E.S. asks from Apopka, FL on May 12, 2009
Breastfeeding a Toddler 2+
A little information:
I am still breastfeeding my son who is 2yrs 3months. We co-sleep & I still breastfeed day & night, on demand - mainly to get him to sleep for night or nap or when he is feeling needy. Also, this is the forth child that I have breastfeed, but my other children were weaned very young as I had to go back to a very demanding job.
Although I'm not ready to quit (even though sometimes I think I am!), I am wondering if he will ever wean himself??? I want to wait for self-weaning to happen, but it seems like I hear most women asking how to wean, not saying that their toddler/preschooler weaned themselves? I guess, I'm just looking for some reassurance that it will likely happen before he starts school! Please let me know if you have any input! Thanks!
So What Happened?™
I want to thank everyone for their advice & encouragement. Over the next year or so, I'm just going to encourage "big boy" activities (independence, potty training, sleeping on his own, etc.) From the information that you've shared it seems that this will likely encourage him to "self wean". I may also try some of the natural gentle weaning techniques in your advice as well, at some point, if it seems like we are ready. I have already tried out the "sleep over" in siblings room. This worked out very well! We will be doing that again! Thanks again, E.
S.W. answers from Miami on May 13, 2009
You have older children to help you distract the youngest...You or someone else asked the same question. There are so many options. Google "LaLecheLeague" a great organization of experts on breastfeeding. Good luck!
J.S. answers from Ocala on May 13, 2009
You know... I've been thinking about this too. I have a little boy that just turned 3 and he is still nursing. He only nurses at nap time and bed time but very very rarely ever puts himself to sleep. Basically he has to be extremely exhausted to put himself to sleep. He really doesn't show any signs of self weaning and he is 3!!! So, I started looking into this, especially on La Leche League's web site. I think the thing is that the "natural" human baby age to wean is much older than most women are prepared for. Some articles said it could be as old as 7!!! And I don't know about you but I AM NOT nursing until my child is 7!!! I'm hoping the same thing as you that it will happen before he starts preschool when he's 4. My husband thinks that right now I've been doing it to long... and his mother is also very vocal that she thinks I'm just doing it for myself at this point... which I'm sure you know is just ridiculous. I figure once I get done potty training I'll gently encourage weaning a bit more. I'm hoping that will go well. :)
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P.T. answers from Orlando on May 14, 2009
E. my daughter had the same concerns when she was breast feeding my grand daughter. What she did was started to slowly take one feeding time away and in place of feeding she would have a good snack or depending on time of day have a little project that they would do together. Art, coloring, cut & paste projects-you'll see that your toddler will love this time with you & will be learning too.
Taking away the nap & night time my daughter talked with my grand baby telling her that the boo-boo had gone bye-bye and when Jade would make a fuss for the boo-boo my daughter would hold & rock her, never getting upset. Before you know it your baby will be fast asleep. Like I said it is harder on mommy than toddler!
Doing this took about 3 weeks,baby was off brest and never sucked a bottle. She went from brest to cup.
Try this and you'll see how easy it is, usually this process is harder on the mom than your toddler!
S.M. answers from Miami on May 13, 2009
Kids sometimes wean themselves, but not always. Kids who breastfeed generally LOVE it because it tastes good, the warmth and comfort and attention are beyond compare, and they don't like to make changes to things that feel good.
So that's the challenge. Now, do you ever give your son relief bottles? Does he drink from a cup during the day? You might want to gently, GENTLY emphasize drinking from a cup now that he's a big boy. Your older children can also help encourage him to spend more time with cups than with the breast, again, because he's a really big boy now. Maybe you can encourage a kind of slumber party between him and the older kids -- that way, he won't be sleeping next to you, and you will be less handy to breastfeed him at night. Maybe start off with a kind of slumber party experiment once a week, and then increase it after a few weeks until he gets used to sleeping without you.
Again, you want to emphasize that he's a growing boy, a big boy, and let him know that there is a next stage in life, without making him feel like he's behind the times or anything. Encourage his independence in this area of his life. It's going to take a little bit of time to redirect him, but if you keep it positive, he should be fine.
A.P. answers from Port St. Lucie on May 13, 2009
First - congratulations on your extraordinary commitment to breastfeeding!
I bf my two children and each weaning experience was different. My son self-weaned somewhere around 18 months. It was a very gradual process; so much so, that I can't even remember when the last feeding happened. I just realized one day that he hadn't nursed in a couple of days.
My daughter was a different story. She self-weaned down to 3x a day (upon waking, nap & bed time) by about 18 months but wouldn't go any further. My husband and I really wanted her to self wean, too, and hoped she would, but we also wanted to try for another baby (I am one of the few who cannot conceive if there is even one drop of milk in my body) so we made the decision to begin the weaning process when she turned two if we didn't get pregnant before then. A few weeks after her birthday we began to eliminate the sessions. It took about 2 months but it went very well. I do believe she would have weaned on her own eventually - she just seemed to need it a bit longer than her brother and that was perfectly ok with us. We knew she would not be nursing forever...the baby years goes by so fast we weren't in any rush to push the end of nursing.
Don't worry, I'm pretty sure, you won't have a school-aged nurser on your hands! And, even if you do have to help the weaning process along, you'll know in your heart when the time is right and it will all go just fine. In the meantime, enjoy nursing your little one...as you already know, they grow so fast and they'll be grown before you know it.
B.K. answers from Tallahassee on May 13, 2009
I've heard of them weening around age 3 but mine seemed like she never would so we had a milk party for her 3rd b-day and I gradually weened her by that day and celebrated with all kinds of soy milk, chocolate milk, nut and seed milks, etc.
L.T. answers from Jacksonville on May 13, 2009
hi, E.. i am breastfeeding my 21 month old son, and breastfed his big sister until she was just over two. i don't have experience with completely child-led weaning, because i did gently direct the process, but can say that weaning her was very natural and struggle-free. basically, i never cut her off, just limited time and place. she ended it.
when she was about 19 months old, i knew that we were going to want to try for child number two. and while i was ok with breastfeeding while pregnant, i did not want to tandem nurse. she was basically nursing at wake up, naptime and bedtime at this point. so for a few months, i just switched up bedtime a little. milk first, then stories, then bed. about two weeks before her 2nd birthday (i was about 8 weeks pregnant), i explained that in one week, instead of bedtime milk we would have an extra book or sing an extra song. the day before her birthday was the first day she did not breastfeed at all. she didn't ask when she woke up, and was at daycare for nap that day. she asked at bedtime, but i reminded her that there was no more bedtime milk, and she happily reported that we could read "one more book." the next day, her birthday, no milk all day again. she never even asked. the process continued over the next week or so. i honestly don't know the day or remember the last time she breastfed, but it was probably only 10-12 days after her birthday. she would ask occasionally, and if it was time, i nursed her, if not we did something else. i do know that at one point later, when she had gone like three weeks without asking, she started asking again at various times...but kind of jokingly, like she didn't really expect it. one night at bedtime she looked right at my breasts and sincerely and sweetly said, "you want some milk?" (she hadn't yet figured out that she was "i" - she always referred to herself as "you"!). i easily distracted her with another song, but yes, i cried.
it was good, beautiful. bittersweet, yes. but very mutual. emotionally and physically easy on both of us. i was grateful for that and only hope that when the time comes for my son to wean, it will happen as peacefully. i hope this helps some. best to you and your family.
L.D. answers from Orlando on May 13, 2009
My question to you would be why are you asking the question if you are not ready to stop? I believe you really are ready but feeling confused or else you would never have asked the question! I am very direct but I mean no harm. I work with families and have almost 20 years experience. I do life coaching for parents also. I support parents in their decision making because they often need an outside eye to see things clearly because of all the emotion involved in child rearing. I raised two of my own. The guidelines important for you to use is your ability to stick to the facts. A child matures through independence and so does the parent. Be honest with yourself because it is not something someone else or a book can do for you. If you are ready to stop, stop! That negative energy is being transferred to the child everytime feeding occurs. A child is needy and will continue to take the breast as long as possible but must be given boundaries and guidelines(that is where the parent comes in) Don't let anyone make you feel like you are failing if you decide to stop(you are the mature adult who is going to give your child the example of decision making techniques,hopefully based on fact). I know what the books say and they are a great source of information and listening to what people say is good and bad but understand that parenting an individual takes individual parenting. Make a decision and go for it!
Good Luck, L.
T.B. answers from Jacksonville on May 13, 2009
WOW! i am so glad to see so many of you bf or did bf a toddler. I thought I was a minority. I b my 2nd daughter til she was a little over 2 1/2. I wanted to stop by then but I wanted it to be natural and not a big deal to her. So I had already enlisted the help of my husband with sleeping through the night, which was when she nursed the most. HE started putting her to bed at night. We did not co-sleep and by this time she was sleeping through the night. We did this every night for a week or so and then I slowly phased out nap nursing and and other day time nursing. She was so great with it. It was just time for us. I wish you the best and a big "WHOOOAAA" to all of you who have bf for so long.