The mother-child relationship created by breastfeeding can be one of the most special parts of your child's first year (or years). It provides them with all the necessary nutrients needed for growth and development, as well as provides the foundation for a beautiful mother-baby bond. Like most things in life, however, there comes a time for it to end. Each child and family is different and will nurse for different lengths of time, but learning how to encourage self-weaning is one of the easiest ways to gradually wean your child.
Whether you're weaning a toddler or a younger child, letting them go at their own pace has numerous benefits for both them and you. According to La Leche League International, most babies exhibit "windows of opportunity" when it comes to weaning. Meaning, if you notice your baby showing less interest in nursing, they're eating more and more solids, or nursing only for comfort measures, it could be a great time to start lessening your breastfeeding sessions.
Although sometimes mothers are ready to wean before their babies are (it's not wrong to want your body back) sometimes waiting until your baby shows signs of readiness is worth the wait. Take it slow, be patient with your baby, and know that they'll let you know when the time is right to wean. But, if you want to give them an extra push, here are some tips for getting your baby to wean.
1. Take It Slow
Self-weaning likely won't happen in a day. According to Aha! Parenting, thinking of it as "moving towards weaning" instead of a one-time event will help you get in the proper mindset as your baby slowly lessens their nursing sessions.
2. Increase Nutrition From Whole Foods
As long as your baby is already used to eating solids, it's a good idea to slowly increase their intake of healthy food that will eventually replace breastfeeding. Most babies love eating solids, so they probably won't even notice the gradual swap.
3. Stop Offering, But Don't Refuse
One of the easiest ways to encourage your child to begin weaning is by simply not offering it anymore. As long as your child is eating enough solids and other nutrients, it's fine to stop having scheduled sessions or offering the breast when you're used to nursing. However, Aha! Parenting noted that refusing to nurse when they want to will likely just make them want it more.
4. Night Wean First
If you're still nursing at night, that should be the first session to go. Most children self-wean when they're older than one year, and Dr. Sears noted that at this age, many toddlers simply wake up wanting to nurse. He suggested wearing your child out during the day so they sleep more soundly, making sure to get enough snuggles in during the day, and increasing the distance between you at night if you co-sleep. From there, your child may slowly start needing it less and less often.
5. Reduce The Length Of Sessions
If you want to make the process as smooth and baby-led as possible,try shortening your breastfeeding sessions. Let your child know that you're only going to nurse for a certain amount of time or give them a five minute warning, that way they're not caught off guard.
6. Provide Other Distractions
When your baby is comfort nursing or breastfeeding as part of their usual routine but doesn't necessarily get their key nutrients from it anymore, providing them with other distractions like a fun game, a book, or snuggles might help them forget all about it when they'd normally be breastfeeding.