Weaning Your Toddler from Extended Breastfeeding


My breastfeeding journey with my second son has been filled with challenges and triumphs. I experienced plugged ducts and mastitis early on, poor milk supply while pumping when away from him for work, early teething, and biting. Somehow, some way, we managed to push through all the challenges. Now, at 2 years and 7 months, I can't seem to wean him. Meanwhile, I'm tandem-nursing my 5-month-old, too.  

I never imagined my motherhood life would entail extended breastfeeding and tandem nursing.  

I am not sure how we got to this point; it certainly was never in the plans. Then again, motherhood really isn’t about plans is it?  Even the best plans will be turned upside down when you least expect it. I never thought I would breastfeed later than what society deems “average.” All of the moms I know who have babies that are close to my toddler's age have been long done with nursing—breastfeeding is a distant memory of bonding-time with their infant. Their toddlers are running around just as mine is, but my little guy still enjoys and is comforted with our nursing sessions. When he is feeling tired, sick, or just wants some extra attention, he climbs up to me and tugs on my shirt. For the past few months, he has even had the language to ask to nurse, and so we do.  

Looking back, I should have weaned him when I was into my second trimester of pregnancy. It was downright painful to nurse, but I was just too tired to even try to wean my very strong-willed son. I wasn't ready to hear him cry and throw a tantrum—it was easier to just nurse him to sleep for naps and at bedtime. In reality, I really wasn't ready to wean him at that point either.  

When I gave birth to my third son, I suddenly felt ready to wean my toddler. Tandem nursing a newborn and a toddler was exhausting! Prior to the birth of the baby, my son was only nursing before naps and at bedtime. After the baby came home, he regressed to nursing a few times during the day. Thankfully, these sessions were short-lived and within a few weeks, he went back to nursing three times per day (morning, nap, and bedtime).  

Approximately 10 weeks of tandem nursing later, I was beyond exhausted and got serious about weaning. I  spent hours googling “How to wean a toddler from breastfeeding.”  Unfortunately, In all my searching, I didn't find any no-fail solutions. I tried gentle weaning, but after 31 months of nursing, my strong-willed toddler was not breaking free of the boob on his own. Out of desperation, I even put vinegar on my nipples, but that didn’t phase him a bit. Much like every other aspect of parenting, there was no one-size-fits all solution.  

About a month ago, I started setting a timer to signal an end to our nursing session. Since my son responds very well to timers to end his favorite activities, I was hoping this would help him with the weaning process. In the beginning, I started the timer at five minutes. The first few weeks were very hard for him; he had nightly meltdowns, since he wasn't used to falling asleep without nursing. Many nights, I would let him fall asleep in our big bed, and that helped him. Once he stopped having nightly tantrums, I began decreasing the amount of time he nursed. Now, almost two months later, he breastfeeds for one minute, and then we snuggle until he falls asleep. I'm not sure when I will have the heart to wean him completely. For now, I'm OK with letting me hold onto this part of our relationship for just a little longer.  

If you tandem nursed a toddler and a newborn, how did you wean your tot from breastfeeding? Did you struggle with weaning, too?

What do you think?

Weaning Your Toddler from Extended Breastfeeding

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

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