to treat the pain. This acts as an anti-inflammatory and will reduce swelling. However, make sure to take medicine with food in your stomach. As soon as the swelling goes down you can stop the ibuprofen.
- Take lots of warm showers and gently hand express a little milk. This relieves pressure and does not make more milk.
- The pain may be so intense it may be hard to hold your child. It will subside.
The process and discomfort may take a few weeks to complete before you can really hug someone again. But do not worry, hug again you will!
4. Hormonal Changes
There can be significant hormonal changes associated with weaning depending how sudden or gradual you wean your toddler. Nursing releases hormones including Oxytocin to the mother. This is the “love hormone” that increases relaxation, lowers stress, and fosters a strong emotional bond with your child. When you stop nursing, as your hormone levels drop, it is possible to experience withdrawal. There isn’t a way to prepare for a hormonal change as you do not know how it will impact you. At the minimum knowing that it can happen is the only way to prepare for it. At least then it won’t be a shock and you can know be mindful of your mental health. And of course, make sure you take care of yourself.
Expect tantrums (and tears). There will be quite a few tantrums and quite a few tears. Stay strong. It doesn’t mean the timing isn’t right. It may take your child a little bit to adjust to the new routine. And what would any new routine for your toddler be without a tantrum?
6. Lean On Dad
As parents, you are in this together. Now is the time to lean on dad. Dad can play a huge role in helping ease your toddler through the transition. If breastfeeding was part of the nighttime routine, dad can be the one to bathe, read, and put your toddler to bed. So while you may miss being part of the routine, fret not, as this is a great opportunity for dad to step in. Dad will be able to use this time to strengthen his bond with your toddler.
7. Missing The Connection
Anyone who experienced breastfeeding knows that it is about more than nutrition. The bond and connection that flows with breastfeeding is so special. Not to mention there is nothing still about a toddler – so most likely breastfeeding was your only time when your toddler let you cuddle them. It is perfectly understandable to want to replace that bond with something new. At first it can be difficult to find new ways to nurture that bond and you may miss the closeness of nursing. Establishing new routines will help strengthen your bond and this will also help distract both of you from the weaning process. For instance, spend one on one time with your child. For us it was a time of new adventures: more beach walks, visits to new playgrounds, and other fun activities around town.
8. Talk About It
Talk about it. These tiny humans know more than they can express. And they definitely understand routine, so when the routine changes, they will have a reaction. Talk to your toddler about what is going on in a way he or she can understand. He or she may not understand it all but at least he will become acquainted with the new routine and understand some of what it is to be expected. Tell your toddler how much you love him/her and he is safe. And of course lots of cuddles and kisses!
9. Treat Yourself
Your body is supporting only you again. Give it the extra attention it needs. Schedule a facial, get a massage, or have that extra glass of wine. Do whatever makes you feel good with the newfound freedom from successfully weaning your toddler.
10. Be Proud
Be proud of your journey. You made it through the newborn stage and are into the toddler years. You have a happy healthy baby! Be proud that you were able to successfully nurture your baby into toddlerhood with breastfeeding.
As your little toddler becomes a big kid right in front of your eyes, it is normal to experience conflicting and intense emotions. As you nurse your baby one final time, remember that you are not alone. Being part of a group of moms going through the same thing, and sharing your experiences, joys, and struggles, can make a world of difference. We are in this together.
Special thank you to Susan Bekken RN, IBCLC for sharing your invaluable input with Daytona Beach Mom.
Now that your toddler is a big kid, it is time for big kid adventures. Check out 6 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do.
Daytona Beach Mom is not a medical professional. Daytona Beach Mom encourages you to consult a doctor before making any health changes, especially any changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition. No information on this site should be construed as medical advice. If the reader or other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.