How do I wean my toddler off breastfeeding?

Your question

I went back to work when my now-18 month old toddler son was a year old, but carried on with one breastfeed in the evenings, as it was a lovely way to retain our bond. But I feel now is a good time to stop. However, when I try to stop him feeding, my son gets really upset and my breasts engorged and painful. How can I wean him off without traumatising him, and ease the pain in my breast?

Our answer

My first question would be, why do you want to stop? If you enjoy the bonding experience I wouldn’t feel any obligation to stop at 18 months, especially if your son is getting upset. Maybe you could carry on for a little longer and then wean him off gradually over a number of weeks.

However, if you want to stop immediately, my next suggestion would be to discuss it with him – at 18 months old toddlers can often understand more than we realise.

Choose a ‘special’ cup together

You could take him shopping to choose a his own ‘special’ cup that he will use for his evening feeds and make it  sound like an exciting treat, rather than an unpleasant alternative to his beloved breastfeeding!

You say you breast-feed in the evenings but what happens if you’re not there? How does he react then? Maybe you could try leaving him with your partner or a friend for a few evenings so that he gets used to a new routine that involves his new cup rather than breastfeeding?

Express before you breastfeed

You might also be able to encourage him to self-wean by being a little bit devious! You could express most of your milk immediately before you feed him so that he gradually uses the breast more for a brief source of comfort than a full feed.

You could also try eating something like garlic which will often affect the taste of the milk, which might make milk from a cup seem more attractive than milk from your breast.

Gradually reduce the amount of milk you make

And finally – the simple solution for coping with engorged breasts is to use a pump to express some of your milk whenever they are uncomfortably full.

If you gradually reduce the amount of milk you express, your supply will start diminishing until you get to the point where you can stop altogether.

Clare Byam-Cook is author of What to Expect when you’re Breastfeeding… and what if you Can’t?