Abrupt weaning for toddlers

Some mothers prefer to abruptly wean their toddler (1 to 2 years of age) from the breast or the bottle. This approach may be best suited for a toddler who nurses fewer than 3 times a day. When weaning abruptly, choose a time when you do not anticipate other major changes in your or your toddler's life and when you have extra time to spend with your child.

In an abrupt approach for weaning toddlers from the breast, some mothers just say “no” and offer distractions, such as reading a book while holding the toddler on her lap (which provides the close contact the child wants) or suggesting a walk or ride on a tricycle or a trip to a playground or sandbox.

Another technique is to make the breast less available by forgoing nursing bras and wearing layers of clothing.

Separating a breast-feeding mother from the toddler for a few days is another way of abrupt weaning. The child should stay with a trusted caregiver, such as a spouse, grandparent, or other family member. Since the mother is not available for breast-feeding, the child adjusts to the other caregivers and over time comes to accept that breast-feeding is not necessary. If the mother is gone for less than a week, the child may ask to breast-feed again when she returns but will often accept a refusal without too much complaining.

When abruptly weaning from the bottle, many parents make it a “grand and grown-up day.” Make a big announcement that “today is the day you'll eat like big brother [or dad, or cousin].” Celebrate by having the toddler throw out the old nipples and bottles and by taking him or her to the store to pick out a personal cup. The bottle may be a comfort object, so replace it with hugs and attention or another comfort object, such as a stuffed animal.

You can also anticipate feeding time, and when it approaches, offer your toddler a snack. If this is filling, it may take the child's mind off the feeding.

Last Updated: June 19, 2008

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