I’ve completely weaned one child and am in the middle of weaning another. I say I am in the middle of weaning my second daughter because weaning is a process. It is not something to be done overnight or without clear intentions having been set.
I have breastfeed, breastfed during pregnancy, night weaned while breastfeeding during pregnancy. I have tandem fed (which is breastfeeding two babies at the same time), weaned one child while still breastfeeding the other. I have helped hundreds of women wean their babies. But it's important to understand that abruptly stopping breastfeeding can be detrimental to the baby and the mother’s health. So, if you want to ensure a smooth transition, follow these steps to cultivate a calmer, easier weaning journey.
1- Set intentions
Setting intentions for your weaning journey will help you to find clarity in what each day of feeding should look like and for how long. If you started out feeding on demand, and you’re still going but are feeling touched out more often than not, you’ll set an intention such as, “I will feed only 3 times a day, to free up more space / time for myself”.
Now you can work towards creating a structure for your new routine.
2 - Create a new structure
A weaning transition is, simply put, moving from one established norm into a new established norm. Once you have set your intentions, to feed only 3 times a day, look at your structure and how it has been. Identify times which are vital to feed, does your child only sleep beside you? do they look for you first thing in the morning? do they gravitate towards you when others are around? Identify times when you know your child could be easily distracted away from boobies and over to play, cuddles or food.
Distraction is your friend. Absolutely use it. However be sure that you communicate very clearly with your child that boobies are not available but instead this distraction is. It’s important that they are aware and reminded often that boobies are not available at that time so you begin to reinforce this new norm.
Creating this structure with both your intentions and your child’s needs in mind means that you will create a very personalised new routine which should work to your mutual benefit.
3 - Choose a flexible timeframe
Accept that this is a process and decide how urgently you feel you need to stop.
When I was night weaning I felt I had to stop right now! I couldn’t bear the nursing aversion that came with being pregnant and breastfeeding. “Ugh” would slip out from my throat as I gritted my teeth and recoiled as I endured a middle of the night feed. So, grossed out by this sensation and quite uniformed, I sat up for an hour after she’d gone to bed and resolved I would never again feed her at night! That feed was the last. What followed was several nights of much too traumatic to recount crying, yelling, screaming on both of our parts. I was a mother in pieces. I felt so bad that I promised to feed her anytime throughout the day so long as she wouldn’t feed at night. After about a week of this. She finally stopped asking at night and began to sleep much better.
I am definitely not endorsing this method at all - I just wanted to share my real experiences. From this I have learned that you do not need to go through this harrowing experience with the right resources.
With my second daughter I knew how sleepless the night could get so I waited until we were on a school half term. When we had two weeks off from school I thought I’d give night-weaning a go. I was pretty tired and knew these nights could be difficult so I put a plan in place (set my intentions and time frame) and then I got to explaining.
4 - Explaining the new normal to your child
Whether your child is 6 months or 3 years old, they are never too young to understand what you are sharing with them. Talk to them about the end of your breastfeeding journey. Make up stories about it. And most importantly make it positive. It can be a very very emotional time for many mothers and children, but you can try your best, with your words and your attitude to be positive about weaning and you child will most likely follow suit.
Hold space for emotions. Like I said, the end of a breastfeeding journey can be a very very emotional time for many mothers and children. There’s a lot of tears, heightened emotions, hormonal fluctuations as your body adjusts. Please remember this. If and when you cry. If and when they cry. Remember it’s normal to feel things about something you’ve known your whole life with this particular child, it is all they have ever known either. With this in mind…
5 - Hold space for crying
Hold space for getting the frustration, confusion, upset out of their system without 1) giving in or 2) feeling guilty.
I could talk on this point for a whole article, there's so much to say about the emotional side of weaning.
If you can love your child as they go through this transition, if you can keep calm it’ll help them to see that there is a safer alternative to all they’ve known as their closest connection to you.
Also be sure to reach out for help and support. Let you loved ones know of your plans to wean and ask for love and compassion for yourself. I also offer more personalised coaching and support around weaning over the course of a month, to help you set your intentions, to troubleshoot unexpected issues that may arise, to hold space for your emotions and to combat guilt during this process.
6 - Consider life after breastfeeding
Having breastfed for three years with my first daughter, when it came to weaning, I often worried about how I would help her if she were to hurt herself on the playground or how I would show her she’s safe on a plane or in a crowded place. Because breastfeeding is more than just food. It’s all of that love, comfort and support too. I want to reassure you will find your way. Every child is different and no one knows your child like you do so… you come up with ways to cultivate that bond with your little one. This is why I create space for you to explore some of your options in my Wonderful Weaning Weeks Course. The sooner you start considering these alternatives to bond the sooner you’ll get to trying out new things seeing what does and does not work for you.
Hold your boundaries. Remember why you set out to do this. Remember the wonderful weaning journey you envisioned at the beginning. Keep this vision in mind and it will come. I promise you.
Wishing you all the best of luck and looking forward to working with some of you to help you on your journey.