Seeking Advice from Other Co-sleeping Extended Nursing Mamas

Updated on June 09, 2011
N.A. asks from Minneapolis, MN
18 answers

I know I have posted this question before a few times, hopefully this is the last as I am VERY SERIOUS about changing this situation now. My son is over 3 (he will be 3.5 at the end of Sept.) and he still nurses to sleep and when he wakes up in the morning. We cosleep. I am a single mom, and I guess I raelly just let it go on this long out of sheer need for sleep, and it was a easy way to put him down, I know I should never take the easy way out (: But I did (please no scolding).
Anyways I had made a few half hearted attempts at weaning over the past year and half or so. I was ready to be done when he was 2! But nothing really worked, and I just kept on with it.
When I tried to tell him "No breastfeeding tonight, mommy will just cuddle with you" he got so upset and started crying and carrying on and on. Saying he was so sad that he couldn't have milk, etc. The thing is I now I should just let him get upset, but it just breaks my heart because I feel like I am taking away a great comfort to him (actually his only comfort) I have tried to substitute, but again nothing seemed to stick. So what do I do I end up hugging him explaining to him that we need to stop nursing, but i gave in and let him nurse to sleep!! I am so made at myself and I see myself get angry and frustrated when I try to tell him no and he cries and carries on. It's weird because he will do the same thing when I want him to come in from playing or if he wants candy and I won't let him have it, but it does not bother me in the same way...and I hold my ground on those topics...but not the nursing.
So tonight we ended up talking after I told him he could nurse to sleep when it's dark, but in the morning we have to just get up and have breakfast, no morning nursing. I am hoping if we cut the AM out, maybe eventually we will get to the PM nursing. I also told him he would be having a sleep over at Grandma's (which he done 2 other times, without any real prob and he was nursing more then) and he got really said saying he didn't want to stay there if he he would not be able to nurse. But I NEED a night off (as selfish as that may sound) badly...and my mom wanted me to have him weaned and it's 1 week away much for that.
Does anyone have any adivce for a VERY reluctant to wean 3 year old? It's probably harder on me then on him (:

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answers from Houston on

You have to let him cry WHILE you hold him. For a few nights, maybe weeks. Offer a sippy cup and water. But he will most likely cry himself to sleep. Just be there with him when he does it.

My baby weaned 3 weeks ago, she is 2 1/2 and we are co sleepers.

Other than that you can let him continue until he self weans, or take a vacation and leave him with someone you trust for a few days to break his routine,.

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answers from Dallas on

Just a disclaimer, I am NOT a extending nursing mom. However, I think every mom has had to go through this with something. Whether it be nursing, a bottle, a pacifier. I have found the best way, is to take it away and don't give it back. You see, a pattern has been set. He knows if he cries and goes on, you will nurse him. He knows, because you've proven him right. This is what I suggest. Tomorrow (or if you work, you can wait until the weekend, when you have time during the day.) tell him he can't nurse tonight. Take him to a store and let him pick out a special soft toy, or a blanket. Explain to him that you will cuddle with him at night, and he has to have his special item at night, instead of nursing.

The problem really isn't that you don't know what to do. It's that you are (by your own admission) are failing to do what you say. You are flip-flopping and proving you don't mean what you say. Tell him no more nursing, and do NOT nurse. I promise it won't take him long, once he knows you really mean it. It could take him a while to really know you mean it, because you've given in always in the past. But once he gets it, he knows he can't throw a fit for it.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Tell him no and let him cry! He'll get over it! Do you want to be nursing a kindergartner? We have to tell our kids no a lot. Sometimes it's heartbreaking, but that's being a mom! You're not selfish! He needs to be in his own bed and not nursing. He's way too old and I don't care who disagrees. He has to start learning some life lessons -like soothing homself, going to sleep on his own and no more boob!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Des Moines on

My almost 3 1/2 year old son isn't weaned yet either. Actually if I have to choose I want POTTY TRAINED more! But anyway he's spent a weekend a month at Grandma and Grandpa's since he was 18 months old! He sleeps just fine there. It's NOT a weaning strategy-- if anything he nurses even more the first few days he's back. But it IS a MUCH needed sanity break!!!!! There is NOTHING selfish about wanting to provide your son with a sane relaxed mom AND strengthen his relationship with his grandma.

So anyway, you are NOT alone and DO send him to Grandma's -- and RELAX and DO NOT call him while he's there. Text Grandma to check on him, but don't disrupt/upset him by calling. And if you figure out a gentle weaning solution or better yet potty training let me know!!!!!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

You stated that he has no other comfort, but you don't trust that you are comfort enough. When you are confident in that, it will be conveyed to him. It is okay that he's sad (so, so hard) but sad is okay. Especially if you are there holding him and loving him, but firm about knowing that you are enough and that he will be okay. He will, really. Be confident in that. Both of you are face an unknown and transition. What will it be like if you aren't comforting him in the way that you know you can? You will find a different way and together you will develop a different routine.

And you do NOT sound selfish for needing a night off. You sound like you are taking care of your boy's mama!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

I've given this advice many times on this forum, but it worked for me and many others: put vinegar on your breasts right before you anticipate him nursing. Tell him that Mommy's milk went bad. Works like a charm.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Duluth on

first and foremost, DO NOT FEEL GUILTY!!! think about it this way; do you really enjoy sleeping alone? probably not. why would a child? sleeping with our children is not the horror that most of the world says, and really in every other country in the world people cosleep with their children. in reality in some countries its about survival. you wouldnt let your weakest and smallest family member sleep alone in some countries! those things aside, you are doing what works for you, and what is best for your family. your first paragraph seems to indicate that you are already judging yourself by what others think of cosleeping (you are actually bedsharing, but thats fine too). dont judge yourself. this is the most beautiful part of being a mother; to share a room or bed with your child, and to KNOW that your child knows you are there for him night or day. its frustrating sometimes, but its beautiful and it works, and you should NEVER feel guilty because so many people dont sleep with their kids and would tell you so. its shameful that anyone would tell you that its wrong. they are not the mother of your child, and they have no right to say or imply that what you do is wrong. :) you are doing just find and you are being a great mom!!

wait wait "and my mom wanted me to have him weaned"?? if your mom is pressuring you and making this more difficult and frustrating, she needs to back off. it is obvious that her influence is not helping you, its making you more upset, and its making you feel worse for not being able to live up to her expectations. it doesnt matter who wants you to wean, this is about you, not them. if the sleepover doesnt work out right now, then it doesnt work out. if he goes and is still nursing when he comes home, then so what? it is a process.

the best thing you said was the part about getting up in the am and eating breakfast, and only trying to cut out the morning nurse. this is exactly what i would recommend for you to do. only try to stop one session at a time. right now hes only got 2 (right?) and they are a part of his routine. so taking both away is going to be hard, but taking only one away at a time you can focus on one. morning is probably easier because you can get up and change the rountine and have breakfast and other morning things.

try rearranging the furniture in your bedroom. see if you cant fit a bed for him in your room, or just simply setting up a blanket bed on the floor. he might still crawl into bed with you, but you will get uninterrupted sleep for a while, and you can put him back down in his bed when hes asleep or something. thats what i did with my son. hes 4 1/2 and he still prefers to come to our room and sleep on the floor or in our bed most of the time. its a lot less exhausting than it used to be, i dont know why; maybe its because he will sleep longer in his bed than he used to. either way, there IS a light at the end of the tunnel!

just relax ok? any reservations you have about weaning your son is going to feel, and its going to make it harder. just be matter of fact about it, try your best to dont offer and dont refuse, but at the same time, distract! read a book, watch a movie, go for a walk, play a game in the morning when you would be nursing instead. switch the environment around, change the rountine or something.

and for you: get up about an hour before him. this might mean you have to go to bed earlier, but if you arent right there when he wakes up, he might not think about it so easily. get up and read a Bible, or if you arent a Bible person, a book of any kind, or catch up on emails, watch tv, read the paper. do something good for you for that hour before he wakes up. get your night off, have him sleep over! dont make it a deadline, he doesnt have to be weaned by sleepover night or anything, but just let him go sleepover and take a break! do something you have wanted to do for a long while, or just do something normal without him like grocery shopping or something.

just relax though ok? you have done a GREAT job raising your son. you are a VERY sensitive and in tune mother. there is NOTHING wrong with bedsharing, and NOTHING wrong with extended nursing, but you know when the time is right to wean, and you have to just take it easy, its difficult. if you want any additional help from other moms who have been there, try your local or nearby la leche league; ;)

ps there are some answers on here that make your heart break. that signal alone lets you know NOT to use those suggestions, even if they are mine. YOU are the mom, and this is about YOU and YOUR son, not us out here. YOU choose how you do this. if it breaks your heart, then examine why you want to stop. he is not "too old" and it is not rediculous that you are doing this. many women in other countires, and in history and even in the Bible nursed their children to the ages of 4 or so. milk changes over time so its always giving the child exactly the nutrients and immune support they need. so its not something that deserves a deadline. but as i said, you know when you need to stop, so you find your own way here. these things are just suggestions, you have to do what works for you and your son. its going to take some time.
you could do some searches for things that might change the composition of your milk; things that might make it taste different. i wouldnt make it a bad experience for him, i wouldnt try to connect something that makes him so secure and happy to something that makes him grossed out you know? there are plenty of ways to do it without vinegar or bandaids. i think you are past that anyway. :)
good job mom. keep it up.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Ocala on

Ok, I have 4 children. I have breastfeed all of them.
I am still breastfeeding my 7 month old right now.
I have and still do CO-SLEEP WITH MY CHILDREN.

So I want you to know that I completely understand where you are coming from.

First thing, sit down with your son and talk about this durning the day.
Tell him that you love him very much.
Tell him that when kids grow up they get too big for breastfeeding.
Tell him that it's time to stop the breastfeeding.
Tell him that the two of you are going to go to the store and get him a soft blanket that he can use to snuggle with at bedtime.

Tell him that he can also have some choc. milk or warm white milk before bed if he would like.

When your in bed, don't let him snuggle up to your chest.

I hope you can get this done asap.

Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I remember reading on here a mom that said she put bandaides on her nipples and told her child no more breast, that "they were sick". Then a few days later, was able to tell her child there was no more milk.

Next your child and you will need to learn to sleep alone. Until the breast feeding ends, it will be very difficult to get your son out of bed. He can do all of this. He may cray, but YOU are the parent, you need to allow him to grow up and learn to go to sleep on his own.

Be strong mom. You deserve to have some of your time. Your child loves his grandmother and it is good for you to refresh your mind and attitude. Not selfish at all.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dayton on

I weaned my DD at 34 months. I just stopped. It was hard but we got through it.
I was also being pressured by my mom.
We also coslept/sleep.

And now that I have been blessed to do it all over again in hindsight I would do things differently.

That is, I would have ignored my mom...who has now changed her tune. ;)

STOP being so dang hard on yourself Mama! I can feel your mama guilt through the computer screen and my heart hurts for you.

It is ok to cosleep. It is ok to nurse past 3. It is ok AND necessary to take a break every once in a while. It is hard enough w/ 2 parents-I can only imagine w/ 1 how hard it truly is.

If you are ready to stop, then stop. It will be hard, but you will get through it. And I agree w/ LeeLee-only one transition at a time. Too hard on the little fellow otherwise.

DD co-slept w/ us till 4.5 and honestly I would still be fine w/ it if she could be quiet and go to bed like a good girl. Oh and her legs were hanging off the toddler mattress. :) DS has taken her spot in our bed.

Take your break! Maybe it can be a routine thing? I hope so!
Best wishes and a little pat on your back from me. :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on's a tough transition but as you know, it must be done. To me, this is obviously more gut wrenching that something like a pacifier, but there are some parallels. My middle son used a paci for comfort when falling asleep and early morning until he was 3.5. One day he asked me if he could have a Build-a-Bear like his older brother. I told him no, that's for big kids. He insisted that he was a big kid and there was my opening - you're not really a big kid because big kids don't use binkies. Naturally he insisted that he didn't need the binky anymore, so I told him that after 3 days of no binky, we would go to BAB and he could make the coolest animal he wanted to. Those were 3 tough days - lots of sobbing ("I don't want to be a big boy...I don't want a build a bear...I just need my binky..."). The first night, he didn't fall asleep until midnight and then was up every couple of hours. The second night he was up until 11 but slept all night, the 3rd night he fell asleep at his regular time and was done. Then we made a big deal out of going to BAB and he had a new comfort buddy at nighttime.

Obviously this is harder because it's not a piece of plastic, it's a piece of you! But in terms of what he's using the nursing for, it's similar. You are his human pacifier - and he is too old for any pacifier, plastic or human lol. He can do this and so can you! You will have several tough nights but give him something to work for (maybe something that can become his new comfort item), remind him of what he's getting in the end, remind him that he can do this (and remind yourself too) and just go for it!

Best of luck to you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I nursed our daughter for 21 months. At 3 years old, your son is very capable of understanding "Mommy's milk has dried up because you're a big boy now. Mommy's body knows you're a big boy and is no longer making milk." Even at 21 months, our daughter understood this when we had the conversation. Focus on the "big boy" aspect, then offer some sort of big boy reward, something he would really like, really prove that he's moving into a new phase in childhood -- maybe a bike or something else special :)
Good luck and no condemnation from me. Think of it this way, you've given him an excellent, healthy start. But when you're done, you're done!

P.S. a word to the wise: only try to accomplish one "big" thing like this at a time :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I struggled with this as well. I was ready to be done long before my son was at 2.5. (And while I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding and co-sleeping, I was more than a little horrified to admit I was still nursing this stage, even if it was just at night.) The reality is that at this stage, it's all about attachment and comfort, which is why its so painful for everyone to break the cycle. Toddlers are very willful! After many failed attempts, I found that what worked for us was a combination of distraction (sippy cups, stories, waiting until the last moment...) and also limiting his time nursing. I would say, "just for thirty seconds...." and then try another distraction. Eventually he learned that we could still snuggle, be close, even chat a little bit (what was your favorite part of today..) but not need to nurse. Thankfully with limiting his time and even skipping an night or two, my milk dried up. (No demand/no supply.) Yeah! Then it was "true" when I said I didn't have any more more milk. We still "discussed" it nightly for a week or so more but not sadly (him telling me I had no more milk and that he was now a big boy.) A friend of mine at work was more in your situation with a 3.5 year old and she worked with her son to create a small chain of paper rings (I think she neogiated 5 or 6 days) in which each night they would take a "nursing" ring off which counted the days off until he would stop nursing. The day before the last ring was done she found him trying to make a few more rings. I think they added two more and after that he was done. The big thing was that he was in control (aren't they always?) and that it was done loving and together. Best of luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on


First, I want to say that you have done a wonderful job of nursing your son! You should be proud of yourself for extended nursing :) Not all mama's can do that----Ok, as for your plan.....Cut out the am nursing first. Then work on the evening one. But I think if you want to be done weaning faster, it may just be better for both of you to adjust a bit quicker. Put bandaids on your nipples like another poster said and say to your son that your breasts are sore and your milk is going away. Your body is telling you its time to stop. Tell him that you will support him and love him in any way you can, but you can not nurse anymore. Give him one more nursing where he says goodbye and stick to it. He will have several nights of wanting it, but keep the bandaids on and hold your ground. You could even agree to take him to a store and buy him a special lovie-blanket, or pillow, toy to hold as he sleeps etc. Have that replace the nursing. Tell him that you will still be able to hug and cuddle with him BEFORE he goes to sleep but you will not be able to do that until he falls asleep. His new lovie should be able to replace you as being the constant comfort. Whatever you decide, stick with it~ He will be fine and you will too! GL!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

I allowed my daughter to self wean - and she chose 4.5 years. Once she felt she was done, there was no crying, no feeling like her comfort was taken away... it was just done and now we just snuggle. You need a night off, take him to Grandma's... but don't force him to wean just because you want a night off. I was a single Mom until my daughter was 6 months after 3 years old... I understand the frustrations you can have because you are the only one doing everything - but it gets made up to you in the long run. Don't be mad at yourself for doing something your son needs - that is just you being a good Mommy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

My son was still nursing at three when we went on vacation. He was having a fit because he wanted to nurse but there was no private place available. We gave him an ice-cream cone and he threw it on the ground! We stood watching until he finally just stopped crying and ate a bologna sandwich. That was it - he was weaned!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Omaha on

My answer might make you feel better about yourself. I'm going through this now as well. My son is 4 1/2 yrs old. I'm also nursing a 17 month old. I recently found out that I'm expecting again & now I'm determined more than ever to wean my 4 yr old. I tried to wean him when I was prego before, but he's like an addict. It was devastating to him & it broke my heart to hear him cry. Right now he's only aloud to nurse to sleep & he gets a few minutes in the morning when he wakes up. He's been doing a great job of staying in his bed all night. I've been talking to him & I have a date that we will be done.
I will say that I've weaned my 3 older childen when they were 3 yrs old and it was much easier. Each child is different & has different needs. Don't feel bad. Your little boy just may need you more & has some insecurities. You're a good mom. This is very hard to do! I suggest just letting Grandma take him a night or two, so HE can realize that he's okay without nursing to sleep. We did this a couple weekends ago and our 4 yr old was proud of himself for sleeping at Grandma's without me.



answers from Seattle on

First off, telling him he has to stop nursing forever to stay at Grandma's house is more likely to make him hate Grandma than stop nursing. Disconnect the two. Pressure will likely make this harder. Slow down. He's had a sleepover at Grandma's house before without being weaned. These don't need to be linked.

The bedtime nursing is the hardest to stop. There are two approaches for this.
1. Save it for last and understand that it will probably take months longer than everything else.
2. Do it first. Make any silly excuse, use sticker charts, whatever, but assure your child that he can nurse in the morning. Then keep that promise. Eliminate the bedtime nursing but keep all the other nursing times. Then slowly use distraction to eliminate the other nursing times.

Question: is there anything else he wants as much or more? I weaned my 2.5 year old when I realized that, though he wanted to nurse all the time, there were other things he wanted just as much.......tiger movie, hot chocolate, etc. I figured this wasn't a "need" for him any more if I could be replaced with tiger movie.

If so, try replacing nursing with that thing he wants. *Not* forever! Tell him, "this evening, instead of nursing, would you like X instead?" Get him on board with substitutions. Make each decision a single-time decision, not a forever decision. When you've gotten him to voluntarily opt out of nursing for a week or more, the breasts can get "sick" or otherwise out of commission. The drama should be pretty minimal at this point.

You can also try a sticker chart. Make this a rite of passage, his journey to something special. When he can go X number of days without nursing, he gets something special. Maybe a party to celebrate? No stress if he doesn't get a sticker, but make a big deal if he does get a sticker. Hug him lots, tell him how proud you are, do special things together. Make it a big deal, an affirmation of who he is. Set things up so he *wants* to go a day without nursing and he is proud of himself when he does so.

Know your child. If he is ultra-excited about growing up, stress the excitement of growing up. If he is ambivalent about growing up, stress that he is still your baby even when he is not nursing.

Check out Elizabeth Pantley's "No Cry Sleep Solution" books for suggestions on different bedtime routines.

Good luck!

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