Weaning After Extended Breastfeeding

Updated on August 25, 2010
J.B. asks from Amelia, OH
22 answers

I have a 27 month old daughter and am still breastfeeding her daily. I am okay with the current situation, and our pediatrician is also in agreement that breastfeeding is still healthy for my daughter. My husband, however, is strongly encouraging me to wean my daughter completely, as he feels she is getting too old to nurse. I would love to hear from others who have gently weaned a toddler successfully. I want the transition to be as smooth as possible, and am not interested in letting her "cry it out", or similar. I understand that may have worked for others, but it is not something I am willing to do. I currently nurse at bedtime, and my daughter typically wakes 2-3 times during the night wanting to nurse. When I am home, I usually also nurse her at naptime. We used to co-sleep, but have transitioned her to her own bed within the last several months. Any advice you can offer is appreciated!

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S.H.

answers from South Bend on

Heres my advice, i stopped breastfeeding when my daughter was 18 months old. We were both really attached to it and I was ready to wean but still wanted to hold on to that but i realized that she was just getting to old to breastfeed anymore. So i did the night and morning only feeding, giving her milk and diluted juice out of cups the rest of the time.

Finally, after a few months of that i decided i was just going to casually not let her bfeed anymore. Anytime she went for the shirt i either cuddled her and gave her juice/milk. If she wanted to cuddle with my breasts for comfort i would let her but no more feeding. She was just fine with that. Just get her attention on something else. It took my daughter 3 days for her to stop feeding from the time i put a stop to it. It was painless for both me and her, emotionally that is. GOOD LUCK!!

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C.P.

answers from Kokomo on

J., I will try to answer both as a lactation consultant and a momma of former nursing toddler. First, reexamine weaning because your hubby thinks she "too old" is he wanting his wife back? night time feeds gone? pressure from family? Certainly want to respect his opinion, BUT the health and happiness of you and your daughter are important...and she is NOT too old. That said, I would follow the tried and true LLL version of don't offer, dont refuse. Bedtime is the last to go, but the night feedings will be quicker, especially since she is not in your bed. When she wakens the first time, dad goes in to soothe her...if she escalates and gets upset, then just nurse her, and the next time she wakes, repeat with daddy-o going in first. I frequently tell moms in my support group to do this, because if you bring me warm cookies (mom) at night, I'm gonna eat them....so send in the chopped liver first :) I would not let her cry because then everyone is awake. Repeat as needed. Sometimes its a few days and sometimes weeks before all night feeds are gone. Then, you can work on feedings during the day, again dont offer, dont refuse. Distract her with other things..is she hungry offer snack, thirsty-a drink, mommy time, then cuddle and read a favorite book. I hope this helps! I think you are awesome. Your daughter won't turn out to be some manipulative, dependent child because you didn't "train" her to sleep, or "make her" quit nursing. Some call it spoiling, I call it love and attention! :)C.

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D.R.

answers from Fort Wayne on

At her age she is capable of understanding you--let her know that she can nurse at the times you specify--first thing in AM, nap time and bed time were the last to go for my girls. At other times you can cuddle with her, read her a book, rub her back etc. Sometimes they just need physical attention and closeness not so much the milk. My daughters all accepted that pretty easy at that age. Just say, it is not time to nurse yet, but I can cuddle with you--or other options.Mine did not totally wean until almost 3. Though night time feeding is necessary for babies up to around 1 year it is not necessary for toddlers--let her know you need to sleep!MAybe that is what is bothering your husband--but it is still you and the babies decision. Have him talk to your dr or read books on how most cultures keep nursing for up to 3 years. How lucky that you found a natural feeding supportive doctor--they are rare these days!

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L.B.

answers from Columbus on

J.,

First of all, congratulations on your decision to meet your child's nursing needs for such a long time. That is rare in today's world, as I'm sure you know.

There is a terrific group of ladies that meet as the Toddler/Tandem La Leche League group in Clintonville once a month on a Thursday. They will have great tips for you--tips on how to convey to your hubby that she is not too old to nurse and tips on how to wean gently. If you are interested, PM me and I will give you more info.

My son is also 27 months. We night-weaned him around 17 months, but he still nurses in the morning, during the day and at bedtime. One thing the toddler nursing group will tell you is that it is OK to set limits on nursing toddlers. You don't have to nurse-on-demand like you would an infant. Your 2 yo has much more capability to understand that you have needs too--like sleep for instance--than when she was an infant and you were her entire world. That is not to say that she won't be terribly upset (in the form of crying) about your needs.

When we night-weaned my daughter (who is 4 now and still nurses for "two songs" when I put her to bed), I was pregnant and my nipples were so sensitive I just couldn't stnad it during the night. I slept in another room and my husband did the nighttime parenting for about 3-4 days. She was comforted by him when she was upset about not having "nursies". She was not alone crying it out. She would go to bed in her own bed, but would come into our bed when she woke up. After the initial days, we used a nightlight on a timer to signal when she could nurse in the morning. This process took many months, mostly because I wasn't consistant and I would "give-in" and sometimes nurse her because she was so upset.

When we night-weaned my son, we did a similar process, but it worked better because I was more consistant and he has a more easy-going personality. He still wakes at 5 or 5:30 and wants to nurse. Following a 2 week vacation where I relaxed the rules, we're paying for it now. We're now working on being quiet when he comes into our bed. He doesn't cry so much, but he talks and is picky about where his water is placed on the nightstand, etc. It's hilarious, but at the same time, it is ruining our morning sleep.

I wish I had more hope for a smooth transition, but two year olds know what they want and when they want it; and they don't know how to be patient yet.

Hope this helps--feel free to PM me. There are way too many experiences with this then I have time to put in this post. :)
Laura

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L.S.

answers from Evansville on

Hi J.! Well, just wanted to let you know that I too struggled a lil' with weaning both my children, now 12yr and 6yr. They too wanted to nurse throughout the night. The way that I did it is actually by offering them their sippy cup at night rather than the breast. My daughter loved warm water (yuck!) but my son preferred milk. The doctor suggested at first to pump my breast milk and put that in the sippy cup and then transition to cow's milk. The thing I found was that in the beginning they were reluctant to take the cup, but after maybe one long night, they both were fine with it... basically I discovered that they just wanted that closeness to me in the night that they were used to. Nursing was simply a way to relax, so the sippy cup and mommy holding them close broke the habbit very fast. Good luck! :)

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A.P.

answers from Lafayette on

Wow! Good for you for nursing for so long, what an achievement! I haven't done what I'm about to suggest, but I heard about it and thought it sounded cool. I heard (a friend of a friend, right? LOL) about a woman who was pregnant and needed to wean her 3 year old daughter, so she explained that she would no longer be nursing, gave her plenty of warning, and that she could have one more time on each breast. I guess the daughter understood and just kept saving her "one last time" for special occasions. It sounded so sweet and gentle that I'm going to try it myself when my twins are ready to wean.

Good luck! Let us know what works!
A.

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T.T.

answers from Evansville on

I am currently in your same position with my 22 month old and was also in this position 2 years ago when my oldest son was 26 months. When I weaned my oldest son two years ago, I tried just about every option out there and nothing seemed to work. Probably the most used advised method for weaning is to cut back one nursing at a time. However, this seemed to confuse and upset my son more than anything. So, finally, one day I just told him num-nums (our lingo for nursing/breastmilk) were "all gone." He cried for a minute or two and then was ok with it--in a way I think he was ready to quit too, he just didn't know any different since it was something he had done since birth. I am considering doing the same with my 22 mth old within the next few weeks. I have once again tried to cut out one nursing session at a time and it just doesn't work with my kids--they just don't undestand why they can have it sometimes and not other times. I hope this helps and good luck with your daughter!!!
T.
PS. A friend of mine purposely went out of town for 4 days to wean her son...and it worked! And since her little guy was used to his dad putting him to sleep, he never questioned why mommy wasn't there (she worked part-time).

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S.D.

answers from Indianapolis on

First, way to go! I wish more people nursed as long as their children wanted. Second, where on earth did Glenna get her information? I hope it wasn't her OB or pediatrician! Any doctor who spreads this misinformation should have their license taken away :(

I suggest having your husband go in and try to get her to sleep with a pat on the back or rubbing her back or picking her up and rocking her. 2 reasons - 1) if he's so convinced it's time, then he should have a big part in consoling her when she doesn't get what she wants and 2) she's more likely to settle down if he's the one in there instead of you going in with your boobs and not letting her nurse. I have a couple friends who have done this, one feeding at a time and it did work over a few weeks. Have him try for say, 10-15 minutes and if she won't go to sleep, then you go in or he brings her to you. I'm not AT ALL saying it's a problem, but part of the reason she's up so much is because it was so easy to be when you co-slept. So, make sure she's really used to sleeping on her own and then work on helping her self-soothe.

Good Luck :)

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M.P.

answers from Toledo on

Congratulations on achieving a long-term successful breastfeeding experience! I guarantee that both you and your daughter will reap the benefits for years to come. I also breastfed my daughter long-term. Around 2 we started working on gradually weaning. My daughter loved going to the library and picking out books for me to read at home. We started choosing a lot of book about animal babies. Naturally, most of the animal baby books show the mommy animal nursing....and as the baby grows up it doesn't need "mommy milk" anymore. As the weeks went by and we kept reading these books again and again...I encouraged my daughter that she was growing up and didn't need "mommy milk" anymore. She gave up the daytime/naptime nursing sessions first....because they were easy to replace with reading time or a special snack. I thought I was going to have a battle with the bedtime and middle of the night nursings.....but after a few months of reading books about baby animals growing up....she actually came up to me one evening....patted her chest (which was her signal for wanting to nurse)...and said "me big girl...no more mommy milk!" And as simple as that....we were done. Of course...I did some occasional hand expression for pressure relief for the first few days that she stopped completely. About 2 weeks after she weaned....she didn't feel well one night...and asked to nurse...but I was able to say "mommy milk is all gone now" and she understood and didn't ask again. We also co-slept....and if she woke up we just cuddled and she went back to sleep. You will miss it when she is done....so savor the time you have left. Good luck on a peaceful weaning!

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S.C.

answers from Dayton on

Good for you for nursing your little one so "long." I would highly recommend the books How Weaning Happens, and Mothering Your Nursing Toddler. They were wonderful resources for me. Make absolutly sure it's something YOU want to do, don't do it for someone else. Remember these years won't last forever and someday it will be a memory. It may help to look up weaning ages around the world, you are certianly in the range of normal.

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P.A.

answers from Dayton on

Congratulations on nursing this long. I nursed my oldest til he was 3 and my 2nd til he was 2 1/2 and I am currently nursing my 2 yr and 8 mo. old. So I have been through this twice. It is a process and that is great that you want the transition to be smooth. I can relate to the whole night nursing as I am dealing with it now w/my 2 yr old.

What worked with my boys was to tell them that "nursers" went night-night and they could nurse when the sun came up. (I might add this isn't working with my daughter :). So when the sun came up then I was willing to nurse. After some time then I would try to beat her up so that I wasn't in bed when the sun came up and could offer something else in place of our morning nursing - a book, breakfast etc. Just keep in mind that it is a process and if you set deadlines you may be setting yourself up for failure. It does eventually happen.

I might also mention that there are several books out there about weaning, that are very helpful and might offer you some insight and encouragement - you could visit your local library, call a LLL leader or google it.

Best wishes!

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M.Q.

answers from Terre Haute on

Hi J..

Congrats on breastfeeding your daughter beyond her second year of life. This is especially important with regards to dispelling some of the unsubstantiated societal pressures that a 2 year old is "too old." Without being confrontational, however, I do want to dispute the post, "From everything I've read, there really isn't any added nutritional benefits to breastfeeding after six months."

There is no proven research, nor factual basis for such a statement. Nutritional, as well as other benefits extended well into and past the first year of life. The world health organization recommends breastfeeding at least to age two. There is an extraordinary amount of research supporting extended breastfeeding.

Anyway, if you desire to wean because you and your daughter are ready, then by all means. However, if you are not physically, nor psychologically ready, perhaps your husband would be more receptive with a frank discussion about your thoughts and feelings, as well as a peek at some of the research to the many benefits, nutritional and otherwise. It could also help to listen to his concerns and why it may really bother him. Sometimes there is more to it.

In my own life, I found that it was a little bit of jealousy mixed with societal and parental (in-laws) pressures. We talked frankly and compassionately, and are still breastfeeding at 38 months. In most cultures, weaning naturally occurs between the ages of 3 and 4.

Whatever you choose, be sure that you and your daughter are comfortable and happy with your choice. Some of the previous posters offered great advice on how to wean in a more gentle manner. I hope you find the best method for you. Best of luck!

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J.C.

answers from Cleveland on

Hi, J.,
I too, co-slept and nursed, then got my daughter into her own bed (crib)at 12 months but she kept waking around 4 or 5 am to nurse. At 18 months, I was ready to wean. So, when she woke up, I'd go get her, put her in bed with me, and she would try to nurse, but I'd stay covered and just hold her and say 'Mama's here, mama's here. You're fine.' over and over until she realized that she wasn't going to nurse, but mom was with her anyway. She cried for a few minutes - less than five. Then she fell asleep. We did that for three nights, her waking and coming in with me, realizing she wasn't going to nurse, and falling back asleep in my bed til 8:00 am. She never cried for more than a few minutes. And it was more like whimpering than crying.

Then for about two weeks, she still woke up and came in with me, but never fussed....just went back to sleep. And then that stopped, too. And she stayed in her crib all night without waking. I think that it was probably just the closeness, not the nursing, that she was looking for in the wee hours. (She was a sling baby, so she was used to being with me all the time.)
Best of luck with whatever you try! J.

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C.M.

answers from Dayton on

The lactation consultants say that it is time to stop when either mom or baby feels it's time to stop. It doesn't sound to me like either of you feel that way so if you would like to continue nursing her go for it! However, she shouldn't be waking throughout the night esp. that many times. I went through the same problem with my older 2. It was horrible! This time around I tried everything and finally letting her cry a bit worked. When she does wake up at night you can have your husband go in to help soothe her. If she sees you she knows what you have to offer.

If you do decide to quit I wouldn't go cold turkey but that is my opinion. Cut out the non essential feedings first--middle of the night, during the day, ect. I would leave the nap and bedtime and then slowly cut those out.

Good luck with your decisions!

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S.F.

answers from Lima on

I've weaned three kids so far. Two at two and one at 18 months. The first at two was easy due to I think a good relationship and I believe they totally copy your feelings or at least follow your lead strongly. So I was cheering and stern We're done and she was smiley ok and never asked again. Then my second I was always worried about and uncertain and like ok we have to stop but she, I assumed could sense fearfullness in me and she cried for feedings for six months and I just couldn't get myself to show her cheery confidence that this was ok. My next I could, easily at 18 months and easy for him too again. So I think it, as usual with mommy stresses, had alot to do with how we are thinking and leading!! Be strong and confident and take a strong lead when you say it's over it's time be cool more great things to come!! good luck!

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L.S.

answers from Evansville on

I don't have any advice for you on weaning b/c I am still nursing my 21 month old 3 times a day. I just wanted to say GREAT JOB making it this long. I asked my pediatrician the pros and cons of nursing at this age and her answer was simply, there are no cons. So nurse as long as you feel necessary, don't have any regrets. AWESOME JOB!!!

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C.W.

answers from Cincinnati on

How we broke our sons who are 7.5 years apart was to stay all night with grandma and when they came home they each didn;t ask for ninny, Weeks later when they did ask I told them ninny was gone. They were both totally fine with it. I would have continued to nurse if they wanted but they seemed ready.
I did also say they were big boys and big boys drank from a cup. We didn't have cups like they have now. So L dealt with mess after mess.

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J.C.

answers from Fort Wayne on

She's old enough that you could explain to her that it's time for her to be a "big girl" and to start using her sippy cup all the time. Also, maybe let her pick out a few sippies on her own at the store. You could also say something like "You know, you are such a big girl, and so in two days we're going to stop nursing and only use sippy cups, isn't that exciting?" That way you're giving her a heads up and you could talk to her about it everytime she nurses, "Do you remember how many days until no more nursing?" and make it exciting for her. Then, when that day comes, just calmly explain to her "I know you want to nurse, but remember how we aren't nursing anymore?" She may get upset over the first few days, but as long as you don't give in, she'll get over it. Just DON'T GIVE IN, if you do, you're prolonging the transition period. If she is crying for long periods of time, half hour or longer, than maybe take her outside, watch a favorite tv show or movie, or play with her favorite toys to distract her. Like I said before though, DON'T GIVE IN. That's key to breaking kids of something.

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M.K.

answers from Dayton on

J.,

You said "I have a 27 month old daughter and am still breastfeeding her daily... My husband, however, is strongly encouraging me to wean my daughter completely, as he feels she is getting too old to nurse. I want the transition to be as smooth as possible, and am not interested in letting her "cry it out", or similar... I currently nurse at bedtime, and my daughter typically wakes 2-3 times during the night wanting to nurse. When I am home, I usually also nurse her at naptime."

My thoughts: I think extended nursing is great, as it works for each situation. The well-being of the whole family is part of the situation. (I still nurse my 2 yr old son morning and before bedtime. When your daughter wakes 2-3 times during the night wanting to nurse, do you oblige? She is old enough where she should learn to sleep through the night and YOU need to sleep through the night. Consider phasing out those feedings.

Have you heard of Baby-led weaning? There are bks on the subject. If you decide to wean her totally, Spend extra relaxing mommy-daughter time as you phase out the nursing.

Hope that helps.

[email protected]____.com

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A.U.

answers from Indianapolis on

This thread has really sparked my curiosity. I really don't want to come across judgemental, because I think parenting is full of choices and everyone has to decide for themselves what is best.
But, I don't have much experience with nursing past a year (I nursed my first for 10 months). This might be a really silly question, but could someone explain how it works physically to nurse a 2,3, or 4 year old? Do they lie down, sit, or stand? I'm just trying to imagine the 3 and 4 year olds I know, and I can't even figure out what the 'position' would be. Weird question I know, but I'd love for someone to explain.
When it comes to parenting, I truly believe that there aren't a lot of perfect answers. The most important thing is that parents give thier best and thoughtfully make choices for what is best for the whole family. While I may not always understand another person's decision, I truly hope that don't jugde someone when they are giving their personal best to their family!

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S.P.

answers from Indianapolis on

As someone who nursed 6 children, I recommend the following:

1. Do not offer and do not refuse.
2. Do not nurse outside the home (shopping, church, etc.).She is old enough to understand and wait until you get home.

As far as the night time thing goes, it would be good if you could cut that out entirely. For example, if you could only nurse during the daytime....you could set a date and tell her that from that time on dark time is for sleep only...you could put a sippy cup of water by her bed if she gets thirsty.
You already know that you have yourelf in deep here so it may not be easy.
Good luck.

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G.R.

answers from Indianapolis on

From everything I've read, there really isn't any added nutritional benefits to breastfeeding after six months. 27 months seems a little excessive to me, but it is a personal choice. I breastfed my son until he was just over a year old. The first time he came up and lifted my shirt in a roomfull of people, I thought it was time to stop. It was a lot easier than I thought. All I did was every time he wanted to nurse, I gave him a bottle or a sippy cup instead. He was okay with that. All kids are different. It might be harder to ween your daughter since she's older, and now she's probably doing it as a security type issue rather than just being hungry. Good luck to you.

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