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How to Wean Your Toddler from Extended Breastfeeding

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Reclaim your breasts without distress!
So the time has finally come to wean your toddler from breastfeeding, but you may be worried that the sudden change will cause an outpouring of emotions from your little one. With the help of a few tips specifically for moms doing extended breastfeeding, you can actually go through the weaning process without tears—from either of you!

When I started having children, I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed them. After my first child was born, I was not able to nurse for very long, and I always felt a little defeated having to switch my baby to formula. The second time around, I decided to educate myself as much as possible, and instead of breastfeeding for a few months, I was able to extend the breastfeeding for more than 3 1/2 years.

Extended breastfeeding provided my daughter with amazing nourishment that not only boosted her immunity but also allowed both of us to build a special bond. As the perfect human food, breast milk provided her with just the right amount of proteins, enzymes, carbohydrates, and fats for the proper development of her growing body and mind. Not only will extended breastfeeding benefit your child, but it can also benefit you. A Yale University study found that breastfeeding can reduce your risk of getting breast cancer by 50 percent if you nurse for more than 2 years, whether for one baby or cumulatively during your lifetime. Now that's a good reason to lactate!

Gracefully make your breast exit
To a toddler who has had free rein over your breasts for so long, it can feel shocking to have such an attachment suddenly ripped away. Who wouldn't feel upset about that? Weaning without stress means preparing ahead of time so that you will know how to react in the moment and how to keep your child effectively distracted.

  • Be casual. If you feel uptight and nervous about limiting your breastfeeding sessions, your child will pick up on it. He may sense that something has changed and will become stressed, leading him to want to nurse for comfort. Try to avoid acting emotionally about weaning, and don't draw attention to any changes that might occur.
  • Keep snacks handy. Provide toddler-friendly snacks as much as possible throughout the weaning process to sate your child's appetite and to keep her from wanting to put something in her mouth. When your toddler has easy access to snacks, she will become less likely to come to you for milk.
  • Keep busy. Plan as many fun and interactive activities as possible for your child throughout the day to keep him occupied and help him forget about your breasts. They can be as simple as playing with modeling clay, drawing with sidewalk chalk, or making snacks.
  • Take a hike. Getting a breath of fresh air can shift the attention of a toddler away from nursing. Try to spend as much time as you can outdoors with your child, whether you take short walks through the woods or just play in the backyard.
  • If at first you don't succeed ... If your first attempt to wean your toddler doesn't pan out, try not to beat yourself up. Every child has different physiological and emotional needs, so if weaning doesn't work right away, just keep trying. Listen to your child's needs while gently transitioning her to a new breast-free lifestyle.

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