17 answers

How to Wean 16-Month-old

I have been happily breastfeeding my little girl for 16 months now, thinking we would wean when she was ready. However, now I am starting to think that time may be a long way away. I am ready, but she is not. We cut down to nursing only morning and night at about 9 months old. But the last 3 months or so, she seems to want to nurse more and more! It's mostly for comfort it seems...during the day, if she's bored, fussy, if I cuddle her in my lap etc... and she is very demanding, grabbing my shirt in public, crying. I try to distract her with games, bottles, Daddy. But these things don't soothe her half as well as nursing, and most of the time they don't distract her either. Any suggestions on gentle techniques for weaning (without me having to leave town)?

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Try using a regular cup. We used a shot glass to teach to use a regular cup when weaning. I also knew of a mother who breast fed her son for soothing long after she had "dried up"(wierd to me). So do what it takes to find something else to sooth her. Good luck.

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I know the feeling of "being done!"

I weaned my dd at 20 months b/c I had another on the way. My biggest regret was that she never had a "lovey" to fall back on. We had tried to give her a blankie and an Elmo doll, but the boob was her buddy! When I wean my ds, I will make sure there is a replacement for comfort.

Make sure she is not cutting a tooth, has an earache, etc... Cut out her favorite feeding first. Don't go to a paci or bottle - it's just another habit to break. Be patient and it will happen!

1 mom found this helpful

I, too, just loved "Mothering Your Nursing Toddler" by Norma Baumgartner and also "How Weaning Happens," bith published by La Leche League. Neither book is the same old re-hash of things you've heard a thousand times. . . they are both unique and useful. Whether you are seriously looking to wean in a gentle, non-traumatic but effective way, or you are looking to be reassured that you're not the only mom still nursing, I cannot recommend these books highly enough! You can order then through La Leche LEague at www.llli.org, or maybe find them cheap on Amazon, or borrow them at you public library or for free from your local La Leche League group's library (all their services are free). You might also get some ideas from their Web site if you do a search on "weaning."
Both books have long lists of strategies such as bargaining and delaying, and also point out thatyou have to wean TO something as your nursing relationship comes to an end. (Personally, I accidentally weaned my oldest to pretzels and Winnie-the-Pooh videos. . .I managed to do better with my scond child!) They also point out that there's a difference between needs and habits, and it's only with some experiementation and mothering intuition can you determine what nursing is for your child. If you try to delay nursingand it causes major problems (perhaps like you're describing) then it's still a legitimate need (it's no crime to want to check in with mom for security and comfort while you're hitting a million developmental milestones!) and it would be best to wait a bit before trying again. However, if you try to delay or substitute a bit and get little resistance, perhaps your child needs your attention but not necessarily in the form of nursing. I have a friend who says moms are like a tree and children are like fruit, and the word "wean" comes from the same Latin root as the word "to ripen." So, if you try to pick a fruit before it's ripe (ready to wean), you'll get lots of resistance and it will be a struggle to pull it from the tree (mom). But if the fruit is truly ripe, it will come off with the gentlest tug.
I sincerely wish you all the best. You and your daughter will be reaping the benefits of your breastfeeding relationship and your responsive mothering for the rest of your lives. ;)

1 mom found this helpful

may i suggest the book "mothering your nursing toddler?" definitely do not leave town. . . . ! i don't know if this book will help you feel differently about wanting to allow child-lead weaning, but i think it explains a lot of what children go through developmentally at these ages and how nursing plays into that. if she doesn't seem ready, maybe back off on trying to wean for a month or so and then start trying to slowly wean again. (that's one of the tips in the book too). also "how weaning happens" is a great read. i have a 2 year old that i'm still nursing, NEVER thought i'd have a baby this OLD still nursing, but we're enjoying the relationship and i feel more at ease with it after having read "mothering your nursing toddler" so hopefully it will be helpful for you too (maybe in different ways, but still helpful)


This is a looooong reply, but I hope something in it helps.

Sally W's response was great! There is nothing wrong or inappropriate about children nursing for comfort. That is part of what nursing is all about! Your daughter's need for you is valid, and nursing is a valid way to meet that need. You mentioned her nursing increasing. Is she going through any changes in her life right now that might be making her feel insecure? Often children need extra comfort when they are learning a new skill, starting daycare, moving, are sick, are teething, when Daddy is working late hours, or any other times when things are changing in their lives. Also, she may be going through a growth spurt, and honestly needs more nutrition. Despite urban legends to the contrary, your milk stays rich in nutrients and immune factors well past baby's first year. In fact, these components are actually more concentrated in your milk in the second year of baby's life! Kellymom.com has many articles about weaning issues at http://www.kellymom.com/bf/weaning/index.html

One of my favorite things about nursing a toddler is that is is a much more 2-sided relationship than nursing a small baby. You have the freedom to consider your own needs, to delay or refuse nursing if you need to. You can start using words with your daughter, naming her feelings and explaining your own. There is a lot more freedom in nursing a toddler than nursing a newborn. You may find that by making some changes, you are ready to continue nursing until your daughter weans voluntarily. You may also find that you are ready to wean now. The best thing you can do is to be as responsive to your daughter's needs as you can, and to also respect your own needs.

I do want to say that you are NOT the only mom nursing a toddler. I nursed my first until she was 21 months; even then we only stopped because I was pregnant and it started to drive me nuts. Without the pregnancy, I would likely have continued. My second is happily nursing still at 15 months. So, if you want to stop because you think it's weird or that you are the only freaky person nursing a walking person, that is not true. One thing that really gave me stamina to continue nursing was to night wean. We simply told our daughters that “Mommy goes night-night, Daddy goes night-night, baby goes night-night, and milky goes night-night.” If she asked to nurse or fussed, I reminded her that milkies went night-night, and she could nurse in the morning.

You mentioned having problems with your daughter demanding to nurse, especially her throwing a fit and pulling at your shirt. This is a issue of manners, and now is the perfect time to start teaching them. Like any other manners, nursing manners must be taught. Both my children were shirt grabbers, and my second is really bad at it. What we did/do is to gently but firmly take hold of her wrist when she pulls at my shirt and say "No pulling Mommy's shirt. Say 'milk please.'" Then we demonstrate the signs for milk and please. I do not allow her to nurse until she asks politely. The crying isn't about being demanding, it's about being disappointed. Little ones don't have an appropriate mechanism for expressing disappointment, especially at 16 months old. Now is a great time for starting to name your daughter's feelings for her. We say something like "I see you crying. You are disappointed because you are not getting milk. You are frustrated because you want milk right now. You need to ask politely for milk. We say 'milk please' [demonstrating the signs to her] when we want milk."

If you are concerned about nursing in public, I completely understand. I, too try to avoid nursing my 15 month old in public, because there are just too many rude people out there. Some tips for avoiding it... nurse before you leave, and bring a snack and sippy cup with you. If she asks to nurse while you are out, just offer the snack/sippy and then tell her "We have milk at home." If you do this, you HAVE to stick to it and only have milk at home. Some people also nurse only in a certain chair, or only lying down on the bed, so that your toddler knows she cannot nurse anywhere else. You could also have a special toy that she only gets when you guys are out of the house.

Of the two books recommended, I personally preferred "How Weaning Happens." I felt like much less pressure from it to continue nursing beyond the point that I was ready to stop.

I know this can be a tough time. You have done wonderfully for your daughter by nursing her this long. Whether you decide to continue nursing or to wean, the best thing you can do is to keep being responsive to your daughter's needs.

Best of luck,

You said it was mostly for comfort -- maybe you can replace nursing with another comfort object. If there is something that you've always had with you when nursing (a blanket, a toy, or something else) that could make it easier. I weaned my son at 13 months -- but he seemed very willing to go to sippy cups of milk at that point. A year later (since I don't want him dragging his blanket all over the place) I introduced another comfort object (a small stuffed wolf). He still loves his blanket, but having two comfort objects has lessened his dependance on either of them. We can now leave the house for the whole day without either one and he is just fine. Good luck to you!

I nursed my other son until he was almost 2. My son now is 14 months and I plan to nurse him a while longer. I basically nurse until it gets obnoxious. When they can feed themselves and start trying to nurse too often, I just don't let them. that's the hard part, but God made you bigger for a reason. Soon she will catch on that she's not going to get any breast milk while in those embarassing situations and it is not worth it for her to try.

Good luck, I have the same problem! My older daughter sef-weaned at 2 1/2 years but my younger daughter is almost 3 and I am still trying to wean her! I really don't know how to wean, I need to get that book that other moms have mentioned on the postings! But I will say that nursing for 2 years is not that hard and it is even recomended by the World Health Organization so don't feel like you are the only mom out there nursing a toddler.

Don't use it as a soother. She is old enough to learn to calm down, relax without needing to nurse for that comfort. Breast feeding is awesome but when moms use it like they would a pacifier they are causing a dependency that isn't out of nutritional value any longer and that is even harder for the child to get over. It is hard to break, like a pacifier or bottle use but now is a great time. It will take her some time but she will adjust. If she grabs your shirt just say "not now" and offer her a sippy cup, other snacks and keep the distraction up. If she screams you will just have to wait it out. Don't start a bottle as that will be another habit to break. Just tell her she is a "big girl" and hand her a sippy cup. Bottles are bad for their teeth, not necessary after the year mark and another habit for them to have to overcome. It is hard I am sure, it is a bond she has with you but now is using it for a crutch for other things. Just continue what you are doing, it will just take a lot of patience and time. Once your supply is gone she will no longer be able to smell the breast milk and that will help a ton! Good luck and hang in there!

don't give in. you have to show her that you're the mom, not her. offer her a sippy cup instead. if she doesn't want it, she can go without.

This may sound funny-and a bit uncoventional...my kids have been the same as yours. I knew if I weaned them when they were so emotionally attached it would be a problem. So I decided to have it be their idea by making nursing 'yucky'. My kids have all been old enough to understand what yucky is by the time I was ready to wean them (Between 17 and 23 months old) Right before I nursed them I would dab a little bit of mustard on my nipple (without them seeing). Then act surprised when they pull away and say what's the matter are they yucky? Then give them lots of loves and sympathy and offer a sippy or a drink of milk. It has worked everytime for my kids. I never denied them nursing when they wanted it-but after a few times of it being yucky they decided they didn't want it any more. Good luck. Amy

I haven't had that much trouble when weaning from the breastfeeding, but I have with bottles. I usually pick a time to stop and then I pretend I don't know what a bottle is. I would offer the babies a drink from a sippy or another cup, I would even offer them milk, water, juice, etc. I would act confused that they didn't want any of it. I think it drove them nuts, but they got over it, and the bottles, quickly. You can try it with breastfeeding. Give her a drink or a snack, but if she insists on nursing act like you have no idea what she wants.

I also loved "Mothering Your Nursing Toddler" put out by La Leche League - don't remember the author, but it was a fabulous book - very good. I highly, highly recommend it.
N Wilson

It seems that each baby is different. My oldest at 15 months was just done. I just knew one night. I put him in his crib and said to my husband, that was the last time. He never fussed or anything. My husband rocked him to sleep for a few nights (no crying), then I could easily do it again. So, was I ever in for a shock with my second! At 18 months, I was getting tired of it, but I swear she'd still be nursing at 4 yrs old if I had let her! I don't like to let babies cry, and my husband wasn't available, so I had to do it on my own. I walked her outside, took her in the stroller at 3am, sang (a lot), sat in a swing with her, drove her in the car (before gas was $5/gal)....all in all, it was relatively peaceful (and I lost some weight from all the middle of the night stroller walking). She is a very able, peaceful sleeper now at 4 1/2 years. I'm now weaning my 3rd (at 19 mos). We had some setbacks because of an ear infection last month. But with him, he asks for "boo-boo" at bedtime and I tell him that the "boo-boos" are asleep or ni-nite. He cried for a minute for a couple of evenings, but I rocked and cuddled him through it and we're on the 4th night of boo-boo free sleep.

good luck.

Try using a regular cup. We used a shot glass to teach to use a regular cup when weaning. I also knew of a mother who breast fed her son for soothing long after she had "dried up"(wierd to me). So do what it takes to find something else to sooth her. Good luck.

In my cases, both my sons naturally weaned between 24-30 months. It was so easy and beautiful and no stress either way. It seems at that age that they just lose interest and go and explore their world and then it is all over! Don't worry, while you are almost hating it now, you'll miss it soon enough and smile at the memories! Enjoy!

There is a great (fairly old) book called Mothering your Nursing Toddler. It will give you detailed plans once you've established the need for your child's nursing. One thing I remember is that once i committed to weaning,i didn't sit down in my daughter's presence for awhile! Good luck,

I weaned my daughter at 15 months. I had expected to go on a business trip that would force the issue, but when she was 14 months, but it got rescheduled for many months later. And I didn't want to wait that long. By then it was a comfort when she went to bed at night and that was the only time we nursed. I've always talked to her straighforward. So when I found out that the trip was cancelled I started talking to her about when she's 15 months, that she would be big enough (eating table foods etc.) that she didn't need to nurse and that we would stop. Every night when we nursed I would talk about how proud I was of her and how many weeks/days we had left. Then on her 15 month "birthday" we didn't do it. She was prepared for it, and didn't fuss about it. But she wasn't ever the kind that needed a special blanket or toy or binkie or anything, so she's pretty secure in herself. In fact now that she's four, she's a bit "determined" when she makes her mind up about something.
By no means am I saying that this will work for you little girl, but it was my experience and I wanted to share the idea.
My mantra for life is "Appropriate expectation setting is happiness." It works for little ones (three more minutes at the park), my husband, co-workers, customers etc.. If you set the appropriate expectation, they may not like what it is but they are prepared for it and can "live with it".
Good luck and count your blessings that you've been able to happily breastfeed.

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