So, you’re getting ready to wean your toddler off of breastmilk or bottle and onto training cup or sippy cup.
These are exciting times!
But weaning your toddler can seem like a daunting milestone, as – more than anything – breast and bottle for toddlers often have more of an emotional and comfort quality than just a nutritional purpose. So navigating through this requires thought and care.
Thankfully, we have some great moms who have successfully weaned their toddlers, and are willing to pass on their top tips for weaning toddlers, and we’re passing that on to you, with love.
1. Begin Weaning with the End in Mind
Before you start, make sure that you have everything you need for this transition to be as smooth as possible.
“I am a bit of a compulsive planner,” says Margaret from Somerset West, “so when we discussed weaning Jarryd after his second birthday, I went and bought a few different sippy cups and trainer cups right away. I let him play around with them during bath time so that he was good and used to them before we started actually weaning. It really helped.”
It’s also important to make sure you and your spouse are prepared emotionally for this, as it can mean a few days of grumpiness and tears from your little one, which is hard for a parent to go through.
Even gently weaning your toddler over a few months with the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” method means that you need to have resolved within yourself that this is the way forward, no matter what.
Support each other and encourage each other during difficult patches of weaning.
2. Replacement Strategy
a. Nutritional Replacement
When weaning, have something else to offer in place of the breast or bottle.
Even better if it is something special, like yummy tea or special ‘bunny’ milk.
When its snack time or feeding time, offer this replacement before anything else and more often than not, breast or bottle will not even be asked for.
b. Comfort Replacement
If breast or bottle has been used as a pacifier or comforter up until now, don’t just remove the comfort, rather find something special to replace it with.
Offer the closeness of a cuddle or a nap together, but without offering the usual breast or bottle. Even better if you can offer a special toy or a soft blankie as comfort.
“I found that using a moment where comfort is needed to introduce the blankie worked better than trying to pass it over to Paxton during normal play,” says Candy from Table View, mom of two. “So if she fell and bumped her knee, I’d pick her up and hug her with the blankie. Soon, she was associating comfort with the blankie, and not just with me. Now she sleeps with the blankie.”
Sometimes a simple distraction can stop an impending meltdown from happening.
“Let’s go play outside!” or “Let’s go see what daddy’s doing!” works wonders at distracting a toddler from what they were about to ask for (breast / bottle) or what they were about to do (tantrum).
Your toddler is smarter than you think.
Having a bit of a chat with them about starting to drink with sippy cups and how positive and exciting it is could be all that’s needed to start the weaning process.
4. Role Play
Play has always been a great opportunity for learning.
Use favourite toys and dolls to prepare your child.
“Look! Baby bear is now a big bear and is drinking with a sippy cup! Num num num. Yay for the bear!” is a good place to start.
5. Ask for Help
If you’re always the one getting up during the night to soothe your toddler (by breastfeeding) then ask your spouse to do the getting-up for the next few nights, until toddler understands that comfort is coming, but no milk.
Setting boundaries is healthy in every stage of development, including weaning.
A loving but firm ‘no’ might result in a few unsettled days, but once the message is clear, your toddler will be quite happy and adjusted in a matter of days, and will absolutely love the special cup or yummy drink that has taken the place of the bottle.
Take it a day at a time, and remember, every toddler does eventually wean, and so will yours.