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Weaning woes: Picking the right time

On mornings like today, I am so ready to wean my 15-month-old, Monroe. I got barely a wink of sleep last night; he nursed unusually often, waking every 15 minutes (or at least that's how it felt) to wail until he got some milk love. He's developed a new habit (charming!) where his hand roams while he's eating, grabbing my free nipple, pinching my stomach, sometimes even hitting me. I'm firm, I say "no" and remove his hand, but it's not a perfect solution.

I haven't even considered weaning him yet, as I'm trying a parenting practice of (within reason) being attentive to the child's needs and attributing biological need to most of his one-year-old desires. The WHO recommends breastfeeding for two years, so I'm still in the zone. And I have no real need to wean, as I had with my other two boys (who both weaned between 18 and 22 months): I'm not away from him for more than several hours at a time (and have no plan to be); I definitely am not hoping to get pregnant again soon; I don't need to take any drugs that might mess with him; and, despite the occasional lack of sleep, breastfeeding is so convenient.

In fact, breastfeeding is fine half the time, I typed this whole post while he nursed happily away. For those of you who have achieved your breastfeeding goals (you know, exclusive for first six months and keep going 'til 12 months), and had no definitive reason to stop: how did you decide when? How many of you have "done" child-led weaning? How did it go? [We've told stories about weaning and talked about weaning a two-year-old previously.]


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Wow, this is really timely for me...I think I might be on the verge of weaning my 15 month old. My older son started losing interest around 11 months (once he got mobile he lost all interest for anything that required sitting still for more than 5 minutes!) but I kept him on the boob until his first Birthday. I thought I'd nurse longer with him, but weaning him was gradual, definitely led by him and felt quite natural, so I think it was the right thing even though it wasn't necessarily on my timeline.

My 2nd is 15 months this week and has not been nursing much during the day for quite a while but still liked to nurse at night (sometimes ALL night!). But for the last few nights he's been sleeping much better than he has ever before (which is definitely a good thing!) but only nursing once a day, between 4-6AM while we cuddle in bed in the wee hours of the morning. I'd initially planned to nurse through this winter to continue to give him the benefit of my immune support through cold/ear infection season, but now I'm wondering if that's going to happen. I guess I'll just have to see how he does in the coming days and weeks, and see if he's really losing interest for good...we'll see.

Timely for me as well...I also would LOVE to read the responses from those mothers who have already weaned their children. My daughter is 17 months old, and I also am a SAHM, who is contimplating the idea of weaning now versus at two years old. I am SO happy to hear that my child is not the only one who has aquired a desire to pinch (and jam tiny fingernails into) my other nipple while she breastfeeds. It's nuisances like that that make me want to throw in the towel, but then I feel guilty because I know I should just deal with it for a while longer.
We will go a few days in a row here and there when I think she may be self-weaning, but then she goes right back to wanting her "mi" every few hours.
But when the time is right, and if she hasn't self-weaned, I am worried about how to go about it without feeling like I'm torturing her????

First of all, I feel your pain with the night time thing. Sixteen months was when I nightweaned. Just.Could.Not.Take.It.Anymore.

But yeah, except for the night thing, I suppose I did "child-led-weaning." My first kid nursed till he was 2 and a half. There just never seemed to be a reason to stop. He liked it. I liked it. (It made him fall asleep!) Everyone was happy. One day he just quit.

I expected my second kid to stop at the same age. But he didn't. Kid just kept right on nursing! Kid adored nursing. And this was going to be my last babe, after all, so I just let it go on. I thought he'd stop at 3 when he started preschool. No dice! Of course, by this time, when I say "nursing" I mean he was nursing maybe once a day, right before his nap.

That darn kid kept nursing till he was four. Once a day, or when he was really upset about something. He was a really rough-tough crazy-active little boy, but for whatever reason, he needed that check-in with mama. I was pretty surprised by the whole thing, having never set out to become a Mothering Magazine stereotype. But I don't regret it, either.

My boy is 5 and still talks about nursing and how great it was. I figure he'll make a wonderful, supportive husband one day.

My son is 26 months and still breastfeeding -we are all happy with this so far. I am not sure when or how I will wean him. He usually wants to nurse as soon as I get home from work ( I am back to work part ime)and then will only ask to nurse again in the evening. Nights are a whole different story, he nurses A lot, and wakes up at leat three times during the night, three times is the norm. I am used to it,but no, I don't enjoy waking up at night and almost can't remeber how a full night of sleep feels like by now.
We choose to nurse this long because it makes sense for our familiy and I hope that I can continue to nurse him until he is ready to wean.
I would love to hear how child led weaning has looked for some other moms, thanks for asking the question.

Well, timely for me as well, but for different reasons. Our daughter is 3, and we now have a 2week old newborn son. I had been nursing Ella pretty much whenever she wanted, only thing that I did was wean her from night-time falling asleep nursing about 2 months ago.

So I fully intended to do tandem nursing, and she was all excited about that, when lo and behold the baby came and she totally weaned herself! I had so not expected that, but I guess she just knows that it is time for her.

We also had the nipple twisting twiddling argh!! thing going on (on the other nipple)... she was old enough to understand I didn't like it. It didn't stop her, but I just kept covering up the other breast and not letting her at it and eventually she stopped.

If she hadn't weaned herself now (and who knows, maybe she'll start again?) I probably would have continued with it. We had definitely cut down, and I love the closeness, and it seemed such a good thing for grounding her and giving her security when she really needed it.

I think no matter when you wean, it may be tough but the kiddos will be ok! and however long you've nursed, it has been such a gift to them.

We did child led weaning. He was 45 months old. By that time we had only been breastfeeding at naptime and bedtime and sometimes for comfort. I knew that I wanted him to be done by the time he was 4 but I didn't know how it was going to happen. He asked for it each night at bedtime and we enjoyed our snuggle time together. I imagined myself being sad and crying and him crying while I would be forced to deny him, but that's not at all how it happened.

In August, we went on vacation and so we were away from our usual routine. It was not planned but that first night, I told my husband that if he did not ask, I would not offer. He did not ask and we snuggled on the couch before bedtime and I put him to bed and that was that. He did not ask the whole week while we were on vacation and once we returned home, he didn't ask either. He did not ask again until about 2 months later when he asked one night before bed. I told him it was all gone and that was that.

One thing that I did was before he weaned, we started a night time snuggle routine where I held him and snuggled and we talked about our day. We did this before nursing. We would talk and laugh and think about things we could do different in difficult situations we encountered, etc. Once he weaned, this took the place of our nursing and it was nice to have this to fall back on and it's nice to still have that snuggle time to look forward to while we "talk about all the fun things". :)

I've been thinking a lot about weaning and found this Oregonian blog while researching the topic. Had some helpful info.


I nursed my child for 25 months. For the last one or two months of that time, she nursed only before sleeping at night and at the very end, just when she woke up in the morning. The morning of our last day of nursing I told her it would be the last time she would have mama's milk, and she seemed to understand that. She asked for it for a week or so afterward, and I just told her that mama's milk was for babies and now that she was a little girl, we would have cuddles instead.

Although it was sad to stop nursing, I felt like I was ready. I also thought she was ready to stop, since the nursing had turned into mostly playing time, her starting and stopping every 30 seconds or so to look around, and because I could comfort her nearly as well with cuddles instead of nursing.

I nursed my boy until he was about 2-1/2. I had been slowly and steadily doing it less and less for about 8 months. First to go was the night-time weaning. He was in his own room, so daddy had to do all the night time visits/comforting.
Then, after a long time, I decided I wanted to give up the morning weaning. I found that if I got up before him he could be happy with food instead of nursing (we were actually sharing a room for a month at the time). He got up early then, about 5 a.m., so I would force myself out of bed and out of the room at about 4:45. Oy. But it worked. Then, it really got to the point where I didn't have much milk anymore, and I stopped nursing unless he asked for it.
Eventually he let a few weeks pass before he asked, and I explained to him that when babies are born mammas have milk for them, but when they get to be bigger the milk is gone. He seemed to understand that fine.

I weaned him when he bit me. that was it. The next day I sat him on the couch with a bottle in my lap and told him how much I loved him and that this was all I had. He fussed for a minute, grabbed the bottle, and fell asleep. He was 11 months.

We officially night weaned last week. My boy is 17months old. He nurses before his nap and before bed. He was an all-night-snacker and no one was getting any sleep. With the support of my friends, I went for it. I wrapped myself in 2 shirts and a blanket (so he couldn't just roll over and latch on like before). The first night he woke 2 times crying. I patted him back to sleep. The second night, he woke once, same again. The third night- HE SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT AND WE BOTH GOT UP AT 8AM. OH MY!!! We have been sleeping oh so happily through the night since, going to bed at 7:45 and waking at 8am. Bliss! All I can say is just go for it and stick to it. You and your little one will be just fine.

i feel your dilemma, sarah, esp. the nipple tweedling! i took care of that pretty quickly by putting anatole down and saying 'i don't like that, it hurts!' if he got too rough/annoying with it. now we often 'high five' while nursing when that hand wants something to do, or play with a soft toy. we've been taking the slow path to weaning, too, nighttime happened several months ago (you probably remember) and now we're down to pre-nap/bed and first thing in the morning, with the very occasional comfort snack thrown in. if he wakes up in the night either ethan or i hold him, take him to the potty, whatever until he falls back asleep. i've thought about making a 'cut-off' date, but it seems so out of step with how we've approached everything else so i think we'll be more likely to continue the slow tapering until we all feel a bit more 'there'. i keep reminding myself if i get frustrated that life is so short anyway, in a couple years i won't care if we nursed a few months longer.

I've read that the twiddling of the opposite nipple is a way a child can increase milk flow on the breast s/he is on. I'm not sure if it is instinct or built into us biologically (which could explain the wandering hand thing), or something a child figures out through trial and error. If you own the nipple and the child is hurting you, it's bad, but if you want to keep breastfeeding it probably helps to understand what's going on and maybe work to modify/redirect the behavior so it is more gentle, not just chalk it up as bad or thoughtless behavior.

We are still working on that one -- Not ever positive of what my/our breastfeeding goals were, she is now just turned 2, and nursing 2 or 3 times a day.

I had the same feeling when my daughter was about 15 months old. I usually enjoyed the closeness. But every now and then I felt like she was a wild beast feeding on a carcass! I thought I was ready to start weaning.
And then one day she just quit nursing -- for a whole week -- don't know why. I felt suddenly tragic about it, not sure if I'd have this experience again.
And as suddenly, she wanted to nurse again. I don't remember feeling engorged when she quit, just oddly relieved when she started up again.

And now, she really tries not to fiddle with my other nipple...And she just asks so politely.."C'I pease have some tittle,mama?"

The night nursing sleep deprivation drove me mad, as well. So I started wearing a T-shirt to bed. She squawked the first couple of nights, and then was fine.

My husband has stopped asking when he's going to get them back!

We (and I do mean, "we") at about 18 months. My daughter was down to once a day, first thing in the morning and it just felt like the right time, so we went for it. I offered her a warm bottle of milk first thing, sat with her on my lap and turned the t.v. on. She was upset the first couple of mornings, but the t.v. helped to distract her and we still got to have our early morning cuddle time. She was over it in a couple of days. I, however, went through something like post pardum for the next two months. I underestimated how much that one nursing session a day boosted my happy hormones. I had no idea what was going on at the time, but if I were to do it again, I would be sure to fit in a daily trip to the gym to replace the endorphins and help ease the transition.

glad to know I'm not alone. As I try to type one handed my 20 mo son is nursing while wiggling all over my lap and with me telling him to leave the other nipple alone. We tried night weaning a few times but after 3 nights in a row of him screaming and fighting all night long for booboos even with him in bed with me. He'll go to bed and stay asleep for a few hours without nursing but once he wakes up he won't stay asleep for than 30 minutes without nursing. I really am fine with the daytime nursing but I'm really ready for him to sleep at least for a 6 hour stretch which has never happened yet.

I night-weaned my 19mth old about three months ago as he was up all night nursing every night. Now, he sleeps (still co-sleeping) through the night most nights. It is amazing! I followed the Jay Gordon plan:

I think night weaning is a wonderful option as you can continue to nurse your babe but meet your own needs for sleep as well!

I weaned my daughter when she was 2 yrs 9 months. I wanted to get pregnant again and didn't feel like I needed to be expending any extra energy to make milk during the exhausting first trimester. She was down to one nursing session a day (right before bed) but showed no sign of ever giving it up. We did a 'countdown'. I explained to her that she was a big girl now and didn't need mommy's milk anymore. So I told her we had 7 more days of milk left, then 6, then 5 etc until the very last night, I told her it was the last night for 'milkies" and that tomorrow we would have storytime instead. The next night we read a story from a new book I got just for the occasion (with stickers!) and although she protested a little when I turned out the lights, she understood and we made a pretty smooth transition.

Am I the only one that night weaned at 3 months or so? I wasn't sure if he'd starve throught the night but I gave it a try and when he'd wake up I'd give him some loves, a paci and he'd go back to sleep just fine. He sleeps from 7pm to 8 am. I remember the sleep deprived nights. I nursed him around the clock- every hour and I was losing my mind. I don't feel that I lack closeness by not nursing at night. I feel like we both get the sleep we need. He's almost 8 months now and eats like a champ. He's starting to get harder to nurse now though- he's so wiggly and sometimes only wants to play with my boob. I'm not a fan of that. The morning nurse is the longest for him and will probably be the last to go. I plan on nursing for a year. What were doing now is perfect for us. I hope we have a natural weaning progression though. seems like it's easier for him and the hormonal shift.

Anon: Nope, you're not the only one! I didn't even realize there a name for that. I didn't set out to start "nightweaning" at all, but around 4 months my daughter was apparently ready to sleep through the night. I figured if she was hungry, she would certainly wake up and let me know. Well...she's now 6+ months and is still sleeping through the night fine! I never really considered it as a partial "weaning" but it seems to be working out fine.

I night weaned 6 months before giving up nursing all together. It made me much much happier. The nightweaning was at 12 months old when I couldn't take another story of some other kid sleeping through the night since he was 3 months old :) The sleep was amazing!

After night weaning my milk supply declined and it helped ease weaning by naturally reducing the day feedings one by one, until the milk just wasn't there and my son wasn't enthralled anymore.

Oy. I'm on sort of the opposite end of this dilemma. I love nursing my son--love the closeness and the quiet time together, love knowing that he's getting excellent nutrition, love how relaxing it is, love that I lost that extra five pounds I wanted to shed before I was pregnant--and have always intended to continue full blast until he's at least two. But my kid is super active and distractable, and ever since the age of 3 months I've struggled to get him to slow down to nurse (mostly only nurses in his room in bed or in the sling, and lately he hardly does that). He's now almost one and hardly wants to nurse at all during the day, no matter how grouchy he gets from low blood sugar. I've finally come to the realization that I really need to feed him foods every couple of hours because we just can't rely on breastmilk for the bulk of his calories anymore. Luckily, he likes to eat solids.

Does anyone relate to this?

Camellia-My daughter is so squirly that I can barely get her to eat anything!When she does eat she scarf it down,breastmilk,solids,whatever and then she is on the go! At 8 months,I am just hoping to make it to a year.She is so different than my 1st daughter who I nursed so sweetly (and calmly) for almost 2 years.

My son kind of weaned himself at about 9 months. He seemed to be less and less interested everytime I tried. I nursed him for the last time one night and he never seemed to want it again. We started a sippy cup early because I didn't want him to be on the bottle forever. He didn't care. At 10 months he would take milk from a sippy and be fine with it. Of course, he's a thumb sucker and still is at almost 4. That in itself has reduced to him only doing it to soothe himself to sleep for a few minutes at night. I figure by 5 he will pretty much be done with it.

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