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Weaning an older child off the breast: will there come a point when this will be easier to do, or will it just get harder and harder?

(30 Posts)
YunoYurbubson Thu 11-Nov-10 06:57:12

2.7yo ds is breastfed.

It is not a particularly positive thing for either of us. I am SO over it, and he is anxious and wants 'milkies' all day long. Every time I sit down. The whinging drives me mad and at times I really resent having him hanging off my boob.

I do try and set sensible ground rules (breast feeding manners I suppose) but I struggle to keep it up as he is a very strong willed child, is often ill, and I get to the point where it is just easier to give in.

There are some really positive aspects to him still breast feeding too. It is all bad.

Despite not loving it, I think that taking it away from him would be really harsh on him. He is old enough now to understand, question, and complain vociferously. Milkies is his comfort blanket, it is the thing he loves more than anything else in the whole world, and it would take a stronger woman than me to take that away from him.

It often occures to me that it would have been MUCH MUCH easier to wean him off the breast when he was younger. So, my question: in a year from now will I be kicking myself and thinking how much easier it would have been to wean him off at 2.7yo than it is at 3.7yo? OR will there come a point when his understanding and need for breast feeding lessens and it becomes easier to wean him off again?

Did I explain that well enough?

YunoYurbubson Thu 11-Nov-10 06:58:10

Should read: It is not all bad.

ChilledChick2 Thu 11-Nov-10 08:36:10

Hi Yuno You should be really pleased to be still BFsmile. As every child is different and unique, no-one can really say whether it will actually be easier to wean when older. Your child may understand that they'll have to eventually stop BF, but it doesn't mean they'll want/like it.
Imagine you want a big family and you're told, after 1 DC, you must not have anymore kids for health reasons. You understand the reasoning, but you still have that longing for more DC and don't want to be told to stop IYSWIM. Your DC may go through something similar, except he doesn't understand why.

If you can steel youself and come to the understanding that there may be tantrums galore, you may find it easier to stop because you know what to expect and brace yourself for it IYSWIM.

NotQuiteCockney Thu 11-Nov-10 08:39:59

I think it varies from child to child, certainly. But certainly my DS2 was a boob monster at 2, and stopped easily at 3. I did BF manners in BFing really only in bedrooms, at that age. So if he was poorly, we could withdraw to my room and feed lots, but he knew that pestering me for a feed when we were out wouldn't work.

At any rate, I was happy to carry on to three, but if you're struggling, you have every right to stop, whenever you want. Maybe try calling up a BF helpline to get some advice?

FortiesCromarty Thu 11-Nov-10 08:54:30

When my DS was nearly 3 I introduced the rule that he could only have milk first thing in the morning when he got into our bed, then last thing at night to go to sleep. This was set in stone, unless he got really ill or hurt himself badly. He absolutely loved his milk like your son, but soon got the hang of it as I was firm with the rule.

Then we changed to last thing at night only for a few months, then when he turned 4 he knew that 4 year old are big boys and don't have milk from mummy and stopped with no complaint. I was really expecting problems as he seemed to value the contact so much, but he gets extra cuddles and I don't mention it and neither does he grin.

As your DS has got a birthday coming soon, if you want to stop, you could try cutting back to set times of day now, and then talking about how 3 year olds are so grown up they don't have mummy milk so he's prepared for after his birthday, no more milk but still lots of cuddles.

What ever you decide, stick to it, as it's much more confusing for them if sometimes they can, and sometimes they can't.

Sorry for the long post, but your son sounds just like mine and I wanted to reassure you that they can cope, and can cope better than you expect given their adoration of milkies!

Constance39 Thu 11-Nov-10 09:35:12

I think it gets easier but you do have to be set in your own mind, iyswim...once I started being firm about it ds was far easier to distract - also by 3 they do have their own little life, their interests, other things that comfort them...

well, saying that ds was over 3 before he'd have cows milk or a bottle. So I took that and ran with it iyswim

he is now 3.5 and still bf at night, and when he needs a nap in the day. I am resentful too, but we have a better understanding having been through a bit of the 'no' stuff, despite having regressed a bit!

I'd say it does get easier. You need to really feel strong though or they are right there to fall off the wagon with you!

StealthPoHoHoHo Thu 11-Nov-10 09:36:49

DS is 3 1/2 and I'm sure would be fine (sad but fine) if I had to stop, prob been that way since he was about 3. There have been times where, e.g. I'm ill, and he's gnoe to bed without too much of a fuss then.

yawningmonster Thu 11-Nov-10 09:40:01

Marking my place here.
First off I want to thank you for being so honest. I have times when I am ambivalent about bfeeding and times when I out and out hate it but it is easier, cheaper and I know it benefits dd and me. My daughter is only 18mths but I recently got to the point that I was really unhappy with our 10+ a day feeds. I have managed to get down to 4 feeds (morning, after nap, evening and middle of night)which while it is better I would dearly love to get down to am and pm only. DD is having none of it and as it is needs distraction in between the limits I have decided I am happy with. I know I go against the grain of MN and I should love it all and be totally child led but I believe it is a partnership and both partners need to be ok with the situation. I have no real advice for you just wanted to add my support. Oh and I agree with loads of opportunities for contact, cuddle and special time to replace the emotional side of things as previous posters have suggested.

TruthSweet Thu 11-Nov-10 16:24:33

To be quite controversial - have you tried 'love bombing' him for a few days - every time he asks to feed say 'yes of course' no matter how many flippin times he has asked already. Sometimes children make a game out of asking for a feed because you are saying no all the time.

They might not want it each time they ask for a feed but because you say no, it makes a feed in to 'forbidden fruit' and they want to win the 'fruit' and get one over you.

So giving them a feed each time they ask can mean the game no longer has any attraction.

It does seem contrary when you are hoping to be cutting back on feeds to be giving more but it can work.

Hope you find a way out of this soon. It can really make you feel really resentful (well it did me!)

Constance39 Thu 11-Nov-10 17:18:43

thanks for the suggestion, but I don't really find it easy to buy into the idea he's trying to 'get one over'!

I think testing the boundaries, yes, but I'd rather not engage in mind games with a 3yo...!

No offence smile

TruthSweet Thu 11-Nov-10 17:49:52

It's not mind games really - they aren't doing it consciously in a Guantanamo Bay let's break mummy's will <bwhahaha> sort of way.

But in a 'I ask for Mummy to give me a cuddle - she says yes, I ask for a kiss - she says yes, I ask for a bf - she says no. What's so special about a bf? Maybe if I ask again she'll say yes' way.

I did this when DD1 went nuts over feeding a few months after DD2 was born, it did take a few days of near constant nursing (still with nursing manners - she had to say please and thank you) but she soon worked out that she could get it when she asked, so why ask all the time?

I hope I'm making myself slightly clearer than mudwink

solo Thu 11-Nov-10 17:57:50

My Dd is still bfing, but since starting nursery in September, she usually only suckles before bed. She's 3.10. I thought it'd be long over by now, but she too is strong willed and wants what she wants. I have started to think that she'll be off it by the new year, but I doubt she'll give it up volutarily.
I got Ds off at 18months and it was much easier, but then again, I'd got him onto mixed feeding at 10 months as I couldn't keep up the expressing that was necessary.

The thing is that they are all different; some go quietly so to speak and others go kicking and screaming. Others it seems, just don't go.

nannygoatgruff Thu 11-Nov-10 20:34:13

My DS is 2.4 and still likes to feed as often as he can ie every time I sit down smile

Thats not too bad, but he also sleeps in my bed and uses me as a dummy all night - keeps me awake, but I'd rather that than have him screaming all night like my 3 year old used to do.

But now my husband is saying its disgusting to be feeding a child that old, my mom says the same - even one of the 'child care professionals' at nursery says I should stop.

Its great to see all of the posts on here, to see that some of you are feeding DCs older than mine - makes me feel not such a freak after all.

I feel so sad sometimes when I'm feeding DS that people think its wrong - he loves it so much I think it would be cruel to take it away from him sad

He's my 7th child - and definately the last - not my choice - doctors orders.

solo Thu 11-Nov-10 20:50:29

Nanny, I used to think anyone bfing past 2yo was just doing it for themselves blush and MN changed my mind along with Dd. She's on right now slurping noisily.

glitterkitty Thu 11-Nov-10 21:01:28

DS is 3.7 now and still loves nana. In moments of anxiety he grabs my breast grin

At 2 he was mad for it and I couldnt imagine stopping then. I reduced to morning/ night only when he was 3- and only in bed. Had to be strict but it only took 3 days- I wasnt stopping altogether so easier to 'sell' to him. He still tries it on occasionally in the day though!

Hope you find a solution that works for you, op.

mawbroon Thu 11-Nov-10 21:01:29

I would really recommend that you get a hold of How Weaning Happens, I forget the name of the author, but it's a La Leche league book. There are a whole range of different mothers' experiences in there, and there might just be something that rings a bell with you.

My ds1 has recently weaned by mutual agreement on his 5th birthday. We went through pretty much the same as what you are describing with your ds and at times I really didn't enjoy feeding him at all. He was intolerent to cows milk though, which often was what kept me going. There have been many times when I have been really, really, grateful for breastfeeding. Travelling, when he's ill, when he started nursery, when I broke my ankle and was sofa bound (and heavily pregnant), ds2's arrival and more recently, when he started school.

IMO and IME, whatever age you wean, unless they are ready, it will be hard. We had several attempts at cutting down and the backlash was awful. Worse than the nursing, so I decided to keep on with the nursing.

What TruthSweet describes, is similar to "Never offer, never refuse", which is a weaning technique. We tried this, and ds1 was like "wayhay! my luck's in" and fed non stop. After a couple of days, his behaviour became terrible and tbh, I think he was shaken by the lack of boundary around the nursing. It demonstrated to me that he was nowhere near ready to wean at that point.

Are there any support groups in your area? I go to LLL and they have meetings specifically for mothers who are nursing older babies and toddlers. It may help to chat to other mums in the same boat.

Good luck

PS, if he's hanging off your boob, it might be an idea to have a look at your latch wink

CollyDolly Thu 11-Nov-10 23:39:05

My beautiful, clever and very loving DD is 2 years and 2 months and I have loved feeding her..we are just winding down now and its been a big decision... I could of carried on, but tales of 6 year olds being fed through the school railings at school has been on my mind :-) She sleeps with me most of the night and was latching on sometimes up to 6 times a night! We were both waking up tired so I knew it was not doing us any good if I was honest. But I couldn't bear the thought of going "cold turkey" either and making her really upset - I am too soft for that. So I put a proper bra on, not a feeding bra, but had a loose top so she could still touch my chest / skin etc. She went mental the first night, screaming "milk"! and pulled my nose really hard! I was calm and just told her "in the morning sweetheart" and offered her a drink of water instead, which she took at first. I was then giving her a feed in morning. After two weeks of this, she is sleeping almost through the night! If she stirs, she will feel my chest and go back to sleep almost immediately and doesn't cry or ask for milk at night now. This morning she was so excited to see some new toys she had, she got up without a feed. My boobs are a little confused as I write this, but not too bad. I am excited about a pending sense of freedom after nearly three years of my body being sub-contracted! I am of course a bit sad and wistful, but I know it has to stop sooner or later and a good sleep is important for her brain development. Its not been anywhere near as horrific as I expected, but I had a plan and stuck too it and did it over a few weeks..

nannygoatgruff Fri 12-Nov-10 21:33:13

Glitter - my DS calls it nana too grin

I think I'll just carry on for now - I like it, he likes it - so I carry on regardless.

Like Colly's idea though, I might try that later on

glitterkitty Fri 12-Nov-10 21:43:51

Mummy nana grin he sometimes shoves his toy cat at me for some too.

I'm just carrying on until DS wants to stop. Its (to my mind) a harmless pleasure for him and a reassurance. I just dont mention it to people as I know the reactions I'd get!

No regrets here tho. I always loved BF so no hardship really- (although sometimes I just wanted to be left alone)!

solo Sat 13-Nov-10 12:55:14

LOL!!! I get a toy dog thrust at my chest to 'feed' too along with slurping noises hmm grin

glitterkitty Sat 13-Nov-10 18:15:31

Yes, NOM NOM NOM lovely MILK mummy lets DRINK the NANAS! <in public usually blush>

EnnisDelMar Sun 14-Nov-10 07:52:55

They do cope better with boundaries as they get older, because they have other things to think about I suppose.

When they're tiny it's the whole world to them.

Solo, when we meet a stranger who asks ds what he's been doing, quite often they are greeted with 'ummmm...I was at pre school and then we came home and I had This One milky and That One milky... and Mummy is my person and I do like her'

hmmgrin

solo Sun 14-Nov-10 22:48:05

Awww! grin

lowrib Sun 14-Nov-10 23:42:17

Interesting thread. DS is 23 months and an enthusiastic BFer (It's called Mama in this house grin)

He's about to move into his own room, but I really don't know what that means as far as BF goes. Does it mean we're going to wean completely? (no!) cut back a bit? (maybe) nights only? (I don't know). Will I bring him back into my bed when he wakes in the night? (probably).

I know I need a plan but I just don't know what I want that plan to be!

What's the point - well I'd like to get more sleep at night, and for DS to sleep through. I'd like to have DP to myself occasionally!

CollyDolly your post struck a bell with me. I'm going to think about whether it's the right time to try something like that.

lowrib Sun 14-Nov-10 23:43:20

"Yes, NOM NOM NOM lovely MILK mummy lets DRINK the NANAS!" grin

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