Ultimate Guide: How to Wean a Toddler at 2 Years Old
You may be more than ready to start weaning, or you may be feeling a range of emotions - Either way, all breastfeeding journeys must come to end at some point. Be proud of every drop of milk you provided to your toddler - It gave him or her so many valuable benefits!
Ready to Start Weaning?
All good (and challenging and rewarding and magical and even occasionally stressful) things must come to an end sometime, mama. While you might be experiencing all the feels about weaning your toddler, remember that you not only exceeded the CDC’s and American Academy of Pediatrics’ breastfeeding guidelines – but you also provided incredible nutrition to your little one to ensure their very best and healthiest start in life! Because the composition of your breast milk changes to meet your little one’s evolving needs as they grow, your milk has been doing amazing things for his or her wellness and development even after they transitioned to a diet of primarily solids. That – and the commitment and dedication that longer-term breastfeeding requires – is something to be very proud of, mama. At two years or longer of breastfeeding, you’re really a pro. You’ve probably overcome countless challenges during your breast milk feeding journey, unlocked a level of multitasking that you didn’t even realize existed, and may have even continued breastfeeding into your next pregnancy. You’re pretty much a Super Mom and your unique breast milk feeding journey should be celebrated, even as you’ve made the decision to begin winding down – whether your little one is 2 years old, 3 years old, or even a little older.
How to Wean a Toddler at 2 Years Old (or Older!)
If it’s time to wean your toddler, the below tips can be a valuable starting point. Remember, you know your body – and your little one – best, so figure out what weaning methods work best for you both, understand that it can be a gradual process requiring time and patience, and start at a pace that allows plenty of flexibility for your body and your toddler to adjust accordingly.
- Be mindful of what’s happening in your little one’s world. While breastfeeding has been a key part of your routine for the last two years or longer, it’s been an even more important part of your toddler’s whole life so far! As you start weaning, be sure to pick a time that isn’t filled with other major events or transitions in your little one’s life. This can mean anything from a recent move, starting or changing daycares, an upheaval in family life like a separation or divorce, switching bedrooms if a new baby is on the way, or even graduating from the crib to a toddler bed. If your little one is already dealing with some major transitions, then this may not be the best time to introduce weaning as his or her need for the extra comfort and security that nursing brings will almost certainly make weaning much more difficult.
If now is the right time for you both, start by replacing one or two nursing sessions per day with pumped breast milk or whole milk given to them in a cup and be sure to make up for that lost reconnection time by spending a little extra quality time with your growing toddler. You can simultaneously shorten nursing sessions bit by bit, until he or she is accustomed to no longer nursing and your supply tapers off.
- Communicate and introduce limits. Talk with your toddler and explain why he or she may not be able to nurse at certain times or for as long. They may keep asking – and you may have to keep explaining – but consistency is important and communicating with your little one can help provide much-needed reassurance, even if they can’t yet fully grasp what you’re saying. Ensure that you don’t nurse when your breasts are already empty, as this will signal to your body to produce more milk. Because breast milk is produced on a supply and demand basis, a nursing toddler (or a breast pump!) will cause your body to adjust its milk production to meet this demand.
If you’ve begun weaning, don’t offer nursing sessions – Wait for your toddler to ask and then determine if you want to nurse for progressively shorter periods, if you want to replace that particular nursing session with milk in a cup (or physical closeness without nursing), or some combination to help him or her gradually let go of these feeds.
- Involve others. Some recommend an “out of sight, out of mind” approach that involves going into a different room during times that your toddler may wish to nurse. Having your partner or another family member give him or her a cup of milk or simply play with them during this time will eventually help your toddler forget all about that mid-morning or early evening breastfeeding session.
If your little one is still waking occasionally overnight to nurse, try this same strategy – These wake-ups are out of a desire for comfort, rather than out of hunger, and most healthy toddlers can get through the whole night without needing to eat. To eliminate these overnight wake-ups and nursing sessions, have your partner instead sooth them – whether that means giving them a cup of milk and rocking them back to sleep or simply sitting with them until they fall back asleep.
Don’t worry, mama – In time and with consistency, your toddler will adjust and eventually become fully weaned! Though it can be a gradual process and there may be times when your little one protests or seems to revert, remaining patient, consistent, and reassuring can make all the difference – and make weaning much more seamless for you both! Taking your time and progressing towards fully weaning (rather than attempting a cold turkey stop) minimizes painful complications, such as engorgement or plugged or blocked milk ducts, for you while also allowing your little one to adjust at their own pace. Good luck – and remember, we’re here for you through every step of your breastfeeding journey!