Last summer, my daughter and I finally stopped breastfeeding — and let me tell you, it was not an easy feat. In fact, it was the hardest damn thing I ever did.
It started something like this:
One, day I sat my daughter on the kitchen counter and said, “I can’t give you anymore milk, okay?” She seemed to understand. She even surprisingly replied, “It’s for babies” — like she was totally getting it.
But I was fooled.
That first night was magic, though. She didn’t fight it. She didn’t even ask me if she could have any. She woke up a few times, mumbled something incoherent, and just went back to sleep. She even slept through the night — something she was still struggling with at the time, because my breasts had become her sleeping props.
The second night, however, was a different story. She woke up crying multiple times throughout the night. Each time, I’d pick her up, comfort her, and tell her stories. Some of them real ones; some of them I’d completely made up, from nowhere.
This did not work well. And it continued on for days.
She’d cry and cry, until her face was red. Meanwhile, I was getting little to no sleep and so was my husband. Nobody was sleeping through the night.
This sleepless existence became our new routine for about one week: Long, frustrating nights filled with wild stories of imaginary animals with rhyming names. Mornings were intense, exhausting, and coffee-filled.
Then one night, she just didn’t wake up until the next morning. She slept through the night — just like that!
So, that’s what it feels like to sleep through the night, I thought to myself.
But of course, we’re not done yet (when are we, really?). Once we conquered nights, we went on to that one last feeding — the morning feeding.
And those morning feedings, man … they hung on for dear life.
See, her morning feeding was the very first thing she did after she woke. It was a huge part of her overall comfort. As such, I had to resort to many (many) tricks to get her off them.
My first trick was to distract her right away before she could even think of it; which meant I had to get my ass up quick. I’d roll out of bed and I’d run around like a clown. Once I pretended to be a dinosaur. That’s what we moms do, after all — we are dinosaur goddesses when we need to be. Then I’d let her watch a cartoon on her tablet. (No guilt, please. I’ve had enough mom guilt for one lifetime.) I made her early breakfasts, too; even let her help me make the pancakes. And sometimes, we made early trips to the library. Like super early.
In short, distraction is key, ya’ll. And trust me, it eventually does the trick.
If you’re currently the desperate mama of a toddler in need of some help from the weaning gods, allow me to impart some of my own tried-and-true tricks of the trade:
1. Talk things through with your toddler.
Believe me, after two years, they understand!
2. Remove one feeding a time over the course of several months.
Start small — don’t try to hurry and do it all at once. It’ll be tough on both of you.
3. Be firm and do what you said you were gonna do.
If you budge, your child will smell your weakness and mess with your head. So, if you say, “No.” Keep it that way. There were many times when I wanted to give up and say, “Here, have some and stop crying.” But, I couldn’t. I know what would happen. It would get her to doubt me, and it would become a power struggle between us, and it would prolong the process.
4. Distract them.
As mentioned, you are well within your rights to get ridiculous here. (I sure did.) Be a clown; be a dinosaur. Make beautiful memories in the midst of insanity.
5. Comfort them in different ways.
Huge embraces. The biggest hugs. A lot of touching. Let the know you are there for them. I think breastfeeding makes infants and toddler feel secure. So, when this is being taken away, they feel an insecurity creeping in. This is why a lot of touching and hugs help.
6. Use an electronic device if you have to — and don’t feel guilty about it.
Yes, some mornings I let my daughter watch cartoons on the tablet to get her mind off the boobs. If I can ditch the guilt for a bit in the name of weaning, you can to. Of course, kids get super attached to iPads and tablets, so I tried to balance this with other activities like puzzles, games, and trips to the store.
There’s a lot of education today about the benefits of breastfeeding, but not nearly enough about how to wean. By the time your child is two, there are far less doctor visits, which means many moms are not talking to their pediatricians as much, and in turn, not asking as many questions.
Baby-led weaning — which basically means letting your child decide for themselves when to stop — unfortunately doesn’t work for everyone. (I’m clearly living proof of that; if it was up to my daughter, she’d be on my boobs all day, every day!) Which is why us mamas are often forced to take matters into our own hands.
Not every part of my improvised weaning plan may work for you — after all, every child and situation is unique — but I sure hope some of it will. No matter how hard it may have been at times, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat: the made up stories, the pancakes at 6 AM, the acting like a clown, and especially pretending to be a dinosaur.More On