If it's right for you and your toddler, extended breastfeeding can have many benefits for you both. According to the Mayo Clinic, breastfeeding supplies your growing child with just the right levels proteins, carbohydrates, fats and enzymes, as well as of immune-boosting antibodies, cells and hormones. Studies from the Yale School of Medicine also show that extending breastfeeding for at least two years throughout your lifetime could actually decrease your risk of developing breast cancer by 50 percent.
If the time has come to start the weaning process, however, you'll want to make this transition as painless as possible - for both of you! Here are some tips to help you wean your toddler.
Extended breastfeeding creates a dynamic where your child feels comforted, connected and safe, but weaning doesn't have to mean that the attachment you've created suddenly disappears. When it comes to weaning a toddler, it's all about preparation, patience and planning.
Snack It Up
It can be helpful to provide a toddler who uses breastfeeding for both snacking and soothing with additional snacks throughout the day. Easy-to-grab snacks like crackers, yogurt or fruit help keep your toddler from coming to you out of hunger, and calms a child looking for something to put in their mouth.
Keep It Casual
Your toddler is used to regular breastfeeding throughout the day, and focusing on the fact that your breasts are now off limits can cause unnecessary stress. This can also make your child want to nurse even more to calm their anxiety. Act as casual as you can about the situation, and avoid drawing attention to the transition or getting emotional about weaning in front of your child.
A busy toddler is a happy toddler, especially during the weaning process. Keep your child as busy as you possibly can with hands-on activities and crafts that will prevent them from thinking about nursing. Try covering a table top with toddler-friendly craft supplies, like construction paper, chenille sticks and playdough, which can keep even the most active little ones occupied.
Spend Time Outdoors
Toddlers are made for the outdoors, which provides enough relaxation and stimulation to draw the attention away from the fact that you're not breastfeeding anymore. Even if you don't have a nature center or park nearby, simply taking a walk around your neighborhood or playing in the yard can do the trick.
When it comes time to wean, remember to be patient and supportive with your toddler, as well as with yourself. This is a big change for you both.
As an award-winning journalist, author, and artist, Kelly Sundstrom has a passion for helping parents feel well-prepared, confident, and capable in the journey ahead. As an Attachment Parenting advocate and homeschooling mother of two, Sundstrom has been a guest speaker on Grassroots TV in Aspen, Colorado, and encourages families across the country to disconnect from media and reconnect with each other.