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06/06/2010

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wavybrains

I nursed my daughter for 18 months or so. Towards the end, it because clear that she would happily be one of those 3 or 4 year olds still nursing. "Don't offer/don't refuse" wasn't going to work as a weaning strategy in our house. I live in Oregon, so I know far more extended nursing duos than you! BTW "extended" is considered AFTER 2--the World Health Organization recommends nursing for at least the first 2 years. And I got a lot of strange looks and comments because we weaned "so early" :) But she was still waking up several times a day to nurse, and I was just d.o.n.e. with not sleeping and with the asking for it and everything else you mention. So we spent about 3 months gradually weaning. First we did the Dr. Jay Gordon night weaning method, then after that was working well, I dropped the morning nursing by immediately getting breakfast going (I laid it out most nights) for her and trying to hold her off till post-breakfast. Then I just tried to keep her really busy and active--out of the house a lot to drop other feedings. I started wearing less accessible clothing and put up the nursing pillows (SOB!!!!) and sat in different chairs for a while. Then as those feedings were decreasing some, I decided to do a different bedtime routine. I started doing bath-quick nurse-story-rocking chair-bed and then dropped the nurse after a few weeks of the new routine. Then she was pretty consistently waking up and going to sleep sans nursing and not nursing at night, but still into comfort nursing here and there during the day. Then we all go the stomach flu (not recommended) and went 24 hours not nursing, nursed once, then another 24 hours, then I decided that we were done. She asked a few more times, I distracted her and told her we were all done. I gave her the comfort she needed in other ways--I wore here a lot more in those weaning months on my back in the backpack carrier, cucdled in the front in my ring slings (I have super supportive slings that can hold a toddler--made from woven wraps), and in sturdy german-style woven wraps. We spent lots and lots of time in the rocking chair, which worked for us b/c I never nursed in it, so it was something new for us. I took her lots of new places during that time too. If you are done, you're done. I've heard of other people weaning down to like a single feeding a day, then having a "all-done num-num" party or such with a little cake or some other "all done" ritual as well, but that didn't feel right for us, but might work for you. Good luck!

Michelle

We're still going at 14 months, and I had planned on going until he hopefully just decided he was done, but now we're going on vacation without the little one when he'll be about 18 months, so we're going to go cold turkey and see what happens. Around a year I introduced cows milk and he naturally weaned himself down to just before naps and bedtime, so I'm hoping cold turkey won't be so bad.

Its nice to hear of others still going, I get lots of strange looks and comments.

Amanda

I nursed for 16 months. The only reason we stopped was due to me having a kidney stone, and the meds they gave me for the pain were not safe for nursing. I still hate that stone, not because of all the pain but because it made me stop the thing I loved most.

The night I had to stop, I remember sitting in the chair and having my toddler motion to nurse, and I couldn't. I told her it went night night and oh man, was she mad. So we started a new night routine of reading a book to distract her. But after she was in bed I cried for the first three nights or so. My husband thought I was in pain from the stone, but that had nothing to do with it.

Anyway, continue on. Believe me, if I could have, I would still be nursing and my 'baby' just turned 2.

Annika

The only way I have ever successfully weaned was by getting pregnant, which caused my milk to dry up. And that didn't actually get him to stop, but my sobbing and begging him to stop did. (He started again after the baby was born. It's actually helped a lot with jealousy issues for him to nurse occasionally, but oh man.)

amanda

I nursed Adam for 26 months until I was forced to wean for medical reasons. We basically had to stop cold turkey, and that was not the way I had wanted it to go at all. It was really hard on both of us.

So, I have no real advice other than I wish that we had been given the opportunity to take things more slowly. I'm sure he would have nursed quite a lot longer if left to his own devices, and while I'm glad he's not still nursing at almost 3.5, I wish I had been able to take things a bit more at his pace.

Heidi T

I nursed Alex (now 7) for two years but she would still be doing it now if I hadn't gotten pregnant with my son (who will be 5 on 7/19). It hurt to nurse when I was pregnant, so I would tell her to rub my belly instead. Her little brother was born and he nursed and she tried a couple of times, but it was alot for me to handle with a needy newborn so we stuck with rubbing belly. She is now 7 and still remembers nursing fondly and what it tastes like (she says Strawberries) and will still rub a belly if she sees one bare. My son was one of those kids that weaned naturally. He was 18 months and I felt like I was forcing him to nurse. He was too busy to do it. He gave it up.

Also, with Alex I had one of the worst nursing experiences ever. She was small and I am large breasted and my nipples actually separated from my breast on the outer edges and I was bleeding and gross, but we just kept going and one day it got a lot better. I had no issues with my son and nursing.

We live in upstate NY and know a lot of moms who nurse but probably more that didn't even try.

Robin from Israel

Disclosure: I'm an LC and a volunteer bf'ing counselor, and I do encourage child-led weaning when possible.

Having had it both ways, gradual child-led weaning and a nursing strike let me clearly say that you do NOT want a nursing strike. My daughter weaned at 18 months because she had such a bad case of hand, foot and mouth disease that she literally couldn't bear to nurse. She had over 40 sores in her mouth and would scream and cry "no mommy, no want mommy milk" every time I tried to feed her. It broke her heart, and it broke mine. Whatever causes a sudden onset nursing strike, and there can be many reasons, that sudden rejection is excruciating and hard on your both both mentally and physically. Trust me, you don't want to go there. When you feel the time is right to wean do it gradually, eliminating a particular feed every few days and tapering off that way. It's a whole lot easier on you both.

Big huge kudos to you though for hanging in there despite all the early difficulties and later societal pressure.

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lb

I am a total bonafide freak, because I've nursed all three of my kids into toddlerhood and beyond. My third just turned 4 and he is still going. It's pretty much just at bedtime and wake up time now, only very occasionally during the day if something cataclysmic happens.

I never thought I would be doing this. When I had my first, the idea shocked and horrified me. So I get why people would be freaked out by it. But it's healthy, it's natural, and globally it's pretty normal.

So my weaning advice for a 2yo has got to be suspect, as mine tend to go until they are 4 or 5! But my general advice to you is not to do anything sudden or drastic, but at the same time to set boundaries and protect yourself. Nursing an older child is a process of give and take and negotiation. If you decide that pulling at your shirt in public is bothering you, then you can set that boundary and she is capable of understanding that. Or, say, if the after daycare feed is a particular hassle, then you can replace that with a cup of water and a snuggle while still enjoying the other sessions. You don't need to wean completely, but you don't want to be held hostage by a tiny boob tyrant either.

It's a wonderful thing, nursing a toddler, very satisfying for both parties. Good for you, both for doing it in the first place and for admitting it publicly! You rock!

Jody

I was still nursing two of the three kidlets past their third birthday because they got more attached after their second birthdays, not less. But it was pretty limited, mostly wake-up and bedtime, so I didn't mind. (Except now that I think about it, one of them wanted to nurse a lot mid-morning. Never mind.)

What finally made the difference for us was having to brush teeth after nursing, because one of the kids had a mouth full of cavities. The nursing lost its appeal, and they were both done in about three months.

Which sounds ridiculously drawn-out, when I type it like that, but hmmm. At the time it felt easier than I expected.

I think they gave up the morning nursing when I started greeting them with bowls of blueberries in the morning. But honestly, who remembers? It's been six years.

Amy

I love my daughter's weaning story, but I'm at work and I'll have to come back to this. Short version: She weaned on her 3rd birthday and it was beautiful. The hormone crash SUUUUUCKED, but it was good in the end.

And that "when they ask they are too old" bullshit is bullshit. They "ask" from the moment they are born. Do people think babies don't communicate? Bullshit.

Pam

I know my story is completely different, but I thought I'd share. My son weaned off the breast at 8 months by himself. One day he refused it and that was that. But I went back to work when he was 4 months so he was also addicted to bottles. He LOVED his bottles. I couldn't even begin to imagine how to get him off them. At 2 I switched to only water in the bottle thinking he wouldn't like it as much, but no, he loved the water too. He only had a bottle at night by this point. Then, when he was 3 1/2 he told me "Bottles are for babies mom" and threw them in the garbage!! He never had another one! Good luck to you. I'm so happy you're back!

Betty M

I weaned my first at 18 months. I was going back into ivf so had to stop. I wouldn't have stopped so early otherwise. We went cold turkey which was horrible. My husband had to do bedtimes for 3 days and then she was fine with just a bottle. By this stage we wer down to only morning and evening feeds only so that made it easier than it might have been. I wouldn't bother trying to wean until you are down to just two feeds a day. My second child carried on feeding for longer as I had decided on no more ivf. He went on until he was almost 3. For about the last year he was down to night feeds only and it was all part of a routine involving his cot. We used the move to a big bed to start the final weaning. It was much less painful than for the first child and he was over it in a couple of days but without the wailing that we had first time round.

Bella

I nursed my older son until about 18 months. I basically eliminated a feed a day over the course of weeks. I still clearly remember him rearing his head back in anger when I denied him a daytime nurse but he did catch on quickly. My milk supply never fully came in with my twins so they would nurse and then get a supplemental bottle. One refused to nurse at 4.5 months (he LOVED the bottle, and truth be told he was murder on my nipples)and the other had to quit at 7 months when my milk dried up as soon as they started sleeping through the night. I am still nostalgic for it.

Michelle

LOVE it! I too am the farthest thing from a "hippie" (not that there is anything wrong with that) and have nursed 2 kids who could "ask for it." My son is 21 months now, a huge talker who last night told me "Milkies taste good!"

My daughter was easy. Around her 2nd birthday she started forgetting to ask (it was only a morning and bedtime thing at that point.) I just had dh put her to bed for a few nights and distracted her in the morning and she was done. She asked once "why no more milk in there?" and I told her "because you are a big girl now." and she was fine.

The boy is funny - he either totally forgets to ask or he notices my boobs at odd times and begs for it. We are doing "don't offer" but I definately refuse - he only gets it before bed or nap and occasionally in the morning if he asks. Sometimes he only nurses for 30 seconds, sometimes he acts like he can't get enough. So I have no idea how it will be to wean him!

Melissa P

I nursed my daughter until she was two and a half. I wasn't ready to wean her before that. By that time, she could understand me well enough that I told her "one more week of milkies", "two more days", etc. She fussed a little, but the whole thing was over heartbreakingly fast.

My son is now 18 months. When he was born (daughter was nine months weaned), she had NO recollection of nursing. Which is also heartbreaking.

I have cherished my nursing time with him and will continue until one of us is ready to call it quits.

Amy

A few months before my daughter's third birthday I was starting to feel like my body would be better off if its hormones were back to normal and thought maybe she'd wean soon. I asked her when she thought she'd stop drinking mama milk, and she said when she turned 3. So I ran with it. We created a story together about the milk going to the stars when she turns 3. I gradually encouraged her to nurse less leading up to the big day. For the two weeks before her birthday we did a countdown with a chart in her room that we put a glow-in-the-dark star on each night after her bedtime nursing. When the chart was full on her birthday, that was the last time she nursed. When she was done we went to the window and pretended to throw the milk up to the stars.

For a few weeks after that she would occasionally ask for it and I would remind her that the milk went away. Usually that was an adequate answer, especially if I redirected her attention to something else. But my body went crazy for a few days. I was a MESS. It took a long time for me to feel like my body was fully recovered from making a person and feeding it for three years.

kristylynne

Hey, glad you are back!! I gave up on you for a while there. :-) But just checked in and was so glad to see you are writing again. Your girls are beautiful. Can't wait to hear more.

Shanna

I started talking to my twins about weaning in vague term shortly after their second birthday (with a long-term goal of being done by the time they were three). At 2 yrs they were nursing 3x/day: morning, naptime, and bedtime (pre-bath, not to-sleep). At ~25 months I talked to them about how soon we were going to not have milk from Mommy before naptime, and instead read an extra book. I told them there was one more week of naptime milk and considered making a calendar of sorts...and the next day they just handed me books and ignore the nursing entirely. Similar story for bedtime nursing at about 28 months - I think they lasted three days there before deciding that having DADDY read a couple of books was way cooler. For the following five months I would, from t time to time, mention that soon Mommy would not be making milk any more, because they were big kids and could have cow milk instead, and just have snuggles without milk. Wed already established that once we all got out of bed in the morning and out of pajamas, there was no more milk for the day. Starting around 31 months old, they would skip nursing some days (one or the other, or sometimes both). At about 33 months old, there was a stretch of five days when neither nursed. Then one day my daughter asked in the morning, and I told her the milk was all gone (not, strictly speaking, true, but *I* was done). She sobbed for about five seconds and then settled down into bed to snuggle with everyone. I don't think my son even had that five-second disappointment, though I don't remember exactly.

Alexicographer

Mine quit at 13 months (give or take) in more-or-less textbook fashion (albeit tapered). It was physically fine (for both of us), and in many ways more convenient. But I missed it and wished he had continued.

So I'm no help, but it's wonderful to know you and Bo have so enjoyed (are so enjoying?) this.

Sam

Still going @ 16mo, and recently he has refused Lefty and does the "tastes like shit" face when he tries it. Silly babies.

Karen

I did like wavybrains and used Dr. Jay Gordon's night weaning method at 25 months. I had no specific deadline for completely weaning.
When this girl was 26 months or so I went overseas for a 1 week business trip. I pumped once/day to maintain some supply, but wasn't sure she'd nurse when I got back. When the family met me at the airport outside of customs, that girl pulled my shirt up and latched on right away. So I knew that weaning her had to be something she could understand and celebrate, at least for a little while.

When my daughter was about 2.5, my GI doc announced I'd have to take meds that were not appropriate for nursing. I did my research, and agreed. I made a party plan, plus invented a little song that we sang about how "Ella's growing up" and it's "bye-bye na-na." We sang that song for a week before the weaning day, then for many weeks afterward.

We all shared the cupcakes and moved on. She's 8 now, and still very attached to me, but remembers nothing about nursing or weaning. Sometimes I wish she did.

Anna

I was definitely one of those people who thought breastfeeding a child who could ask/unbutton tops etc was WEIRD and gross and no way was I doing it. I set a goal of 12 months so that I wouldn't have to mess around with bottles and stuff.

Well, 12 months came and went...18 months...2 years...21/2 years...3 years still going...

The more I read about extended (or full-term) breastfeeding the more I was convinced that it has enormous emotional and physical benefits. My daughter was and is very attached to me and quite a sensitive and sometimes anxious child. I don't like to think about the pain it would have caused her for me to forcibly wean her at 18 months or 2.

However, breastfeeding through a pregnancy was not fun. I experienced a fair bit of breastfeeding aversion and we set up quite a few boundaries which allowed me to feel okay about continuing and which she, at 21/2, was old enough to understand. Things like counting down from 10 and then finishing, no nursing overnight, only feeding in the morning, evening and at naptime, only feeding at home and a few other things.

I am now feeding both my daughters and although it has some challenging aspects it has also been an enormously bonding experience for them. There has been very little resentment shown from my DD1 to my DD2 and I really think it has a lot to do with the tandem nursing. I am now committed to letting her wean when she's ready and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was at four or five. I don't really enjoy breastfeeding much myself but I'm the adult, so I can suck it up.

Some good books are Mothering Your Nursing Toddler by Norma J. Bumgarner (Hee! Bumgarner!) and Adventures in Tandem Nursing by Hilary Flowers. The second one has lots about gentle weaning, not just tandem nursing.

And just keep in mind that the global average age for weaning is four years and that biologically speaking, when you compare us to the nursing habits of other higher-order mammals, the natural age for humans to wean is somewhere between 2 and 7.

And also? Well done. Really really well done. There aren't many of us around and I really wish there were.

Shilpa

No direct advice but I have a friend who had to stop her daughter at around 2.5 and it was a tough battle. I think she tried cutting down the sessions one by one, and then doing a lot of explaining to her daughter that it was the countdown to the day it ended, and suggesting treats and stuff for quitting nursing. Basically sort of like potty training.

Best of luck, and I'm totally jealous about the 60lbs!!!

KimN

Wow, I had no idea that you were back...so excited you are!

I too adopted my son (from Guatemala who is 5 now) and after 8 years of IF, gave birth a year ago this month. I desperately wanted to nurse but unfortunately, my daughter was born with brain malformations that muddied up the process. Instead I had to do the next best thing and pump. I pumped exclusively for her and just weaned myself. I'm envious of your BF experience but at the same time feel so proud of what I accomplished as well.

Anyways, no advice here but just wanted to comment and say I'm so happy that you are back and both girls are gorgeous!

Kim

I don't have a nursing story (Maddy is 13 now, and was born with no suck reflex, because of her CdLS) but I wanted to welcome you back. :) I'm so happy for you ~ what with 2 gorgeous daughters ~ that I couldn't *not* comment! I'll probably only lurk around, but I'm here ~ rooting you on. :) So glad to hear your "voice" again!

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