I am a voracious reader, so when it came time to have a baby I read every piece of literature on every parenting topic imaginable, from pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, infant care, and child development. I read humor pieces, textbooks, practical guides, and followed every major baby blog out there. Some of this information was simply entertainment, silly, or just wrong, but when it came time to wean my toddler there was some advice I'm so relieved I listened to.
I had mixed feelings, as many women do, about weaning my toddler. He was past the baby stage and was using my body like a mix between a vending machine and a comfort blanket. I was ready to start wearing some pretty bras again and more than ready to have some bodily autonomy back. However, at the same time my busy and always-active boy stopped being a wriggly little monster when he climbed up on my lap for some milk (plus, the cuddles were amazing).
Just as I was preparing to start our weaning routine, all of a sudden my son self-weaned. He went to bed one night without nursing and simply never asked again. Still, I am glad I listened to the following advice to make the whole process a little easier.
Don't Offer And Don't Refuse
This was the best, most gentle advice I read.
Basically you never offer your child breast milk but you never say "no" when they ask, either. It ended up reducing the number of nursing sessions we had, simply because my son would get busy playing or doing an activity and forget to nurse.
Give Lots Of Physical Affection And Attention
If you take nursing away from a child that has used it as a way to seek comfort for the last two or three (or longer) years, and without replacing it with other forms of closeness, the transition can be a little jarring.
I am glad I listened to this advice, and showered my son with one-on-one attention and tactile affection.
Offer An Alternative Drink
I allowed my son to pick out some new sippy cups in exciting designs to make the whole transition a fun activity.
I also replaced his usual nursing sessions with an alternative drink. I tried offering cow milk that I made all frothy with a mini-whisk, or jazzed it up with a drop of natural food coloring. Usually, he just preferred it plain (I swear, you can't please some people).
Reduce Nursing Sessions Slowly
Any abrupt change is going to provoke some protest, so I took it slowly by initially limiting daytime nursing sessions. Instead of keeping to our breastfeeding schedule, I would suggest we go for a walk or do another activity, instead.
Then I replaced nap time milk with cow milk in his sippy cup, and we didn't stop bedtime feeds until much later.
Don't Sit In The Same Spot
There was a certain spot on our couch where I always fed my son. When I was starting to think about weaning him, I spent a lot of time standing up or perched somewhere a little more uncomfortable, so he wasn't reminded to nurse.
Let Your Partner Get Involved
Because of our nursing relationship, I had always been in charge of the nighttime routine. I would give my son a bath, get him ready for bed, and read him stories, which was always followed by breastfeeding.
To break the connection and start a new routine, I got my husband involved. He took over bath time and story time, and then I would just come in a give our son a kiss goodnight.
Wear Fiddly Clothes
Toddlers are notoriously impatient. If they have to wait for you to take off your bulky sweater, untie a bow, fiddle with a clasp, or generally take a while to free your breasts, they'll probably lose interest entirely.
Discuss The Process
After my son self-weaned, he didn't even mention nursing for several weeks before, suddenly, trying to nurse again. That's when I gently explained to him that the milk was gone. He asked questions and seemed a bit disappointed, but he accepted the new situation. A month or so later he reminisced and said, "Remember your milk was so yummy, Mummy?"
I know it will always be a beautiful memory for the both of us.