When I was ready to stop breastfeeding, I had no clue how to even get started. After a year of nursing my first son, he showed no interest in weaning. I asked every mom I knew for tips to stop breastfeeding.
Few moms had much advice for me though. They said it would happen eventually.
I’m sure they’re right. All kids wean at some point. But while I wasn’t exactly in any rush, I did want to get the ball rolling.
So if you’re also wondering about how to stop breastfeeding a 1 year old, I’ve made a list of the tips I found as well as an example of a breastfeeding weaning schedule.
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Are you Ready to Stop Breastfeeding?
Deciding when to wean is a very personal choice.
Each breastfeeding journey is unique, so the right time to wean is going to be different for each mom and baby. When possible, avoiding weaning when your little on is sick or there are other major changes occurring might help make the transition a bit easier.
Though I focused here on how to stop breastfeeding a 1 year old or older toddler, some of the same tips apply to younger babies. A big difference is that at 12 months, babies can switch from breastmilk to whole milk. Keep in mind that younger babies would be weaning off breastfeeding to formula or expressed breast milk.
Weaning can be a challenge for toddlers though since they can have strong opinions and are able to make them known. They can usually communicate in one way or another when they want to breastfeed and may be very unhappy about a disruption to their routine.
Some lucky moms have toddlers that self wean. If your toddler is getting most of their nutrition from meals, drinks well from a cup, and is nursing less often they might be self weaning.
But toddlers can be stubborn creatures. So, what if mom is ready to be done breastfeeding, but her toddler is not?
Tips to Stop Breastfeeding
Slow and Steady
Weaning is a process. Stopping breastfeeding suddenly can be painful and frustrating. First of all, your baby is likely to resist the abrupt change. Secondly, by stopping too quickly can cause breast engorgement which can lead to mastitis (a serious and painful infection).
Unfortunately, sometimes it is not possible to wean slowly. If you need help figuring out how to stop breastfeeding quickly, I suggest contacting a lactation consultant or your doctor to avoid potential problems.
Drop 1 Feeding at a Time
Start by dropping the easiest feeding. Which feeding is “easiest” depends on your child and schedule.
A feeding that isn’t associated with sleep is likely to be easier to skip, than one that is part of a naptime or bedtime routine. The bedtime feeding is usually the most difficult and last to go.
To let your milk supply regulate, go a few days before dropping another feeding.
Depending on how quickly you want to wean, you can start by simply not offering the feeding or completely dropping it
Decrease Length of Feeding
You can slowly decrease the length of your nursing sessions either as an alternative to or in addition to dropping feedings 1 at a time.
This may be especially helpful if your child is very persistent about wanting to nurse frequently.
Decreasing time is also a great method if your pumping.
Distraction is Your Best Friend
If you’re wondering how to skip a feeding without causing a meltdown or how to get your little one to stop nursing before they’re finished, the best method is distraction.
Those short toddler attention spans are good for something.
Be ready with books, songs, or a special new toy to divert their attention when they want to breastfeed.
Personally, going outside to play is a great distraction for my little ones. Taking a walk or going to playground keeps them busy with something other than nursing.
Change Up Your Routine
If you expect that your toddler will resist skipping a feeding, you may want to switch your routine around to make it easier.
Do something totally different from your usual routine.
Do you normally breastfeed in a certain chair or room? Stay in a different area of the house, go outside, to a store, playground, or friend’s house at your usual feeding time.
By anticipating and avoid your normal nursing routine and your toddler is much less likely to even notice that you’ve skipped a feeding.
Changing the bedtime routine might be necessary to drop that feeding especially if it associated with sleep. Switching around feeding with books or songs so that breastfeeding is not the last thing you do before your child falls asleep might help.
Offer Food and Drinks
As you cut back on nursing, your child needs to make up those missed calories and nutrients.
To make sure your little one is getting enough nutrition through other foods you can offer a meal or snack in place of a nursing session.
Also, eating their favorite snack makes a great distraction for a stubborn toddler. Your child could also just be thirsty when they want to nurse and a cup of water or milk might work instead.
For a toddler that doesn’t like to drink regular milk, you can try offering breast milk in a cup instead of nursing. Then mixing the breast milk with whole milk in decreasing proportions.
Some toddlers are picky about what types of cups they’ll take. Keep trying different cups. To save money, borrow cups from friends instead of buying tons of them trying to find the one they’ll actually like.
Even if you aren’t skipping feedings yet, it can help ease into weaning by offering food before breastfeeding.
Give Extra Cuddles
Breastfeeding offers more than just nutrition. By skipping feedings you’re also skipping a time of closeness and comfort for your toddler.
Make up for this loss with some extra cuddles or another one on one bonding activity.
If your toddler is very persistent, it might be time to call in some help.
You may find that they are perfectly fine without breastfeeding when mom isn’t around and they’re with another caregiver.
It can easier to have someone else help out to initially break the habit.
Many moms find that having another caregiver for bedtime is necessary to drop that feeding.
Prepare for Emotions
Many moms have mixed emotions about weaning. Stopping breastfeeding is often bittersweet.
You may be excited about the new freedom of no longer breastfeeding or sad that your baby is growing so quickly and this phase is over.
So whether you’re happy, relieved, on the brink of tears, or all of the above, just know that a wide range of emotion is totally normal.
How to Make your Own Breastfeeding Weaning Schedule
When I was trying to figure out how to wean my first, I felt overwhelmed and a bit confused about how to get started. There isn’t any one right way to wean, so instead figure out is the best way for you and your child.
I love a having a plan!
I made myself a breastfeeding weaning schedule to follow with my first. I was pumping at work, nursing at home, and wanted to slowly cut back. I combined decreasing time and dropping feedings to gradually wean.
Want to make a weaning plan that works for you?
Start at the end. Decide when you want to be done and reverse plan from there. This gives you a timeline, whether its days, weeks, or months.
Then decrease your feedings according to your timeline. Drop a feeding every few days? Every week?
Or you can take a less structured approach and just start by dropping the easiest feeding, see how it goes, and wait until you feel ready to drop another feeding.
Here is an example of my breastfeeding weaning schedule:
I was feeding and pumping at least 6 times each day (wake-up, mid-morning, midday, afternoon, bedtime, overnight) when my first child turned 1 year old. I took a little over a month to stop pumping and feeding during the day.
First week – Drop midday feeding/pump
Second week – Decrease mid-morning feeding/pump by 1 minute each day
Third week – Drop mid-morning feeding/pump
Fourth week – Decrease afternoon feeding/pump by 1 minute each day
Fifth week – Drop afternoon feeding/pump
I went very slow since I’d had issues with oversupply and plugged ducts. Using this method, I didn’t have any discomfort or engorgement while weaning.
I didn’t have a specific timeline so we continued nursing in at wake up and bedtime for a few more months.
I didn’t really intentionally drop the overnight feeding so much as just waited until my son slept through the night at 13 months.
The bedtime feeding was the last to go. The last month I stopped offering, but wouldn’t refuse. One night he didn’t ask and that was the end.
I realize that my own experience won’t work for many others, but hopefully it can give you some ideas for your own.
Weaning can be challenging and I spent lots of time looking for tips to stop breastfeeding my 1 year old. Ultimately, weaning my first was fairly painless for both of us.
Hey moms! Do you have any other tips that helped you wean from breastfeeding?