You have decided that you need to wean your toddler because you’re having a new baby or maybe because you now want to be in charge of your body again. Whatever your reason, understand that weaning from breastfeeding is hard enough, how much more if you need to wean a co-sleeping toddler? It makes something complicated even more so. Some mommies have enough money to burn to go the “weaning vacation” route wherein the mother leaves for five to ten days so the child is cold weaned. When the mom returns after her vacation, the child no longer asks for the boob.
The problem with this technique is that not everyone can use it. Aside from the money you need to take that mom vacation, you also need funds for a nanny to take full care of the child while you’re away. It can also be a problem if you have other kids to take care of (who’ll take care of them?). What about the laundry, food preparation and house cleaning while you’re away? Again, this method is easy if you have money.
So is weaning impossible if your child is a co-sleeper? Absolutely not. It is definitely doable. In order to wean from breastfeeding a co-sleeping toddler, you need to arm yourself with the following:
- Your child’s favorite blanket, teddy or toy
- A lullaby
- More time with your child
We’ll get into more details with the following process.
Steps to Wean from Breastfeeding a Co-Sleeping Toddler
You can’t go cold turkey on your co-sleeping toddler if you’re always going to be around. Instead, you have to go gently and follow a strict regimen for you and your child. Follow these steps to ensure breastfeeding success. There is no need to follow these steps consecutively, but rather they must be applied altogether, so make sure to read the whole article first before doing anything.
Step 1. Start weaning one nursing period at a time
If your child breastfeeds in the morning upon waking up, in the afternoon for nap time and in the evening before going to sleep (and maybe another one in the middle of the night), it is recommended that you reduce one nursing time. The first one to eliminate is the afternoon nap time. This is the best choice because one, your child is almost always tired at this time of the day so it’s easier to get them to sleep; and two, even if the child couldn’t take his regular afternoon nap without nursing, then it will be easier for you to get him to sleep in the evening.
A week or two after weaning from afternoon nursing, proceed to wean evening nursing time. A week or two after, proceed with weaning from breakfast nursing. This system also prevents your breast from swelling up and hurting unlike when you go cold turkey.
Step 2. Give your child warm milk
Even if your child is only nursing for comfort, he is still able to drink your milk. Because of this, you have to provide an alternative source of sustenance. Aside from his regular meals and snacks, give him warm milk every time he goes to bed. Half a glass to a glass of warm milk would be enough to make him feel full throughout the night, eliminating the need to nurse at night time or during wee hours of the morning. You can choose between formula milk or fresh milk, whichever you prefer.
Also, a glass of warm milk is a sign that it’s time to go to sleep. We humans are creatures of habit. Your child has developed the habit that nursing puts him to sleep. To undo this habit, we need to create new habits and new sleepy-time signals, which brings us to the next two steps.
Step 3. Allow your child to bring his favorite toy or blanket
Some parents do not allow their kids to bring their toys to bed for good reason. However, their favorite toy or blanket can make them feel secure when sleeping. Also, this allows them some sort of comfort and autonomy. Your child needs some sort of comfort to replace what you are taking away. He also needs autonomy over something because at the moment, you are doing something that your child does not want yet cannot control.
Step 4. Sing or Play a lullaby
A lullaby works wonders. In the beginning, it might seem as if it doesn’t affect your child, but keep on singing anyway. Lullaby will work as a sleep signal, telling him subconsciously that it’s time to sleep. Again, this is a habit-forming activity. If you can’t sing, that’s not a problem. You can play lullaby music videos from Youtube. Click here for a list of lullabies you can use in Youtube. Make sure to choose only one because your child needs to familiarize himself with the music that you play every time. I would recommend that you choose a lullaby that is five to ten minutes long, then put it on repeat.
Step 5. Give More Skin to Skin Time
Because you are practically depriving your child of skin to skin time, make sure to make up for it. Hug or cuddle your child more often, play with him, provide more time. It is the warmth and comfort that you give as a parent that your child will miss the most. My child initially would not let go of my arms the first few days. He will only sleep with my arm around him and he would hold on to my arm all through the night. His sleep was very shallow because any slight movement from me would wake him up. This gradually decreased after a few days until finally I can move my arm without waking him up.
Step 6. Be calm and patient
Your child will likely bawl his eyes out for an hour or two in the first few days. Let him do so. This is an emotional time for him. Think about your first heartbreak, didn’t you bawl your eyes out? It’s the same for your child. Allow him to express his feelings, after all, you area breaking his/her heart.
Willpower is important in making all this work. It is easy to give in to your tearful crying child when he or she is asking for the boob. But you have to be strong, or else you will have to start all over again. Also, your child might develop the habit of crying for the boob because he or she will learn that doing so makes you give in. Just think about the progress you’ve made, and how necessary it is.
Weaning your child from nursing is a journey, and though it is not enjoyable, you can make it less painful for yourself and your child with the right technique.