Gentle Weaning off breastfeeding for toddlers

I weaned my child, Penguin at 30 months. Gentle weaning toddler way.

He was still 2 days shy 30 months then.

I gave myself a big hug then. Also, felt grateful to my support systems my Maa – Bapa and my husband, Mr. Fabulous. I couldn’t believe we made it that long. I never intended it to nurse that long.

During the initial months, I was in pain due to hyperlactation and misdiagnoses. With that unbearable pain, I was in tears before and after every feed for 3 long months. I almost gave up feed my new-born succumbing to ache. But my Maa was always there during those 3 months when I had 2 episodes of mastitis. Before every feed, she was ready with a lukewarm bowl of water and a hand towel. Cabbage leaves were kept chilled for months ready to shove under my undergarments after a feed. My Bapa (father) was patient enough to change sheets after milk floods. Had my Maa-Bapa not been there I wouldn’t have reached this far. They don’t even need my grateful words as they did all out for love. Yet, Penguin and I are so indebted to them.

I could not share my weaning story without revisiting those sad days. Thanks to Mr. Fabulous for his silent support.

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for the initial 2 years of a child’s life.

Many mothers struggle to make it for the first six months and wean off by the end of the first year. First of all, these mothers did so well. They strived hard to reach a milestone. Nursing a toddler is not much appreciated in our society. Unsolicited advises keeping pouring on nursing mothers.

I do understand breastfeeding is not as easy as it is said. Though it’s said the benefits are high but the struggle is also real. I used to sleep at midnight just to be woken at least twice before the dawn. Then, there was a toddler who refused to sleep without using breasts as a pillow. Last time I woke up feeling fresh and energized was before pregnancy. My dark circles prove that. Zombie state, every morning.

Breastfeeding, indeed rewarded me deeply. Breastfeeding made it easy for us during sickness, travel, outings, trips and those monstrous teething days. Today our bond is profoundly dear. Every time Penguin was in pain we breastfeed. It was a comfort factor for him. An assurance that I am there with him.

Yet, I felt like an achiever when I finally weaned off Penguin.

In my friends and family, no one was into extended breastfeeding. So, first-hand information was quite tough. That’s when I found moms sharing ways of gentle weaning and success stories.

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Our story of gentle weaning our toddler

We were extremely slow in our progression of a smooth transition. For weeks we were taking one step ahead to be pulled back to square one. It started off when Penguin turned 20 months. I aimed at dropping one feed in two weeks. But my toddler was strong-willed and made me gave up after 3 weeks. That time we were having 3 feedings during the day and at least 2 during the night.

The mantra was, “Don’t offer, don’t refuse.”

I waited for a week before trying again. I change our daily schedule. Earlier our schedule was something like

7:00 AM –                                           Wake and nurse

7:30 AM –                                           Finish morning business and have a cup of turmeric milk or any other spiced milk.

8:00 AM –                                           Morning walk

9:00 AM –                                           Return from walk. Freshen up and have breakfast

Around 10:00 AM –                         Bath followed by breastfeeding.

11:00 AM –                                         Snack

12:30 PM –                                         Lunch

1:00 PM –                                            Nurse to sleep

4:00 PM –                                            Wake up (often nurse for 5 minutes)

6:00 PM –                                            Outdoors

8:00 PM to 9:00 PM –                     Dinner

10:00 PM –                                         Sleep

I started by skipping the feed after bath. Then nursing while waking up after day nap. It continued for 6 months. Till now it was easy to divert my toddler. People assured me to take the next step and skip the nurse to sleep day nap.  

All my attempts to soothe my wailing toddler failed. I tried for 4 more months to skip this feed without success. I didn’t want to go cold turkey method on my child. It would scar him emotionally. I could not pull him off his comfort.

Finally, we decided to stop breastfeeding completely. It was already draining me. I was getting irritated at other, always tired and ready to cry at drop of hat.

That morning, I woke up and while having breakfast I told Penguin that “Milk” finished. He made a face and continued eating. The entire day I kept dropping hints on how the “milk” just finished. During his nursing time my husband and I, tired of repeating again “milk” finished. Our little volcano erupted. But I was prepared not to bow down.

I kept soothing that “I know he is in pain. I understand his feelings. I am sorry but the “milk” just finished.” Penguin wailed. Sobbed. Cried his lungs out. It broke our heart but we had to do it.

While we were ready for a 3 hours battle, Penguin calmed in record 20 minutes. Expect the unexpected!

During the night feed, the scene was repeated again for approximately 10 minutes. But that night he woke up every hour asking for “milk” and sleeping back in less than 5 minutes.

The next day, the time dropped again. I was happy to see the unexpected progress.

By the end of the third day, he didn’t cry but rather told his stuffed friends that “milk” finished.

Now, after a month of weaning, at times he hugs me and reconfirms “Has milk completely finish?” I nod every time and say a yes and he leaves with a smile. It feels like he is testing me. Duh!

He no longer cries or went through any traumatic phase.

Guess, he was ready this time. I was ready. Earlier, I wasn’t ready enough.

I would have regretted it if done earlier. I would miss his glint in the eye while feeding. That naughty smile and giggle while checking the elasticity of his “milk”.  

I am happy and grateful for the entire course of events. It was painfully slow yet we made it with fewer tears.

It was a roller coaster ride. At times I felt lost. Frustrated. I almost gave up.

Now, it is a memory cherished. We celebrated our nursing journey. We gently weaned our toddler.

Happy Nursing!

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14 thoughts on “Gentle Weaning off breastfeeding for toddlers”

  1. Wow hats off to you for managing to breastfeed successfully for an extended time! I gave up at 13 months. This is very useful advice and I will share it ahead.

    Reply
  2. I can so relate as I am a supporter of EBF and attachment parenting. I fully weaned my kiddo at 48 months, yea thats a milestone. but this journey made both of us emotionally stronger and weaning was a natural.

    Reply
  3. Hugs to you for feeling so much and glad you had your parents support. I too weaned my son gently at 25 months. I would hug him and put him to sleep telling stories that how the milk van has not sent him “milk’

    Reply
  4. I weaned my daughter at 18 months…although I wanted to continue but suddenly, physically I was getting uncomfortable…But still I had to be patient with her.. so that she doesn’t get affected…Sometimes I wish I could have continue a little more

    Reply
  5. What a beautiful write up it was, straight from the heart. Being a mother, I understand the emotions a mother and a child goes through during this weaning process. We too cherish our memories 🙂

    Reply
  6. Thanku so much for such comforting words pragnya..i. have been planning to wean off now, but everytime I take my steps back cuz I want the process to be smooth. .Let’s see how am I going to manage😑

    Reply

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