How to Stop Nursing 2.5 Yr Old?

Updated on March 16, 2010
K.A. asks from Centreville, VA
26 answers

I have a 2.5 year old son that has been nursing in the mornings and at night only since he transitioned to solid foods around 1 yr of age. I never thought that I'd still be nursing at this stage in his life, but I have to admit that I'm lost when it comes to how to stop. I'd be among the 1st to admit that I've waited too long - esp b/c there is now so much going on in his life! (We are also trying to transition him to a twin bed in a new room so that we can use the nursery for a baby we are expecting at the end of May.)

I'm hoping to find some moms that may have stopped nursing later in their childs life. I don't want harsh judgements, just help or ways that I could easily transition my son away from nursing. I do have to admit that I still love to spend that quiet time with him 2x a day, so stopping is going to be as heartwrenching for me as it will be for him. My brain knows that he doesn't need breastmilk any more and that crying it out might not be horrible, but my heart breaks to hear him cry or ask to nurse and refuse him.

Please help - positive stories? I'm scared to death of still being at this spot in 2 months 8 wks when i give birth and want to nurse the new baby. I don't think tandem nursing is for me either.... thanks for reading and trying to help!

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answers from Honolulu on

He's self-weaning. He only nurses 2 times a day right?

My daughter self-weaned at 2.5 years old.
I would talk to her about it though... or, when my daughter would ask, I would tell her "in a minute... mommy is busy..." then I would make myself "busy" and not sit down and just go about my business. Then she'd get distracted and forget about it.
Or, when she latched on, I only let it go on for a brief moment. "I" decided how long... not her. Then I would get up and make myself "busy."
It is the "routine" YOU put into place.
Or give him a substitute... a lovey or something to cuddle. Or a doll for himself.

One day my daughter just stopped completely on her own and she thought it was funny that she even nursed. It was before I had my 2nd baby... and was pregnant.

But you need to spend a LOT of time on your eldest child, to prep HIM for the new baby. HE will need LOTS of attention, once the baby comes home. I spent more time on my daughter, once I had a 2nd baby. And spent a Lot of time on her... while I was pregnant. I even took her to my pre-natal visits, and the Doctor encouraged it and would teach her how to use the Doppler heart monitor device to put on my tummy.

The thing is... he will have TONS to adjust to, with a new baby. HE is having a baby too.

All the best,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I don't have experience weaning a child that's 2, but my daughter was 1 1/2 and so she could ask for it which was the hardest part. When I was ready to wean and she'd ask to nurse, I'd tell her that my milk was all gone and give her a sippy with milk and hold her. She did really well with that, it only took a few days of telling her my milk was gone and she stopped asking to nurse.

But, when I weaned my son it went horribly, so hopefully it goes well for you. Best of luck.



answers from Washington DC on

I would say if they are old enough to ask to nurse, then he's old enough to transition him - you made the right call...and he's old enough to understand I would try to end breastfeeding when you give him his 'big boy bed.' That way it's like trading nursing for a new bed and he will think of it as a new stage and it will create and be a good time for new habits...I love nursing my baby, so I understand not wanting to quit - but stay strong - and it by no means means that you have to quit spending 'quiet time' with him...instead of nursing during that time, try to cuddle while reading a book or rocking him. It's never too old for quality mommy time!! :) Good luck with the new baby and let us know how everything works out!



answers from Washington DC on

I stopped nursing my 2nd at around 2 years 9 months old right at the time we switched her to a big girl bed. She'd long since stopped nursing for nutrition and it was more of a cuddle time for her. We nursed on a small couch in her room and then would get up and tuck her in bed. After doing that a few times I asked her if she'd rather skip nursing and have me just lay down in bed and snuggle for a little while that way. She said yes and that was the end of it. It might have helped that she'd already stopped napping too and was really really tired by bedtime.



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi K.,
I too nursed my little one later than I planned. She nursed until she was 2 years and 2 months. We were down to just one morning feeding a day. In order to get to that point, we did like the other mom suggested above and added other items to our nightime ritual. I started one night around 20 months and explained that we would only nurse for 10 seconds on each side. We did that for a week or so. Then we went down to 5 seconds. Then we stopped all together and by that point the singing at nighttime took over the nursing. She was definitely frustrated, but worked through it after two nights. I think having such a predictable routine helped her adjust too. She always eats, takes a bath, plays, reads, snuggles, sings, rocks and then goes to bed.

As for the last feeding that was in the morning, I prepped her a week or so before I ended and said "You're not going to nurse for much longer." or "You're a big girl now and you have to say bye bye to nursing." We then made a big deal about it and congratulated her, proudly announced to friends her accomplishment and she adjusted very well. I also showered her with love, hugs, kisses and told her how special she was to me- over and over. It was surprisingly much less painful (for everyone involved) than I ever would have imagined.

Good luck! You'll figure out a good plan for you and your family!



answers from Richmond on

You haven't waited too long, extended nursing has given your child & yourself a multitude of benefits.
But now that you are ready to wean, I found redirecting & planning on weaning taking some time worked best for my guys. I was comfortable with it taking several weeks or even a couple of months if that's how it panned out. Lots of cuddling when he's not asking to nurse, suggesting a cup or snack when he asks to nurse and patience.



answers from Washington DC on

I just recently, 3 weeks ago to be exact, stopped nursing my 2.5 year old. So I know the heartache. What I did to make it easier, because this is number 4 for me and I nursed them all until 2 except this last one, and I knew it would be difficult for the both of us. I started telling him when he asked for it that it was "all gone" which he recently learned the meaning of when food and drinks he was eating disappeared.

Just like with the food or drinks I would offer him something to take the place of what he wanted. During the morning it was easy because there were an array of items to offer. At night it was more difficult because he and myself as well, just wanted to cuddle and fall asleep, so at night I offered warmed hot chocolate or regular milk in a sippy cup.

Occasionally, even now 3 weeks later, he still tries to catch me off guard (and it almost worked a couple of times) but overall, it was quite seamless.


answers from Washington DC on

My dd is only 18 months, but loves nursing, so I'm sure it'll be a while before she gives it up too. It's still working for me, I'm not planning on getting pregnant again any time soon, so it's doable. Nursing has to be a two way street. If you are no longer wanting to, then your ds needs to let go too. I don't have personal experience (yet) but a couple of friends with older children had their stories. One said she was working out and usually showered before she nursed, but ran out of time and started nursing right after a workout. Her dd said, "Pee U!" and was turned off. She didn't mind because her dd was about 3 and she was expecting soon. (I just thought it was a funny way to deter nursing! Ha!) My sister-in-law had decided she was done and let her 2+ year old hold her breast for a little while at night instead of nurse. I guess they co-slept, not sure. But that worked for her. : ) They were both odd stories I'd never heard before but worked for the moms and dbabies. Do what feels right for the two of you. Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

I nursed until my son was 19 mos. and he self weaned about 2 weeks before I had planned to do it myself. I had planned to give him a cup of milk at nursing time, saying, "We only drink milk from a cup, now," cuddle him up while he drank, and read or sing to him until he finished. Not having the chance to put my plan into action, I can't vouch for its effectiveness. If you try this, let me know how it goes.



answers from Washington DC on

I think letting him know your routine is changing will be the key. If a song or some other change doesn't work, perhaps your husband could read him bedtime stories for a week. (My son and I nursed until 28 months and I let the morning one go first as it was easy to go right to breakfast, reading, etc.) I think trying some of these other ways would be better than CIO. I'd let the morning one go for a week before tackling night time. Other ideas: a new lovey, a small gift (think dollar store, maybe a book?) he can unwrap each night for three days to disrupt the routine and give your milk a chance to dry up. Good for you for giving your son such nutrition and bonding!!



answers from Washington DC on

I nursed my son until he was 2 months past his 2nd birthday. He was eating solid foods and had all of his teeth so it was more of a bonding thing for us by then rather than nourishment and he had begun to follow me around lifting my shirt when he wanted to nurse which had become a little embarassing. There really isn't a clear cut way to go about weening him. It's whatever works for you. I offered a cup instead when he wanted to nurse and I cuddled and read him a book. It really only took about two days of him fussing about it before it was done. Every baby is different though and they approach independence at different stages. It sounds like he does have alot going on with the bed transition also and may be seeking comfort from you more often as a security thing. You may want to hold off on the bed for a few weeks. I wouldn't turn everything upside down at once and I wouldn't do it all at once right when the baby is coming because he may associate the detachment from you with the baby and become jealous. It'll all work out. No kid ever went to college needing to be breastfed. Hang in there:)



answers from Washington DC on

I determined with my last child to let him decide when to stop nursing. He lost interest at 28 months. It broke my heart that he didn't want it anymore. I see no harm in breastfeeding longer. I am told that in Bible days women nursed up to 5 years old. AF



answers from Washington DC on

I have a 3.5 yr-old son & he nurses occasionally at nap & bedtime...I wasn't planning to nurse this long either...but I never planned to do really wean him either - I rathered that he wean himself. We've kind of been doing it together. I've been giving him options of whether he wants to go to sleep by himself or with me...another option is that he can sleep with me (i.e., nurse) a few minutes with me & then he has to sleep/lay down by himself. I've been reminding him that he's a big man now & doesn't really need to nurse like he did when he was a baby. It's interesting because yesterday we went to visit a friend who has a 5-day-old and another mother was there with her 5-month-old & they were both last night AND this morning, my son was telling me how he wanted to nurse like the babies were doing! I let him nurse to sleep a little last night but not this morning! can maybe get him started on hearing conversations about how soon, the new baby will need to nurse & that he's the big brother that doesn't need to nurse any longer - he'll need to look out for the baby & make sure that the baby is ok. Keep him in the loop as to how soon 'til the new baby arrives by using the calendar to mark off the days or weeks - remind him that it's like the countdown 'til he becomes a big brother & will even get to sleep in his own bed! No more "baby" crib/toddler bed! This way, it might help with transitioning him to get out of wanting to nurse & relieve you to be available for nursing for the new baby. Good Luck with everything!


answers from Washington DC on

It is utterly amazing that even though you are pregnant and due in 8 weeks that you have been able to nurse still - my bet is that you aren't producing much milk for him as it is a comfort for him and you both.

I nursed my first son until he was 2.5 - like you morning and nights. We potty trained him (only took one week) and told him that since he was a big boy now, he doesn't need to nurse anymore. He took it in stride - he liked the idea of being a big boy.

It was hard because when he was stressed from a busy day - he wanted to nurse and that was hard to say no to. But instead of saying no - I distracted him with reading a book or playing a game with him - taking the time that USED to be for nursing to something else just for him.

However, the difference is you have a lot going on for him. Yes, I was pregnant too but not due til August. But I wasn't transitioning him from a crib to new bed and nursery and a new sibling!! That's a lot of adjustment for a young guy. If you want to throw it on him all at once - my suggestion would be telling him - he's becoming a big boy now, he gets his own room and a big boy bed and when he cries for the boob - distract him with play time, book reading or some other activity that will keep him from wanting the boob.

Hope this helps!!




answers from Washington DC on

I don't have any answers for you since my first son self-weaned rather young. BUT I do want to say congratulations on trying so hard to do the right thing for you and your son! It is truly sad that there are some out there that would render "harsh judgments" to a mother who provided breastmilk for her child for a longer time period than they did. And most of the folks who are so unforgiving of breast-feeders never did breastfeed their own children, so YOU definitely have the advantage, in my opinion ;)

What I have learned from my 2.5 year old is that kids at this age are capable of understanding far more than we expect. It is also important to prep them for change and get them used to an idea before springing something new on them. I would talk to him about it for a few days before you start whichever transition method you pick.
I have also been surprised several times when I expected my 2.5 year old to make a bit fit about something, and he was remarkably calm. You never know until you try.
But the key for me was usually preparing him in advance with conversation about the impending change.
Good Luck!



answers from Norfolk on

My son was 2 1/2 as well when I decided it was time to let go of nursing. I started to emphasize that nursing was for babies and he wasn't a baby, but a big boy now. I wasn't pregnant, but was doing some doula work. I read books to him about babies (this would work for you since you are expecting a sibling) and how they need mommies milk. Then one day I had a client and needed to go to her birth and it was going to be overnight. I told him I had to leave my milk at the hospital for the babies there. (You could explain that you don't have any more milk right now, but will get more milk when the new baby comes).

My son accepted the fact that I had to help a mommy have a baby and that I needed to leave my milk for another baby. They are quite smart at 2 1/2.

Best wishes and know that you are an awesome mom that gave what was best for her child! I know when I was nursing after 1 1/2 I didn't let many people know because of the judgements.



answers from New York on

Hi, K.,
I nursed twins until they were about your son's age (tandem nursing is possible!). Like you I sort of felt like, how is this ever going to stop?!? What happened for us is I got a pretty bad cold, and while the whole time I'd been nursing I had avoided decongestants because I know they can dry up your milk, this time I took some (I can't remember if you can take these when you are pregnant though...). So my daughters were basically like, "There's no milk in there..." And I said, "You know, I'm not surprised. Mommies have milk for their babies, but when their babies grow up to be big girls, the milk goes away."

We still nursed for a while after that, but it had planted the seed that they were growing up, and you don't nurse forever. Then I basically had a date in mind when I wanted to be done, and I just stopped. When they asked I said, "Oh, remember? Mommies have milk for their babies, and you're big girls now." And they seemed to accept it.

I don't know if this approach will work with a new baby on the way and all the changes going on in your son's life. But I was amazed at how easily my daughters adjusted. We gave them milk in a cup during the times they were used to nursing, and they were just fine with it.

Good luck!



answers from Norfolk on

My son is autistic and non-verbal, so explaining that he was getting too big to nurse was not so much an option for us. (He was 2 years, 2 months and 32 lbs.) The last feeding to hold on was that one right before bedtime. I got it down to just that one time and one specific place and slowly lessened the amount of time allowed. Lots of cuddles and distractions. I think it was important for my son to feel he could still be close to me even if I wasn't letting him nurse. This usually meant standing up and rocking him to sleep on my shoulder. Then I went away for a couple of days, two overnights. Unavoidable trip, and I hated being away from my son, but my parents (who kept him for me) called it "weaning camp." Upon return, I avoided the "nursing spot" before bedtime and let his Dad handle the bedtime routine. It only took a few days and my son didn't try to go for it any more.



answers from Norfolk on

First, there is nothing in the world wrong with you having nursed as long as you have - it is great and a personal decision. From my understanding this country is the only one that has hangups with breastfeeding longer - other parts of the world it is the norm. That is the great thing about having a baby - it your choice and you do what is right for you and your son.

I just stopped nursing my 20 month old recently and in my experience just know it is not going to be easy. This is something that your son is used to and it is part of his routine so it is going to take committment on your part to end it. It hurt my heart when I was quitting and he would say num (which was the word for breastfeeding) but I was ready to stop and just had to stick to it. I did not have the help but if at all possible have your husband put him to bed for a week or so since there is a serious association with you and breast feeding. I woudl gave him a sipply cup of milk and offered it when he said num, I think he was rather insulted by the offer at first but has since got used to the new routine. Best wishes



answers from Washington DC on

I was in the same position as you smile.. actually have done it twice both times due to not wanting to tandem nurse. I would strongly suggest you wean FIRST before moving him to his own bed or he might view the bed as a punishment. Maybe have Daddy do bedtime and set up a routine with story time etc. We would offer a sippy cup with water at the beginning. Hubby or I would stay with her (but don't interact with him) until she fell asleep so she didn't have to cry it out... took a long time the first few nights then she got used to the idea and it went smoothly. For the morning nursing just go right to feeding him breakfast but be sure you spend some cuddly time with a book or something so he still gets that time with you. Once he is weaned then you can make moving into his own room a grand adventure and build it up as something exciting.



answers from Washington DC on

First of all, please know that there is nothing wrong with nursing children for so long. They are still reaping all of the immune benefits even this late in the game and they are also still gaining the brain boosting and growth boosting benefits as well. I nursed my first son until he was 2 1/2 and my second is now just over 2 1/2 and still nursing. Please don't feel guilty or bad about it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. In fact, the global average age of weaning is 4yo! It's only in America that we seem to feel it's weird to keep nursing past a year.

That being said, I have a few suggestions that may help a bit. First, in the morning, try distraction techniques. When he asks to nurse, have something super fun for him to do instead, something he doesn't get to do very often and is always asking for, and give him the option between nursing and the other activity. Make sure to make the other activity sound super fun and act like you're really excited about doing it with him. Continue this for at least a week or two. By that time he'll be used to no longer nursing in the morning. Then move the activity, or another quieter but equally coveted one, to the bedtime routine and give him the same options. You can even cut out some of his decision making here by saying something like "I was thinking, maybe we should do something more fun than nursing, I want to do (ABC) with you. What do you think?" Make it seem like a special new, secret mommy and boy time activity.

Also try to encourage, as much as possible, the independent spirit that invades kids at this age. For example, my son recently decided to potty train himself and is also refusing help with getting dressed etc... He wants to do everything by himself because he wants to be a big boy. If you can encourage this over the next couple of weeks then he'll probably be ready for your suggestion that big boys don't nurse and will probably decide to give it up on his own.

Best of luck!



answers from Washington DC on

My two older sons both nursed during my pregnancies with a younger sibling. My boys stopped nursing before the baby arrived so I never faced tandem nursing. My youngest nursed for even longer than his brothers- he is the most independent and secure person I know. So congratulations for providing the best nutrition and immunities for your child - the benefits continue for as long as you nurse. Worldwide, the median age of weaning is 4.2 years. On their own, kids wean between 2 and 7.

Of course, as Mom, you make the decision for what is right for you and your child. Child-led weaning is easy at this age - you never offer to nurse but you also do not refuse. So if your toddler falls down and wants to nurse, you do, but if he doesn't ask, you figure something else out to cheer him up - get out an ice pack and give extra kisses. And you set guidelines for nursing such as waiting until you get home or until the sun comes up. As long as your child knows you are happy to see him and love him so much, you can explain why he is a big boy and can wean now. The book, Maggie's Weaning, is about a toddler weaning and then a baby arriving. But it may be better not to connect this with the baby because some kids really regress and act like babies when the little one is on its way or has arrived. It's just a phase and kind of sad but it passes.

The hardest time for me was naptime and bedtime which is why I didn't wean the youngest until he was ready. I needed those breaks! But when I stopped offering nursing at naptime or bedtime, the kids stopped napping and it took longer reading lots of books and telling stories until they dropped off to sleep. It was special time no matter what we were doing. And quiet time with music or stories on cds can really help keep the concept of an afternoon break going.

When you want to actively wean your child, you can hasten the process by distracting him with whatever he likes best - my sons would pass up nursing for time outside, ice cream at night or breakfast in the morning with Dad, silly games, cooking a snack. One of my favorite things about toddler nursing is that it is so easy to comfort and connect with your child. Moms who don't nurse their toddlers need to find other ways to do that.

One tip for when the baby comes - make a nursing basket of books or toys that can only be used by big boys when their baby is nursing. And our babies brought presents that were tucked inside the bag that went to the hospital.

Good luck. It is such a special time that you share with your first child. But having a sibling is a great thing whether the first one appreciates that all the time or not.




answers from Washington DC on

hi there,
congrats on the new baby, and congrats on being able to nurse this long! you have a lot of support here, which is nice to see. the only thing I wanted to add was that your husband/partner can be a really integral part to this transition, especially considering that your relationship with your son is going to change when the new baby arrives, so you might as well focus on his relationship with his dad/other parent now, so that the change is not directly associated with the baby.

so, I would suggest picking either the morning or the evening ritual, and having dad (for simplicity's sake, I'm just going to assume you're married, hope that's ok) take over. often it's easier if it's the morning (kids are generally in a better mood and more flexible than at the end of the day), and so as an example, instead of you going in to cuddle and nurse in the morning, daddy can go in and say that you're sleeping, or showering, or whatever, but that he is looking forward to spending some quiet cuddle time with his little guy. you can prepare him for this change in the days preceding it, ie. "daddy's been wondering if maybe he could cuddle with you and read stories in the morning, would you like that?" really focus on how much daddy wants some time with his little guy, and how special that time will be for them. then, just follow through with it; if you're not there, he won't nurse, it's kind of that simple. he may protest, but then daddy is there to cuddle and give support. he's going to need to learn to rely on daddy anyway, since the reality is, if you plan on nursing the baby, there are going to be times when your little guy is going to want mommy, and he just can't have you, so the relationship with daddy really needs to be cultivated and supported.

after a few days of daddy doing morning, you can then address nighttime, too, in a similar way. it will suck for you to miss out on those times with him, but again, it's important for him to get used to daddy's style of cuddling and for him to start looking to daddy, since the relationship is going to change. this will be hard on you, but try to use the time to do nice things for yourself, and to focus on the baby.

and, of course, make sure that you are making up for the lost time by giving him extra attention and cuddles at other times, whenever possible. it's a hard balancing act, but it's well worth it when you're overwhelmed in those first few weeks with the new baby, and you know that your son has a stronger relationship with his dad.

good luck! it all goes by so fast, just know that kids are flexible, and all they really need is your time (I know, I know, who has time?!?!?!).



answers from Washington DC on

I personally didn't nurse this long but one of my very good friends did. You have a few options for stopping nursing. For one thing with your son being 2.5 he understands a lot. My friend would tell her son that the "na-nas (their word for breasts) were sleeping" That conveyed the message that they were not to be disturbed. You could also encourage your son telling him that he is such a wonderful big boy now and that breast feeding is for babies. The new baby is going to need it and now that he is a big boy he gets other special time with you. You do need to make focused quiet time with him still a couple times a day. You could read him a book or just cuddle. Because you are so close to your next child there will probably be jealousy issues when the new baby starts nursing. You are just going to have to make sure you have quality time with your son and that he still feels like he is a priority to mommy. I know it will be tough but you can do it. Sometimes they do just need to cry it out. I know its really hard and sad for you but he will get over it and move on to the next stage of his life. You need to be firm and tell him its over and not go back. Being firm will be hard for you because it will be easier to nurse him but it is not better for you, your son, or your new baby. You are doing the right thing in stopping now and you can do it!



answers from Hartford on

HI K., I have a suggestion, and hope it helps. Your son will still need the quite bonding time with you, so don't worry about losing that :) At 2 1/2 he can understand more then you may think. Maybe try adding a new ritual to go along with the snuggling instead of breast feeding. When my son was this age I made up a song and used his name in it. Well, really I just changed the words to hush little baby and added a turtle named Daniel, lol. So add something fun to get him interested and maybe a new stuffed animal to add to your snuggle routine. Talk to him about it and make it seem so special that he is moving up to the next stage of mommy time. As with anything with little ones, once you stop don't give in because then you have start over from scratch. I think you will find it easier then expected. Congratulations on the soon to be new addition!



answers from Norfolk on

First of all, it is our culture that is making you feel out of place and there is nothing wrong with what you have done. In fact, you have given you child the best possible start and forged a loving relationship so stop beating yourself up. My son was 3 when he stopped and I too was pregnant but not as far along as you. It was too much for me (I was so tired) and my spouce was horrified that he was still nursing (morning, nap, and nighttime). One day, just before his third birthday his dad asked "when are you going to give up the boo?" (our code word) and my son responded "when I'm three" so we held him to it. He missed it but it was not awful. My daughter spontaniously stopped on her own at 2 1/2. She stopped asking and I stopped offering and when she did finally ask, it was too late and the snack wagon had dried up. Good luck to you and don't be surprised if you need to see a lactation consultant after the birth. I was shocked that I needed to but nursing a newborn is totally different than nursing a toddler. It takes a strong and dedicated Mom to go against societal norms and do what's right for her kids. I am proud of you.

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