This fast, gentle weaning method worked for our toddler in less than one week. There were minimal tears involved and by the end of the week she was sleeping through the night!
When to wean a baby
There is no right time to wean your baby. Some babies will wean themselves. Others need a bit of gentle encouragement. Some mamas hit their breaking point and just have had enough and want to stop. While others breastfeed well into toddler years. All of these are the right choices. The decision is yours alone to make.
Why I weaned my baby
After a long, stressful battle with eczema and dietary restrictions that tanked my milk supply, I was praying to make it one year. When the pandemic began and I started working from home, our baby was six-months-old. I immediately ditched the pump and went back to exclusively breastfeeding. I am so thankful we had that opportunity because I’m not sure our breastfeeding journey would have lasted as long as it did otherwise.
Once we hit month 12, I thought I would be ready to stop breastfeeding, but mentally I wasn’t there yet. Another month went by and another month went by. Then, I found out I was pregnant with our second baby just as our little one turned 17 months old.
Tandem nursing wasn’t of interest to me. And suddenly I wanted to give my boobs a break … fast! The magic plans I had for her to wean herself just didn’t happen and I wanted to find the most gentle weaning method possible with minimal tears.
After a lot of research, I created a method that I thought would work for us. A lot of mamas have been asking how I was able to do it so easily. Below is the success method for how I weaned my breastfed baby in less than one week.
Why choose a gentle weaning method?
Breastfeeding is designed to promote feel-good hormones for both mama and baby. From an emotional and hormonal standpoint, cold-turkey weaning methods can hinder your success by causing distress. From a physical standpoint, it can cause discomfort, engorgement, and clogged milk ducts which could lead to mastitis and other medical concerns. When you’re ready to wean your baby from breastfeeding, have patience with yourself and with your baby. It’s a new stage for the both of you!
How to successfully wean a breastfed baby using this gentle weaning method
I think one factor for successfully weaning our breastfed baby was that our little one was a bit older and could comprehend the concepts I was introducing. Mainly, that her “milkies” had a boo-boo and that boo-boos equated to bad tasting milk.
Because every baby and situation is different, for your comparison, here was our nursing situation at the time I decided to wean:
- On average, our little one was nursing 2-3 times per day. She would nurse in the afternoon when she got home from daycare, sometimes around dinner time, and she would wake up in the middle of the night to feed. She sometimes was interested in nursing before bed (not always), but she did not nurse to sleep.
- We had tried reading books about weaning, but she wanted nothing to do with them. In fact, when I even suggested the idea she would knock the book out of my hands as if to say, “No mama. That’s not happening!” I knew we needed another method!
- Miss 17-months was still waking up once per night to nurse consistently. She had slept through the night sporadically so we knew she could do it with some gentle encouragement. We spent a lot of time evaluating her sleep patterns, making adjustments to her nap schedule, and ensuring she was set up successfully to sleep through the night. She fell asleep on her own in her crib, drowsy, but awake when we put her down. And after attempting the most reasonable methods for getting her to sleep through the night on her own, her pediatrician advised us that she was likely calorie-dependent on that night feeding. I took this into account for the method below.
Here are some other factors you may want to consider that could affect how successful you are with the gentle weaning method below:
- How many times a day is your baby nursing? If nursing is their primary means for nutrition and your little one is not yet dependent on solids, you’ll likely need greater involvement from your support person. Younger babies may require a different method than the one outlined below. (Such as substituting a bottle of breastmilk given by your partner or support person.) If your little one is eating solids regularly and supplementing with breastmilk, this weaning method is likely to be more successful for you.
- Has your baby slept through the night at all on their own yet? Knowing whether your baby can sleep through the night can greatly reduce the stress you may feel when weaning your baby. Also, there is a chance that if your baby hasn’t yet been able to sleep through the night, they may continue to wake up regularly and you’ll be finding alternate ways to comfort them that are less convenient and more time consuming than nursing. This equals a more tired mama! So just take that into consideration and have patience with yourself and your baby.
- Have you done anything to introduce the concept of weaning, or that your baby will no longer need mama’s milk? If not, approach the topic in advance positively and encouragingly. Explain that all babies stop nursing when a baby gets old enough for big kid food, and that weaning is a positive thing in their life rather than a negative consequence.
- Is your baby teething? Sick? Or otherwise affected by an outside factor that may interfere with successful weaning? If your baby is experiencing a temporary setback, it’s best to wait until they’ve popped that tooth or are no longer sick for best results.
How I Weaned my Breastfed Baby in Less than a Week – The Plan
What you’ll need:
- Bandages that will fit over your nipples (such as this, or you can use gauze and hypoallergenic medical tape)
- A travel-size spray bottle
- Distilled white vinegar (found at the supermarket in the condiments isle or with the oils)
- Outfits with pockets so you can keep the spray bottle with you at all times
- A way to track your progress (see here)
- A new lovie or cuddle toy (our little one LOVES this one)
Put bandages on your boobs so your nipples are covered. Let your baby explore as usual and if they ask to nurse, show them your bandages and say “Mommy’s [insert whatever you call them here] have a boo-boo and it’s broken. Would you like to give them a hug and make them feel better? How about we [cuddle/read a book/insert activity] instead?”
There may be some increased curiosity or tears the first day. It’s normal for them to feel upset. Our little one kept looking down my shirt and saying, “boo boo!” She got extra cuddles and I made sure to spend extra time doing things she loved.
On Day 1, we successfully had 0 day feeds. She woke once overnight. I chose to let her nurse that night while we focused on eliminating the day feeds.
Put bandages on your boobs so your nipples are covered. Again, when she asked to nurse, I reinforced that I had a boo-boo and that we could cuddle or do another fun activity instead.
On Day 2, we successfully had 0 day feeds and she slept through the night!
On Day 3, I eliminated the bandages entirely and switched to using a spray bottle filled with straight vinegar. Nasty, I know. I HATE how vinegar smells. But it would be yucky tasting and non-toxic. (Other mamas have tried this weaning balm, but it’s pricey and I already had vinegar in the house so I went with the free option.) The spray bottle I got from the travel section at the store.
Throughout the day, I would discreetly spray my boobs with vinegar. When she expressed interest in nursing, I would quickly distract her and spray again, and then let her have access to my boobs. I would say that they still have a boo-boo but wouldn’t completely discourage her from trying to nurse if she asked. Instead, she latched once or twice, realized they tasted yucky, immediately pulled off, and didn’t try latching again.
On Day 3, we had 0 day feeds.
On Night 3, however, she woke up looking to nurse. I sprayed the vinegar as I had all day. Despite the vinegar, she nursed and didn’t care. This reinforced our suspicion that she was waking up for the calories and was hungry, rather than out of habit for comfort. So the next day, to help address this concern, I focused on filling her belly as much as possible in the dinner and evening hours with protein.
Sprayed my boobs with vinegar throughout the day. She usually referred to my boobs as being broken or having boo-boos. Throughout the day I tried to offer her as much protein as possible, usually ham or turkey, and gave her a snack with her water before bed.
On Day 4, we had 0 day feeds.
On Night 4, however, she woke up. This was the night I resisted nursing her. I still had vinegar on my boobs and I let her know that mommy’s milkies were broken and had a boo-boo. This is when I introduced the new snuggle toy. I chose to get a special comfort toy to give her because “milkies knew she’d be sad.”
I offered her lots of cuddles, the glow toy and some animal crackers and water. This was the most difficult of all the nights because she would settle for a bit, then fuss again. In total, it took about an hour to get her back to sleep.
BUT SHE DIDN’T NURSE!
The Following Days:
The following days all looked the same. The nights varied a bit. On Night 5 she woke up but put herself back to sleep. Then on Night 6 she slept through the night again. Night 7 she woke up but put herself back to sleep. On Night 8, she woke up wanting milkies. I noticed she was more likely to wake up if she didn’t eat a good dinner or snack beforehand so I tried as much as I could to fill her up. It definitely helped!
So there you have it. How I weaned my breastfed baby in less than a week using a gentle weaning method with virtually no tears.
I’d love to hear about your success with this method, or about what other gentle weaning methods have worked for you! Drop me a note in the comments. And don’t forget to subscribe!
Motherhood doesn’t come with a manual, but check out these roadmaps to make your motherhood journey easier!
- A Practical Mama’s Roadmap Pregnancy Bundle [Pregnancy Workbooks]Product on sale
- Planning for Delivery [Workbook]Product on sale
- Budgeting for Baby [Workbook]Product on sale
- Making the Most of Nesting [Pregnancy Guide E-Book]Product on sale