13 answers

Weaning My Enthusiastic 20 Month Old Breastfeeder

I need some advice on how to wean my 20 month old by/around age 2. He really enjoys breastfeeding. He asks to be nursed with a very emphatic "Please". Then he gets into position and gets very excited. My only issue is that I have an extensive history of breast cancer in my family. I am on an advanced screening schedule with several doctors. Since I have been pregnant and/or breastfeeding for the last 3 years I have not been able to have any screening. I know that breastfeeding is one of the best things I can do to help prevent breast cancer. My concern is that I have not been without a mammogram and/or ultrasound for this amount of time since before I started the screening process many many years ago. I will not be able to resume screaning for 6 months after I have weaned my son. I would like to wean him by age 2 so that I can get back on track by the middle of next year.

My initial intention was to breastfeed for at least 1 year, but my son enjoys it so much I decided to continue. Now I am becoming increasingly concerned about weaning him. My concern is that this is going to be very difficult on him emotionally.

My husband and I went away for a weekend a few months ago. While we were gone I did not pump and my son did not take any pumped milk while I was gone. I thought that this would begin the weaning process, if not complete it all together. Five minutes upon our return my son was asking to be nursed and has continued to nurse since.

At this point he eats table food and drinks from a cup. His nursing schedule varies, but he nurses 2-3 times during the day. Night time feedings vary greatly...on an average week I would say he nurses two times a night.

Does anyone have any advice on how to wean my very enthusiastic breastfeeder??

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

I breast fed for quite a while.
I cut him down to two, then one feeding a day. (believe it or not, after that long, my milk would not quit).
He was on one feeding for about 2-3 weeks.
Meanwhile, I told him, then reminded, then told him again about his big-boy party coming up, and that after that, it was just refrig milk, not mommy milk 'cause thats what big boys do.
Then, we had a little party at home with balloons, a few streamers in the kitchen, an inexpensive cake, etc. I think he got a cup with his favorite character.
He cried for one night (his last breast feed time), whimpered the next, then all done! Good luck.

More Answers

When I am having trouble making an important decision, I switch to my "worst case scenario" mode. I figure what are the worst possible outcomes for each decision, then I pick the "best" of the worst. If cancer is very prevalent in your family, you may not be one of the typical moms who can stop it by continuing to breastfeed. Cancer is deadly, weaning is not. Nor will your son suffer from stopping after 20 months. You have done a stellar job, now make the decision that will take your worry away the quickest...your health, or your son's very short time of unhappiness while weaning (which he won't remember at that age anyway). As long as you can take comfort in your decision, it will be the right one. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi E.,
You might put your mind at ease about your medical history by having a thermogram done while waiting for the mammogram. Thermagraphy does not use radiation and is considered a very accurate way of screening.
Go on line or take a look in the phone book.
Dr. Ariane Cometa offers these at her office in the Towson area, but there are probably other sources around.
Good luck.

When my youngest was 22 months old I needed to be on serious antibiotics and did not want them in his system. We were already down to nursing once or twice a day but the morning session was the most important to him.

I'd like to say it was easy but it wasn't. It was cold turkey. He cried every morning for a week and then got past it.

My DD is 18 months and loves to nurse as well! I am at the same point, and she has a hard time calming down when she really wants to nurse. I never thought I would nurse this long - my first weaned herself at 13 months (and I never nursed my 14 yr old, so this is new territory for us!) We do a lot of distraction to hold her off to try and stretch out her nursing schedule. I know nights are hardest. When my DH is home (travels for work, so it makes consistancy hard) he will get up with her at night. It takes her A LOT longer to go back to sleep, but she will. It is just hard for me to hear her cry.
Not sure what testing you are having, but I would check with your doctor. My breast cancer surgeon says it is perfectly fine to have a mammo while nursing, I have done so, as I am in the same position - have been pregnanat / nursing for 4 years (and have already had a lump removed). If you are having annual MRI's you would have to wait, but unless you have very dense breasts that cause problems with Mammo's, maybe at least you can get some comfort by getting one??
Good luck!

I have 4 children, I nursed my first for 13 months and my second for 24 months. After her I stuck to the 13 months for my last 2.

It was very difficult to ween her off. Once she turned 2 I kept telling her that breast milk was for little babies and it really didn't taste better than the milk all the big boys, girls, mommies and daddies drank. I started giving her cows milk and letting her have her hand on my breast for comfort when ever she wanted.....this definately was trying since people would always ask why her hand was up my shirt.

After about a month, I convinced her to place her hand on her own chest if she needed comfort. This worked and eventually I broke her from the habit of keeping her hand on her own chest for comfort. It was a slow process, but worked and we were all happy. But after that I decided to ween earlier, its so much easier for them to give it up at 13 months.

good luck

Congratulations on your wonderful relationship with your son and for being so sensitive to his needs.

To wean a toddler, try to "not offer and not refuse." You nurse when your child asks to but don't offer, even at bedtime or naptime. You might lose the nap though. You can also delay nursing a bit to see if distraction works. My toddlers would often take me up on an offer to go outside or if Dad took them or gave them a treat. They fell asleep with me and then we moved them to their room but they would climb in quietly if told that I was sleeping.

I'm sure you know that there is evidence that breastfeeding reduces the risk of cancer. As for the testing, the breastfeeding moms I know well enough to know whether they've had mammograms did have the tests done. I was concerned about leaking but that's not a big deal. Some radiologists might complain that it is harder to read results from lactating breasts but there are similar problems with dense breast tisse. An experienced radiologist should not have a problem. I've heard moms recommend Georgetown University Hospital. I've also heard of moms who have had biopsies done after problem results and continued breastfeeding soon afterward.

Hi EMly,

You sound like such a responsive mom and I imagine choosing to wean is very difficult for you to do. My son also LOVED to nurse. When I weaned him at three, I really hyped up the fact that he was a big boy and that he would have a big boy party where he would receive gifts but that mommies milkies would no longer work. I ran that line for about 1 month before I actually did it. For about 4 months prior to that, I did the 'dont offer, dont ask and redirect when possibe' approach but he really did love it. The weaning process went very easily although he did ask a few times to try milkies about a month afterward. Good luck with whatever you do. Im not sure if this approach would work with your son because he is a bit younger.

Hi E., I didn't have the medical concerns, but I was worried my son would be upset when we stopped nursing, as he was still enthusiastic even after he turned two. We potty trained using prizes at 27 months and he felt so proud of himself. I also gave him more grown up things to do...walk at the grocery store, set the table, pick out his own books at the library, etc. So then at 28 months we used the prize system to get him to put himself to sleep at night without nursing. It was a hard two or three nights, but I would hold him on my lap and talk to him about the prize he had picked out that he could have in the morning, how we loved him and were helping him learn to go to sleep by himself, etc. These were $10 trucks that he picked out at Target, and after the potty training success, he knew he could do it, and luckily for me would even say in the morning "Mommy helped me sleep" and things along those lines. Do you know, he almost self weaned a few days after getting through the night with no nursing? He would ask once in awhile, but I would jump up and play tag or run to get a snack, or especially a drink, or something energetic that got him out of the room and situation that made him think of it. And after a week when he asked I would tell him the milk was all gone and he was OK with that. Would even look at me during the next week and instead of asking for milk would say "the milk is all gone." SO, I can give you more details if you are interested, but I was really truly pleased that it went as well as it did. When it's done gently and with love I think it goes easier...I put aside that whole week to just have lots of lap/story time, etc so he still felt close to me, but again, if he was looking for milk I would jump up and change the dynamic. Oh-one last thing, the first night of no nursing he had already picked out a truck for "when he was ready to sleep without milk", and then by total chance was exhausted and fell asleep without nursing one night. So I jumped on it and when he woke up in the middle of the night, I told him the milk was asleep and went from there. It gave him an easy first success and then the next night at bedtime we had to have Daddy come in for stories with us to give extra security about not nursing, he can do it, etc. GOOD LUCK!!! D.

I breast fed for quite a while.
I cut him down to two, then one feeding a day. (believe it or not, after that long, my milk would not quit).
He was on one feeding for about 2-3 weeks.
Meanwhile, I told him, then reminded, then told him again about his big-boy party coming up, and that after that, it was just refrig milk, not mommy milk 'cause thats what big boys do.
Then, we had a little party at home with balloons, a few streamers in the kitchen, an inexpensive cake, etc. I think he got a cup with his favorite character.
He cried for one night (his last breast feed time), whimpered the next, then all done! Good luck.

Hi E..

I don't have much advice, but I wanted to offer some support. My son is also 20 months and regularly nurses 3 times a day. When I have asked for advice from a Lactation Consultant, I was told to not offer the breast and do not refuse your child's requests. This way, they'll gradually wean on their own. I understand your the sensitivity of your time restraint though. Maybe you can attend a la leche league toddler meeting. I think there is one held in annapolis one friday a month. check the website. good luck to you.

Don't worry about the breast tests. As you stated breastfeeding is the best way to avoid getting breast cancer. Please don't wean your boy. Let him decide when to quit. He will probably do so very soon on his own. My son was our last baby and I wanted him to decide when to stop nursing. He quit at 28 months. I felt sad because I knew this happy experience would be gone forever. What is wrong with we parents? We always rush our little ones to grow up. And then when they are grown and gone we wish they were little again. AF

Hi, I don't have any advice about the screening other than to say consult a few other doctors to see if there are alternatives to put your mind at ease. Once way of looking at this is that you will be a calmer happier mom if your fears are put to rest. Certainly, if you want to keep nursing, you should. But I don't think it makes you a poor parent for wanting to stop. You have done a great job for your son.

For weaning, I suggest trying to get him to one feeding by breast per day. Start telling him, that big boys nurse only at this one time. Probably shouldn't be a bedtime feeding since that will be a hard one to break. Once you get to that point, start trying to fill him up before nursing, so that your supply starts going down as he nurses less. I think as the benefit starts to decrease for him, then he will start losing interest.

Good luck.

It is possible to get a mammogram while lactating. You just have to get a radiologist or oncologist that is experienced in reading them for the lactating breast to read it for your regular doctor. Take your pump with you to the mammogram and pump right before your exam so that your ducts are empty and as close to non-lactating as possible. You can still do your monthly self exams since a tumor is going to feel different than a full or plugged duct. Mine are the same age difference and my three year old is down to once or twice a day; usually first thing in the morning or last thing at night. The weaning process has already begun with introducing complementary foods and a cup or bottle. Since it sounds like you are tandem nursing, I know it can be a little overwhelming. This is how I reinforced the concept of taking turns with my older child. I would tell her it wasn't her turn yet. I had already started setting limits while I was pregnant, because I was committed to reaching the two year mark but there were times it just hurt too much because of the hormones. She's still very enthusiastic about nursing and would nurse as much as the baby if I let her, but is usually ok when I tell her not right now. She was almost totally weaned before the baby was born then my milk came in and she was in love all over again! It's been a gradual process, but it does get better.

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