I knew breastfeeding might be hard, but had no idea weaning would seem impossible

Guest post by Monk-Monk
Photo by Sherry Insley

The breastfeeding relationship my son and I shared started out rocky. The lactation consultant in the hospital diagnosed me with “flat nipples” at day two and handed me a nipple shield to take home. Confused and frustrated, I spent hours trying to get the latch perfect (both with the shield and without), spent hours Googling different techniques, watching YouTube videos for how to get it “just right,” and cried… a lot. My husband made late-night phone calls to La Leche League mothers while we fed our baby expressed milk from a spoon as to not induce “nipple confusion.” There was my fury when the pediatrician suggested supplementing at the 10 day mark and gave my son a dose of formula in the office, right in front of me. The first six weeks or so were emotionally draining. I hated the nipple shield, diagnosed myself with over-active letdown, and thought about quitting the whole darn thing.

We finally got the hang of it, mostly, though it wasn’t always smooth sailing. He refused all bottles when I went off maternity leave, and only drank straight from the tap (I see keg stands in this kid’s future). But the exhaustion of reverse cycling (nursing 8-10 times at night to make up for lack of caloric intake during the day) was exhausting to say the least. I remember asking numerous times, “Why didn’t anyone tell me it would be this hard?”

In my idealist pre-baby moments I had hoped for a blissful 12 months of nursing. And then what? Well, um, hmm, I guess we would just… stop? The logistics of weaning hadn’t crossed my mind. I figured it’d just be “natural,” and just… happen? But, as I learned with the start of my breastfeeding relationship, there is nothing easy about the whole breastfeeding thing.

So here I am, with a lovely 18 month old son and we are still breastfeeding. Our 12 month goal came and went, and I didn’t really think about weaning because we had “just gotten the hang of it.” Maybe it’s like “bonking” in running, but I have hit this point where I was mentally and physically and emotionally exhausted from breastfeeding. Unfortunately, it’s one of my kid’s favorite activities. He refuses a pacifier and has zero interest in snuggling with a lovey. He knows what he wants, and what he wants is Mama… and preferably without her shirt on.

It’s complicated. On one hand I feel proud to have been able to get this far, and I’m happy to see that my son and I are bonded together in such an extraordinary way. On the other hand, I would like to have my body back and get more than four hours of sleep in a row. But it’s not just as easy as “cold turkey,” especially for a kid with very few other coping techniques.

I’ve come across the advice “If mom isn’t happy, then do something differently,” but that’s not all that helpful in the long-run. I’ve found a few gentle weaning tips online, but the prospect of a few more months of diligence and consistency seems daunting and exhausting. And my friends aren’t much help, either. While they’re in various stages of breastfeeding, we’re all trying to figure out when it’s right to stop breastfeeding and how to go about doing it.

So why, if my start to breastfeeding was so hard, did I expect it to just be easy stopping? Weaning is complicated, full of many conflicting emotions. Right now I’m trying to just take a few deep breaths and go with the flow. He can’t breastfeed forever… right?

Comments on I knew breastfeeding might be hard, but had no idea weaning would seem impossible

  1. I feel your pain. I would probably still be weaning my 18 month old were I not four months pregnant and in extreme pain anytime she nursed. I just had to stop cold turkey two weeks ago. Luckily I had weaned her off daytime feedings about a month ago. I had to hide the boppy and introduce the bottle. It’s been about a two weeks, and my breasts are killing me. She’s actually starting to sleep though the night and when she does wake up a bottle of milk does the trick. We don’t even have to warm it up for her. I’m actually really glad I was forced to stop, otherwise I know for a fact that we would still be co sleeping and nursing. Good Luck!

      • You can do this! I honestly think that I put if off so long because I was the one who couldn’t handle the weaning. Yeah Cassandra had a few freak outs but that was because I tried to wean her from night feedings without it even occuring to me that a bottle might help. I mean I felt like a mess. We co-slept, nursed, had no kind of nap routine. Stopping really made me feel like I had dropped the parenting ball and so it was easier to keep up the weaning and the snuggling than it was to provide the firm hand of routine. We would walk her in her stroller up until about two months ago to get her to fall asleep for her naps because we couldn’t bear to hear her cry it out to get on a nap routine. It killed me that she fell asleep for her naps no problem at my sister inlaws during the week when she watched her. I felt like she was parenting my child better than I was. I was embarrassed that I was still breastfeeding and would pretend I had stopped months ago. My “attachment” parenting was my dirty little secret. But we did it, we let her cry (never for more than 15 minutes), to our surprise she usually fell asleep within 10 minutes or so.

        We are due in November and this baby will definitely have routine, and be introduced to a bottle much sooner. I loved all the cuddle time I got with my little Cassie, but we will not be doing things the same this time around!

        • I always thought I’d be letting my daughter self-wean, but like you, when I got pregnant again my nipples got *SORE*, and it just hurt so much! That and D showed no signs of easing up on her own. For the last 6-8 months (she’s almost 2 now) I’ve been cutting her back slowly, saying no when I need to and letting her nurse when I can stand it. I’m lucky that she had given up nursing to sleep at night; she still asks for milk before naptime, but often doesn’t go to sleep that way, so I think we’re almost there. Only 1-2 times a day now, if that.

          • How did you get her to stop nursing to sleep? My daughter is 2.5 and still nurses to sleep–and I’m pregnant & my nipples… well, I think I’d rather be getting them pierced several times a day.

  2. Okay this is going to be singularly unhelpful, but reading this made me think “Hmm… her kid’s eighteen months, and mine is six…” I then checked your blog and saw that, indeed, our nursing addicts share a birthday! Kudos! If you come across anything that works, please advise.

  3. Mine will be 3 in September and I’ve been quietly trying to push back for 3 months now. I’m torn between being DONE and knowing our relationship might change.
    For once I would love a snuggle without an ulterior motive – it’s like dating all over again, just with more pinching.
    No advice, just sympathy.

  4. I was mean. I stopped cold turkey. Yes, I know… TOTALLY not the popular advice. I just figured if he was hungry, he’d take a bottle. Then, two months later (when he was eight months), I was mean mommy again and switched him from a bottle to a silicone-topped sippy cup. I figured that, as the mom, I was the one to set the rules so I may as well start then. I, personally, don’t think kids need to be happy and comforted all the time. We had a few crying fits & sleepless nights, but I don’t think my son is traumatized in any of the ways “health professionals” say kids will be. In fact, he is seven & super well adjusted.

    **Btw, we had a hard time figuring out latching too. It took months and a lot of people were mad that we “gave up” so soon. Guess what? It was my decision, not theirs. I felt guilty for a while, but I knew it was in my best interest. Which, in turn was best for my son. Mommy wasn’t as tired and grouchy, so we were all much happier as a family.

      • Yeah, I think my little one will adjust just fine once we’re done, it’s just getting to that point! Glad to hear from someone on the other side, who has survived the transition!

        The longer it goes the more I’m leaning toward cold-turkey…but mostly as an excuse to book myself in a hotel for a week to help the transition 😉

        • Yeah, we finally weaned completely when I went on a weeklong business trip near his 2nd birthday. Also, pregnant with #2, which maybe helped dry up the supply. He was definitely clingy for a while after that, but who knows which of the three factors came into play there.

          But we dropped the night feedings at about a year, when I was really losing it from a lack of sleep. Even at that age, he understood, “I’ll snuggle you but we won’t nurse until morning.” I think at some point I more-or-less stopped nursing when we were out and about, too, saying we’d nurse when we got home. Except for the night weaning, we never really had a firm plan.

          We also had latch issues at the beginning. I think it makes it a little harder to give up, since you fought for it so hard… anyway, it’s true he can’t nurse forever! I’m sure you will find what works for you.

          • Thanks for the encouragement! We nurse to sleep, middle of the night and nap…but he’s not able to fall asleep anymore from it, so I wonder if nursing is just making him more frustrated

          • I totally feel that – I’ve fought SO hard to get this working, so giving it up at all seems like a nightmare. We are looking to introduce an evening bottle as a top-up before bed, and so LJ will take a bottle as I have a girls weekend to go away for in a couple of months.
            But I keep putting it off. Because its taken me till now for this to be nominally easy…

  5. I, too, feel your pain. I also had a rough start, also intended to bf 12 months and am currently still breastfeeding my 28 month old. Because of the rough start, I think, I was thinking I’d let him decide when to stop, but I really think he might go ’til he was 10! Add to that the fact that breast feeding helped me lose exactly NONE of the 70 pounds gained during pregnancy and, well, we are now down to only breast feeding before bedtime (though I still don’t know how we’ll ever get rid of that one). I will say that individual feedings that I thought would be harder to drop weren’t and vice versa. I also feel conflicting feelings – will our special, wonderful relationship change? Am I selfish to put my own needs first? Of course, I know logically that we will always have a special relationship and it is ok to put my needs first in this case, I do find it hard to keep those feelings from creeping up. Good luck to you!

    • Oh my gosh, I can totally relate! I haven’t lost any of the weight (except for what came off right when he was born). Thanks for your encouragement…I thought we’d drop the night feedings first, but looks like he’s not able to nurse to nap anymore and so I’m going to probably let that one go.

      • I had my son at the same time as one of my best buds from college. Breastfeeding helped me shed weight like nobody’s business, where she was the same weight as when she went into the hospital (minus baby) until she stopped nursing. Her doctor told her for a minority of women, that’s how it works- your body holds onto all that fat just in case, and when she stopped nursing, it went disappeared (mostly)!

        I wish I could have some advice for you, but just sympathy here. I had a rough time starting nursing (low low supply), but once it got going, it was good. I had a super aggressive little barracuda of a nurser though, who was seriously attached to the “noms” as we referred to it. He nursed just like you described after a year- only to bed, once at night, sometimes when he woke up in the morning, and for naps. I eventually quit cold turkey around 16 months because he was not really nursing so much as he was using me as a chew toy (and would only nurse for a few minutes at most for each feed) and he wasn’t falling asleep when I nursed him anymore. Rather than nursing him, I held him and rocked him like I would to nurse, just without nursing. He would cry for a few minutes, but then just snuggle in. Now it is like he has completely forget he ever nursed, and he is even MORE cuddly than he was when he nursed. Best wishes to you as you figure out what is best for you guys! And congrats on being able to nurse this long 🙂

        • Thanks for the encouragement! Even last night I noticed more of a need for him to snuggle and less of a need for him to nurse. Maybe he’s noticing I have less milk and is just choosing to be less frustrated by snuggling than trying the old method. Only time will tell 🙂

  6. I am still nursing my 27 month old because I found it incredibly difficult and stressful for everyone to try to wean him. He is a champion nurser. We are “down” to 5 times a day now, his choice. It is much easier now that he understands, “Not right now, as soon as we are home from the store, I promise.” 15-20 months was by far the most difficult time because he knew what he wanted but couldn’t quite communicate his fruatration to his satisfaction, and had NO concept of time yet.

    • Oh yeah! He asks for it and doesn’t understand waiting…or that he’s nursed for 30 minutes and is STILL NOT ASLEEP and then gets sad when I say “no more.” Sigh.

      We were down to 2 times for awhile, which I was totally on board with…but then it creeped back up to 5-6 and that is really hard on my body…how do you deal with that?

      • I don’t feel that it’s hard on my body at all. I actually felt like my hormones went kind of nuts when I did try to wean. I so wish I had advice for you. At this point and at my son’s current age, I am going to try to introduce a different thing for us to do together and snuggle when he asks for boobie. I just have no idea what will be appealing enough. He is very stubborn and persistent about everything in life and has a memory like a steel trap.

      • It is really rare these days that my almost 18 month old nurses himself to sleep. He has to be really freaking tired in order to do that. If he doesn’t, he’ll just flop around, switching from breast to breast and just take little sips. So a few months ago, our bedtime routine changed and I nurse him for a bit, give him some good snuggle time and then call in daddy. Daddy will then lie down with him and he will finally fall asleep and he goes in the crib.

        However… he’ll still wake up a few times a night and wants to nurse – so after his first wake up, he co-sleeps with us and I have to pretty much be shirtless. I don’t know how this is going to end either…

  7. I nursed my son for over 2 years and it was a VERY gradual weaning process. I think he really only stopped because my milk dried up due to pregnancy. So maybe that’s not very helpful to you. but who knows, he was really close to stopping anyway. I think some kids/people just take better to gradual transitions, and some can handle “cold turkey”.

  8. Wow, yeah. I just weaned my 26 month old. If you’d asked me at 11 months, I’d have thought she’d never stop. This kid loved to nurse. I’m happy to say that the weaning process was harder on me than her. I think because it happened super gradually – I started cutting a feeding here and there, until at 18 months she was nursing 2-3 times a day, and by 2 was down to just one (pre-bedtime) session.

    What ended up happening at the end surprised me. Weaning happened mostly because my supply started to dry up. She noticed (“mama it’s not WORKING”), and dry-nursing HURT me a lot because she of course thought that if she just tried harder, she could get it to work again. So when I made the decision at 25 months that I was close to done, it went relatively smoothly and our relationship is still amazing. I make sure we still cuddle!

    And yeah, like the commenter above said, once they can understand ‘not now, later’ it’s awesome.

    • Awe, I can relate to the milk drying up bit! I think that’s actually what’s happening and why he’s asking more often and gets frustrated because he’s not getting enough to really satisfy him. Maybe I should just do it cold turkey so he’s not so frustrated by it! I wanted to keep trying gradual, but we’re doing it more now than we were 4 months ago!

  9. I think we sometimes don’t give kids enough credit. Just because he doesn’t currently have a comfort toy/blanket doesn’t mean you can’t introduce one now. I would make a count down chart of how many more times he will get the boob, and have a ‘prize’ at the end for when he becomes a big boy and is done nursing. Let it be something that is a physical item like a toy you would normally say is too expensive/loud/old for him – so that you can show him and remind him of what he got for being a big kid. (experiences are nice but he wont care you took him to the zoo after a week) Bring the new lovey into the nursing session each time and talk about how this will be what he squeezes and cuddles when he feels like he misses mommy. It’s never “easy” when you have to force a transition, but it does get easier each day. We just took the tiger my daughter sucked on for 4 years away as the dentist told us it was affecting her teeth. She got an obnoxious talking My Little Pony and for about a week at night she cried a bit and asked us when she can have the tiger back. We just stayed really consistent and repeated about how she was a big girl now, etc. A few weeks later and she will occasionally wistfully talk about her tiger but not really in an upset way, and we chat about things she did as a baby and acknowledge her ‘sadness’ but then talk about all the things babies can’t do and big girls can, and then go do one of those things to break the spell (ride scooter etc).
    Good luck. I know you can do it! Just stay on message, stick to the countdown, and do not ever give in, even just once, even if he breaks his arm. Just stay firm, stay kind, and you will do it!

      • At about twelve months my daughter was taking up to three hours some evenings to nurse to sleep. It wasn’t until my husband suggested trying a pacifier that we got a solution. While I knew she was using me like a bit of a pacifier, it had just never occurred to me that just because she’d never had a pacifier she couldn’t start now! Has made such a difference.

  10. Ohh man perfect timing, as I’m in a very similar boat right now and kind of freaking out. My youngest is 8 months old and refuses to take a bottle at all. This is a problem because although I’m home, I’m opening a home daycare NEXT WEEK and will have an extra 1-year-old, among other kids, running around. I can’t be tied down with a baby attached to me while the new little guy figures out how to scale my furniture:)

    I’ve been lucky enough to have no problems breastfeeding any of my kids, minus a single bout of mastitis with #2. My oldest was weaned at 6 months, due to both her and I being done with nursing. She loved having a bottle because it meant she could face outwards and see everything while eating. My son was about 8 months when he was weaned, and he was more stubborn than my daughter, but he was still completely weaned in three weeks. But #3, my easiest baby, has turned out to be the most stubborn by far. She won’t take bottles warm or cold, from mom, from dad, sitting in her highchair, being cuddled, drowsy, hungry, not hungry, the list goes on. We’ve tried everything we can think of, but nothing’s worked. All I need is to eliminate her one feeding around lunchtime, and I can still nurse her morning, evening, and during the night. So she eats solids like a champ all day, naps, and is relatively happy, but during the night, we run into the same problem the OP has – she wants to spend half the night nursing. We’ve gone from waking up once a night to 4/5/6 times, which is exhausting.

    I’m not yet worried about her nutrition, since she eats fortified rice cereal mixed into her foods, and I’ve managed to mix a bit of formula into her food too, and she still nurses at least 4 times during a 24 hour period, but it’s turning into a battle of wills, which is exactly what I hoped to avoid.

    Anyone have any magic tricks to try that got an incredibly stubborn anti-bottle baby to give it up?

    • Have you tried giving her formula (or whatever) in a cup instead of a bottle? My sister never took a bottle but went straight from boob to a sippy-cup at 7 or 8 months old. I suspect that a bottle might seem like a ‘bad imitation’ while a cup is just something else entirely.

      • Thanks, I’ve been thinking I’ll have to try that! She definately likes to HOLD the bottle by herself, and occasionally chews on it without screaming, so perhaps a sippy cup might be the answer. We just had a big struggle over the bottle which turned into a scream-fest which ended with me giving in and letting her nurse…5 minutes later, she’s asleep and happy. I hate seeing her so distressed every time the bottle appears, so on to a sippy!

  11. I think it’s more accurate to say “If mom isn’t happy, then mom’s expectations need to change.” And my how mine have changed! I, too, was expecting it to be hard to start. But I didn’t expect the marathon feeds from 5-10 weeks: Five hours at a time and more! Shocking. I’m trying to prepare myself for the next phase by believing in child-led weening and being okay with nursing two four-year-olds. I’m already totally fine with sleeping with two 7-year-olds, so that helps.

    • I think this is true to some extent, but mom’s needs are important, too. Because I had this attitude, it wasn’t until I actually kicked a hole in the wall from the sleep deprivation that my husband convinced me to night wean my son (who was well beyond the age of needing it for nutrition). It shouldn’t have gotten that far. If you’re really miserable, there’s no shame in making sure you are OK so you can be a decent parent.

      (Just wanted to edit to add that if you, Maegan, changed your expectations and are now happy with your current situation, then great! I am just worried about other moms reading this who really do need to change their situation in order to stay healthy.)

      • You’re absolutely right. I don’t expect moms to put up with being miserable. That isn’t healthy. I only meant that, for me, it’s often very healthy to reevaluate what my expectations are and to pace myself.

    • So, what should my expectations change to be? Does ultimate baby happiness trump what I can handle as an adult? I mean should I give him another thirty seven cookies because he asks for them? Or let him climb the bookcase because it seems fun?

      I mean, in theory I’m totally down with child led weaning…but it’s not working…he can’t fall asleep for a good forty minutes, when it used to take ten,..he would literally be on my boob all day to pass the time. And he’s only slept longer than four hours a handful of times. I’m exhausted, but if I could change my expectations..,what would I change them to?

      • Sorry, I didn’t mean that you have the wrong expectations at all. I meant that I personally had the wrong expectations for my own situation. I had the expectation that my children would eat for 20 minutes every two hours because that’s what popular culture tells us. Once I realized that some babies nurse for hours on end, and those babies were my babies, I felt a lot happier about doing it.

        Baby happiness certainly doesn’t trump what you can handle. I do think that as a society we have some unrealistic expectations for our children. I love “cave baby” theory. Cave babies didn’t sleep alone. They were never put down. It wasn’t safe. They were held by someone always and nursed constantly. And children nursed for many years because it was the best food available for them in harsh conditions. So we’re up against nature, in my opinion. I remind myself that that babies aren’t necessarily born with the skill set to understand our modern lifestyles.

        • Thanks for clarifying!

          I’m curious on a long-term level (not just with me and my little situation), how evolution will take place if we always act as if we were cavemen. Like, I know that fight or flight still exists in the stress we experience now, though there are no saber tooth tigers chasing us! I just wonder when our bodies (and babies?) will catch up to these times? I know evolution is a slow process, but it just makes me curious!

          I am pretty happy (or resigned) to sleeping with him for half the night, and snuggling a lot, and picking him up to comfort him. I was even cool with nursing until late toddlerhood, but it just hurts and doesn’t seem to work…and that’s what I’m bumping up against.

          So I wonder, if I think about this too shall pass, that maybe in a month or two (which seems like AGES) it might be different, in terms of him understanding what’s going on, then maybe that helps. But I wonder so much about my milk drying up and if that’s not what’s causing the frustration (on both ends)!

        • I totally subscribe to the cave baby idea myself, couldn’t have said it better. And this made me want to co-sleep, carry, nurse etc. These things are aligned with my expectations so I don’t mind at all.

  12. Oh, I’m going through the same thing right now! We also really struggled at the start and only really got through it by visiting the local midwives for help every day, now at 9 months we’re finding it so convenient and my boy loves it so much that I just can’t see how I’m going to stop. I gave myself the deadline of one year, as my maternity leave finishes a couple of weeks after his birthday (I’m in the UK so got a year, I know that’s lucky and really don’t know how you managed the reverse cycling while working) although I think even then I might keep doing a bedtime feed. I’m also having complex feelings about it all – I’d love to have my body back, be able to drink etc, and not be relied on solely at night and to calm the baby down, but I feel we’ve come so far it would be a shame to stop, and I’ll miss the time we spend together cuddled on the sofa while he dozes on me and I watch tv. So while I have no advice, I offer… some solidarity? And I’d love to hear advice from anyone else who has managed it.

  13. All I have for you is a fist of solidarity. I have a 15 month old and the sleepless nights are starting to kill me dead. I’d like to night wean but I can’t even muster the energy to follow one of the gentle weaning plans. Good luck!

  14. I love youuuuu Monk-Monk!! I’m so sorry that you are feeling so burnt with the nursing. You are doing a fabulous job and your little boy is proving to you how comfortable and loved he feels being close to you. I felt this way during those cluster feeding days– like I was going to jump out of my skin! I don’t really have any advice for you other than, trust your gut and take care of you. Tons of hugs for you from the other side of the country!

  15. Agreed! Ignorant people often tell you to “just wean them” as if that would be an easy undertaking. I don’t think that would go down well with my son and would involve a lot of work for me. So even with a few inconveniences (can’t leave him for that long, get up a lot at night), I think we’re going to keep the status quo and do the nursing thing!

    Parenting: Lhe Lazy Way(TM).

  16. I don’t have any specific advice- I still happily breastfeed my 24 month old a couple times a day even though I’m 18 weeks pregnant. I just wanted to congratulate you on doing such a fantastic job! It is so very hard to feed with flat nipples, you are *amazing* for persevering and your tenacity has given your little one a brilliant start!! Would it maybe be helpful to go to a LLL meeting for sympathy and good advice around weaning? Those women have always been fantastic support for any breastfeeding issue I’ve had, including cutting down/out feeds..

  17. I also had a really rough start with breastfeeding, but my kid did self wean a little after turning one, so I have no advice specifically about that. (That’s the hard part about giving advice anyway. Every kid is different!) But there have been several times where we’ve had to make a change and I’ve fretted over how my kid would adjust. Every time, I’ve noticed that it was way easier than I thought, or at least, the mourning period was much shorter than I imagined. Like getting rid of the pacifier. I tried to keep cutting pieces off but she didn’t seem to mind that at all. So finally I just said we were done with it (compassionately). After a week, she was over it. I think sometimes we get to thinking that our child should never be upset. I think that we risk not teaching them how to deal with difficult situations when we do that. I am learning more to acknowledge her hurt/sadness/disappointment instead of trying to prevent it or stop it. Not saying that’s what you should do. Just a perspective.

    • Thanks! I too know that I actually fret more about transitions than is worth it…he always adjusts just fine, with a little difficult time at first…but I think there’s this mommy guilt that I COULD still physically nurse, so I SHOULD.

      I really like your perspective about helping them acknowledge those big emotions rather than just trying to stop it. I usually name the emotion (like sadness), but usually rush to comfort him and make it go away. How have you managed to sit through the discomfort of watching their big emotions, while helping them through it without just wanting to fix it?

      • It might help to keep in mind that we’re not just physical creatures, we’re emotional ones too. You could still nurse physically, but emotionally it sounds like it’s getting to be too much. Emotional pain is just as real as physical pain, but not uas easy to treat.

      • I think the answer to your question is in your question: “How do you sit with the discomfort…?” Being present with the difficult emotions of our kids can be really difficult. But just like we teach our kids to observe their emotions, and let them arise and pass naturally, we can practice the same on ourselves. For me personally, it’s been a journey of sorting out all of my reactions to my daughter’s emotions that have much more to do with me and my history than they do about her actual emotions. For example, when I was growing up my mom would always tell me there was no use in crying, that my time was better spent thinking of solutions. I didn’t like it, or agree, but there was a part of that inside of me lingering, making me want to stop my own kid from crying. Breastfeeding is super loaded, emotionally, I think, and breastfeeding advocates sometimes do more harm than good by suggesting that if you don’t do it just right, you’ll mess your kid up. Anyway, so that’s my basic strategy: Recognize all present emotions for what they are, and ride them out.

  18. I have a 28 month old who is still in love with nursing. We’ve been doing 2-3 times a day on weekdays and 4 times a day on weekends ever since she dropped to just one nap over a year ago. I’d really, really, really like to be done nursing, but I also don’t want to stop! She’s the only child I’ll ever nurse (my wife birthed and is nursing out second child) so I do want to savor this time in my life. I’m just simply amazed I’ve lasted this long with 5 business trips and weekly to bi-weekly nights on call since going back to work at 8 weeks. But really when I think about it, I love snuggling at bedtime nursing her. What I could do without is the whining to nurse when she’s upset, and the pumping every morning before work (I get up early for work most days). The end is in sight though. I’m only making two ounces (60 ml) a day these days. There won’t be anything left soon.

    One thing that has helped turn bed time from nursing multiple times per side to just once (or twice, it’s hard to deny her) per side is to talk about her day. I say everything she did that day and always finish with “and now it’s time to go to bed”. She LOVES it. I added it to our routine as another ritual to go with our snuggling to help when my milk dries up. We get snuggle time and she’s content with less nursing time (since I know she’s barely getting any milk anyway).

    • Oh, I like that idea! Yeah, he’s been nursing several times on each side because the milk is drying and my letdown isn’t as forceful. I’ve also tried to incorporate drinking water from his sippy glass if he’s thirsty at bedtime, rather than just nursing.

      Thanks for sharing!

  19. Haven’t gotten there myself yet… but my 18 month old did go on a nursing strike for a day when I had saltwater on my nipples. Perhaps you could even do something yuckier, like vinegar.

    • I think I read somewhere of a mom who used garlic infused olive oil. Her son told her “Mommy, you’re stinky”. It worked for her. I’ve been keeping that one in my back pocket in case I need it – but there’s also something about that to me that seems… I don’t know… not quite right.

  20. We fully weaned our toddler just after she turned two.

    When she started daycare at a year, that cut down on day nursing. I still pumped for a few months so she could have a naptime bottle. Then I cut that out, and then I cut out the post-daycare nursing session.

    That left us with nursing before bed and all night on demand. It was awful there for a while and we were exhausted. We were also dealing with her getting 1/2 her teeth in over a few months. We had to night wean three times before it truly stuck. (The first time we nursed again because she broke her arm, the second time due to the 18 mo sleep regression). The third time was easy peasy (comparatively speaking).

    The last pre-bed nursing session was dropped in April when I went away on a business trip for 5 days. She still wanted to nurse, and we told her no, and then she had to try, and now she says “I drank it all [mommy’s milk]!” and thinks that’s hilarious.

    What I learned through all of this is that my kid is slow at changes and transitions and it really does take her upwards of 1-3 weeks to fully adapt to a change in her routine. She still asks to nurse sometimes and it’s been months! I wrote about our weaning process over on my blog if it’s helpful.

    • Thanks! Yeah, I read somewhere that the sight of a mom’s breasts can trigger wanting to nurse, even a year later (for these older nurslings). I just can’t imagine that!

      I like the idea of the different times and how sometimes it won’t work the first time. Maybe it just takes a little getting used to (for both of us, I think! Because even I hesitate to fully wean!)

  21. I’d give my right arm for my kid to nurse like that! Had a rough start going, but we got the hang of it, but then to my horror he’s started self weening at 6 months! Since all websites say this is impossible and doesn’t exist at this age, I’m left crying at night when he refuses the breast, feeling like I’ve unintentionally forced a drastic and traumatic weening process somehow. It’s like he is weening Mama instead of the other way around! Very emotional business indeed.

    I’ll agree to one thing for sure, no one said breastfeeding would be this hard!!

    • Hey Stephanie, not sure where you and your little one are at with nursing now, but just wanted to say that you and your bub could be experiencing what’s known as a nursing strike. Have a google and get in touch with a lactation consultant (Pinky McKay is great and will do phone consults anywhere in the world)/La Leche League/Breastfeeding Association for some support. Refusing the breast does not necessarily signal the end of breastfeeding. Good luck mama. 🙂

  22. Just adding to the mix : I’m still Bfing my 21 month year old. There was a time when I wanted to wean as I couldn’t take the night nuring (coslept) he was waking every hour on the hour until one night I had work to do on the laptop so worked on the chair still in the room with him asleep in bed.. after I while I noticed he hadn’t woke up at his usual 9pm. I got into bed around 10:30 and bomb like a shot he wanted to nurse. For a few nights after I would nurse him to sleep but change the time I got into bed with him, sometimes sleeping on a mattress on the floor. It worked out that me being in the bed with him was causing his night waking and subsequent need for night nursing.

    We had colslept from birth but I had to call it a day as he slept better without me. I went from sleeping next to him to sleeping on floor (kind of under the bed-ish/trundle style) and he would wake around 3 times a night so sleeping in the next room and him not waking up at all. He now nurses to sleep around 8ish and wakes around 5/6ish without a peep. Now at 21 months he nurses as and when, he eats better with other people than with me, he goes to sleep with other people no drama but with me only wants boob!

    He is starting to wean himself as he isn’t nursing for long periods like he used to, so I’m going to keep on looking for signs that he is self weaning. What has worked is having a nice drink in his cup near by, he sometimes looks at the cup and at the boobs and decides he’s rather have is cup than me.
    No real advice, but sympathy I guess. Sometimes ( in my case) having a good nights sleep with give you a different take on day nursing.

    • Seriously, the good night sleep thing is HUGE! Even when I get 7 hours in a row I feel like a freaking-amazing-nurse-until-the-kid-goes-to-college goddess. When I’m awoken a bunch in the night, I am a super grump!

  23. Just one more voice to the chorus:
    My daughter is about 27 months, and we’re down to twice a day, sometimes once if she’s really really pooped at bedtime. I’ve never been able to get her to nap solo – it’s Booba or nothing, and she takes a bottle of cow’s milk before Booba before bed (that’s me trying to discourage it). I’m starting to dry up, and have only had one working Booba for the last year. I’m ready to stop.

    I also noticed that setting a timer works – five minutes or whatever – and reminding her that when the dinger goes off it’s time to move on to the next thing. When she is overtired or gets a bump on the playground or whatever she asks for Booba and BaaBaa (a stuffed sheep), but she’s asking for it less and less, and is totally fine with being put off till we’re at home. I also only nurse her in a particular chair in her room, so it’s not up for grabs anywhere.

    Thing is, her father and I split up, and she stays at his house three nights out of the week, and he claims that she sleeps fine for him with no Booba. I hope so (he refuses to speak at length with me about anything… really effed up situation).

    • That is a cute idea! Sounds effective, too, maybe I’ll give it a try, though he’s still not really understanding when I try to give him an explanation for why he can’t do things (like touch the hot barbecue, or climb the bookshelf, etc.).

  24. One more story to add to the chorus: I also had a really tough time starting nursing with my first boy, but never had to think about how to wean him, it just kind of happened naturally around 15 months. Preparing for daycare helped reduce the day time feeding and the soother and some crying it out took care of the night time stuff. So I totally knew what I was doing the second time round right? Well, um no. I was waiting for the same signals from my second boy, but no. And he was a terrible sleeper – even at 12-14 months wasn’t sleeping through the night. We tried to solve it by having my husband go in and settle him during his earlier wakings, and I would nurse him around 4am and before bed, but eventually we realized he was totally confused, and the nursing was in fact what was keeping him from sleeping. I was no where near ready to stop nursing, but I was back at work and dying from lack of sleep so after a few tearful nights (for me!) we went cold turkey and after only a couple of days he kind of got over it. I’m still a bit heartbroken it had to end, but it wasn’t helping him and it ended up finally sorting out his sleep issues once and for all by taking away any expectation for a feed. Point is, you might find some of his angst is tied to the nursing itself – even if it feels good and works in the moment, it’s not actually meeting his bigger picture needs (learning to settle himself to sleep in our case). But I feel for you – we’re done and I still miss the nursing, and probably always will.

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