Toddler-led weaning tactics

Jennifer’s two-and-a-half-year-old daughter has bid adieu to the breast. Here she shares what toddler-led weaning is really like.

Photo by Desiree Fawn via Flickr.

When I first purchased my ticket to Blissdom several months ago, my first panicked thought was, “What if Gillian is still breastfeeding?”  
I really wanted to follow my daughter’s lead when it came to weaning mostly because baby-led weaning with Isaac was so lovely, and I hoped for a similar experience with Gillian. Of course, no two children are alike and, as Gillian and I made it past 21 months (when our son self-weaned), then 2 years… then 2.5 years… then potty trained in a day… well, I dreaded that without a little encouragement that she’d be asking for breastmilk right after asking for the car keys. I found the bigger she got the less I enjoyed breastfeeding and I really wanted our last nursing days to be happy memories for both of us. A weekend away at Blissdom provided our family with a deadline to work towards.
So I read everything I could about toddler weaning, wanting to strike a middle ground between cutting Gillian off cold turkey and Mayim Bialik’s weaning party and scrapbook. All of my fears were the same as Bialik’s — that my daughter’s tears would be too much for me to handle. After all, we’d tried night weaning a few months earlier and the result was a little girl who was hysterical for hours, a mama full of guilt and feeling like a failure and both of us exhausted by the attempt and weaning was abandoned.
Last week, we gave it another try. Opposite to the approach most parents make, we dropped the daytime sessions first, opting instead to let her nurse as often as she needed at night. On my end, it was a bit of a selfish choice — I sleep better if she nurses back to sleep quickly. During the day it was easy to distract her with another activity. Surprisingly, Gillian was OK being told no.
The next step was bedtime nursing. While I know my tactic here won’t be popular, I swapped out breastfeeding for a small bottle of soy milk. I’m gradually diluting the soy milk with water and right now we are at 50/50 water and soy milk. Every dentist, paediatrician and parenting expert will shudder for their own reasons (such as dental health and replacing one sleep crutch with another) but for us, it’s the right answer for right now. 
Finally, we took on the middle-of-the-night nursing. The one I dreaded the most went better than expected. I offer a bottle of watered down soy milk or a cuddle and most times she chooses to cuddle. Now the cuddles aren’t comfortable — there is a lot of pinching and twiddling and fidgeting while she settles down — and most nights it takes me a long time to fall back asleep. That said, trying to sleep with a restless 25lb human latched on wasn’t comfortable either.
The real test of our gentle weaning was this past weekend. Running in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon meant that I needed to stay overnight in the city and Mr. P was on bedtime duty. We were both nervous, but explained to Gillian that I would be running and not home at bedtime or in the morning. Around 8:00 p.m. on race night I got a text from my husband that our daughter hugged him tight as she dozed off and the next morning as I laced up he sent me another text saying she slept through until 5:30 a.m. Mission Tear-Free Toddler Weaning was accomplished. 
What was your toddler-weaning experience like?

Photo by Desiree Fawn via Flickr.

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