When you know, you know. Some babies, toddlers, kiddies wean themselves from breastfeeding while other mums have to help them along. We all start out breastfeeding with a goal in mind. To either feed until a certain stage in our babies development or until as long as they like.
I was the mama that was happy to do it as long as my little girl liked originally and that thought was cemented in my mind because our journey didn’t start off the easiest.
The beginning of our journey
To backtrack, the first few days in hospital were horrible regarding our breastfeeding journey. No one prepared me that sometimes babies just don’t get the whole latching part. My baby didn’t gravitate towards me to feed and when plonked on the chest she’d fall asleep and just couldn’t latch. Many midwifes suggesting different things, cutting a suspected tongue tie, formula feeding, expressing, trying different methods of latching. It was exhausting. Even more so when family would suggest the same things and your gut knows persistence is the key here for breastfeeding.
I don’t know how our journey would have gone if it wasn’t for the one midwife who brought me in some nipple shields and finally my daughter latched and fed. Tears rolled down my eyes. We figured out what worked for Elle at that point and concluded with our paediatrician that we didn’t need to cut her tongue tie and instead her little mouth just needed a few weeks to build strength. He was so right.
As a mum you have a gut feeling about what is right and I could see she was happy to feed when she finally latched but getting to that point was the challenge and I could see her exhaustion. We utilised nipple shields for six weeks before I began to notice that she was now and expert and the shields were frustrating both her and me so I removed them and the real part of our journey began.
The ease of breastfeeding began. We fed for just over 17 months before we both decided it to be no more. You might think its funny that I say ‘we’ decided because when I say that I am in fact referring to my boob obsessed 17 month old at the time as the ‘other’ person.
I will get to completely weaning shortly but I want to be clear about our first steps.
STEP ONE: NIGHT WEANING
When Elle reached 12 months we night weaned – this was the first challenge but after doing this she slept through the night for the first time fully and continued to do so. I never minded night wakes so much because it was apart of the commitment of breastfeeding sometimes and her wakes were very routined that my body was used to it (e.g. 11pm, 3am).
You will know when you are ready to night wean because you will have the will to persist and not give in. It takes 2-3 nights to break a habit so set yourself up to night wean when you are ready to commit. I want to be clear we did try earlier but both her and I didn’t seem to be ready as I couldn’t give myself to committing so don’t put pressure on yourself if its not working – it simply means you aren’t ready yet. You’ll know when you are 100% ready.
- When Elle would wake – I would pick her up, sit in the rocking chair and just cuddle her. She is a toddler by this age so she can put up a fight, cry loudly and it can be hard to not give in but distraction is the key.
- When she would cry – I would turn this purple hippo we had on and it would sing a lullaby and light up the roof of her room with stars. I’d keep cuddling her and tell her its okay until she was asleep or sleepy enough to put back in the cot content and calm.
This was the item we purchased to aid night weaning and wakes for distraction and you can purchase it here
- It didn’t always work but the key was to persist – by night 3 she no longer woke up to feed. There would be nights she would wake a week later and still does on the odd occasion but I never offered boob again. I would offer water. She would refuse at times and I would then assume something else is the issue (teething) and support her through that wake until she was happy to go back to bed.
STEP TWO: DAY WEANING
After we successfully night weaned for a month around 13 months I began by weaning one day feed at a time. At 13 months she was feeding: 7am, 11am, 3pm and 7pm. I noticed her interest in food would lessen and after 12 months their main nutrition is food so I felt this was the right decision for us.
- I first cut out the 11am feed and would offer a smoothie instead.
- I cut out the 3pm feed and again replaced with snacks (almond butter on crackers is a good go-to or an avocado chocolate mousse – both these have good fats for your little one and the recipe for the chocolate mousse is found in my recipe ebook here)
- I cut out the morning feed which was initially one I found hard to be consistent with because it was easy to wake up, grab her out of the cot and bring her to my bed to feed while I rest a little more but I began to realise this feed needs to be consistent too and instead woke, made her breakfast straight away (she has oats with water, honey & powdered probiotics).
STEP THREE: WEANING THE LAST FEED
I knew this feed was going to be the hardest. The 6.30pm feed before bed.
Every night for as long as she had known it had been the one consistency. Bath, Feed, Books, Bed.
She was so used to this feed that I didn’t even have to offer it – she knew after bath meant boob. She would hit my chest and pull down my shirt if I didn’t offer straight away (hold on girlfriend, I need to have a shower) haha. I was trapped by the before bed feed and I felt negative about it because I couldn’t rely on anyone else to do this.
- We began by offering goat milk in a bbox bottle – she would initally reject this a-lot of the time (she would hit away the bottle or only take small sips) so this was a slow process for us and meant boob, b-box bottle, books then bed.
- Doing this meant I began to slowly decrease the last of my supply too.
- We tried a different process of offering b-box bottle after dinner time and this seemed to work for a while to begin to teach her to ‘replace’ the feed from me but she still would want boob at some point before going to bed. It was comfort, it was habit.
- I eventually decided to break this habit by spending one night away so that it ‘wouldn’t cross her mind’ and she had no issue consuming her b-box bottle that night and going to bed.
- When I returned we changed up our routine so that I would bath her then she would drink her b-box bottle and teddy would read her books while I shower so I stayed out of sight/out of mind for milk and ensured she didn’t see my boobs for over a week.
It worked – she has never asked for it again and often laughs now if she see’s my boobs haha or touches them like they are weird such things haha! When I said ‘we’ were ready – I meant I could tell that the way we were feeding was no longer for milk and becoming for comfort/boredom/just because and I felt she needed to be shown another way – a toddler will know no different unless we show them and I was ready to listen to those cues she was giving me this time.
Our process was slow and I don’t mind it that way. It worked for us and I do believe we didn’t experience any stressful days and approached this in a gentle manner. I’m not the woman who was ready to go cold-turkey on all feeds but slowly weaning over a few months was great. I also want to be clear I did try other techniques but this worked for us.
We’ve now been boob free for almost a month and the only time she has a b-box bottle now is at 630pm when we are reading books. She smashes that bottle and we recently converted from goat milk to cows milk as I felt her stomach could tolerate it. I won’t be looking to remove that bottle anytime soon at this point as it doesn’t interfere with anything – if anything we’ve just been moving it closer to her ‘dinner’ so that it can go hand in hand with dinner but again we do this over a ‘slow’ process.