How can I Wean My 18 Month Old Off the Breast?
by Lindsey (USA)
I’ve been breastfeeding my son for 18 months. He eats whole foods and drinks water & juice, yet I can’t seem to wean him off the breast. He wants to nurse in public and has a fit when I don’t give it to him.
The only way I can think of to wean him is the “cold turkey” method. He can sleep without me. It’s only when I’m around that he really wants to nurse. It states that the best thing to do is to let a family member feed him (and things of that nature) yet how do I get to the point where I can come around and he doesn’t ask to nurse?
Any advice appreciated.
You’ll get there … you’ll both get there
I’ve found that there are 2 things that really affect moms in a heart-wrenching, how-am-I-ever-going-to do-this type of manner:
1) weaning your child off the breast
2) and toilet training
Both of these activities are very difficult for children to learn since they have, for their entire lives, learned to do it one way, and then are asked to switch to another way. And – to switch rather quickly too.
Your son has been breastfeeding for 18 months and to ask him to stop something that he loves, that he has done all his life, is very difficult for him too. Some moms are lucky and their toddlers wean themselves effortlessly. But I can tell that you’re not one of those lucky moms.
As often with these parenting issues: there is no magic trick that works every time. There are tricks of course, but it’s a matter of finding one that works for you and your son.
If your son is old enough to comprehend, then you might try to explain to him that Breastfeeding Days are over, He is old enough to eat solid food, he not a baby anymore and you have no more milk. It is time to move on.
If that doesn’t work, then you have to transfer his need for comfort to some other object like a special teddy bear, a silky blanket, or anything that he happens to have bonded with. At 18 months, he’s nursing for comfort and not for nutrients, so try giving him something else that comforts him and makes him feel secure. If there is nothing that he loves you can give him something that is distinctly yours, has your smells on it, and tell him that he can’t have breast milk, but he can have your special T-shirt. He might be willing to cuddle the shirt as a consolation prize. Some children are very smell oriented, so something that has your smells on it might comfort him. Maybe your pillow?
If that doesn’t work then you can try taking him off your breast but still “be there” for him. To start, you can lie down with him so that he is comforted but not actually still on your breast. Later, you sit on his bed or beside his bed and wait for him to fall asleep (say that you still have chores to do but are willing to be with him until he is asleep). Still later, you can sit outside his room and wait for him to fall asleep (say that you want to read and need more light). It is a very long process that takes months. Indeed, my daughter is 3 years old and I am still sitting outside her door reading (or sewing) while she falls asleep by herself.
I can tell that you love your son very much and I am confident that you will find a way to wean him that is not too traumatic. You’ll get there – you’ll both get there. If you haven’t already seen this, check out this weaning page and the links within.
Then…. you have to contend with toilet training. That is the next hurdle. ;^)