Breastfeeding & Bottle Feeding: How Do I Wean My Toddler? I'm Tired of Breastfeeding!

Hi BabyShrink! I’m struggling with weaning my 20-month old daughter. I was determined to 'do it right', even though my baby was colicky. I was willing to do ANYTHING to stop the screaming. Hence I became her pacifier. I’m continually bombarded with conflicting advice that ranges from 'It’s wrong to wean a child before they’re ready – wait for her to give it up on her own or she’ll become a sociopath!' to 'It’s sick! Cut her off or we’re calling child services!' (Okay I’m exaggerating but you get the idea!) At this age, we should be able to put her in her bed awake and let her soothe herself to sleep, but the ‘boob addiction’ is severely holding us back. I’ve tried to get her to cuddle a blanket or a 'luvvie' to no avail. Sigh. I have to admit, when it’s late in the evening – she’s overtired, I’m overtired and my nerves are frayed from the screaming, it’s so easy to cave in and let her nurse for 5 minutes. Voila! She’s asleep! Help!

Lorie in Georgia

Dear Lorie,

I think there is more to your question than just how can I get my child to stop nursing? It's a bigger issue. Now that she's a toddler, how can you transition into providing her with the firmer limits that she now needs? She's not a little baby anymore, and is testing and pushing the limits in many ways. And that's a good thing for her, developmentally. But your overall approach to limit-setting becomes very important now. Psychologically, she needs to know that YOU are in charge.

I know some out there feel they have the right to dictate whether, or how long, you breastfeed. (Did you see my post on nursing? If not, click here.) Only YOU can decide when it's time for you to quit nursing. You've made it way past all the medically recommended timelines for nursing. For your own sense of security, talk with her pediatrician about it in advance to make sure things are OK, medically. But it sounds to me like you're ready to be DONE. So now it's about making up your mind and setting the plan.

You'll need Daddy's help here. Decide when the weaning will take place; choose a weekend or other time when it won't be quite so disruptive if you loose some sleep for a couple of days. TALK TO YOUR DAUGHTER ABOUT IT in advance. Tell her that she's a big girl now. Only tiny babies need nursing. She is so big, she can drink from the cup and even eat pizza (or whatever she likes.) Mommy is ready to have her body back. Mommy knows she can learn to sleep without nursing. Soon, we will be all done with nursing (or whatever she calls it; use her terms.) Tell her that Daddy will be helping her get to sleep until she's used to no more nursing. Get ready for a protracted battle. It's OK; she's old enough now to deal with this.

When it's finally bedtime, you should have a contingency plan for yourself. Perhaps go out with a friend, or plug into your iPod, so you don't have to listen to her protest (or feel guilty about it). Even let her see that you're leaving. Be cheerful, and wave goodbye! I bet that she and her Daddy will work it out better than you expect.

For some kids, this can take several nights. For others, one night, and it's done. But it's important that once you start, you don't cave. CONSISTENCY IS THE KEY.

We'll be eagerly awaiting your results back here on BabyShrink. Let us know what happens! And for more posts on TODDLERS, check out this page.


Dr. Heather The BabyShrink