How I finally weaned my toddler (with minimal crying)
I was so super proud to be able to breastfeed Harley throughout her infancy. It was incredible to know that my body sustained her’s and helped her to thrive. Despite being born so early, despite all the hurdles, she became a chubby baby and a healthy toddler. But then I was faced with the dreaded question — how do I wean my toddler?
Not that I think weaning is easy at any age. No matter what there will be tears as the little ones don’t get that thing they want so much. Boob is more than just milk. It’s cuddles and love and a way to relax or calm down. And as much as I loved breastfeeding for a long time, I was really REALLY done. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t much information out there on how to wean her off.
Okay, I sorta lie. There were a few things that I found online. Some said to try and let it come from the baby, to stop offering but always give it to them when they ask and eventually they’d stop asking. But I’m sorry, I wasn’t willing to do that anymore. I didn’t want to stop one day when Harley was however old, I was really done and starting to resent her for the breastfeeding.
It did help to limit the times and places where she could nurse. That gave us a few more months of happy nursing. And the process of doing that was really easy. Instead of feeding her on demand, in public or wherever and whenever she wanted it, I told her that she could only have boobs in bed for sleep. When she would ask for boob, I’d take her to bed and lie down with her. Sometimes she would be manipulative and not sleep, using it as a ruse to just nurse, but within a few days, we were pretty much at the point where she stopped asking for boob in public or during the day and only got it for nap time and bedtime.
Great, but now what? The more I researched day weaning and night weaning and whatnot, the more it seemed that this was the point where people really didn’t know what to do. Some sites said that this was a great time to pull dads into the bedtime routine, to get it so that they can comfort the kid for sleep and take some of the pressure off of moms and maybe even help with weaning. Yeah, nice advice if that works for you, but I knew Dean would never have the patience to put her to bed. Also, Dean is the “fun” one, it seems, and Harley never unwinds with him, but only gets more and more busy and excited.
Other people swore by putting something on their nipples to give them a bad taste, like what people use when they bite their nails. I couldn’t do that! I didn’t want Harley to be traumatized away from the boob, just to stop nursing. I already felt bad when she bit me and I popped her off the boobs and told her that they were “owie” and she couldn’t have anymore. She was so upset and kept trying to stroke them and kiss them better… yeah, it was weird.
So, how could I stay with her, cuddle her and help her to sleep, but without giving her boob until she was super old… if she even lived that long because nursing was making me so frustrated. Well, I decided we’d start with delay tactics.
I would nurse her for a few minutes, and then pop her off the boob. I’d tell her that she could have more later, or when she woke up. Sometimes she’d cry, but mostly she’d say okay. Then we would cuddle and she’d get what she’s come to call “mommy neck”. Over time, I let her nurse less and less, using more and more delay tactics, but continuing to give her “mommy neck”. After a few weeks, I stopped letting her have any boob. It was hard, and she would try to lift my shirt or get to the boobs, but I was insistent that she could have “mommy neck” but no boob. The first day, she cried for maybe two minutes. The second day the same. By the third day, it was just her usual crying/fighting sleep and had nothing to do with hunting for boob.
Her last time nursing was on the 3rd of January, and I can’t tell you how liberating it is for me now. Already having her partially weaned meant that if I got a killer headache or something, I could take a proper migraine pill and not worry about the meds still being in my system when I nursed her at the end of the day. But now… my body is mine again! I can eat and drink and do whatever. I am back on the real pill instead of the mini pill that’s the only thing I could use while nursing.
To be honest, I think there was a bit of a hormonal shift from it. I wasn’t sad about weaning — not at ALL — but I did feel a bit sad in general. And I keep noticing how grown up Harley is now, how much she’s a big girl and doing things on her own and understanding so much more. I think it’s a bit of a distance that I’m able to get now, some added perspective.
Most of all, I feel like I did it at the right time. Harley is going through some big growth in general. She is able to talk so much now — like in full sentences. She was already starting to sleep through the night better, maybe waking up once. A month past her second birthday, she was ready to give up the boob. She had other ways of receiving and showing the affection and reassurance she had for so long from the boob. I’m glad I nursed her for a long time. It gave her extra immunity, it helped her when we moved to have stability, and it was phenomenal for bonding. But it was time to end that chapter, and I finally managed it in a way that still felt loving and kind.
Yay for that milestone, now I guess the next one is potty training….. but we’ll cross that bridge another day.