It is interesting how variable to culture of breast/chest feeding is depending on where you live in the world. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing for at least 12 months whereas the WHO recommends at least 2 years.
Whether you nursed for 4 days, weeks, months or years. Well done!
When you're ready to wean completely or just feel like you need to cut back a bit.
Don't try to stop abruptly - it can be traumatic and painful for both you and your child. A gradual approach is generally preferred. You're not trying to quit smoking, just trying to change routines.
How to Wean
At this stage you're baby's whole world and if you're around baby may want to nurse still.
Try to have someone else take charge of one feeding at a time. Gradual changes will benefit both you and your baby.
If your little one accepts a bottle or feedings from another individual slowly try to be the one initiating alternative sustenance. You may want to express some of your own milk for this process, it will help your body to realize that milk production is slowing.
If you become engorged express enough milk for relief - try not to empty your breast entirely as your body will simply refill it.
Distractions from normal nursing sessions are going to be helpful as well. If baby is busy and unaware that they have missed the opportunity to breast/chest feed the session will probably not be missed.
Shorten the length of time that you nurse for.
Nighttime feedings might be more challenging. If you are co-sleeping now might be the appropriate time to get baby into a bed or crib away from you so that smell of you is further removed.
If possible prevail upon your partner or other trusted family member to try to take over night time wake ups and feedings until baby gets the message.
As your child grows so does their personality, ability to reason and understand, sometimes also their own will... Good thing toddlers are generally busy.
As your baby grows into this stage you may be able to set some restrictions about when, where and how long you nurse for.
Try to offer alternatives to your breast, like a new and very exciting sippy cup or a snack.
Requesting the help of other adults to share in the feeding responsibilities will also help your child to understand that you are not the only one who can provide them with something delicious and comforting.
Distractions and deviations from your established routine are also beneficial at this stage. If you toddler is too busy with something else your nursing time will quickly be forgotten or ignored completely.
Bedtime and nighttime feedings are likely to be the last feeding to completely wean from. If you are co-sleeping the idea of a "big boy" or "big girl" bed might entice your child into their own room and for many toddlers if you are out of sight you may also be out of mind.
Remember, there is not set amount of time you should nurse your child for, if nursing is still something that works for you and you want to continue with your toddler there is no reason not to. Don't forget to express some of your milk through this process so you do not become engorged and miserable.
Complimentary Modalities for Weaning Help
Stanya Apanayana is the process of slowing down breastfeeding and introducing cereals.
The Kashyapa Samhitha recommends preparing Shashtika Shali, a navara rice and grain based cereal to mix with breast milk to aid in the weaning process.
This rice has dosha balancing properties and is good for both mother and baby.
Herbs for when you're ready to wean:
Barley sprouts (麦芽)
Xiao Yao San Combination(逍遥散): ginseng, white peony root, largehead atractylodes rhizome, buplerum root, sclerotium root, Chinese liquorice root, mint leaves, ginger, and mimose bark.
Please seek the help of skilled practitioner in the preparation of teas or decoctions. In the wrong doses even natural herbs can be dangerous and we do not want you to pass anything on to your baby.
Bryonia Alba (wild hops) - useful in suppressing milk flow during lactation and weaning.
Croton Tigium (jamaal gota) - use for breastfeeding pains that shoot into your back.
Lac Caniunum (dog's milk) - helps to dry up milk during weaning.
Pulsitilla (wind flower) - helpful for the process of weaning.
Silicea (flint) - helps to reduce sharp pains associated with breastfeeding.
Herbs used to reduce the production of breast milk can be taken as a tea or incorporated into your foods.
Cabbage leaves due to their shape can be chilled and used as cool compresses to relieve breast inflammation.
It will make my life easier...
Many nursing individuals feel like they are tethered to their baby by the nipple. Being a human pacifier seldom sounds appealing, nor is it something that you can add to your resume.
Initiating weaning will initiate changes in your relationship with your child. Be prepared for tantrums and stubbornness - don't anticipate this process to make your life easier, certainly not in the beginning.
If you are trying to appease the breast/chest feeding haters in your life tell them nicely to bugger off. Weaning needs to be your choice not because you are being criticized by someone who isn't the mother to your child. You deserve to surround yourself with people who support your parenting decisions (this goes beyond feeding).
If you are returning to work you are legally permitted to have a safe place to pump should you choose to go that route. Lots of new parents continue to nurse after they have returned to work, if you want to you can too.
Sometimes it is necessary for you to start a medication for your own health and you will need to stop nursing because of potential effects to baby. If you need to start or resume a medication that might impact your ability to nurse talk over the risks and benefits with your doctors. If this is a planned course of treatment gradual change is always preferential to drastic feeding changes so plan ahead to make the entire process less traumatic.
Check your medication here: E-Lactancia.Org
There are other instances when parent and baby need to be separated for medical purposes. One of you is sick or one of you needs to be isolated for health reasons. This can lead to weaning as well whether you're ready or not. Situations like these are not typically something we can prepare for. If you are able to pump and have milk delivered - opt for this, it will help you and baby transition. If not, trust that your baby and your body will adjust. Hand express just enough milk to reduce engorgement if you need to.
Trying to conceive
Breast/chest feeding is a good contraceptive, but it isn't 100%. In fact about 2% of women get pregnant within 6 months post partum if no other birth control is utilized. If your aim is to get pregnant ensure your menstrual cycle has returned and that there are at least 4 hours in between some of your feedings increase your chances of conceiving.
You absolutely can breast/ chest feed and be simultaneously pregnant with your next child. There is no medical reason to stop nursing due to pregnancy and you absolutely are capable of tandem nursing babies of different ages. We totally understand if you don't want to though - your choice completely.
La Leche League has information dedicated to these topics: BREASTFEEDING DURING PREGNANCY AND TANDEM NURSING