Alternatives to Nursing
I’ve been weaning my 23-month-old for quite some time (she was only nursing before naps and nighttime) then since I’m pregnant, my milk has stopped. It’s been a rough couple of days. Is it ok to offer a pacifier as an alternative to nursing? She never took one before but seems to really need it now. Are there other ways to wean her from nursing since I cannot produce milk at this time?
Steps to Wean Your Toddler from Nursing
First, I offer you a double congratulations: being pregnant with your second baby and breastfeeding your first baby for 23 months. You will be happy to know that in recent years nutritional experts have increased the length of time they recommend, moms, to breastfeed. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends: “At least two years of age.” Yet for you, since you’re pregnant with your next baby, your body is naturally telling you it’s time to “nurse” your baby inside and breastmilk-wean your toddler. Here are the steps I used to wean our toddlers for an alternative to nursing:
1. “Nursing” does not imply only breastfeeding.
“Nursing” means comforting. So, your challenge is to find other ways and other people to “nurse” your toddler. Yes, it’s okay to offer a pacifier but, that said, she probably won’t go for it. Also, let her simply snuggle against your breast, perhaps letting her put her little hand right on your breast, reassuring her that her familiar touch point is still available. (But since your nipples are very sensitive during pregnancy, make sure she stays well above or below your nipple with that little hand.) Oftentimes, skin-to-skin closeness, the warmth of your breast, and hearing you sing a soothing song, such as: “Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep my little girl…” will be just the “nursing” she needs, especially at nighttime.
You can also continue to use your breast as a “pacifier”, but with a limit on the amount of time, she gets to suck that you agree on ahead of time. Maybe say for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” or count slowly to ten – you will find out just how much of this nipple stimulation you can stand and not lose it. (Yes, I have a few stories!) Eventually, your toddler will get the message that your milk is all gone, and she’ll settle for simply close skin-to-skin touch and the beautiful feelings of just being rocked and soothed in your arms.
2. Father “nursing.”
What really helped me adjust to a few of our reluctant weaners was what Bill called “the hand-off” (he’s a football nut!). Yes, fathers can “nurse”. I would start by nestling our toddler against my breast and when she was about half asleep, I would hand off to Bill for the finishing touches. You’ll be surprised what goofy “nursing” methods dads can come up with. You can go to our website and download “the neck nestle” and “the warm fuzzy” to see our time-tested techniques for father nursing.
What’s most important for the family right now is for you to focus, as much as possible, your mental and physical energy on growing your new baby. It will help to remember that the term “weaning” not only means from the breast but also into other methods of comforting.
Martha Sears, RN
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”