I didn't set out planning to breastfeed my son until he was 3 years old. In the beginning I thought I would nurse him until he self-weaned, which I assumed would happen sometime around 18 months. But just like all those back-labor techniques I thought would work but didn't, self-weaning did not happen. Eighteen months came and went. Two years old. Two-and-a-half. Still no weaning in sight. Meanwhile, I was DONE with the breastfeeding. So I had to initiate plan B: Weaning the toddler. Here's what I learned.
1. Remember: It's going to be okay. My son survived the emotional turmoil of having his favorite soothing activity taken away from him. I swear. He cried sometimes, and so did I. But in the end he was fine and accepted the change.
2. Do it in stages. Rather than going cold turkey, I cut back on nursing sessions, leaving the most important comfort/bonding sessions for last. In our case, this was first thing in the morning and bedtime.
3. Talk it out. Since I was dealing with a very verbal toddler instead of an infant, I was able to talk it over with my son. I told him he was getting older, and it was time to start breastfeeding less because he was becoming a big boy. (I left out the bit about how breastfeeding was turning me mental at this point.) I let him say how he felt about it in his way.
4. Keep cuddling and carry on. I just took away the breastfeeding, but I left the cuddling. I think this made it easier on both of us. My son still got that important physical comfort and assurance from me. We didn't ditch the ritual altogether, just changed it a little.
5. Give yourself some credit. I had to keep reminding myself that I'd given my son a great foundation by breastfeeding for as long as I did. It sounds insane now, but I felt guilty weaning my son even then. Sure, I was depriving him of his favorite thing in the world (or so it seemed). But he'd enjoyed the maximum benefits an infant and toddler can get out of breastfeeding. We had a strong bond, and the best thing I could do for that bond was to strengthen it in new, more age-appropriate ways.
What's your advice for weaning a toddler?