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  • Mom Shares Her 4-Step Plan to Gently Wean Her Toddler From Breastfeeding

    It took this mom six weeks to completely wean her child from the breast.
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .
Mom Shares Her 4-Step Plan to Gently Wean Her Toddler From Breastfeeding
PHOTO BY @AlekZotoff/iStock
To read this story in Tagalog, click here.
  • One of the most important acts a mother can do for her newborn child is to breastfeed. There's a long list of benefits associated with breastfeeding, not only for the child but for the mother as well.  

    The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding babies up to 6 months and to continue breastfeeding combined with solid food up to 2 years old. The American Academy of Pediatrics also notes that nursing can continue "as long as mutually desired by mother and baby."

    However, it cannot be denied that breastfeeding can be challenging and requires commitment. The endless days and nights of nursing a baby and the pressure that comes with motherhood can make an impact on one's mental health. As one mom said about the possibility of not going back to work when her child refused to take the bottle in place of her breast, "What about our finances? The job I left behind, the people I loved working with? What about me? I went from being a magazine editor to a walking mammary gland."

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    Thoughts like these often drive moms to think of ways to get their kids to wean from the breast. While baby-led weaning where the child stops nursing by himself is ideal, it is also possible for a mom to initiate the weaning process when she sees the need for it (don't feel guilty about it!).

    Joy, a doula and a Lamaze-certified childbirth educator from Texas, U.S., shared what compelled her to wean her child from her breasts and how she successfully did it on her blog.

    "Sixteen months into it, my breastfeeding relationship with my son was starting to take a toll on our mother/child bonding relationship. You see, I was no longer happily breastfeeding, a lot of times I was just plain-ol’ 'resentfeeding,'" the mom of two wrote. 

    Joy said she was aware she needed to focus on herself first so she could care for her kids, even if it meant giving up breastfeeding. "Quite honestly, I knew that the first step in focusing on my own needs involved weaning my son," she said. 

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    Her multi-phase plan, which spanned eight weeks, involved gradually cutting back on feedings until her son was comfortable with it. One of the strategies she found helpful in the beginning was to remove the random feedings (i.e., whenever her son felt like it).

    "I felt these would be the easiest to replace with distractions, like a sippy cup of water, a toy to play with, or a bite of fruit (if he was hungry)."

    Joy accomplished this task successfully without baby Noah noticing the substitutions. "What Noah did not want instead of nursing, though, were cuddles from me. Having mommy so close and not having 'a nurse' [his mom's boobies] only frustrated him," Joy explained.

    Phase 2 of her plan was to eliminate morning feedings. Instead of giving her child the boob when he wakes up in the morning, her husband "simply brought Noah to his high chair, offered our boy a sippy cup with water and a yummy hot breakfast."

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    What Joy found tricky to remove were feedings right before Noah's naptime or bedtime, which was the next phase. Because the little boy was used to a routine, which involved bedtime stories, prayer time and feedings, Joy said she had to replace the last part with cuddles instead. A few days into it, and Noah found her mom's touch and voice sufficient to fall asleep. 

    And just when Joy thought her plan was working effortlessly, she had to give in when one time Noah wanted to feed in the afternoon. This went on for a few days, and then he agreed to replace the feedings with an afternoon snack. They were back on track.

    The final phase of Joy's weaning plan was the hardest because it involved soothing her son in the middle of the night without the aid of breastfeeding.

    "I’ll be honest, these were the ones that had me worried the most. When Noah woke up at night crying, it was so easy to simply pick him up, nurse him and voila, two minutes later he was back in dreamland, which meant I got to go there too just as quickly. Weaning him off of those nightly comfort sessions took some effort on my part," she confessed.

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    "At night, I would pick Noah up in my arms, sit in the rocker and sing to him, patting his bottom all the while. Sometimes I would offer a sippy cup of water if he seemed thirsty," she wrote.

    When all else failed and Noah wouldn't calm down, she admitted to offering him her breast — "just until he calmed his little soul down (not until he fell asleep)." Once he stops crying, she would unlatch him and comfort him with cuddles and lullabyes until he was ready to go back to sleep.

    It took Joy all of six weeks to completely wean baby Noah, 17 months old, from the breast. She says it was a liberating experience, which allowed her to enjoy a "more peaceful rhythm" and more time for herself.

    Joy, however, did admit to having her own separation anxiety. "The emotional implications of letting go of breastfeeding were very hard. I knew this would be the case. I also knew that no matter when I weaned Noah, I would never *not* feel that deep tug on my heart – that ache that comes from saying goodbye to something so intimate, so maternal, so universally indicative of mothering a tiny child." 

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