Ultimate Guide: How to Wean a Toddler at 18 - 24 Months
Breastfeeding for a year and a half to 2 years is certainly a breastfeeding journey, mama - and one that you should be very proud of! Whether you're noticing signs of self-weaning from your toddler or it's simply time to wean, we can help ease the transition.
Weaning Your Toddler
Congratulations on making it to breastfeeding for a 1 ½ to 2 years, mama! That truly is a breastfeeding journey, and one that you should be proud of given the commitment, patience, and dedication required to ensure your little one receives the very best nutrition as they grow. It’s an incredible bonding experience – even through the occasional challenges or difficulties – that you’ll always have with your little one and that is something amazing to reflect on, even if you’re very ready to wean! Because your little one has fully reached toddlerhood and is busy developing their own personality, exploring the big world around them, and making new discoveries every day, he or she may also be ready to wean.
In fact, you may even notice signs of self-weaning as your toddler becomes more mobile and independent. If that’s the case, then don’t try to resolve their waning interest in nursing or their frequent nursing strikes – Simply replace these feedings with whole milk or pumped breast milk from your fridge or freezer stash in a cup for them to drink. By now, your little one has fully grasped how to self-feed (even if it’s, shall we say, a little messy at times!) and drink on their own, which means that nursing sessions are typically out of comfort and to be near you rather than any strong hunger or thirst.
Instead, replace these comfort nursing sessions with other ways to reconnect and be physically close – whether by sitting together and rocking, reading books, or snuggling up on the couch and giving your little one a relaxing back rub. Depending on your toddler’s burgeoning personality, even spending some extra time playing together or going for a walk can replace the comfort they’re seeking through nursing.
How to Wean a Toddler at 18 - 24 Months Old
Here’s a few more things to consider when learning how to wean a toddler around 18 – 24 months old – You know your little one best, so see what makes the most sense for him or her or try each tip below!
- Start by dropping the night feedings, if applicable. If your little one is still occasionally waking for an overnight nursing session, this is typically for comfort as most healthy toddlers can get through the night without needing to eat. Try gradually shortening the length of any overnight nursing sessions and remember that weaning isn’t always linear – As you wean from the overnight feedings, he or she may go a few nights without waking to nurse and then have a couple of nights where they revert and wake up seeking that nursing session. Though it may take a few weeks to fully do away with the night feedings, consistency and patience will eventually help your toddler adjust and let go of those midnight (or 2 A.M., or 4 A.M., or…you get the idea!) feeds.
Some recommend first dropping the nursing sessions that your toddler seems least attached to and may already be the least consistent feeds, and then continuing from there while saving the nursing sessions that he or she seems most attached to for last. This may make it easier for him or her to gradually adjust, instead of eliminating several nursing sessions at once.
- Get others involved. As you gradually replace nursing sessions with an alternative – oftentimes pumped breast milk or whole milk in a cup – get your partner or other family members involved, so your little one gets used to these feeds being given in a different way and provided by someone else. He or she will eventually learn not to associate getting milk from any one person – while also drinking it independently in place of these nursing sessions.
Once he or she is used to receiving their milk from any care giver and has embraced this replacement, it may make it easier for you to give them milk in a cup in place of these nursing sessions – eventually dropping them one by one altogether. As with anything closely related to weaning, patience and consistency is ultra-important. These transitions and shifts in routine don’t happen overnight and sometimes take a few weeks or longer until your toddler is fully accustomed to their “new” normal – and that’s perfectly okay!
- Take it slow. Some moms commit to weaning right away, with their toddlers fully weaned within a few weeks or a month or so. Others prefer to take their time and wind down slowly, both for the sake of their bodies and their little one – particularly if he or she is having a tough time and strongly resisting weaning. However you decide to wean, know that it’s okay! You know your body – and your toddler – best, so trust your own judgment and decision-making and, if you have questions, reach out to your doctor or a lactation consultant.
While it may have taken your sister’s neighbor’s cousin just two short weeks to fully wean her baby, your little one may protest a while longer. Conversely, your little one may be ready to wean and could do so quickly. Either way, that’s okay! Letting your body and your toddler adjust at their own pace almost always means a much more seamless transition for you.
Breastfeeding has been a major part of your life - and a central part of your little one’s entire life so far! – for a year and a half to two years. Just as beginning breastfeeding was a big life adjustment, weaning may be an adjustment too. With time, flexibility, and consistency, you both have got this – and Medela is here for you every step of the way!