Breastfeeding your baby is an amazing bonding experience. We carry our babies for 9 months and then are given the honour to continue to nourish them until the time is right. And the right time will be different for each mom.
When you choose to wean baby from the breast, be assured you are not alone in your reservations, fears and concerns.
Here are some great tips adapted for Aha Parenting Dr. Laura Markham
1. Think gradual, this process may take weeks or it may take many months. Consider yourself and your child to be "moving toward weaning" as you embark on this process.
2. Be sure she's getting enough nutrition from other sources. If she's getting most of her calories from you, weaning will mean she's hungry but hasn't become accustomed to seeing food as the way to satisfy her hunger, which will mean frustration all around. Focus on helping her explore solid food so she learns to enjoy it.
3. Start by never offering, never refusing. For some kids, this won't make a difference–they'll just ask. But for others, even those who habitually nurse at a certain time of day, if you simply move on with the schedule without offering, nursing won't occur to them.
4. Cover up. The sight of your breast triggers your child's longing to nurse. This will last at least a year after she's weaned, and maybe longer. Don't worry, this won't last forever.
5. Stop nursing after injuries. Most little ones want to nurse after they fall and hurt themselves. But that teaches them to "stuff" their feelings. Instead, when your baby or toddler gets hurt, hold him and empathize with him ("That really hurt!"), helping him to experience the pain and to express it to you with his tears. If he asks to nurse, say "We'll nurse in a minute, Sweetie." If you make a practice of this, your child will learn how healing his tears are. He won't ask to use nursing as a "pacifier" when he has big feelings, and so won't "need" it so desperately as time goes on.
6. Stop nursing when your child is using it to manage boredom or other feelings. Many kids ask to breastfeed when when they have emotions that they don't want to feel. For instance, often kids urgently want to nurse when they aren't sure what to do with themselves–that transitional time that we sometimes call "bored" before they figure out what to do next. Or if you turn off the TV, your toddler may protest unless you offer to nurse. Tell her "This isn't time for mimi, this is time for the 'I'm hungry and I'm going to eat you up!' game!" Then, roughhouse with her to get her giggling, so that she giggles out those bothersome feelings that she thought only nursing would soothe.
7. Night Wean. The first feedings you'll want to eliminate are any night feedings, if your child is still waking up at night to nurse. But if he's doing this, it's probably because he doesn't know how to go to sleep without nursing. You could keep nursing him to sleep, but just not nurse during the night. But then your child has to learn to go to sleep without nursing in the middle of the night when he's a bit rested and can stay awake longer. And you have to support him with patience to fall asleep in the middle of the night, which is when you have less patience and fortitude.
8. Expect — and welcome — crying. If your little one has been managing feelings with nursing, those feelings will now come up in other ways — whining, grumpiness, reactivity, helplessness. Accept all your child's emotions with compassion and patience; she just needs to cry in the safety of your loving attention and those feelings will dissipate. Remember also that she's grieving. For your child, weaning is a loss. She's giving up something beloved. She'll need to cry, to tell you how sad that makes her. Your job is to NOT feel defensive (It's ok for you to make the decision to move toward weaning) and love her through it.
9. Explain, don't shame. If you tell your toddler or preschooler that he's too big to breastfeed, but he still wants to, he feels ashamed. Instead, explain that the nursies need to rest.
10. Reduce sessions; give choices. By now, you are only nursing during the day, and you're probably down to those ritual times — upon awakening, naptime, waking from nap, and before bedtime (although not to sleep.) If you find yourself nursing more often, cut back to those times by giving up one session at a time. For instance, start a new waking ritual that involves a soothing song and snuggle.
11. Provide alternatives. If you gently suggest other activities at those times when he wants to nurse, you'll find that the number of times you nurse in a day greatly diminishes. Offer a drink of water. Go outside to see if there are any butterflies. Discover a sticker that needs some paper. Become a bucking bronco who needs a rider.
12. Reduce the time spent at each nursing. By now, you are only nursing a few times a day. You can continue to cut out one nursing session at a time, which is a fine approach. But if you reduce the amount of time your child nurses at each session, then giving up that session will be easier on your child. To do this, respond to your child's request to nurse by saying "Ok, do you want ten nummies?" (Or whatever his special word is.) After he latches on, count from ten down to one, and then say "All done! Blast off!" If he insists on nursing on both sides, that's fine — just count down from ten on each side.