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How do you wean an older toddler?


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My daughter is almost three and still nurses about five times per day. I don’t know how this happened. My other children self-weaned and 1 and 2.  I’m not an attachment parent or have any unusual parenting views, she just…never weaned. I’ve tried not offering, saying “later”, etc. and she just cries. It breaks my heart and so I cave. What would you do?

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I’m no help, but I wanted to commiserate.

 I reached your stage, then I just went zen, accepted my fate that I would come nurse him during lunch in kindergarten, and eventually, just before he turned 4, I leaped on an opportunity to stop.

DS would only nurse before sleeping, so one day I just held him close and we had snuggle time instead of boob time.

That was almost two years ago; we have since moved on to hand-holding time.  I’m hoping his future spouse can take my spot one day.

Honestly, I dong care anymore.  I look at my 26-yo daughter (with whom I shared a bed for years) and remind myself that they grow so fast and this stage will end like they all do, and then *I* will be sad, so I’d better enjoy every minute!

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That's hard!  Only one of my four self-weaned (and he did it very young before I was ready), but I nursed my others until they were around 2 1/2 and they were easy to wean.  I don't know what I would have done if they weren't.  Sorry for not having any advice!  

 

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With mine who was like that, we were able to use distraction techniques during the day, offer food and snuggles, books, etc, and then at night (because he still nursed a ton at night even at that age), I actually put large band-aids/gauze/tape over the necessary area and showed him that the nursing was broken. During the day, that combined with distraction, was fine. During the night, it took that and my husband taking over bedtime and consoling him, and just an iron will to not cave. He asked for about a week or so before giving up. 

I weaned him finally because it had reached a point where I was dreading the nursing vs. enjoying it. 

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I nursed mine until 3 and 3.5.  With the older we talked about stopping when he turned three, because nursing is mostly for babies and little kids and he would be a big boy (it helped that I was tandem nursing his little brother at that point, so babies vs big boys was a big deal to him.). With the younger I made a point of having other exciting things to do at times he normally asked to nurse. I did say no if he did ask, but I targeted one session at a time with other distractions and eventually he stopped asking.  I think bedtime was last, we read stories first and then nursed to sleep.  I switched from reading short books to a chapter book and just read until he fell asleep.

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I never had this particular issue, but when we decided that my son's pacifier needed to go (at almost three as well), we told him that when he turned three, he would be a big boy and big boys didn't use pacifiers.  Then on the appointed day, we, with him, threw them all away and that was that.  I think he was a bit disgruntled for a few nights, but after that he was fine.  

I'd do something similar in this situation (though I realize that you can't throw the nursing station away, lol).  Just be firm and prepared to deal with some angst.

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One of mine weaned himself, with a bit of encouragement from me at 2.  I was pg and my milk supply was low so I am sure that helped.  I just had DH put him to bed for a few nights instead of me because he was only nursing at bedtime.  It was a bit more challenging with my youngest.  He was still nursing when he was 3.  I mostly let him self wean, but it was don't ask, don't refuse.  Eventually he stopped asking.  I tried distraction some of the time with mixed results.  The hardest was nap time and bedtime.  DH taking on bedtime for a while was a big help.

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I was/am into attachment parenting, and when I felt like I needed to wean my kids around 2-3 yrs old, it was easy to distract during the day but night time was harder. I did feel ok with them crying at that age and I would hold them, rock them, walk the floors with them, etc. until they fell asleep. Usually it took 2-3 nights of this and then they were able to accept snuggles instead of nursing.

 

Why are you weaning? If you don't really feel a compelling need, maybe give her more time. But if you're done, don't cave...

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34 minutes ago, GracieJane said:

I’ve tried not offering, saying “later”, etc. and she just cries. It breaks my heart and so I cave. What would you do?

I would continue with not offering. With my youngest I did have to kind of wean her (she was 14 months but only during sleep times), I overproduced so it's really obvious by that point they aren't really drinking much. What she really wanted is the close snuggle time with mommy. I would try when she asks to offer her hugs and mommy and "baby" bonding time. I would gently say "You don't need that (the boob). Let's try doing some special mommy and baby (insert name) snuggles." Snuggle and baby her until she falls asleep or is done. If she insists on milk despite getting mommy baby snuggles, I would try offering non-breast milk in a sippy cup instead. If she is insistent then give her boob and try again next time.   

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It feels like a long time ago.  I think the first thing I did was say there’s only milk a x time and would offer milk instead. Then, I think I said something like after today the milk will be gone. The next day I said no milk anymore and offered a sippy cup. I do remember with one of them rocking them and letting them put their hand on my chest. But then I got us both up and busy with something —probably out of the house.  

There may be crying but it’s okay. There is sadness with saying good bye to things. It’s ok for both of you to be sad.

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What would I do? I would keep nursing. My youngest weaned at 3.5. 
 

Fwiw, my two kids who nursed past age 3 also turned out to be lactose intolerant. Some of that transitioning was delayed a bit because of low lying tummy woes, I think. If you have any history of dairy or gut issues in the family, I would keep an eye out.

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Rarely sit down, especially if toddler is around. (Sorry. I know that sounds exhausting) The last feeding to go for all of mine was night time and Dad always took them (often outside if weather permitted)and carried them around until they were sleepy enough. Good luck. 

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3 minutes ago, Amethyst said:

Rarely sit down, especially if toddler is around. (Sorry. I know that sounds exhausting) The last feeding to go for all of mine was night time and Dad always took them (often outside if weather permitted)and carried them around until they were sleepy enough. Good luck. 

I forgot the never sit down rule.  Yes! Absolutely!

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My daughter cut one feeding st a time, then we moved and in the commotion she just dropped the last one.  My son kept every feeding until 2 1/2, but just shortened them. I suddenly understood why momma dogs just walked away and let the pups fall. I finally went cold turkey. It was an unfun few days, but then it was over and I never had to nurse again. Four years of my life was plenty for me. No regrets. 

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Take this with a grain of salt because my kids are now 15 and 13.  I probably would have been horrified if someone suggested this to me when they were toddlers 🤣 but ... what about offering her a lollipop?  😳 🤷‍♀️ You can get them made with xylitol.  Other than that, I have no advice.  I weaned my daughter at almost 2yo when I was pregnant with my son and I started to dread it. I was tough about it and she was pretty easy.  My son later quit cold-turkey on me when he was 18 months.  He went on a nursing strike and I couldn't get him to ever nurse again, despite the fact that I was NOT ready to let it go.  Best of luck to you.  

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My longest nurser spent the night with relatives because I had to attend to some business in another state. It was just suppose to be one night but it ended up being 3 due to a freak snow storm. The relative said she did fine with them and she only asked once or twice when I got back. I said "Nope, it's all gone and you're a big girl now." and that was that.

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Mine weaned at about 3.5.  Honestly, I might make nursing less attractive (by doing the not sitting down much thing), but mostly, I just let her decide when she was ready to be done.  I promise she won't go to college nursing.  

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Neither of mine self-weaned. One cut off at nearly 5, the other on 4th birthday, both times just because I was so over it by then. I just told them it was finished. I think once you have made up your mind, just be clear about it, say it is done, and distract. If they bring it up, say 'remember, it's finished now', and move on to something else. If it's part of the bedtime routine, you might get your other half to do the bedtime stuff for a bit.

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I miss the days of nursing so much.  I still tear up thinking about it.  I even had a kitten that tried to get in on the nursing action.  The fact that I'll never nurse another baby makes me very sad.  

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The only way I could wean my four year old nursling was by giving her chocolate milk whenever she asked to nurse. (2 x day by then). 

I gradually phased out the chocolate milk.

Ds just gradually lost interest. I can't really remember how old he was....three, maybe? I remember having to cut out his morning feed due to a new medication. I think I just jumped out of bed before he woke up and made him pancakes for breakfast for a while 🙂

I think it's easier to wean a preschooler than a toddler. 

My toddler nursling weaned during my pregnancy, and it was difficult for her and me. 

 

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My friend had her husband take the kids on a three day trip someplace else. Dad and kids visited kiddie amusement parks and zoos and stuff and kept the tot so busy that he didn't think about it and when they got home, mom just said no when asked.

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If you are nursing 5 times a day, and try the cold turkey technique some here are suggesting (go on a trip or have the nurser stay away from you) please express a little milk now and then and watch out for mastitis.

it really is not a good idea to go from 5 times a day to zero times a day like that.

 

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https://www.verywellfamily.com/sudden-weaning-from-breastfeeding-4140720

Possible side effects:

How Sudden Weaning Affects Mothers 

Weaning has physical, hormonal, and emotional effects on mothers. When you wean gradually, you can prepare and adjust to the changes over time. But when weaning is sudden, it can have a greater impact on you and your body, with effects such as:3

 
  • Painful breast engorgement
  • Breast infection, plugged milk ducts, or a breast abscess due to engorgement
  • Milk fever, a flu-like condition with symptoms such as fever, chills, and muscle weakness
  • Leaky breasts (it could take many months for milk to dry up completely)
  • Return of your period and your fertility
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I'd cut one at a time, maybe over several months. For me, it has helped to replace it with something. We will read stories instead of nursing or I will rub his back, tickle his arm, or something. I also had a rule that we only nurse in his room. If he wanted to nurse he had to drop everything and go there which isn't that fun.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, sgo95 said:

I was/am into attachment parenting, and when I felt like I needed to wean my kids around 2-3 yrs old, it was easy to distract during the day but night time was harder. I did feel ok with them crying at that age and I would hold them, rock them, walk the floors with them, etc. until they fell asleep. Usually it took 2-3 nights of this and then they were able to accept snuggles instead of nursing.

 

Why are you weaning? If you don't really feel a compelling need, maybe give her more time. But if you're done, don't cave...

I don’t really feel a compelling need to wean, but I do feel slightly embarrassed when she asks to nurse in public (I sense people find it odd that a preschooler still breastfeeds). I do not nurse anywhere but home. But it makes me sad when she cries over something that makes us close, so I guess I’m ambivalent. I really don’t think I could make it to 4 or 5 years like other posters, but I also didn’t think I would nurse until 3 so…

Edited by GracieJane
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46 minutes ago, Terabith said:

I miss the days of nursing so much.  I still tear up thinking about it.  I even had a kitten that tried to get in on the nursing action.  The fact that I'll never nurse another baby makes me very sad.  

Lol. We had a kitten (only four weeks old—abandoned) who tried to get in the action, too. 

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10 minutes ago, GracieJane said:

I don’t really feel a compelling need to wean, but I do feel slightly embarrassed when she asks to nurse in public (I sense people find it odd that a preschooler still breastfeeds). I do not nurse anywhere but home. But it makes me sad when she cries over something that makes us close, so I guess I’m ambivalent. I really don’t think I could make it to 4 or 5 years like other posters, but I also didn’t think I would nurse until 3 so…

Distraction + nursing unfriendly clothing while you're out and about. 

I get it. Even when I did the above, I'd have a certain three year old on my hip crying for 'minky' and plunging her hand down my dress. I think this is why I resorted to outright bribery 🙂

 

 

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30 minutes ago, Paige said:

I'd cut one at a time, maybe over several months. For me, it has helped to replace it with something. We will read stories instead of nursing or I will rub his back, tickle his arm, or something. I also had a rule that we only nurse in his room. If he wanted to nurse he had to drop everything and go there which isn't that fun.

This is how I’ve done it. My last three were all over three before I started actively trying to wean (each a little older than the one before—I no longer cared that I was nursing a three year old by the last one 😂). I started by putting it off and delaying them when I could, and then switching to only having one place in the house where we nursed. Then down to only at sleep times (Naptime, bedtime, and first thing in the morning), and finally dropping those one by one, starting with the easiest which was naptime. We had a book this time around called “Nursies when the Sun shines” and that actually helped end the early morning request. I did have to change the words when I read it because we don’t call it that. Once we were down to once a day, it faded pretty quick. Sometimes he would skip a day and remember the next day and eventually he just stopped asking.

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start cutting out feedings.  snuggle, whatever to comfort her, but don't nurse her.  eventually, you might have bedtime and nap time.  (a middle of the night nursing should be the first one to go.)  then cut one, and then the other.  After that, you should be done.

I had two who didn't care when I weaned them, one who weaned herself - one who hit me!  (for six month), and one I decided I would just nurse him longer (I regret going as long as we did.).

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My experience with older nurslings is that my supply was not super significant as they were mostly comfort nursing not nursing for nutrition ( ie not taking in large amounts) and I didnt experience a lot of side effects from weaning - one cold turkey and one more slowly. 

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My older three children stopped nursing around 2-2.5 years when I got pregnant and it became uncomfortable. My last one nursed until he was a little over 3. Each one I changed up our daily routine (by that time they were in their own beds -cosleeping for only until they were two. Then they got too big for my twin size bed!) and for bedtime nursing I picked a (shorter) song that was the amount of time we could nurse. Then we phased the bedtime nursing out too. Good luck no matter what you decide!

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18 minutes ago, theelfqueen said:

My experience with older nurslings is that my supply was not super significant as they were mostly comfort nursing not nursing for nutrition ( ie not taking in large amounts) and I didnt experience a lot of side effects from weaning - one cold turkey and one more slowly. 

For sure. We ask dd if there is any milk and she rarely says yes.

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