PARENTING

Weaning your baby — tips for the end of your breastfeeding journey

I’ve received a few messages lately asking for my advice on how to wean your baby from breastfeeding. Mothers have written asking for me to share how I weaned Wilkie, how I knew it was the right time, how long I think they should breastfeed their own baby, and some even asking me why, at one year old, I weaned him so early.

I have to admit, this is a topic I sort of tried to avoid. These types of parenting topics are difficult to raise, I feel, because everyone has their own way of doing things, and what works for one family might not necessarily work for the other. Actually, what works for one of your babies, might not even be the same thing that works for your other! When it comes to parenting, I have one big rule: Do what works best for you and your family. Trust yourself and listen to your baby. 

I’ve had enough babies to know that each one is different, and the way you choose to parent one child can be totally different than the way you parent another. Babies are different, circumstances change. There really is no one right way.  I breastfed Easton and Quin for around seven months each. I breastfed the girls for 10 or so months before they both just became completely uninterested and weaned themselves.  I breastfed Wilkie for one year, and while he would have been happy to continue, I felt like it was the right timing for us both to stop, and I also knew it would help him become a more independent sleeper (and me a happier, well-rested mother). I found the process of weaning Wilkie to be the most emotional of all my babies, made more intense simply because he really enjoyed being fed, grabbing at my boobs when he wanted them and finding comfort in feeding. I almost felt selfish putting an end to it. But then I had to remind myself that I had to take my needs into consideration as well as my husband’s, my other kids’, and Wilkie’s too. I had to trust that I knew what was best for us all, and that he would feel loved and secure, even without the breast.

Wilkie had gotten to the point where he would only fall asleep on the breast. So only I could put him to bed, no one else.  It also meant that the bedtime routine (for naps and in the evening) could be long and drawn-out. He would ask for the boob when he was tired, so I knew it was a sign he just needed sleep. I was becoming a dummy. I wanted to encourage him to become more independent, to be able to self-soothe and fall asleep on his own. I knew it would be better for us both.

Here are some tips I found helpful during the process:

  • Wait for the right window.  There were a few times where I wanted to wean Wilkie, but then something would pop up.  I got a mild case of mastitis at one point, so I had to go back to increasing my feeding to try to beat it before it escalated.  Then another time, there was a nasty cold going through our family, and I wanted to keep feeding him to ensure he had my germ-fighting antibodies during that time. My friend, Melanie, kept assuring me that the window will show itself — I just had to wait for it and be ready.
  • Know what your milk substitute will be. We waited until Wilkie was one, so I never had to bother with milk formulas –he was able to go directly from breastmilk to normal milk. But if your baby is younger, it’s a good idea to test out your milk options and to know that your baby likes it.
  • Bottle or sippy cup or nothing at all? Because I weaned my first two when they were only 7 months old, we ended up transitioning them to bottles for their milk feeding. But I found that this meant we had one more thing we had to wean them from, and it was almost more difficult to wean them from the bottle than it was to wean them off the breast!  With the girls, we went straight to a sippy cup, so there was no attachment to the bottle.  With Wilkie, we have a few different options from sippy cups to a stainless steel cup with a straw. My thought was that if we had a few options, he wouldn’t become attached to one certain one and he’d be more flexible with how he drinks his milk.  But obviously, it’s good to have your options on hand and begin to get your baby used to them gradually.
  • Drop one feed at a time. Toward the end of my breastfeeding journey with Wilkie, I was mostly only feeding him at bedtimes and in the morning when he would wake up.  I dropped the morning feed first, because it was the easiest one for me to drop, and because he was happy to have his sippy cup in the morning. (On a selfish level, this was the hardest one for me to drop because I just found that morning feed so snuggly and cosy.) Then, I started to drop his daytime feed before his nap. And the last to go was his nighttime feed. It actually happened quite quickly toward the end. So quick, that I didn’t even realise his last feed was going to be the last.
  • Create new routines. With Wilkie, the bedtime routine was becoming predictable for him. We’d go into his room, close the blinds, turn on his white noise machine, and I’d nurse him to sleep. He knew it was bedtime based on those certain cues.  When the time came for me to stop feeding him to sleep, I knew I had to create a different routine.  I got out a stack of my favourite baby books and put them on the shelf in his room. I started reading to him instead of feeding him, and it was something he really enjoyed from the beginning. I found that I actually engaged and connected more with him when I was reading to him than when I was feeding him. (Admittedly, I was often distracted while feeding him with my phone in my hand, scrolling through Instagram or responding to messages, etc.) Reading to him was a way for me to engage with him and ensure that he felt secure and loved. After a few stories, I would hold him and sing him the song I’ve always sung to my babies and then I would put him in his cot, saying the same thing every time. “It’s night night time, Wilkie. Time to go to sleep. Mama loves you so much.” It didn’t take him long to understand our new routine and recognise that it was bedtime.
  • Don’t doubt yourself. I swear babies just know when we are doubting a decision we’ve made. Like animals sense fear! I think it’s so important to trust yourself and don’t wobble in your decision. If you feel sure of yourself, then your baby will feel secure too.  When I introduced the new routine to Wilkie, I wanted him to feel so safe and secure. To know he was so loved. And to understand that his new going-to-bed routine was what was best for him. I tried to be firm but loving.
  • Don’t worry about what other mothers are doing. Don’t compare! I have a few friends here in Byron who had babies around the same time as Wilkie, so it can be tempting to look at what they’re doing and wonder if I should be doing it that way too. Perhaps their babies were sleeping better, or eating better, or doing something else that my baby wasn’t doing. Should I be doing what they’re doing? Obviously it’s never bad to question and re-examine what works for you, but it’s just good to remind yourself that everyone’s situation is different.  It’s taken me five babies to know and truly feel very secure in the decisions I make for our family.
  • Allow yourself to feel emotional. It is such an emotional time, and the process can unleash emotions you didn’t even know you had. You may feel sad at the closing of a chapter, or a sense of grief that your baby is growing up. Additionally, there is a hormonal shift that happens when you stop breastfeeding that can leave you feeling low, confused, or just a bit tender. Joanna from A Cup of Jo wrote about her depression after weaning on her blog a few years ago, and it was such a great way of normalising what can actually be a similar depression to postpartum depression in some cases. However you experience it, it’s good to know that it is normal to feel sensitive at this time.
  • Treat yourself to some new bras! This was a tip someone gave me on my Instagram when I weaned Wilkie, and I loved it so much. It’s a wonderful time to treat yourself to a new bra, to be excited about your new boobs and the fact that your body is yours again. Maybe even something sexy! (I have always found that the hormonal shift that comes with weaning gives me a newfound interest in my husband again! It’s like, for the first year of your baby’s life, you’re living inside a cloud and the only clarity you have is on your baby in front of you. And then suddenly the clouds clear and you can actually see your husband again… and he looks goooooood!!!) Enjoy the increase in libido and celebrate with new undies! 🙂

Please share your experiences with weaning and any tips you have for the process. I’d love to hear!

Courtney x


SHARE

Comments (23)

Christina
April 24, 2018

I love this article Courtney. Thank you. I’m currently breastfeeding my 2nd at 5 months. With my first I weaned at about 10 months but continued at night for 1.5 years simply because I went back to work and it felt like the easiest option! In hindsight it would probably have been easier had I stopped at night too because the night wakings would likely have stopped after a few days but I guess I must have really needed those cuddles too 🙂


Anna
April 24, 2018

Incredible article – full of so much wisdom.


Lisa
April 24, 2018

My baby is now 2 years and a month and he’s on me all the time!! I should have stopped but now I’m inevitably going to be nursing him Until College 😉. He’s my last. So I am
Overly emotional about him. But am Also Exhausted. It’s 6am here and he’s been up since 4.30 on my boob like a dummy. Every day. Aghhhhh!!!! Hahaha I secretly love it


Aga
April 24, 2018

Great article thank you for sharing. I breastfeed my two boys for 18 months each. It was nice experience, cheap and handy when traveling between Poland and New Zealand on the plane. Although being awake every 2 or 3 hours during the night for almost 4 years took its toll on my body. I didn’t mange to recover fully because im expecting my 3rd boy soon. Im hoping to breastfeed him as long as others but like you said each child is different and circumstances change. Weaning both of my boys was surprisingly easy I had less milk and they simply werent interested in my boobs anymore. I did use formula briefly so my husband could get up from time to time at night instead of me. Thanx for sharing!


Renee
April 24, 2018

Thanks so much for sharing Courtney … my bubba is 8 months and I’m thinking we’ll go til about a year.
It was also great to hear about another bubba that only falls asleep feeding … it’s the one thing I just can’t figure out – how to get him to sleep any other way. You touched on it … but was it really that simple – were there not tears and settling etc? Maybe when he’s one my bubba will get it a bit more??
xx


SHOW ALL COMMENTS
Anna
April 24, 2018

Thank you this is really useful. I’m just about to wean my 18 month old and dreading it so much. As my last I already feel so emotional. The tips on reading are especially great, I love that, and about feeling confident. Thank you for helping me on this journey ❤️


Jessica
April 24, 2018

I’m currently breastfeeding my 2nd, he’s soon to be 9 months. I remember dreaming of this special bonding during my pregnancy, and I told myself and my husband I was going to nurse him for AT LEAST a year. I really do love it, but a part of me is already longing for the end of this phase. I weaned his big sister at 7 months and regretted that for a long time, I felt so sad for months to come and I didn´t realise my hormones dropped. I love how you write that it’s taken you five babies to really trust your instincts as a mother. Makes it less frustrating for a mother of two to feel unsure and ambivalent when it comes to these decision-makings…
x


Laura
April 24, 2018

Thanks for a really informative article- I have a baby boy nearly the same age as Wilkie. He loves breastfeeding but I will be returning to work soon and as much as I enjoy the closeness and bond breastfeeding fosters, I feel ready to wean. I have made some half hearted attempts to drop feeds but I find it so hard when my son grabs and cries when I say no to him feeding. This article has renewed my enthusiasm for weaning 🙂


Charlie
April 24, 2018

I loved reading these wise words Courtney! I had a difficult start with breastfeeding (hello cracked & bleeding nipples) so once that was over I made the decision to just wait and see, with both of my children, if the end would present itself without any action on my part. My oldest lost interest when she was two and a half and I was pregnant with our second. I thought maybe the taste of my milk changed with pregnancy – and in the end I was grateful not to have to nurse a newborn and toddler at the same time! My second child nursed for three and a half years. One day, out of nowhere, she just stopped. The myth around extended breastfeeding is that it’s like feeding a younger child but it is absolutely not. Both of mine, past the age of two, would only latch on momentarily at night before bed, really not ever longer than a minute. It was like having a quick cuddle and not about nourishment at all (although it did give me peace of mind to know they were still getting antibodies from me during winter illnesses etc). I found not having a deadline in mind worked so well for me. I bring this up as there are many options and this one isn’t often presented as one of them! As you say (although with a different instigator) the window eventually did present itself! Everyone’s journey is their own, and unique, but I share mine today in acknowledgment of the beauty in the collective nursing experience.


Rebecca
April 24, 2018

Haha, love the comment about your husband – with that kind of talk, baby number six will be next! 😉😅


Esther in Amsterdam
April 24, 2018

Love reading this! And I agree with everything. Funny idea that I just started breastfeeding while you just stopped… xx


Jessie
April 24, 2018

I nursed all three of my girls for 6 months. None of them would take the bottle with my milk in it EVER. I tried all different kinds of bottles and nipples and nada. It was so stressful and I was exhausted. Our first two were 19 months apart. My first decided she wanted to potty train each and every time I started to nurse my second. It was horrible. No one tells you these things. She would also try to nurse whenever I would nurse my second. For my third nursing was hard too because my older two were then doing activities and she would have to nurse during them. She would have to nurse under the nursing blanket and hated it. Who would like that? I am very very glad I stopped at 6 month. I was no longer stressed or exhausted. Everyone was happy. With having them fall asleep on the breast I would always let my first and second fall asleep while nursing because I was so tired. That ended up back firing on the long run. For my third I started VERY early (Like 2 weeks) of not letting her fall asleep, or if she did I immediately took her off. She was my best sleeper and napper and never needed me to rock her or anything. She would actually try to crawl into her crib. I was also fortunate that all three took to the formula immediately in a bottle. I then just put cabbage on my breasts to have the milk supply dry up. I know lots of moms are shocked that I only nursed for 6 months but every situation, babies and families are different.


Sarah
April 24, 2018

Thank you for this! I am currently weaning my twin boys after a year of breastfeeding. They are my last (I have two older boys too) and I’ve done it before but it’s still so nice to read your thoughtful words and know we’re both going through this together right now. And thank you for admitting that you scroll on your phone while nursing! I always feel like I should be more of an “earth mother” instead of one my phone during that moment but it’s obviously the silly pressures we put on ourselves when we compare and look to Instagram too much.


Kelly
April 24, 2018

Thank you so much for writing this. I think I’m going to start weaning our daughter at 1 (in two months! 😳) and I’ve had a lot of nerves about it. This was so encouraging and practical. I’m feel better about this. Thank you!


Abby
April 24, 2018

I love this story it’s very inspirational and real, thank you sharing 😊


Maret
April 24, 2018

I love your honesty! I weaned my first one around 18 months, it was a struggle already because all the society saw breastfeeding for so long like a taboo (I was living in Paris at that time). So I almost hided breastfeeding my boy after he was 1year old. I was much stronger with my girl, she was breastfed until she was 3 and a half (we were living in Istanbul and Malaysia at that time). It was easy at that time, I just explained that you are a big girl now and that it is over. My third child is 3 months and a half, I do both, breast and bottle however I never gave any formula for my first 2. So every situation is different!


Catherine
April 24, 2018

Nice to read this article and all the comments. Am hoping you can give me some suggestions. I’m currently breastfeeding a 2 year old and time has come to wean him. Have dropped to just feeding at bed and nap time and 1-2 per night but can’t seem to reduce this any further. He is very fond of it and falls asleep feeding so how else can I put him asleep?


Kate
April 25, 2018

I have a good tip for babies who might nurse a little longer and resist weaning. My husband took my son away for the weekend when the final wean happened. They went to Montreal, stayed in a hotel, went for long walks at night when my son slept fitfully and had a wonderful bonding time. On the third day they came home and my son understood!


Emily
April 26, 2018

I love your one big rule! This is so true … “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Trust your own instinct, mamas, and focus on a healthy, happy family, regardless of the path to get there.


Lucy
April 26, 2018

Lisa, we have the same kid! My son is 2.5 years old and would happily spend all day – and night – attached to me. So glad to hear there are others out there with children similarly obsessed with the boob! I sometimes even have to run away from my son when I see him coming. I do the dodge but he tackles me around the legs and clings like a monkey. I feel like I’m raising a young Benny Hill!

Even though he knows not to ‘ask for it’ in public now and when he asks for it at home he does so in a cheeky, smiley way (showing he probably realises he’s getting too old for it), there is still no sign of him letting up and I just can’t bear the crying and tantrums when I say no. I’m too soft.

So many babies and toddlers sound positively angelic in the way they handle weaning. My son would seriously have to be dragged away from this phase and he would be kicking and screaming in protest.

Someone else said something about the night feeds being hard to drop: I totally agree. I could probably get through the days not feeding him if I took him out all day every day for a week or so, but there wouldn’t be a snowflake’s chance in hell he would go to sleep without feeding to sleep.

Incidentally, I wonder if it’s also a personality thing.

Anyway, I have resigned myself to just letting it end when it naturally ends. But it is so good to know I’m not the only mother lying in bed with a little limpet!


Jo
May 1, 2018

Thank you so much for sharing your story…I wish that I had found it sooner as I decided to wean my 23 month old son last week. I breastfed my first daughter until 25 months, my son until 21 months & then had to stop breastfeeding suddenly at 15 months with my next daughter due to a serious infection requiring antibiotics (decided 10 days without breastfeeding then re-commencing would not be fair on her nor me). I cannot remember the weaning from breastfeeding being a problem with apart from my third child as I had no other option & felt almost bereft. So with my youngest who would also only go to sleep feeding, woke frequently throughout the night weaning started off a really challenging time with both of us trying to adapt to the change. There was a day when I was felt really emotional probably due to hormonal changes & a touch of mama guilt. We are now on day 7 & although he is taking a while to settle to sleep (especially at post lunchtime nap) & waking once or twice in the night he has finally adjusted to not being breastfed. I also enjoy the reading before bedtime, talking about what we have done together, what we can do together tomorrow…the little things I didn’t do whilst breastfeeding at bedtime 😊.


Sarah
May 3, 2018

I am torn between wanting to feed my 7 month old forever (because god forbid he ever grows up!) and wanting my body back after what feels like an eternity of being pregnant and round the clock feeding. My baby adores his big brother and his father and I only really get a look in when he is hungry! Secretly I love that I’m the only one that can really satisfy his needs but I am looking forward to getting rid of my feeding singlets and buying some new bra’s!


Julia
June 17, 2018

Love this article!
Just wondering… can you (or anyone else?¿?) recommend a white noise mashine? Thank you!!!


Leave a Comment