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Have I done the wrong thing continuing to breastfeed my toddler?

33 replies

milkymeltdowns · 19/11/2019 13:28

Until now it's felt right and not really thought about weaning but I've suddenly become very concerned that I've missed a window of opportunity to wean my 20 month old.

She does eat a reasonably balanced diet, but I don't think she eats as great a volume of solids as some toddlers I know (although equally she does eat more than some I think so maybe the breastfeeding is a red herring). I'm not concerned about iron, for example, as she does eat plenty of meat and fish. I do try to avoid milk near mealtimes.

My other concern is sleep as a few months ago she fell into a habit of feeding to sleep during a period of illness, although she'd been happy to go to sleep on her own before. Now she really seems to feel she needs it to drop off and it can be very difficult to get her to sleep. She wakes frequently in the night, but she still did even when falling asleep independently and in both cases feeding her gets her back to sleep quickly (much faster than the initial bedtime!). I'm trying to gradually get back to where we were, but she becomes absolutely hysterical if I don't feed her and climbs out of her cot.

Aside from this she seems to be very happy and healthy - I'm at home with her but she plays confidently and independently at playgroup on the other side of the room or going into a different room and is happy for my DH to take her out on his own occasionally (no other family nearby). Otherwise milk is available to her 24/7 and her preference is to nurse fairly often. I am also a little concerned about teeth - I've done a lot of research on it and I know advocates say it doesn't cause cavities but I've also seen research on the other end of the scale and feeding regularly day and night doesn't seem quite right.

I don't know what to do as I never offer and try to distract, but she's never shown any sign of reducing feeds on her own. I know it's biologically normal and I've been very happy doing it but I'm concerned it's become detrimental to her development and plagued with self doubt.


OP posts:
BlackCatSleeping · 19/11/2019 13:32

Neither of my daughters self weaned. I think DD1 was about 4 and DD2 about 3 when I bit the bullet and told them no more. With both, we had a rough three nights and then they were fine. I just kept thinking they would give up naturally but they didn’t.

NameChange30 · 19/11/2019 13:33

Breastfeeding up to the age of 2 and beyond has lots of benefits if you are happy to continue.

We had lots of sleep problems with DS so I cut out all night feeds pretty early on (he was 10 months old IIRC) with the very occasional exception if he was very ill and feverish - but I wouldn't keep feeding him at night after that, I'd go back to no feeds.

Having stopped the night feeds, I was happy to continue breastfeeding during the day. I decided to stop when he turned 2 and cut down gradually (cut one feed at a time over several weeks).

That was just my experience, nothing wrong with stopping early or later, and using a different method.

Camomila · 19/11/2019 13:50

On the teeth front, DS is 3 and a half and fed till about 3 and a bit. His teeth are perfect, the dentist knew and was fine with it (much more worried about dried fruit!)

I think there will always be positives and negatives with breastfeeding/stopping...DSs sleep improved lots when I stopped but his dry skin tipped over into actual excema patches when I stopped feeding and he has trouble pooing sometimes which he never did before (so now I cajole him into eating a probiotic yog everyday)

On the weaning front I had to do it cold turkey (pg, on anti-sickness tablets and feeling awful). He was sad but understood my explanation of the doctor said we can't feed anymore because mummy has poorly boobies. So in that sense I think its easier to wean older toddlers/preschool age children.

NameChange30 · 19/11/2019 13:51

I told DS the milk was gone, no more milk, etc. Felt a bit bad as it wasn't strictly true but he did accept it.

Tattooedmama · 19/11/2019 13:56

Im on day 4 of weaning ds 23 months.
Day time he was already weaned, night time is proving so hard- he cries hysterically that he dont want to go to bed and will cry till i take him downstairs. Im exhausted and trying not to back track on the hard work the last 4 days

user1483387154 · 19/11/2019 13:56

at 2 years 4 months I stopped breastfeeding. He did not self wean. I told him it was broken and didn't work anymore. He had 2 bad nights then ok. sometimes still asks for it but I just remind him it doesn't work anymore and he is happy to accept that. I think I miss it more than him

GettingABitDesperateNow · 19/11/2019 14:32

Do what feels right for you. Like any habit, it's a bit harder to break when they are older, but for most kids, after 3 days its broken. You might need help from a partner to stop night weaning

NotTonightJosepheen · 19/11/2019 14:41

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WallyWallyWally · 19/11/2019 15:18


What's biologically normal for a human infant? To be with their mother 24/7 and to bf until around 6 /7 yrs old. Your 20 month-old is a baby still, and breast milk is still an absolutely appropriate food for her, just as good as any of the others you can offer her.

There is nothing developmentally wrong with an infant that wants to nurse: culturally, it's a different story and it's normal to feel a bit out of step when nearly everyone else you know has stopped and is talking about their children weaning, eating big meals, moving on etc. But biologically, what you are doing is totally normal. Have faith.

But if you do want to wean or cut down feeds, you are allowed to. Maybe choose a target - like 24 months or whatever, and decide that the rules are going to be changed, gently but firmly. So maybe aim for only nursing first thing in the morning, at nap time and at bedtime? In between times, you need to change your routine - get out and about, get other people involved, basically avoid situations where she might expect to nurse, and distract her whenever you can. It's hard work - and you might prefer to wait until there is a natural change in your schedule like going on holiday, being separated for some time, or anything. With both of mine (bf until 3 and 4 yrs) I used a long holiday with my parents and DH around - they spent so much time with other people that they often forgot to ask to nurse, and with a little persuasion they agreed to only nursing morning, naptime and bedtime. Then they dropped the naps and that one went.

Sleep is tricky though, and for me it was very hard to handle frequent night feeds without co-sleeping. So that's what we did. At just short of 3 yrs old I nightweaned DS1 - it was hard work for a few nights, but worked eventually. DS2 I didn't need to - I honestly don't remember how he stopped feeding over night (he was always a better sleeper). Once they were nightweaned I was happy to carry on bfing through the day. they didn't self-wean though, but it was pretty easy to persuade them to stop.

DS1 nursed till he was three: his teeth are perfect. DS2 nursed till he was nearly 4 - his milk teeth were not strong, but the dentist reassured me it was nothing to do with nursing, it's just the teeth he was born with. His adult teeth are coming in just fine (he's 9 now).


MustardScreams · 19/11/2019 15:26

When dd was 20 months I honestly thought I’d be bf till she was 15. Could not see an end in sight. I was very ready to get my boobs back, but she was having one of it.

I continued feeding on demand until she was 2.2 where I explained to her milk was only for mornings and bed time. So effectively nightweaned. Her language was pretty good so she understood that and it didn’t cause too much fuss. It really helped her going into nursery and not being with me all day as well.

Took about 3 months, but I started replacing morning feeds with whole milk warmed slightly with her breakfast. So a bf every other day, to every 3 days etc.

Then for nighttime I gave her some warm milk in an open cup whilst I read her a story and then we did teeth. It really wasn’t as painful as I expected it to be!

She’s nearly 3 now and does ask hopefully is there’s any milk left in my booboos Grin But I just day no all gone now darling! And she forgets within seconds.

Good luck!

InACheeseAndPickle · 19/11/2019 15:49

Neither of mine self weened but they were at an age (around 3) when they could be explained to so that made it easier. We just trailed off the times boobs were available until it was just once before bed. Then none at all. The first night or two was hard but then it was fine. I'm glad I did extended feeling, it was right for us as a family.

stucknoue · 19/11/2019 15:59

It's really up to you! Self weaning is between 4&6 ... I have a couple of acquaintances who did this and dc's are well adjusted young adults with great teeth etc. I did wean mine by 18 months but regret it, they are young for such a short time

HiJenny35 · 19/11/2019 16:05

Self weaned at 2.5 and 2. If you don't mind continuing I'd try to reach the 24 month point as advised. I found after 2 they slowly lost interest and start wanting the play 'proper' games as with other children more. Wouldn't worry at all.

NotSoThinLizzy · 19/11/2019 16:11

I'm still feeding my 2 year old and prop will be until hes about 3 as I'm also feeding a newborn and wouldnt be fair to him. I'm hoping when hes 3 I'll be able to explain it better than just stopping. He only feeds at sleep time anyways or if something is bothering him

milkymeltdowns · 19/11/2019 16:53

Thank you so much. This is all really reassuring. I'm happy to carry on as long as it's still in her best interests - I think I'm just surprised how much she still wants it!

I always said I'd like to carry on until 2 so we'll keep at it and hopefully think about weaning when she is more able to understand so that I can prepare her.

OP posts:
HavelockVetinari · 19/11/2019 17:08

We got DS to sleep by doing controlled crying at 19 months, before that he woke every hour and screamed for milk. Worked like a dream, within 5 nights he was sleeping through. I then continued to bf during the day when I'm not working. He's 2y4m and still going strong, it was really helpful during a couple of recent bouts of illness when he wouldn't eat or drink except for bf. So if you enjoy it, stick with it, and try sleep training.

MRex · 19/11/2019 21:00

My DS is about the same age and I often feel the feeds aren't going down, but I've realised the switch was quite sudden each time from 12-15 feeds down to 8-11, then to 4-8, now he's on 3-7/ day (usually 4 or 5, 1 or 2 of them during the night, cow's milk if DH has him over nap time or overnight). I'm most interested in night weaning obviously, I keep persuading myself he'll just drop those feeds and he creeps towards it then regresses. I don't feel ready myself to give up breastfeeding, and we're unwilling to leave him to cry, but it's tough waiting and wondering when or if it'll happen. Sorry, no advice really, but lots of empathy. I think there'll come a time when stopping feels right and you'll know it when it's there.

Hellofromtheotherside2020 · 19/11/2019 23:09

You do what right for you and your child.
Though I eventually had to go cold turkey with my you get son when he was age 4 years and 3 months. I just had enough by then and had visions of "bitty" from little Britain being in my future! Son actually took the cold turkey approach very well(ish) with bribery!
Good luck and well done for being so amazing x

Hellofromtheotherside2020 · 19/11/2019 23:11

Oh my goodness, my post wasn't even coherent!!!!! You do what's right for you!!!!

DefConOne · 19/11/2019 23:14

Your daughter is very lucky you are happy to carry on. I got to 9 months with each of mine and I felt trapped and claustrophobic so decided to stop but I felt guilty about.

When I see older babies and toddlers breastfeeding I feel really uncomfortable but that is me projecting and entirely my own issue. There are loads of benefits so crack on as long as it works for both of you.

Kraggle · 19/11/2019 23:18

I’m still feeding my 2 year 8mo dd. I do feed her to sleep still at the minute as it’s easiest for everyone but I nightweaned a good few months ago. She can and sometimes does go in her cot awake after a feed and will fall asleep with me sat in the room. She has good vocabulary and understanding so after I put her down for the night if she wakes up she understands when I say theres no milk and it won’t come back in until the morning. I’m hoping she will self wean soon but she gets so much comfort from it especially when poorly that I’m not sure when that will be!

RiddleyW · 20/11/2019 07:11

I think it was around that age that we went to just at home in our special chair and not at night. Mostly because DS would try to get the other boob out while feeding and it was a bit much for cafes! He actually did pretty much self wean at about 3 (just turned).

I refused to let him try again out of the blue when he hadn't asked for about 6 months though. Memorably he responded "why they all big if they don't got milk in" and stomped off outraged.

Smelborp · 20/11/2019 07:14

We went to about 2.5 years and the milk started to dry up naturally. I think it helped she was that age as I could explain it to her.

ObtuseTriangle · 20/11/2019 07:20

I did extended BF with DS and also co slept. When we was about 2.5 and getting his molars he refused all pain relief (still does age 7) and bf a lot during the night. He did develop small cavities in two of his front teeth and at the time I did a lot of research and it can happen with bfing. So I would try and stop the overnight feeding if you can. However he now has his adult teeth so those cavities seem insignificant now.

QueenofmyPrinces · 20/11/2019 07:20

Hi OP,

I have a 2yrs 3m old little boy and he breast feeds constantly.

I fed my first son until he was 2.5 years old which was fine and he only did it about 3 times a day (including once overnight) whereas my current breast feeder wants it all the time. He will wake 1-2 times a night and will only go back to sleep if he’s fed, and he will feed about 6-8 times during the day too. I’m totally stifled by it.

I’m going to keep going until 2.5 years so it’s an equal timing to my first son but then I’m definitely going to force weaning.

My husband is taking him abroad for a week in February, which actually coincides with him turning 2.5 years old and so I’m hoping a week away from me will help the process!!!

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