"Extended" Breastfeeding and Weaning

Updated on June 28, 2009
M.B. asks from Chandler, AZ
10 answers

Because I like to hear what other people have done, I thought I would ask all you wonderful Mommies!

My daughter is now a few weeks over 14 months and we are still breastfeeding. My goal was a year and now that we made it that far, I am kinda just "playing in by ear." I thought that she might wean herself, but that isn't happening, so I figure as long as I am still okay with it and she wants to breastfeed, we'll keep going.

A few thoughts and questions have come to mind though, so I thought I would see what you all have experienced. Is it hard to wean a child later on in age? Is there an ideal weaning age when it comes to "extended" breastfeeding? Of course this is personal to everyone, but did you have an age/developmental stage when it felt like it was time to stop? For example, my daughter isn't really using many words at this point (she is using sign language,) so it feels okay to still be breastfeeding. I don't know how I feel about breastfeeding once she is able to come over and ask for it with words. Thoughts?

We breastfeed when she goes down for a nap and when she wakes up. How did you make a transition away from breastfeeding and still have a smooth process into nap time?

Also, she won't take cow's milk or juice. Only water and breastmilk. Thoughts on this?

Thank you for any positive feedback or thoughts.

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answers from Flagstaff on

Hi, I breastfed all 4 of my children. None of them had EVER had formula. Most weaned themselves but my one son was still breastfeeding til about a month before my next one was born. He was almost 2. It was mostly before naps and before he went to bed. He finally weaned himself. I know other mothers who went longer, but most children just weaned themselves. They seem to know when it is time. they just start asking for it less and less until they're done.

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answers from Phoenix on

I totally support "child-led weaning," and had a great experience with it. My son just weaned at 2y9m, and it was only because my supply dried up with our next baby-on-the-way! It was a terrific experience. It's great for their immune system and a great soother in times of upsets and injuries. The world health organization recommends nursing for a MINIMUM of two years (not a maximum!), and lots of moms have great experiences nursing for much longer. Please don't feel pressured to wean before either of you is ready. You're not weird, your child will not turn out "weird," and what you are doing is totally natural. It's only in our warped western world that we see nursing past a year as "abnormal." The benefits are enormous and the drawbacks are none!!!

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answers from Santa Fe on

I felt the same way with my oldest. I went ahead with the "play it by ear" tactic and my son weaned himself at 18 months. At that point, he was only nursing once or twice a day and one day he just said "No more Mommy!" I was a little sad to stop but it was exactly the right way and right time for him so I feel good about it. My daughter is 6 months old and I plan on letting her do it the same way. Congrats on breastfeeding so successfully!!



answers from Phoenix on

I think everyone's a little different, but for us about 15 months was the best for us. I took away a feeding a month for the last three months, which helped me recover much better. I started just rocking, singing and reading a little longer before bed, and then tucked him in and left. And to my surprise, at least the first night I was the only one who shed any tears at all! Of course, a few nights later, he caught on and had a little bit of a protest but it was shockingly short. I think i'd just waited long enough and yet not too long for him to be just as distracted with a good book and some hugs and kisses.



answers from Santa Fe on

Hi! MY children are 27 and 23, but I still remember my feelings. My 27 year old daughter was 18 months old when I stopped. it was around the time she would be nursing and reach backwards to the table to take my food! I still can see her expression when i SAID, "Sorry, honey, no more." It practically broke my heart, with its confusion, but she accepted it just fine, as if that was normal. I was the one who had a hard time! My son was 22 months and I was feeling depleted energy-wise. I was very conflicted, since he was to be my last child and I could not imagine never nursing again. But. as with my daughter, after his initial surprise at not receiving more nursing, he was just fine and I "recovered." I'd say it is totally up to you. Good luck! My thoughts are with you. :) Regards, R.



answers from Phoenix on

Hi M.,
I, too, thought I would be done breastfeeding at 12 months or so. But it was going along fine and I didn't mind the extended time. I ended up breastfeeding my daughter till she was almost 18 months-- and that was because I was pregnant and I wanted to have a 'break' before the new baby was born (I was 2 months pregnant when I stopped). Surprisingly, the weaning was pretty easy. I just picked one feeding at a time to drop and distracted her at that normal time. I also do not give her cows milk or juice. She does love rice milk, however. When she would give me the baby sign language for milk, I would ask her if she wanted some rice milk and she would nod yes. Maybe you can find a drink that she likes to subsitute (mine also likes smoothies in the blender made with banana, frozen fruit, yogurt and rice milk).

Good luck, just follow your instincts and your daughter's cues and you will figure out what works for you. I remember being extremely nervous about each feeding dropped, but it always went surprisingly well.



answers from Phoenix on

Oh, I just noticed that you're the same one who had the airplane question - breastfeeding is always a good one to try too while on the airplane (when my boy was younger - it was the only thing to help him go to sleep).

Okay, as for your breastfeeding question. I ended up nursing till about 20 months (only once a day for the last couple months and twice a day for a little before that). As I/we were ready, I slowly took away a feeding here or there. I actually ended up nursing longer because I didn't want to go to regular milk - I had milk that I knew God gave me for my boy, so I trusted it. Anyway, so each time I took out one of the more emotional feeding times (like before bed at night), I would substitute with juice in a sippy cup - we did Naked Juice green machine because it helped with constipation problems, is healthy, and he really liked it. I would only give it once a day and water it down, so it worked as my tool for those last couple hard weanings. You could also use a bottle or a cup of milk or something. I think in the morning, I would just get him up and play or eat breakfast and he kind of forgot about it. I think you just try to watch how you're feeling about it and how your little one is doing. If you're little one isn't quite ready, you can do things like doing a shorter feeding, fewer, etc. I find that if you're patient and aware, these natural-stage things kind of come about naturally. For example, as they start becoming more independent and walking/crawling, etc., they won't want to sit down and nurse as much anymore. If you just don't force them into it or out of it, it seems to go much more smoothly. But, it does take awareness (and a lot of prayer for me!)



answers from Phoenix on

I breastfed my first child until 14 months and my second until 20 months. My first was really easy to wean, as I was pregnant and he self-weaned around the time that they say the milk changes flavor, etc. We had one feeding left at that age and it was during the night. He stopped waking up for the feeding and the first time he did wake up in four nights, I just refused to feed him, as he hadn't had it in the last four nights, so I didn't think he needed to start again.

With my daughter, I gradually weaned throughout the day at about 15 months. She was down to one feeding before bed by 18 months. She was not going to wean herself and I was ready when she got to 20 months, as she still needed to breastfeed to be comforted and I felt uncomfortable doing that in public. So, on Jan. 1st of 2007, she had her last feeding. It was my New Year's resolution and I just bit the bullet and refused to feed her. I rocked her, cuddled her and all the while told her that there was no more, "booboo." She cried herself to sleep the first few nights, but with the help of a pacifier she grew accustomed to the idea. She only had the pacifier for about two more months and then she was done. Not too terrible, but she was definitely harder.

I say to follow her cues on which feeding to eliminate first. Just do one at a time and keep her busy doing something else at the regular feeding time. Read her books, sing to her, color, etc. She will become distracted and into her activity that she won't even know she missed a feeding. I hope this helps.



answers from Albuquerque on

I nursed mine for about 2 years, give or take a month or two. When I was trying to get them to drink milk from a cup I started with mostly breast milk and added some cows milk, and eventually increased the ratio until they got used to the taste. I would add water to juice because it is too sweet for them. By time we eventually stopped, they were drinking out of cups all day except naps and bed time, and then just bed time for the last couple of months, I didn't ask, I let them ask me. When they stopped asking, we stopped nursing. It was all quite simple for us.



answers from Tucson on

My son weaned himself after he turned two and I got pregnant with #2. He just wasn't interested anymore and that was it. He was very attached to his nursies and I wasn't going to cut it out as long as he needed it.

Extended breastfeeding is only seen as "weird" in western culture because we are so sexualized and so have the mentality of "breasts are sexual." I taught my son the sign language sign for "milk" (which he called "mo," for "more") and that worked out well for us. I never had any problems nursing him in public, though he's long and lanky and looks older so as he approached two I started doing it more in private (or around people who didn't care) and teaching him to wait until then. As a previous poster mentioned, the WHO does recommend until at least two and there's no psychological detriment if it turns out to be longer....it's just our own thinking. I was armed with that info and ready to show anyone who asked but it never happened.

The using words thing never bothered me, it just annoyed the stuff out of me when other people said "oh if they are old enough to ask for it that's too old!" Never mind that my son was asking for it since he was born, just not using words! To sum it up, it didn't really bother me, but I did use discretion when and where to nurse and taught my son there were some times when "mo" wasn't appropriate at the moment and to wait...and thankfully I have some great open-minded friends who didn't care!

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