This is the story of how I weaned my toddler. I don’t expect it to look like your story. Nor do I expect you to do what I did. I only hope that my story can make yours a little easier to bear. Let’s face it, weaning a toddler is no easy task.
My original goal was to nurse my daughter for at least 2 years. As an attachment parent, I allowed her to feed on demand for the first 18 months of her life. When she started to feed more often instead of less, I knew I had to make some changes. It was time to free myself from her constant demands. It was time to start saying no.
I felt my heartstrings pull each time I had to turn her down. Other people and sources offered little helpful advice. Replacements, distractions, and other techniques just didn’t work for her. All she wanted was nursies and nothing would deter her from that goal. Then I realized that I didn’t have to say no either.
Then I realized that I didn’t have to say no either.
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This contains affiliate links to a few resources I used to support our weaning journey. Thank you for choosing to support this blog!
How I Weaned My Toddler
How I Weaned My Toddler: Find a Nursing Rhythm
I created a nursing rhythm that gave me the freedom I needed. I allowed her to feed 5 times per day. Morning, After our morning walk, before nap, when daddy gets home, bedtime, and whenever she wanted to at night because we co-slept.
Whenever my daughter asked to feed at an off time, I would tell her the next time we could feed instead of saying no. “Yes, after our walk.” Or “Yes, when daddy gets home.” After a few battles, she finally accepted this new rhythm.
If she didn’t remember to ask at a normal feeding time I wouldn’t remind her. Instead, we would just allow that feeding to go for the day.
How I Weaned My Toddler: Cut One Feeding at a Time
Once I started a nursing rhythm I decided to cut one feeding every few months or so. I wanted it to be a gradual loving process.
The first feeding we dropped was the mid-morning after walk feed when she was about 20 months old. As the days got hotter we started to walk earlier and earlier in the morning. When we got home she was not used to feeding so early so she began to forget about it more than she remembered. Soon it was gone.
Next went the afternoon “when daddy gets home” feed when she was about 22 months old. We moved down to LA for the summer so my husband could work as an ocean lifeguard. His work schedule changed. He was now home in the mornings and didn’t arrive home until after her bedtime. She soon forgot about that feed. 2 down, 4 to go.
How I Weaned My Toddler: Naptime Limbo
I knew the last three feeds and the all night milk bar would be a bit more of a challenge for her to “forget.” I knew that I was going to have to actually do something about those — but I was in no hurry.
We were comfortable with our extended breastfeeding relationship. She was no longer asking me to feed all day long and we had both become comfortable with our three feeds a day rhythm. Morning, nap, bedtime – and anytime she woke at night. I never noticed anyway.
We carried on that way until just after she turned 2 years old when she started needing her nap less and less. I wanted her to keep napping but her night time sleep was getting shorter and shorter on the nights she napped. She slept more hours (nap + night) on the nights she didn’t nap. I knew it was time to allow her to let it go.
She was in nap limbo for about 2 months. When she needed a nap she nursed. When she didn’t nap, she didn’t even ask to nurse. Soon both her nap and that nursing session was gone. Today we both enjoy 45 minutes of solo quiet time.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to “do” anything about that feed either. Although nap limbo was a difficult time, the feeding was gone – sweet success. 3 down, 3 to go.
How I Weaned My Toddler: Goodbye All Night Milk Bar
After my daughter dropped her nap and mid-day feed I was ready to turn off the all night milk bar. I knew this was going to be the toughest feeding to let go of so far. Rolling over to latch on to mommy whenever she woke was all she knew. It was her norm.
I didn’t want her to feel rejected by the ending of the all night milk bar. I didn’t want her to feel like mommy didn’t love her anymore. But I knew it was going to do just that – this was not going to be easy.
I began reading a picture book titled “Nursies When the Sun Shines” to her every night before bed. Then my husband and I started talking to her about only nursing before bed, and when she wakes up in the morning.
When she was about 28 months old the night we talked about had finally arrived. After her bedtime feed, we reminded her that she would not nurse again until the sun was shining. I wore a sports bra to bed that night just in case.
I awoke to her whimpering and pulling on my sports bra at about one in the morning. I reminded her that we couldn’t nurse until the sun was shining. To say it didn’t go over well is an understatement. She threw a thrashing, screaming, crying, hitting, yelling fit. All I could do was love her, empathize with her, and hold on to her as best as I could.
I knew the power of habit and knew that after 3 nights it would get easier. It was hard, but I stuck to my plan and did not give in to her cries. She cried for the next few nights while we continued to love her and empathize with her. Soon those hard nights faded away and the all night milk bar was finally closed – whew! 4 down, 2 to go.
How I Weaned My Toddler: Enter the Countdown Calendar
Once we were down to two feeds a day my new goal was to have her weaned at three years old. I decided to make a new plan for dropping the next two feeds. I knew they would be just as challenging for her to let go of as the all-night milk bar was. I didn’t want her to have to go through that painful experience again so I decided to do a better job of preparing her.
When she was about 34 months old we knew it was time to drop another feed if we were going to have her weaned at three. I made a 10-day countdown calendar and my husband and I prepared for the “countdown.” We wrote sweet notes that we placed in each box of the calendar. Each morning we reminded her that when we got to the last box we wouldn’t be able to have morning nursies anymore.
When the morning arrived she cried painful tears but she was ready for it. There was no thrashing, screaming, or hitting. She was mourning the loss of that special time, and so was I. My husband and I loved her and empathized with how hard it is to give up something that you love so much. The tears faded away much quicker this time. 5 down, 1 to go.
How I Weaned My Toddler: I’m Two
After the pain of losing her morning feed faded away, we began to prepare her for dropping her night feed. We told her that when she was three she would no longer be able to have nursies. Every time we talked about it, she would hold up her two peace fingers and say, “I’m two, I’m two.” Three was something she was pushing far away every time the subject came up.
Finally, we began the countdown to her third birthday and weaning party. When she saw the calendar I could tell she was a bit sad, but she was ready. It was a sobering experience for us all.
The maturity with which she attempted to read each of the notes in the calendar herself made her mama proud. She was ready this time, and we celebrated.
We made her third birthday as special as we could so she would not reject three for two. When the night fell on the evening of her third birthday she did not shed one tear. This time, only her mommy did.
Books I used to Support Our Weaning Journey
The following are affiliate links. I earn a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for choosing to support this blog!
- Mothering Your Nursing Toddler
- Ready to Wean: The Return of the Dangling Red Earrings
- Nursies When the Sun Shines
- How Weaning Happens
- Nursing Mother’s Guide to Weaning – Revised: How to Bring Breastfeeding to a Gentle Close, and How to Decide When the Time Is Right
- Weaning my Toddler: An Attachment Parenting Approach
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Nell has over 20 years of experience working with children and is the founder of Rhythms of Play. She believes in the wonder of childhood, the power of the imagination, learning through play, and getting outside in all seasons! Learn more…