Steps Towards Weaning

Peanut nursing when she was 4 months old.

I’m officially there. I’m weaning.

Well, more like I’m nudging her towards officially quitting breastfeeding. Technically, you start weaning the day you introduce something besides the breast. Even for exclusively breastfed babies, this starts early. It can be when you introduce a pacifier (which has been shown to decrease the overall breastfeeding relationship) or when you give them their first foods. For us, this started over 2.5 years ago when she had that first meal of apricots and bacon. Then, for us, it moved onto what they call “Don’t ask, don’t refuse” when she was over a year old. As she got older, it moved into refusing when I was busy. Then I started refusing more when we were out and about, which is pretty much the same idea. Just too busy and moving around to stop and nurse. Plus it was more difficult to nurse her in a carrier as we used to do.

Peanut nursing at 8 months.

We stayed there for a long time. She rarely asked outside of nap time, bedtime, and morning. During my pregnancy there was sensitivity, but nothing unbearable. I expected the uncomfortable nursing to get better when Twig was born, but it didn’t. It’s getting better now, but I think the contrast from a baby nursing to a toddler nursing that I experience every day will make Peanut’s nursing never truly comfortable for me again.

Then, of course, since Twig was born, Peanut has been asking to nurse much more frequently. In the beginning it was more often than Twig wanted to nurse. Now she’s to the point of asking a few times a day. All in all, things are getting better. The problem is, for me, that it doesn’t seem like it’s enough.

Nursing I love yous at 15 months.

I feel frustrated every time Peanut nurses. I feel frustrated every time she asks and I tell her no (though generally in nicer terms and attempts to avoid actually saying no). I get even more frustrated when she asks Over. And Over. And Over. even when I have a valid reason why we can’t nurse (e.g. we’re driving in the car). I feel like nursing is putting a strain on our relationship.

Spiderman nursing at 26 months.

So we’re working on weaning. I never thought I’d say that. I’ve always been a firm believer in child-led weaning, but I need to take my own advice and realize that this is a relationship and both sides need to be happy for it to continue. Someone in La Leche League the other day told me that breastfeeding is the first place where your child learns limits and boundaries. It is important that she learns that, right? My feelings count too, right? I have to keep telling myself these things. Eventually they’ll stick.

Obviously, I feel a bit of guilt.

I know that Peanut probably isn’t ready to wean. I don’t think she’s young enough that it’s going to be traumatizing for her, but I do know her well enough to know that it will need to be really gentle. I’ve kept this in mind while looking at ways to help along weaning. For instance, some moms do a “weaning day” where it’s the last day that the child nurses, but I don’t think would work for her because it would be too sudden. If I left her for a weekend and expected her to wean during that period, I honestly think it would be traumatizing for her.

Getting kicked in the face by sister at 35 months.

I think Peanut’s weaning process will need a lot of yeses. So right now, what we’re doing is counting to ten while she nurses. I’ve heard of moms doing this during pregnancy because of the pain. I can count as fast or slow as I’d like, so that determines how long she gets to nurse. She’s already asking me not to count, but I tell her that she’s a big girl and big girls get to count while they’re nursing. I’m trying to act like it’s something fun. I’m also saying yes whenever I can, even if it’s not a super convenient time to nurse. We’re also trying to eliminate her nap time (there will be a post about that in the near future) and that’s a big time that she used to nurse. It was the only way she’d get to sleep for nap. Bedtime and morning time aren’t nearly so vital.

This is what we’re trying for now. Just like everything in parenting, we may change things if they stop working. New ideas are very welcome too.

Did you wean your older nursling? Are you happy you did? How did you do it to make it gentle? Has anyone weaned an older nursling while tandem nursing?


9 thoughts on “Steps Towards Weaning

  1. My children (who are now adults) are almost 3 years apart in age. My son was still nursing when my daughter was born and continued to nurse for another year and a half. It was quite a challenge.

    He did not show any particular signs of weaning before she was born and I never really considered doing so; in fact I was pretty excited to tandem nurse. I was not prepared for just how intense it would all be.

    I think I began to talk to him about weaning when he was about 3 1/2, after tandeming for about 6 months. I had been doing the don’t offer, don’t refuse thing, using distraction, etc. for awhile, but I started introducing the idea that he would not be nursing forever, that one of these days he would be weaning because he was getting to be such a big boy. We talked about it off and on for a long time.

    One thing I did was offer him a “weaning party.” His various cousins were having birthdays and he loved the idea of parties. His birthday was not until the next summer so I brought up the idea of a party to celebrate weaning. He liked the idea, but still was not ready for a long time.

    It was difficult, because it’s hard to basically say “I’ll let your sister nurse, but I won’t let you.” We just talked a lot, for a looong time about how grown up he was getting, etc.

    In the end, he nursed until about 4 1/2, which was 18 months of tandam nursing. What ended up happening, is one day when we were having a conversation about how he was getting older, etc. I commented that I didn’t know anyone as old as him that was not weaned, (I didn’t intend it to be as shaming as it sounds now.) He responded, “I AM weaned!” I jumped on it and said, “Yay!” and started planning his weaning party. I was very, very positive about it all and tried to make it very exciting. It was a small party (4 adults, 3 kids) because there were not many people you could invite to a 4 1/2 year old’s weaning party in 1988, lol. We had presents though and treats and stuff and had a fun time.

    I only remember him really backing down on the idea once, at bedtime that first night he had declared that he was weaned. He told me that he didn’t want to be weaned after all. I was very compassionate about it all, but told him that he was weaned. He was sad, but didn’t cry and just snuggled to go to sleep.

    It was not at all easy, but that’s our story.

    • I think I may offer Peanut a weaning party. I think we have enough friends that would come celebrate her milestone, even if they didn’t nurse an older child themselves. She loved her birthday party though, so I bet she’s be super stoked to have another party.

  2. I am sort of going through the same thing. My son weaned at 24 months when I was about 4 months pregnant. He would ask about nursing near the end of my pregnancy when we would talk about how the new baby would be nursing all the time. I would let him try but it lasted a second and he always claimed he didn’t remember what we was doing. After my daughter was born I was laying down with him before he went to bed and he asked to nurse. I wasn’t super interested but didn’t want to tell him no since he had been having a rough time since she had come and had been seeing us nurse all the time. Any way, he latched and totally knew what he was doing again (with some, open wide corrections) and with milk was suddenly very interested in nursing again. Now he asks approx. once daily and sometimes I say not right now which works sort of and sometimes I say there is no ‘milkies’ right now and sometimes I let him (oh, and sometimes we do the ‘mommy will sing a song when it is done we are done nursing which he is normally okay with). I definitely think I probably have it easier since he didn’t nurse for so long so he is not as accustomed to it. But yes, nursing a toddler? Way way different than nursing an infant and not nearly as pleasant. I’m sorry after making you read all this I have no advice except to say I get what you are going through and definitely think you need to do what will work for you – you have already done such an amazing job nursing her for so long – don’t let this period cloud how blissful your nursing relationship has been!

    • I’m actually very happy to hear stories of other people who have been in our situation. Especially from people who have made it to the other side!

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  5. I am still nursing my 22 month old and am now pregnant with my second baby. I only nurse once a day before bedtime but she sometimes asks for it in the middle of the night as well. I don’t nurse at night anymore though. So basically I have been slowly moving her towards weaning but I am struggling with the last step. I am not overly keen on tandem nursing once the new baby arrives in 7.5 months as I think it might make my oldest very keen to nurse constantly again. So I am hoping to wean her fully with plenty of time to spare before the new baby arrives. Have you got any advice?

    We’ve tried don’t offer, don’t refuse but it doesn’t work for us (anymore) because the evening nursing session has become a routine so she always knows it’s coming and therefore asks for it. I’m stuck!

    • When my husband started reading Peanut bedtime stories, that stopped our pre-bed nursing session. Something about his deep voice and the pattern of Dr. Seuss just put her to sleep! I think that changing up the bedtime routine could be helpful though. Some moms just move nursing further and further back in the routine (like if you normally do bath, dressed, books, nursing move it back to between books and dressed and then between dressed and bath and then before bath and then not at all) gradually and I’ve heard that helps.

      As for nursing in the night, we used this method for night weaning and it worked great.

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