Sometimes we find that we are so “touched out” from nursing that we want to just wean. Maybe your toddler still wants to nurse every 2 hours, or all night long. Maybe you are pregnant and nursing has become painful. Maybe your child is just nursing more often than you would like. Nursing is a relationship, which means that both mother and baby have to be satisfied with the arrangement. If you are not happy with how it is going, you can make changes. You don’t have to be a martyr. But you don’t necessarily have to wean completely either, you can try just cutting down on nursing until you feel like you can handle it. Intentionally cutting down on nursing is sometimes called spot weaning or partial weaning. This is what I did when I was pregnant and still nursing Munchkin, when she was 2.5 years old. I was able to get her down from nursing 5 times per day, including overnight, to nursing only twice per day, and that felt manageable enough for me that I didn’t feel the need to wean her completely. Here are some of the methods I used for partial weaning.
I tried to anticipate when she might be hungry or thirsty and offer her something else before she thought to ask for milk. If she wanted to nurse anyway, she might be satisfied to “touch the mommy’s milk instead of drink the mommy’s milk” she would put her hand on my nipple and cuddle me instead of nursing.
Sometimes she would want to nurse just because she was bored, so I tried to keep her busy enough that she wouldn’t think of it. Outside time was a great distraction for Munchkin and she wouldn’t even think about nursing. I also avoided sitting in my usual chair, because that was a trigger for her to ask to nurse. Instead, I sat at the kitchen table and stood up a lot for a while.
I night-weaned Munchkin at 27 months when I got pregnant with Sweets. I have a whole post on night-weaning because there were several stages, but at the end I told her that we would nurse later or in the morning. I also used postponement during the day to delay nursing by telling her that we would nurse at bedtime.
If she really wanted to nurse, I might allow her “just a short one” instead of letting her nurse as long as she wanted. I let her nurse for the length of a song or story of my choice.
5- Changing the routine
After Sweets was born and I was tandem nursing, I limited Munchkin to nursing only first thing in the morning when she woke up and last thing at night before bed; the rest of the time, only Sweets nursed. This got us into a certain routine though, where she was nursing at those times because she expected it then. I had to change up the routine so that she didn’t expect to nurse at particular times. After that, she only asked to nurse because she really wanted to, and not just out of routine, and that decreased her requests for nursing significantly.
I used partial weaning to get to a place where I felt I could handle continuing to nurse. Munchkin has kept nursing for over a year after this, so partial weaning did not lead to complete weaning for us. While I feel committed to allowing Munchkin to decide when she is ready to wean completely, I also feel that partial weaning was helpful to me in being able to continue to commit to child-led weaning.