If you are here, there are huge chances that either you have nursed your baby for 2 years or you are planning to do so.
So I would start with “Great Job!”
Breastfeeding is no joke. It’s hard. I know because I’ve been there.
While going through a CDC breastfeeding report I found out that almost 35% of the babies are breastfed for 1 year. How many babies were reached in 2 years? There was no data. It means only a negligible number of babies are breastfed for 2 years and yours is one of them.
WHO (World Health Organization) suggests nursing the baby for 2 years.
How I weaned off my exclusively breastfed 2 years old without any pain and tears:
I have successfully nursed my daughter for 2 years straight and that too, exclusively.
I was told that I will have a very tough time weaning off her because she is too attached and she doesn’t even touch the bottles.
But to their surprise, I weaned her off without any hassle. No pain for me and no tears for her.
It was a smooth process because it was gradual.
It took me around 6 months to completely wean her off. But don’t worry the same process can work within a month or 2.
It is usually said that when you decide to wean off, take a firm decision one day and completely stop feeding. The child will cry and demand but eventually he/she will forget about it.
She will forget but mothers are not supposed to purposefully put their children in pain. They are supposed to make them feel more loved.
I’m not into it.
Instead of following a quick approach which will put my daughter and me; in pain, I followed a gradual approach.
Gradual Approach To Wean Off A Toddler:
As the name suggests, a gradual approach to weaning is stopping to breastfeed gradually or step-by-step.
By dropping the number of feedings.
It’s common sense that gradual weaning suggests a reduction in the number of feedings after a certain amount of time. But what time’s feedings are to be dropped first?
Here I will list the step by step process to gradually wean off a 2-years-old most effectively, that is practical, smooth and causes no pain and tears.
Step 1- Reduce the number of feedings during the day
The first step will be, start dropping the number of feeds when the toddler is awake and playing.
Dropping daytime feeding will be easier because you can keep the toddler engaged with other things and offer alternatives.
2-years-old toddlers usually want a feed every 3-4 hours or more, in some cases.
If your child demands a feed every 4 hours, set a goal of 6 hours.
Try to distract the child, instead of refusing. Don’t say “no”.
Usually toddlers have a fixed schedule of nursing, when you know that she will ask for a feed at 10 a.m. give her a cup of fresh fruit juice or any other alternative of her choice at around 9:45.
At 10 a.m. when it’s time to nurse, engage your baby in some activity and get off of her sight.
Distract her until you reach your goal of 6 hours.
This routine can be followed for one week only, so you get time to identify what distractions and alternatives work for you.
In a week’s time, or maybe less, you will be aware of what works for you.
When you know it. It’s time to move on to the next step.
Step 2- Cut off the “awake” time’s feedings:
Now when you know what kind of distractions and alternatives work for you, you can completely cut off all the feedings when the child is awake and playing.
If the child is really stubborn, you can keep 1-2 feedings for some more time.
But in most cases, with 2 years old, cutting down the awake time feedings is easier because they are easily distracted with toys or other activities.
The real struggle is to quit the sleep time feedings. Most children nurse to sleep and that’s where they are not going to give you an easy time.
Step 3- Introduce cow/other milk:
If the child is not exclusively breastfed, this step is not for you.
But for the kids who are exclusively nursed, like mine, introducing other milk also becomes a struggle.
My daughter had never used a bottle to feed, she didn’t know how to suck from the bottle’s nipple.
We used some of these tips to introduce cow milk to her.
- We added flavors to the milk, like chocolate and strawberries, to change the color and taste of milk.
- We used different names for cow milk, so she doesn’t know that this is a substitute for what she is already drinking.
- We bought fancy cups of her choice, as she didn’t know how to suck from a bottle, so we used straws and sippy cups.
- We (me and husband) drank milk along with her so she didn’t feel alone.
These tips worked for us and I’m sure that these will also work for other children who don’t like the taste of cow/other milk. But remember, it takes some time and consistency & it’s a hit and trial too. Which flavors work, which fancy cup works, it varies from child to child.
Step 4- Skip some night time feedings:
The next step could be cutting off the nap time feeding but as I said, most children nurse to sleep so we are not going to give the child a tough time right now.
So reducing the number of night time feedings is a good way to go.
Breastfeeding 2-years-olds usually wake up several times a night for a feed and they don’t go back to sleep without nursing.
So what you have to do is, make sure their tummy is full.
Side-note: Don’t think that filling their tummy right before bed will help to keep them full throughout the night.
No, it’s not the case, instead, feeding them with fiber and protein rich solid food throughout the day will help even if they have not eaten enough right before bed.
When you will cut down the daytime feedings, you’ll have enough time to give them solid foods.
(Make sure you don’t give them too much liquids, it will keep them full for the daytime, they will resist solids and will ask more feedings at night because they will feel hungry)
More solid food during the day will keep the child full at night time and they will naturally demand fewer feedings.
Remember, you don’t have to completely cut off the night time feedings, just reduce them to half or so.
Still, if the child wakes-up, offer her some water before she demands a feed.
If you are co-sleeping, you can pat her back when she starts showing the signs that she is about to wake up. Patting and singing a lullaby will help her to go back to sleep without nursing.
Step 5- Completely cut of sleep time feedings:
After you know that your child has started to go back to sleep without nursing, you can now cut off all the sleep time feedings.
Once you are done cutting off fewer feedings, it will be easier for you to cut off all of them.
Step 6- Reduce the time spent on each feeding
Now you have 2 more feedings left. At nap time and night time.
This becomes the hardest part, you can’t distract, you can’t offer alternatives.
What you should do is, start reducing the timing of every feed instead of trying to cut it off.
Say your child feeds for 2 minutes each side, cut it to 1.5 minutes each side and gradually reduce it to a few seconds only.
It should take around a week or two.
I remember the very last days of our sessions when I fed her for 2 seconds each side.
It works because a child doesn’t need milk, they need a sense of comfort and when you will gradually reduce the timing, they won’t miss it.
Step 7- Time for some car ride sleeps or rockings
We were almost done, we needed to cut off the last 2 seconds feed.
Luckily, nap time feedings were off naturally, I didn’t try it. She stopped demanding by herself.
But we had to try for night time.
When it’s time to bed, you can have a car ride so the baby could go to sleep while the ride. She will most probably forget within 2-3 days.
If that’s not an option, you can ask the father to rock her to sleep.
For most of the kids, even for the stubborn ones, this should work.
So, here’s the step-by-step way to help you wean off your 2-years-old or older children.
Related & Important:
Benefits of gradual approach to wean off
The gradual approach to weaning has so many benefits, for both, baby and mommy.
- No pain or chance of engorgement and mastitis
When mothers stop breastfeeding right away, they end up having breast engorgement because of milk filling and that’s painful and it can lead to mastitis.
When you stop nursing gradually, the milk supply also drops gradually.
At the start of this journey, you might have heard that the more you will nurse, the more you will improve your milk supply.
The same goes with the ending. The less you will nurse, the less you will produce milk.
- No Tears
Because the process is so gradual the child is most likely to forget the breastfeeding gradually and it saves a lot of tears and tantrums.
- Smooth and hassle free process
The process is so smooth, you don’t have to do any hard work or preparation and no waiting game is there either.
You don’t have to give up on your daily tasks to wean off your toddler.
Some insights from other moms who have been there:
“When I weaned my 28-weeker Preemie Daughter, who breastfed for two years and a half, I went slow—dropping the in-between feeding (mid-morning and afternoon first). Next to go was the morning feeding, then the last one to go was the nighttime feed. It took two weeks of adjustment.
There may be setbacks. Remember to take it slow, and be prepared for your emotions of the letting go phase.
It was hard because I went back to work as a full-time nurse when she turned two and a half, and I also had to pump for her at work ever since she was born. When the day finally came for our last feeding, I looked into her eyes and told her that I love her even if she doesn’t get her “mommy milk” anymore. She knew, and I knew it was time” Jordan Nacalaban
“What worked for me was doing it gradually. Start with the feeds during the day and then cut the night feeds. And it was important to stick with it: once I made the decision to stop, there was no going back, no matter how much my daughter was getting upset.” Monica Greco
“I’m currently weaning my two years old and my best tip so far would be redirection. When he gets a bit fussy for the boob, I’ll first offer him a drink from a cup to check it’s not thirst – then I’ll try and show him a book or a toy to engage with. Sometimes a simple cuddle is enough to satisfy him!” Just-us-two
“We were only down to daytime feedings when I was ready to wean. I started with the “don’t offer/don’t refuse” method. Next, I stopped nursing outside of the house. Teaching my toddler to wait for feedings really helped the weaning process as a whole. My children didn’t take to alternate kinds of milk. When I was ready to cut those final feedings, I offered a favorite snack instead. My best advice is to go slow. Your baby and body (hello hormones!) will thank you. Great job, mama!” Intentionally Well.