Weaning a 28 Month Old Who Does Not Want to Wean

Updated on November 08, 2009
J.M. asks from Seattle, WA
15 answers

I reluctantly began to wean my daughter in July, but have since given up. My husband and I are trying to coneive and I am now 40. We started trying in April and it seems to me that ending breastfeeding is the logical next step towards increased fertility and I've been told this by many others. I've had my FSH level tested in August and it came back quite high, so that was good news, but I am still not pregnant.

I couldn't find much information on weaning an older child through library books. From what I've been able to find it seems that most people who nurse past 1 let their children self wean. My daughter has no interest in weaning. She went from breast feeding whenever she wanted, I wasn't counting, down to two and sometimes just once a day in August. I went away for two nights and thought that would be enough for weaning to be done. It wasn't, and I gather is generally not for someone who's been lactating for over two years. I still had milk and couldn't resist Lena's desire to have milk at least once a day. I also knew she would be starting pre-school in September, and so wanted her to have that once daily at least, to help boost her immune system, which would be encountering lots of new germs.

I also went back to work in September as an almost full time teacher, and it seems that this has made my daughter even less happy about weaning. After ever increasing requests and escalating crying and increasing numbers of requests daily, I gave up on weaning entirely. I know inconsistency is bad, it just felt that she really wasn't ready. She was seemingly really unhappy and not getting used to weaning.

Now, however, she's still asking for milk more than ever. She's even waking up @ 4 a.m. and wanting to nurse again, having been night weaned since last March. My body is starting to give me signs that my daughter is nursing too much now, physical pain and reluctance on my part. I don't want her to feel rejected, which I've heard that some children do feel when weaned later, but we will need to reduce nursing soon.

Suggestions for easing this transition? Books that address this issue? I plan to give her increased non-nursing attention. I've heard that some have offered chocolate milk as a substitute, and then reduced the chocolate little by little after weaning. I don't think an extended weaning trip for me is an option, but does anyone know how long it would have to be?

Thanks for your thoughts.

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answers from Seattle on

I've known a lot of people who got pregnant while breastfeeding. Also, I breastfed my 3rd child for 3 years. She still remembers it and she actually needed it. I'm not sorry it did it that long, however, I'm sorry I didn't breastfeed my others longer (one 6 mos, one 1.5 years) I think you should keep going until you are both ready. Maximum I've heard 5 years for Breastfeeding, however, up to age 3 used to be normal (before the 1900's).

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answers from Seattle on

Hi J.

I'm 41 and conceived this spring while breastfeeding my first (who I had at 40). Everybody is different but I don't believe that breastfeeding affected my fertility. I continued to breastfeed my first until I was about 7 months pregnant (and he was 18 months). At this time he only nursed to go to bed and to fall asleep at naptime. I gradually helped weaned him by timing our nursing sessions. I allowed him to nurse for 10 min and then I took him off and said "all done" or whatever works for you. We gradually worked down to 3 mins (I reduced the time every 5-7 days or so) and then one day we went to lay down and he didn't ask to nurse and I didn't offer. The whole process probably took about 3-4 weeks. But it was gentle on me and he didn't fuss when I said "all done".
Good luck!



answers from Portland on

I nursed till my son was 4. Not by choice, but because he refused to wean. He still asks even six month later purely for comfort or snuggle reasons. I went back to work when he was 14 months old and he went from almost being done to full nursing because it was the only way he could make mommy stay put. When kids are older, you need their cooperation to stop and it is difficult. Clearly your body and emotions are ready to be done, and that will go a lot of the way to weaning her. Just be firm, give lots of hugs and she'll adjust. Better for her now to get over a little hurt by not nursing then when she can't because baby sibling is in the way. You don't want a competition issue starting.



answers from Eugene on

Your daughter sounds just like my son. La Leche League advises that self-weaning occurs on average between the ages of 3 and 5. I don't necessarily believe a part of you is trying to cling to the nursing relationship, as I also desperately wanted to wean with no results. The "don't offer, don't refuse" didn't work with my son. I think you're probably stuck with either letting your daughter tell you when she's ready (could be a year or more) or just putting the resolve to decide to wean her despite her protests, and when she's not ready. I got pregnant at 38 while extended nursing, so it is not impossible, but at 40 I understand wanting not to stack the cards against you.

When I've had the physical pain and reluctance, I've found those were times my son was either hungry or wanting my one-on-one time. In other words, he was nursing for other reasons. Unfortunately, by the time they are nursing for food, nothing you give them will replace the boob. It's better to be pre-emptive by trying to keep them as well-fed as possible throughout the day. With the one-on-one time, I asked my 3 year old, would you like to read a book (or spend one on one time w/mommy) instead? And he would jump to it.

The unfortunate reality, I think, is that children are not as naturally convenient as our modern lives would prefer. I can't wait for my son to self-wean, but in the meantime I enjoy the incredible antibodies and absence of sickness (the antibody properties of breastmilk directly increase with age, with no age limit cap!) and also knowing that his neurons, nerves and physical development are receiving top notch nutrition that nothing else can match.

I also don't have the heart to wean. :) Good luck with whatever decision you choose and if you are able to wean despite her protests, I also say more power to you. It is definitely NOT EASY!!



answers from Bellingham on

I had a similar problem. The doctors actually wanted me to go on med when she was six months old, but I'd have to wean her first. I wanted to wait until she was at least a year, so when she was 13 months old I started to wean. It simply did not work. She was determined to nurse and I really needed to go on that medication. Nothing worked - extra snuggling, bottles, etc.. We got down to only bedtime, but she would not give it up. Finally, when she was 18 months old, I begged my husband to help. So, I refused to nurse during the day and at night he put her to bed and I stayed away. The screams of anger the first few nights were horrible, but she adjusted. She's four now, and I wonder if she'd still be nursing if we hadn't finally just cut her off! LOL.



answers from Seattle on

Start wearing dresses with high necklines....At least that will help you to not give in. (This was some advice I heard to a friend - sadly my kids self weaned at 14 mos). Every transition is dreaded by the parent and fought through by the child. When we took the pacifier away from our 3 yr old daughter we were really worried. But, they all get through it (eventually) and never look back. It probably won't be as horrible as you anticipate for as long as you anticipate. It is very hard to wean for both of you. Good luck!



answers from Seattle on

Both my kids kind of weaned on their own, but a friend of mine and FOUR who didn't want to wean. She struggled with her first until she was over three, and then she took a leap: she went off for a week, without her child.

It was extreme, yes, but when she came back, she could honestly tell her daughter that she was "all dried up." She did the same thing with the other kids, and two of them hardly noticed. All four figured out within a day that there were other ways of getting their mom's love (they are all still pretty snuggly, even though the youngest is 18!)...

Honestly, even three days would be enough for you to SAY you can't nurse her any more. Children have a less developed sense of time, and they don't know. Besides, you have the right to keep control over your own body. She doesn't need your milk to sustain her eating, and learning to find emotional solace in other behaviors will be good for her.

Good luck!



answers from Portland on

When I became pregnant, it quickly became too painful to nurse my 3 year old. SHe was down to nursing only once a day and many nights skipping all together. But, as I started avoiding nursing and trying to wean her, she became much more adamant about nursing. I found that talking to her and explaining that the milk now needed to sleep at night and she was a big girl, we would have to switch to cuddling instead. She cried a couple of nights saying I made her cry or I made her sad, but then quickly adapted to no nursing as I have not cut off our cuddle and bonding time.

I also found it useful to make sure I wear a shirt to bed to make sure they aren't there to tempt her. I also did some distraction and would tell her long drawn out stories at bedtime before she could have milk and many times she fell asleep before the story was over reducing the conflict and stress of me having to say not tonight.

Talking to your child and explaining why you need to stop even in very simple terms helps them adapt and not feel rejected. Plus replacing the nursing with plenty of snuggling and bonding help ease any feelings of rejection as well. I've had friends say that it takes anywhere from 1 night to a few weeks depending on the child.

Good luck!



answers from Corvallis on

CHEERS TO YOU FOR NURSING FOR SO LONG!!!!! I too, am still nursing and my daughter is almost 26 months. I am 38 and not planning on having another child, so I am not in your spot...but I was once thinking about weening her about a year ago (so glad I didn't for her health). But, when I was doing this, I was steered toward the Farmer's Almanac, where there are certain times during the month and year to wean children. Don't ask me the science of it, but I would imagine there is some connection to the cycles of the moon etc. So, check it out and maybe plan again to try weening around those times. Good luck (with this and with getting prego again)!



answers from Seattle on

I am about to wean my 11 month old in a couple of months and I have been reading that if mom is seeming reluctant to give up the relationship the child can cling to it also.
It sounds to me as if you want to continue to nurse and maybe that is why she still wants it more. the website kellymom has some really good weaning tips. It suggests "dont offer dont refuse" as one technique as well as distraction.
I think if you impose a schedule for her it will also help. She is old enough to know that she gets nursed only in the morning and at bed time. It sounds like she is wanting to nurse more since you are not home as much. Maybe if you are able to spend more time with her at night that would help. My daughter went through a stage where all she wanted was to nurse, at least this is what I thought. I then relized that the only time she got my full attention was when she was nursing! I now am always on the floor and between end of dinner and bedtime it is baby time, minimal dishes and cleaning. This helped so much.
Good luck and I will be coming back here to get some good tips for myself. We can do this together!



answers from Seattle on

Hi J.,

It sounds like there is a part of you that's not fully letting go of weaning too (which I can completely empathize with). You have to be fully committed to it to make it happen. If you're not, your daughter will sense that and take advantage of it.

I weaned both of my boys around 21/22 months old, mostly because I was ready, but I also felt that they were ready too, just needed to have that last thin string cut. I knew I was going to miss the connection time, but I needed to feel the freedom and wanted to increase their connection time with their father, which I felt nursing was hindering.

As for tips on what to do, I started by explaining about a week in advance that the "Bo-Bo" (the name they both picked for my breasts) were turning off soon, then I set a date a week later, lovingly (but firmly) communicated the daily countdown at nursing time, and stuck to it. I set the date to be a weekend so dad could help out too. If they asked to nurse, I would just explain that the "Bo-Bo's" are off and have no more milk, and offer them something else to drink or a few minutes of cuddle time. We moved the cuddle time with my husband as much as possible too, to start building that part of their relationship more. The "off/no more milk" was a simple thing for them to understand to help them realize that it's all done. There will be some whining, but if you stick to your guns and show her that you're serious, she will accept it. It took my first one a few days to get beyond it, and my second about a week.

Obviously your going back to work has made her want to pull you in tighter the strongest way she knows how, which is nursing, so in addition to staying firm with the "off/no more milk" idea, show her other ways that you can connect. Maybe just cuddle with her at 4am, and/or pick a special song to sing to her or something along those lines.

I don't know if these tactics will work for you, but I figured I would share my thoughts anyway. Best of luck to you!!



answers from Portland on

I recently weaned my son at 28 months, also. (We were wanting to become pregnant again, as well.) I know each child has an entirely different personality, so what worked for us may not work at all for you. My son was already down to nursing only at bed time, so that simplified things. What we did was chose a significant day to stop (his second birthday) and began explaining to him about a week in advance that he was going to be turning two so he would be a "big boy" now, so it was time to stop nursing. Then, when the big day came, my husband took over the bedtime routine. Instead of nursing, my son got to choose a couple of favorite stories to read with his dad before going to bed. Aside from going into his room and kissing him goodnight, I tried to stay out of the picture as much as possible, to help minimize temptation (for both of us). The first night was really hard. He cried himself to sleep. My husband went in to pat his back and reassure him that he was loved about every five minutes, but we didn't back down. The second night he whimpered a little, but it went much better. By the third night, he was fine. I continued to have some milk for several more months (until I got pregnant again). About a month after weaning, my son was curious and asked about nursing, again, so I offered to let him try. He looked a little startled and laughed, gave a couple of awkward sucks (he'd already forgotten how to position himself!), and stopped. He never really asked again after that. Now, when he sees me naked, he'll still bring up nursing, but we talk about how the milk is there for babies who can't eat regular food. Since he is a big boy, now, and can eat big boy food, he doesn't need my milk anymore. He just accepts that explanation and carries on with his day from there.



answers from Eugene on

First i'd say do some charting of your cycle and make sure you are ovulating. And that you are ovulating early enough in your cycle. When I was ready to try for #2 I was charting and saw that I was Oing quite late, but found some info on supplements that can help (can't remember them now). The luteal phase (from Ovulation to menstruation) lengthened over the next couple of months and I got pregnant.
Now #2 is 26 months and my luteal phase still hasn't been long enough to keep a pregnancy--we're not trying so I don't want to help the process right now anyway.

As for weaning an older toddler, I think it will be quite hard unless you really want it to happen. My older son was 30 months when we weaned (and I was 6 months pregnant), I really thought I'd be tandem nursing as he was very very committed! But he got very busy in the summer and I found replacements by accident--loved books at bedtime so we'd get him excited and "forget" to nurse first (had already started nursing in the living room before bed, not in the bedroom), others getting him down for nap or driving him around to go to sleep, getting out of bed before him in the morning (we were co-sleeping). Oh, and telling him he could have a treat when i'd pick him up after daycare so he'd focus on that instead of wanting to nurse as soon as he saw me.
And then it got awful and painful and I hated it all of a sudden so I didn't feel bad when 1 day I told him that we'd nurse the next day and then be all done. It was a shockingly smooth transition. He'd ask occasionally and i'd pretend it was a funny joke and say "you don't do that anymore!" and we'd laugh about it.



answers from Portland on

I can relate! I just finally, successfully, weaned my 2-1/2 year old. We are done having kids, but I've been ready to have my body back for well over a year, just didn't know how to go about weaning without many many sleepless nights. It took me leaving town for a week (I had to attend to a family emergency across the country) but we're finally done. She was fine with her dad, and even was sleeping through the night by the second night I was away. When I returned, the first night she went to our chair ready to nurse before bed, but I told her "no more." She cried for a couple minutes, and that was the end of it. She's tried to be sly a few times and ask for the boobie again, but I just tell her no and she says "darn it!" It may seem extreme, and your hubby may fear the nights without you home to comfort, but it works.



answers from Portland on


I cannot recommend any books, but I agree if you want to get pregnant, you should stop breastfeeding.

When your daughter wakes in the middle of the night your husband, not you, should go pat her on the back and say goodnight. No cups of water, just good night and reassurances.

As for the day, when your daughter wants to nurse, use this as bonding time. Give her a snack and a cup/bottle of cow's milk then read with her or tell her a story.

Nursing at this age is normally for bonding. Just recreate the bonding activity.

Good Luck-

R. Magby

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