Weaning breastfed toddler - post traumatic stress!!(25 Posts)
We (grandparents) have just helped daughter wean her 2 and half year old toddler from breastfeeding. Daughter was exhausted from 2hourly feeds all night long - for years! - and every attempt to cut down night feeds failed. Toddler has been eating solids since 6 months and drinks from a bottle and cup too, likes milk from a bottle. It is purely about comfort and closeness.
Now been a week since breastfeeding stopped. Toddler still dreadfully upset, crying self to sleep every night, genuinely seems heartbroken and traumatised.
Most young people we know seem to stop feeding within 6 months to a year, but
looking online for support on post weaning upset I came across reams of forums and bloggers talking about how it's wrong to stop breastfeeding before the child is ready and accepts it, even if that means feeding till they're as old as 6 or 7!
This seems mad to me? What about the mum? What about getting her life back? What about the child being mocked or bullied for still breastfeeding after 2 and a half years? Not to mention the practicalities - how can child sleepover with friends? Or other family? How can mum go away for a night?
Would be really interested in hearing what other mumsnetting breastfeeding mums do about weaning.
When do you think it's appropriate (barring obvious reasons like illness for example)? Do you think it should be left to the child?
Did you do it against your child's wishes, and how did they cope afterwards?
Did they get over it eventually?!
Know it sounds silly but it is all so traumatic at the mo that we're considering abandoning the attempt and letting her go back on the breast for a bit longer, but after a whole week without this may be a terrible decision.
Please share your stories?
I suppose it depends on how you weaned. I only breastfed until just over eight months as I had to go back to work, I did it slowly over two months, very gradually reducing feeds until she was fully on the bottle. There was a lot of bottle refusing in that time, but I took it at a pace I felt suited her. I can't comment on weaning a toddler though, did you replace the night feeds initially with anything? Cup of milk or water? Or just cold turkey? I don't think a kid would be bullied for being breastfed, I don't really see why it would come up, but then as said, no experience of breastfeeding a toddler. Hope you get it sorted, maybe offer a cup of milk and a reward for having that instead of the breast, so a new colouring book or something of the like.
My DD is almost 2 and still feeds. I am ready to stop but she has refused. I don't want to upset her by refusing as it does seem to cause her real distress if i suggest we don't feed. But yes, my needs and wants and feelings are equally valid and I think it's important children know that.
I imagine it would be very traumatic to go from two hourly feeding to nothing quickly though and make the child feel bereft. Two hourly feeds is not necessary at 2.5 and the the child must be as exhausted as poor mum with all that nighttime disturbance. I would suggest night weaning first, setting a time that's acceptable, be it 5 or 6am to allow a morning feed and then explaining when in the day feeds would happened (before nap time, before bed etc.)
With DD I did this with lots of repeating when we'd feed in the run up to the change. And any time she asked in between i explained wasn't time until 'x' then foubd something fun to do or distracted her with a snack. Being at work and away from her in the day has helped as well as she can't feed if I'm not there!
I stopped at 12 months with both of mine. I went back to work at 8 months-ish, so introduced one bottle a day from 6 months-ish. Then I gradually replaced the other feeds with bottles. 12 months seemed right as I was ready emotionally and felt I needed to get stronger and get my periods back ready to ttc. It was also logical as they could have cow's milk so that made it easier.
12 months was right for us. The babies didn't complain. I know many people who left it longer and then had a hard time weaning toddlers. That doesn't mean that toddlers shouldn't be breastfed, just that they can be harder to wean.
Good luck to your daughter. It sounds like she's ready to stop. I wouldn't go back now, after a week. Just offer lots of praise and comfort to the little one. She'll get there. She's just making her feelings known!
I'm still feeding my 18 month old, not sure when we will stop. He still has sleepovers at his grandparents house - he just has a bottle instead. It's common at this age to feed morning and night, and until I'm ready to try for dc2 I can't see that being a problem. It depends how distressed your grandchild is I guess. I definitely don't blame your daughter for wanting to stop especially if she was feeding 2 hourly! If she does go back to breastfeeding she definitely shouldn't feed that regularly
My dd was like your grandchild and wanted to feed constantly which was getting too much for me. I didn't want to stop altogether though so I started distracting, making sure I offered her plenty of snacks and drinks, going on long walks (part of distracting her) and basically encouraging her to not breastfeed during the day. Now we are at the stage where, barring illness etc, she has one feed before she goes to sleep, and if she wakes, which she tends to do just once or twice a night now, I will feed her back to sleep (which doesn't usually take long).
I like the idea of it reaching a natural end, but I am trying to gently encourage that ending to come sooner rather than later! I still like knowing that I can do this for her, and she gets a lot of comfort from it. The cutting down gradually worked quite well for us, she didn't create anywhere near as much fuss as I'd expected. Maybe the timing was right. (Although I don't think it would be that smooth if we stopped altogether.)
If dd is showing no signs of stopping and I'm completely ready to then I think I will spend a night away to try and break the cycle. This is all hypothetical...I really don't know.
Trying to think what I'd do in your dd's position. I think I'd go day by day and look for signs that your GC is improving. (Also, could it be that your GC is coming down with an illness making them more distressed?) If they showed no signs of getting over it after a certain amount of time, I think I'd introduce one feed a day again. But make it clear that it was only the one. In the mean time I'd try and make sure your GC is getting out and about a lot in the day and doing lots to take their mind of it. As I said, maybe they are coming down with an illness.
I know I've rambled but the last thing I'll say is I see breastfeeding as a mutual thing. If it's not working at all for one party (mother or child) then something has to change, whether that be stopping or reducing. Your dd has breastfed for a long time and it sounds like it has been very hard going and she should be proud for lasting as long as she did. It's great that you sound like very supportive parents and grandparents too and I'm sorry your GC is struggling atm.
DS2 self weaned when he was about 2 and a half / 2 and three quarters.
My personal feeling about it was that there was no reason to stop breastfeeding as long as DS2 wanted to. But it's important to note that DS2 has always been a good sleeper, and unless ill, rarely wanted night feeds once past about 12-18 months (and even before then, rarely woke more than once a night for feeds). We also had no issues with DS2 settling to sleep for people other than me.
So extended breastfeeding with DS2 wasn't really causing me any problems or inconvenience with sleep deprivation, nights out or anything else. I expect I'd have felt differently if he'd been consistently waking for feeds every 2 hours.
The people I know who have weaned their toddler all seemed to start with night weaning first. But no advice on how to do that as sleep wasn't an issue for us, so night weaning never felt necessary.
As far as the child being mocked / bullied goes - by the time a child reaches the age where that would be an issue, they're unlikely to be feeding much in public, and other people aren't going to know about breastfeeding at home unless you go out of your way to tell them. IME it's not the sort of thing that tends to come up naturally in conversation.
I don't think you need to worry about bullying btw. It's very unlikely to come up at school, and if it did children often take these things matter of factly.
I feed my eldest until.just after her second birthday, by then I was newly pregnant with my youngest and my milk dried up. My dd would come for a feed then climb down and help herself to her cup of water. It took her at least two weeks to find a new way of falling asleep because she was so used to feeding to sleep. I would sit by her cot while she screamed and cried and protested and then eventually fell.asleep.
When my baby was born and she saw me feeding she asked to try it but she had completely forgotten how to latch and never asked again.
I encouraged my second to wean also just after his second birthday and he did protest a bit but I can absolutely say it has in no way affected the bond I have with either of them and neither of them, now 6 and 3 can even remember feeding.
Who would mock or bully the child for feeding after 2? That baffles me
I am not sure I agree with your statement that it is "purely about comfort and closeness." Immunity? Gut bacteria? Children in lots of cultures feed till 4-6.
My DD2 is 3.5 and she still feeds quite a bit. Bedtime, once in the night, morning, and usually she asks to when I pick her up from nursery after lunch. I have a newborn, and I always thought DD2 would stop by herself, but she hasn't, and it doesn't seem right when she is adjusting (painfully) to her new baby sister to forcibly wean her. BF is extremely important to her. I didn't set out to become a tandem feeder but there you go. She can sleep over with grandparents -- she says, "I can breastfeed tomorrow." I also enforce "nursing manners" -- no grabbing, and we don't feed in public.
I am not as sleep-deprived as your daughter must be, so I sympathize. She needs to be able to function as well. I would not worry about bullying, or sleepovers, but the mum's health -- including mental health -- is just as important as the baby.
I am sorry you are all going through this -- it sounds awful.
Here is an article about BF in Mongolia -- it is lighthearted and gives a glimpse of a different, non-Western BF culture.
Good luck to your DD/GC
I can’t thank you all enough for your really kind and considerate responses.
It is so good to know that DD is not alone and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Also, thank you for your support of DD's decision in the light of her 2 hourly night feedings and lack of sleep.
When granddaughter initially reacted so terribly to weaning we were all afraid we'd made a terrible mistake. However, last night amazingly she slept through all night for the first time ever, without waking at all.
She went to sleep after bedtime stories with mum without asking for "booby" and actually, DD was able to leave her after the stories, still awake, and granddaughter put herself to sleep!
This is an absolute first, and although after only one night it is of course too soon to assume all sorted we are all hugely cheered.
So I feel like it was the right decision for DD and for granddaughter, it was just too much for DD to continue and actually seemed to be causing granddaughter to lose sleep too - now breastfeeding has stopped perhaps she will no longer be so wakeful at night.
I really get what many of you said btw about not worrying about bullying etc. for breastfed toddlers, but actually DD was made to feel a bit bad about it herself, it’s odd, but nearly all her friends and contempories seem to stop at 6 months or earlier, and she felt disapproved of.
Consequently she was shy about it with her friends and some of our family, which didn't make things any easier for her.
So overall, after last night, I am glad it is finished, and feel much more positive about the whole decision.
Thanks again all of you wonderful mums for your advice and support .
I'm so pleased to read your update. I sometimes work late and if my son had been put to bed by either my mum or my partner he would sleep through all night. Even though he refused to drink the bottle of milk left behind so in theory his tummy was less full. He just knew there was no point waking up because there was no boobs there!
Pleased to read your update. I've know quite a lot of people to feed beyond 2 but for most it's a private thing only at bedtime and the mum has been able to go away and the toddler is ok without her there.
Glad it worked for OP.
For anyone else reading this there are ways to night wean without entirely weaning - look up both jay Gordon and Elizabeth pantly for ideas.
I am so glad it is working out for your daughter. I fed mine until aged just 3 yrs, 21 months and 3.5 yrs. DS1 was totally boob addicted, always refused bottles and was not a great eater and like you when I googled stopping when he was 18 months came across the type of forums and posts you mention. My strategy, as I was also exhausted from night feeding was to night wean but allowed a bedtime and morning feed and then dropped the bedtime feed and finally - with a little distraction- he dropped the morning feed. DS2 was an excellent sleeper and a thumb sucker so did not keep me up and self-weaned at 21 months. My youngest followed a similar pattern to DS1 but again I had to push quite hard at the end to stop. I think it is sad to worry that people find an older toddler or young child feeding strange and to worry about teasing but we have biologically inappropriate societal norms and prefer to feed our kids cows milk! But I think your daughter has every right to reclaim her body (and her sanity when it's causing such sleep deprivation!) when breastfeeding isn't working for her any more - I'm sure my youngest would have fed much longer but I couldn't take any more!!
Sleep deprivation is a killer and I sympathise with your DD's connection. All I would say is don't underestimate a toddler's genuine need for comfort and connection - feeding been an important part of your DD and GC's bond and they will need to work out between them new ways to connect and find/give comfort to replace that intimate time. I also like the way Dr Jay Gordon puts it in his post on night weaning:
"By the way, pay the baby. Make sure that he really does get a lot of the benefit of your getting a good night’s sleep. Go to the park more often. Do all those things with him you said you’d do if he ever let you sleep longer. Explain it to him as you’re doing it. He’ll understand in an ever increasing way and will be OK with all this."
first "connection" there should have been "situation"...
Thanks Jess, that was helpful and I've passed on to DD!
Just to say stopping night feeding to stop night waking doesn't always work.
DD stopped night feeding at 2.5. A year on she still wakes every 3-4 hours screaming the house down. It's night terrors, it won't stop until she grows out of it.
As long as your DD wanted to stop that's fine; stopping so she can go overnight at a relatives would get from me. Then again, I don't get the need to be away overnight without our
gooseberry DD, each to their own.
Hello ladies.. For those who commented on weaning a breastfed baby, can you recommend a bottle for feeding? Do you just use regular feeding bottles? I have to go back to work in the new year and I am slowly weaning off the breast. I am also very tired because of night feeds but I am slowly cutting down feeds after midnight.
I feel sad having to give up but I want my dd to be ready when I inevitably go back to work and know she will be ok with her fluid intake and I feel like she still needs milk.
How old is your child? If they're 1 or even nearly 1 I wouldn't introduce a bottle - just use a cup. We liked the simple tommee tippee ones with two hands and a spout that flips up and down.
HVs recommend weaning off bottles at a year so I wouldn't introduce one to a bf baby if they've not had one before 9/10mo.
museumum thank you. she is now nearly 8 months and she uses a doidy cup very well. I encourage the doidy cup at home and she has a sippy for when we are out. I've put milk in the doidy cup today and for the first time she drank formula milk which she never used to like. I'm just so worried she will look for milk during the day when I go back to work. So fingerscrossed.
She'll get used to cups of milk at nursery. My ds still bf in the morning and for a while the evening but was fine with cups and food at nursery.
Ds is down to one feed a day at 16 months. He stopped daytime feeds a few months ago - I went back to work at 9 months for three consecutive days a week and so he didn't bf those days, and gradually stopped asking or being interested during daytimes. I think me working sped this up.
Stopped bf at bedtime a couple if months ago after introducing a cup.of milk. Won't take a bottle and decidedjimselg the cup of milk was better than. Bf. I have just stopped night feeds, and so we are left with early morning which I will phase out soon as am due Dc2 in 11 weeks!
Just to update again, granddaughter has been off the breastfeeding now for 11 days and is now sleeping right through the night for first time ever!
Sleeping an average of 8 hours without waking (she does wake for a sec a couple of times but no tears, and settles again without mum going in).
What worked for us with the weaning:
GD was already completely daytime weaned.
She had been aware for many months that weaning was coming.
We all - especially mum - showered her with extra masses of love and affection to compensate.
Distraction when she asked for boob - "oh look at that bird on the curtain!", and explaining that mums boobs were sore and hurting so she couldn't feed.
First few days, we - the grandparents - read her loads of stories and cuddled her to sleep, then sneaked off when she fell asleep.
After that parents took over.
Bending rules eg allowing her into mums bed now and then, or mum getting in bed with her to cuddle and comfort (wearing impossible to remove boob-covering outfit!).
Bribery! Explaining that big girls don't need boob, but they get all sorts of perks - eg she got to choose her own new pink bedding, and got a new toy as a reward.
It's really working.
Meanwhile, mum is suffering with sore boobs etc, but so relieved to have finally got on top of the weaning.
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