Daytime weaning tips
By Lucy Lowe, IBCLC. Revised June 2022
For some families they will be happy with allowing their baby/toddler to lead the way with weaning from the breast. For some families they will want to move towards weaning for a variety of reasons.
This article is about weaning older babies and toddlers from the breast. For under 1s while some of the tips may be useful you will need to add formula or expressed breastmilk in replacement of breastfeeding.
Ideally the process of stopping breastfeeding your child should be gradual, as this is less distressing for your child and you. This can take two to three weeks. However there are some circumstances where weaning needs to happen abruptly, although even when weaning is ‘abrupt’, it doesnt happen immediately.
Cuddle boobs can be really helpful!
Weaned toddlers still require close contact snuggles quite frequently
Here is a list of suggestions to help your child move away from breastfeeding.
Offer alternatives to breastmilk - offer milk (cow’s milk or suitable alternative) from a cup. A cup is recommended at this age over a bottle due to oral and dental development. A drink of milk from a cup and a healthy snack may be an acceptable alternative for your child. Have a drink and snack with them. Avoid pressuring them to drink/eat as this can cause an aversion to eating/drinking. Sometimes it can help to pretend you are not bothered whether they consume it! If they pick up on your stress, it can make them feel stressed.
When you are reducing breastfeeds, it can help to introduce a new routine so the old routine doesn’t remind them of breastfeeding.
Distract your child when they want to breastfeed and offer fun activities.
Consider reducing the breastfeeds that you least enjoy first
Avoid actively offering breastfeeds.
Explain to your child that breastfeeding is coming to an end.
Avoid wearing clothes that make it easy for them to access your breasts.
Try to avoid the chair you normally breastfeed in.
Ask your partner/another adult to help with distracting your child from breastfeeding.
Offer other foods/drink (milk or water) before they become thirsty/hungry
When you breastfeed, breastfeed for a slightly shorter time, and gradually reduce the length of time you feed for over days/weeks
Change daily routines so your child is not reminded about nursing — and use different methods to help your child fall to sleep.
Reduce one feed per day, every 2-3 days. This helps your milk production to reduce gradually, and helps avoid fullness and your risk developing blocked ducts/mastitis.
Stopping breastfeeding can be emotional for both your child and you. Offer your child extra cuddles, comfort and playtime. This will help them to make the transition more comfortably. Look after yourself too - you may find that you feel emotional during and after the transition. This is normal.
If you stop breastfeeding abruptly, please be aware that your breasts may take some time to adjust. Stopping abruptly can put you at risk of developing blocked ducts or mastitis. To avoid this, when you feel uncomfortably full, hand express some breastmilk so that your breasts feel more comfortable.
We do not suggest any techniques in where a baby or child is left to cry. This is distressing and can be psychologically damaging.
If stopping breastfeeding is too much for your child, you may want to slow down the weaning process.