Tear Free Parent Led Weaning

I had a few people ask me about how I weaned Spencer so easily, as I decided to wean my toddler that morning and he was completely weaned by bedtime. I am not going in to the whys of my decision to wean before 2 years, that is best left to a separate post. I understand that is the WHO’s recommended minimum breastfeeding length; however that is a recommendation. Trust me, it was time. Please keep in mind that this is what worked for us. It may or may not work the same for anyone else. Also, I weaned a toddler who was not sleep trained and still nursed to sleep for nap and bedtime. Spencer is 21 months.

Reduce nursing sessions (to only nursing at nap/bedtime)

This happened pretty naturally for us. Over a period of about a month (3 months before my toddler weaned), Spencer just gradually stopped asking to nurse and I stopped offering. I would have loved for him to have naturally weaned by the don’t offer/don’t refuse method, but he relied on nursing to sleep.

Introduce a cup or bottle of milk to the sleep routine

This was no-brainer for us because Spencer had been getting a bottle at sleep times since we started supplementing at 2 months; it just switched from formula to milk at 12 months.Also, over the last few weeks, I slowly transitioned to cold milk from warmed, which makes things easier.

Now, I am going to be completely honest here and admit that my 21 month old toddler still uses a bottle. I don’t particularly care. We will transition to cup or nothing as soon as we can, but right now getting him to sleep is more important to me.

Stop nursing.

This step is arguably both the simplest and most complicated. I’m not enamored with how I did it, but I am morally ok with it. Mostly. I don’t have that many parenting rules, but the biggest is try not to lie which goes hand in hand with don’t make empty threats (which if they are truly empty are technically lies, which renders the whole second rule moot.)

I told him that nursies (what he calls breastfeeding) were broken and that he needed to say bye-bye. I handed him his bottle he drank it and asked to go for a car-ride (which we sometimes do for naps) and he slept without nursing, At bedtime, he fell asleep while drinking the bottle.

The next day, we happened to be out somewhere and he fell asleep for his nap in the car. At bedtime, I told him that nursies were broken and they hurt and he needed to say bye-bye and he fell asleep after two bottles and some quiet time in my arms. And that has pretty much been par for the course – bottle then quiet time then he sleeps and I transfer him.

It has now been almost 2 weeks and we are no long nursing and not a single tear was shed. Bedtime is actually much quicker, because he used to fuss and cry and want to switch from bottle to boob and back again and it could go on for as long as two hours.

Why this worked for us.

Spencer already understood the concepts of hurt, broken and bye-bye. From an early age, I used bye-bye when leaving the park or putting away a toy or turning off a show, in addition to saying goodbye to people.

Spencer falls asleep in the car and transfers well to his crib.

Spencer already fell asleep (sometimes) simply from a bottle.

I have significantly low milk supply, so I didn’t have to worry that it was actually affecting his nurtitional needs.

The aftermath

Spencer still sticks his hand down my shirt.

My boobs did fine, as few sore days, but I think the transition was eased by my supply issues. I had some lumpy parts, but the giant rock hard boob thing didn’t happen.

He does say “nursie bye-bye” when he snuggles in for sleep cuddles, but it is more matter-of-fact than sad.

I do have to drive him for naps a bit more now, still no more than 2 days a week.

I’m pretty pleased with how everything turned out. Spencer’s happy. Bedtimes are easier. I’m happy. Next stop, getting him to sleep on his own.




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11 Responses to “Tear Free Parent Led Weaning”

  1. Denae says:

    Glad everything went smoothly. Weaning is a new concept for me since very few of my family/friends breastfed. Its always nice to learn techniques that worked for others.


    Amy Reply:

    Thanks! I have surprised by the ease of the transition.


  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. My son just turned 16 months and I’ve been thinking about weaning. We’re in the same situation – nursing to sleep at naptime and bedtime. Only thing is, we are co-sleeping and he still nurses at night, at least once or twice. He hates the bottle and have since he was 6 months old. He also refuses a sippy cup. So I carry on, because it’s easier. Sigh.

    I will try some of your ideas, and try transitioning him to sleep on his own at the same time. Fingers crossed!


    Amy Reply:

    One of the main reasons I weaned is that we were still getting up 2-4 times per night and I couldn’t take it any more. I did a decent amount of poking around the internet for tips and most of it was not helpful. but I think Dr Sears had some info on weaning when cosleeping – I think it was wear a shirt without easy access and have the baby sleep by dad, but there may have been more.


  3. TMae says:

    I don’t know why I didn’t think of using a bottle instead of a boob…O asks for them randomly, “Baba! Baba!” He’s be perfectly happy to switch to one for bedtime. I don’t know about naps though. He’s been a bear to get down lately. And the stinker just LAYS DOWN ON A MAT for daycare. Just goes to prove it’s all conditioning.

    Do you miss it AT ALL? I have moments when I think I won’t at all, and then I’ll have a stupid Hallmark moment where he’s dozing off in my arms and I think, “Life won’t be the same without this…”


    Amy Reply:

    He still falls asleep in my lap; that I will miss. Breastfeeding? Not so much. I let it be a struggle and bone of contention for too long, which pushed me past the nostalgic stage. I actually am unable to write the post about why we weaned because I am unable to contain my vitriol.


  4. Suzanne says:

    I am so glad this went well for you. I was terrified of weaning and the only reason we did it at all was because my supply dropped so much during my first trimester that it was INCREDIBLY painful and uncomfortable and just totally made me want to claw my skin off my body. It was AWFUL. Luckily Evan had already dropped several nursing sessions and cutting out the last couple only took one or two tries. We also did the sippy cup of milk at naps and bedtime to replace nursies. I also made E do all the bedtimes for a while (which isn’t an option for everyone) so it was easier for Little Evan to forget about my boobs.

    I’m sad you had to put SO MANY DISCLAIMERS at the top, because, DUDE. You overcame so much to nurse for this longs and it makes me sad that I KNOW people will criticize anyways. Which is so ridiculous I almost hope they do so I can beat the crap out of them.


    Amy Reply:

    I chose to put those disclaimers more to declare I made an informed choice. The natural parenting crew doesn’t read my blog, I’m not super concerned. I’m still so angry about what I found in the comment sections when I was looking for weaning help that I can’t write that post yet.


  5. solar.mama says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I came across this post and your blog by searching for “parent led weaning”. I have a 19 month old who nurses first thing in the morning when he wakes up for about half an hour. We have had a wonderful nursing relationship, and I love that I did this for so long, but it just feels like it’s time to wean. He gave up his other feedings without even noticing, really, but in the mornings he is sleepy and cuddly and wanting “gulk” (which is what he calls mommy milk). Yesterday morning his Dad woke up with him and played with his trains and watched Sprout and I made sure to leave them alone for a bit and then enter the room fully clothed and ready to make him breakfast. But this morning was a different story…he saw me first thing and had a total meltdown, crying for me in the saddest voice and saying “I want gulk! Gulk! Mama! Maaaammmmmaaaa!” I got unexpectedly emotional (guilt?) and I caved and nursed him. My breasts were painful, especially when he was crying. I did not expect that. And I admit I wanted our cuddle time and I was so sad to think that I would never nurse him again. So now I am searching for support…it’s hard to come by because no one in my family nursed past a year and they thought I was weak or crazy to do it this long, and my friends that are parents either weaned really early or are proponents of extended child-led weaning, and encourage me to stick with it. I am half thinking that I shouldn’t try to wean him when I am in PMS mode due to the hormones and emotional mood swings that come with that week of the month! (I got my cycle back six weeks after birth in spite of exclusively breastfeeding.) In any case, I’m going to keep referring back to this post…I’ve bookmarked it. I love your confidence and your positive attitude. You have renewed my faith that I can do this! Thank you!


    Amy Reply:

    Good luck! I think it is fine to start and stop and just do what feels best for you and your child. I also mostly have friends at the extreme ends of the weaning spectrum and it can be a hard thing to discuss. Feel free to email me any time. babybabylemon @ gmail.com


  6. It still remains some like watch the second to do.


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