Weaning Off Breastfeeding: 5 Moms Share Their Experiences

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Image via Laura O'Rourke

Whenever I think about weaning my children off breastfeeding, I am filled with mixed emotions. With my first, he weaned at 18 months, when we had to move him to his own room. To my surprise, he weaned easily, no drama. The only tears came from me, when I realized the finality of that particular relationship.

When I had my second, I had decided early on to breastfeed for at least a year, or whenever my son chose to wean. I was confident that we would be fully weaned by the time he turned one, as he had demonstrated his independent streak early on (for some reason, I had equated that with him needing me less). 

I was wrong. If anything, he now nurses more, because he knows to ask for it when he wants it. And he wants it frequently – when he's hungry, when he's upset, or just if he's bored. I find it hard to say no, so I relent. This has extended to night time, which means he wakes up to feed, and neither of us have slept through the night since he was born in May 2012. This breastfeeding relationship has intensified, and as much as I enjoy breastfeeding, I admit, I would like to get my boobs back, and for him to depend less on nursing for comfort. I reached out to a few experienced mothers for their advice and experience on weaning their toddlers.

Image via Stacey
Image via Stacey Meservy

I weaned my babies gradually, taking one feeding every day or two away. I always left the night feeding for last as it seemed to be the hardest one for both of us to give up. It worked beautifully for every child except one stubborn babe and that lucky guy got to go cold turkey! 
 
~ Stacey Meservy, mother of 7 and blogger at Stacey's Mothering Moments

Image via Nicole
Image via Nicole Goodman

I breastfed both of my daughters through their first birthdays and then gradually weaned them by dropping a feeding every few days. I knew the timing was right because both girls transitioned very easily.

With my second, the transition was harder on me, knowing it would be the last time I ever nursed. I gave up the morning and bedtime feedings last. I didn't want to surrender those quiet evenings together, watching my daughter drop off to sleep after nursing. In the morning, it was purely self-serving. I would bring my girls into bed with me and nurse them laying down. I'll always cherish those tender moments together. One thing I don't miss at all? Pumping!

~ Nicole Goodman, mother of two and blogger at Work In Sweats Mama 

Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image via Laura O'Rourke

With my most recent baby, we weaned a few months after his first birthday. I was trying to slow him down but didn't want to stop breastfeeding completely, so I was offering him a sippy cup with water every time he wanted to nurse and I didn't (which felt like every five minutes at that point). Unfortunately, I also had a need to go on medication around that time, and while it was safe for my breastfeeding toddler, it must have changed the taste for him as he refused and self-weaned after I started on the medication. I was heartbroken.

~ Laura O'Rourke, mother of two and blogger at Mommy Miracles

Image via Natalie
Image via Natalie from Corporate to Domestic

With my first child, we were down to only breastfeeding once a day when we stopped at 14 months. He would wake up early and go back to sleep, so I put off weaning him in order to catch some extra sleep. He never seemed to be too attached to it, so when I stopped he didn't really notice or try to feed. Now with my second being close to 15 months, we seem to be in the same situation. I feed him in the morning, but he doesn't seem to have a real attachment to it and just loves table food. So I think with both boys, it's kind of been a mutual decision between us.

~ Natalie, mother of two and blogger at From Corporate to Domestic

Image via Tricia
Image via Tricia of Raising Humans

I had always planned to wean my daughter right around the one-year mark and so I started preparing months in advance – reading up on how to do it and then planning out how I would begin to eliminate feelings and, more importantly, pumping sessions. By the time her first birthday rolled around, we were down to just one feeding – the bedtime one – and I was content to hang on to that one indefinitely as it was my favorite.

My daughter, however, had other plans. One night, about a month after her birthday, she stopped nursing far earlier than normal and looked up at me and smiled. And that was it. That night I walked out of her room with tears in my eyes.

~ Tricia, mother of two and blogger at Raising Humans

After talking to these moms, I have decided to take the approach of weaning gradually, one feed at a time, and hopefully, it will lead to my toddler deciding when the last feed will be. Wish me luck!

If you breastfed, when did you wean your child, and how?

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Weaning Off Breastfeeding: 5 Moms Share Their Experiences

Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the world’s biggest sports brands, she traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison is a former blogger (Writing, Wishing), and her writing has been featured on Mamalode,On Parenting at The Washington Post,The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, Club Mid, andDrGreene.com. She is one of 35 essayists ... More

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15 comments

  1. Profile photo of Andrea Andrea says:

    I need advice. My daughter just turned 2 in December. Because she was small, my pediatrician encouraged keeping her breastfeeding until at least her 2nd birthday. She now only eats at naptime and during the night. But I’m pregnant and due in June and REALLY want to get her off me! I need a break before the new one comes along. I have tried cold turkey and we get no sleep because she gets so worked up she can’t stop crying. She drinks from a sippy cup during the day. I don’t know what to do, but I do know I need her to stop the breastfeeding now. Any suggestions?

    • Profile photo of Courtney Courtney says:

      Communicate with her that you love her and that you will hug her instead. When we weaned my daughter she was similar and cried from the heart break I made sure to tell her that we would snuggle before bed and that just as easily out her to sleep in that first week after that she was fine. She realized that I was still there to hold and love her the milk didn’t change that aspect of our relationship.

    • Profile photo of GRRLHC GRRLHC says:

      Try lemon juice on your breasts. It may sound crazy, but it worked wonders for me and my attached son. We talked about it first, that he was getting older and only tiny babies needed milk at nigh, so Mommy’s milk would be sour. When he would wake at night, I would let him try, but he would refuse and say the milk was sour and yucky. It only took a few nights until he didn’t ask anymore. I repeated the same process until he just didn’t ask anymore. I was worried he wouldn’t haveba fond memory of nursing, but it’s the exact opposite. He tells me how much he loves “milk time” when he sees his baby sister nursing. Best of luck to you with your qeaninr and pregnancy!

  2. Profile photo of Jill Jill says:

    My baby doll is 6 months today and were still going strong! I mostly pump during the week because I work but on weekends I try to breast feed as much as possible. I’m hoping because she’s already used to the bottle that when I decide to stop it will go smoothly. Probably much easier for her than for me! I never thought I would love it but something about it makes you feel so close to them. I highly suggest buying a good pump Angrla and start pumping ASAP so you can keep your supply up right from the start. I always did every 3 hours whether nursing or pumping, even during the night I would get up probably until she was 3 months old. I just recently started to do every 4 hours and still have a great supply. Drink lots of water and try to eat healthy and good luck to you!!

  3. I’m a first timer and I am hoping and praying everything goes right I really do want to breastfeed my little man, but I was wondering… is around 1 year old the mark where you should start weaning them? I am just curious, also when he is born if my milk doesn’t come in right away should I let them nurse give him a bottle? I have a lot of questions sorry I am just very curious, like I said I am a first timer and their hasn’t been a baby in my family sine my brothers who are 21 now so a lot has changed!

    • Profile photo of Zahra Zahra says:

      There’s no day when you “should” start weaning your baby. As long as it works for you and your baby/toddler, you can continue breastfeeding. There are nutritional, health and emotional benefits at any age. Mine is 28 months old and still breastfeeding once in the middle of the night and at wake-up. Plus naps during the weekend.

    • Profile photo of Rebekah Rebekah says:

      Even if your milk doesn’t come in right away, you shouldn’t supplement. Babies aren’t born hungry; their digestive systems are full of a substance that doesn’t clear out for a couple of days and their sucking will stimulate your breasts to start producing. I’ve heard of mothers not feeding until 8-12 hours after birth. The American Pediatric Assoc. recommends breastfeeding through the first year.

      • Profile photo of Rachel Rachel says:

        I have to disagree with Rebekah. I had a baby who was born hungry. He nursed for nearly twelve hours straight each of his first two nights, which meant I got no sleep and had aching nipples. I ended up supplementing with 2-3ml of formula after each feeding those first days before my milk came in, and it was a lifesaver. In fact, current research suggests that (at least for some women) early limited formula supplementation can help women breastfeed longer (http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2013/05/105831/early-formula-use-helps-some-mothers-breastfeed-longer)

        Today, my 16 month old continues to nurse happily, so I would say it certainly worked for us.

        • Profile photo of Rachel Rachel says:

          One thing I forgot to add, is that we cup-fed (no bottle) my son the formula to avoid nipple confusion. We just poured a few ml of formula into a small plastic medicine cup and let the baby sip off the top. It worked great, and as a bonus, it was pretty hysterical to watch.

          With baby #2, I will supplement (limited and early) again if s/he is again insatiable with just the colostrum.

          And as to the 8-12 hours after birth, the WHO recommends infants begin breastfeeding within the first hour of life, as this is when babies are most alert and ready to begin learning how to feed.

          • Profile photo of Courtney Courtney says:

            Yes WHO recommends nursing within the first hour after birth because evidence shows that the breast feeding relationship has an 80% higher success rate, and to help prime the baby’s guy with healthy flora and the immunity boost if the amazing colostrum. Not Becuase the baby necessarily needs any calories, babies truly don’t need to eat much at all within the first 24 hours. Their stomachs are about the size of a cherry at birth so they only eat about a teaspoon if that at each feeding within the first couple days.

          • Profile photo of Courtney Courtney says:

            Yes WHO recommends nursing within the first hour after birth because evidence shows that the breast feeding relationship has an 80% higher success rate, and to help prime the baby’s guy with healthy flora and the immunity boost if the amazing colostrum. Not Becuase the baby necessarily needs any calories, babies truly don’t need to eat much at all within the first 24 hours. Their stomachs are about the size of a cherry at birth so they only eat about a teaspoon if that at each feeding within the first couple days.

  4. Breast feeding didn’t work out for me with my first, but I plan to try again with baby #2. I know weaning is very hard. Thank you for your candid post.

  5. Profile photo of Angela Angela says:

    Throughout the entire time I breastfed my son, I worked. Any milk that I had to pump was – obviously – fed to him through a bottle. When he started getting his teeth around 5/6 months is when I weaned him. It hurt too much. He didn’t have any problems with it since he was already familiar with the bottle. I had planned to continue pumping for him; but I guess my body could tell the difference, and my milk supply dried up quickly afterwards. He ended up being completely on formula by 8 months. Weaning him from the bottle was pretty easy too. We simply started giving him sippy cups to try; and once he got the hang of using them, we just threw away his bottles. He didn’t even seem to notice, and never asked for them. That was a little after his first birthday.

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