How to wean my toddler?

Em - posted on 03/02/2014 ( 4 moms have responded )

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My boy is 15 months old and he still LOVES to nurse. He refused drinking from the bottle since he was 4 month, ever since then we wasted so much milk + formula and he is still nursing. He loves to nurse up to a point when he ate little solid.

He loves to nurse to sleep too and because of tiredness I have nursed him to sleep. We did sleep training when he was younger but the process was exhausting (emotionally and physically) that I have abandoned it for months.

We've come to a point when nursing is interfering with his solid meal intake and weight gain. I would like to stop nursing him at some point - preferably when he is 24 months old. He is eating better now that I refuse giving him breast milk during the day (he hits my breasts to ask for milk and cries when I refuse to give in).

I would appreciate any advice on weaning as I don't know how to get there. Thank you for your help!

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Lori - posted on 03/03/2014

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For my oldest - I started cutting out one feeding at a time. I started trying this around her first birthday, but quickly found she really wasn't ready to have feedings dropped yet. So for instance, I would try to drop the mid morning nursing session - keeping all other nursing sessions about the same. I'd replace that nursing session with a snack or a cup of milk. When it was an awake time nursing I'd generally go with a snack. When we finally got down to taking out nap time nursing session, I replaced it with a sippy cup of milk or water. If she accepted the snack and moved on happily, then I'd count that as "ready" to give up that session. Then I'd wait another week or more before dropping the next one. Around 18 or 20 months she wasn't waking at night anymore and only nursing before bed, before nap, and upon first waking from night and from nap… so about 4 times per day. I tried several times to stop the before nap feeding, but it wasn't worth the crying/screaming and then lousy nap. When she was 21 months old I found out I was pregnant again. The first indicator I had was pain while breastfeeding. That gave me extra motivation to wean her. I dropped both before nap and before bed feedings at the same time and we started a whole new going to sleep routine that included reading a book or two and singing songs. I explained to her that she wasn't going to get milkies before bed anymore and that we were going to read and drink from a cup. She protested a little bit, but not too much. After a few nights she didn't protest at all. So then I was just nursing her after nap time and first thing in the morning. I dropped the after nap time one next. But I had to be very creative for several weeks in entertaining her as soon as she woke up. She WANTED her milkies!!!! I had a cup ready for her, and then would take her outside to play right away, or do something she liked doing with me. If I was tired and sitting down, she'd climb on my lap and DEMAND her milkies. So the last nursing session to go was the one upon waking in the morning. That was really both of our favorite one. She is NOT a morning person (though she wakes early, she wakes grumpy). She would wake and come into bed with me to nurse and snuggle. Letting her nurse would buy me half an hour to an hour extra in bed. When I cut out that morning nursing session, she would NOT just lay next to me and snuggle. But if I just got up with her and we started playing, she didn't protest either. It took her 3 or 4 months of being weaned before she would snuggle with me without asking for milkies. I'm pretty sure that if it had been left entirely up to her, she'd have continued to nurse at least another year or two. :) And if I hadn't gotten pregnant again, I may have continued to nurse her longer than I did. But it worked for us, and I'm glad I did nurse her for almost 2 years.

Lori - posted on 03/02/2014

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First of all, I'd like to say that his nursing habits are completely normal. Both my girls had breast milk only days even after starting on solid foods. Those days got less frequent after their first birthdays, but we still had them. Sometime around 18 months or so we would only have a breast milk only day if the LO was sick. Your milk is still a perfect food for your toddler and is a great supplement to solid foods and will fill in many nutritional gaps. I have a hard time believing that it's the amount of nursing he's doing that is interfering with weight gain. That's more likely from not drinking enough milk, or not eating nutritious foods. And is he not gaining weight, or just not gaining it as quickly as you think he ought to be? Slow weight gain is still weight gain. And an active toddler may be so active that he forgets to eat.

If you're looking to wean around 24 months, and he's still 15 months old, I wouldn't start worrying about weaning yet. If you want to limit the amount he nurses during the day than that's fine… but it's also fine to allow him to continue to nurse frequently.
At 15 months, my first daughter was nursing first thing in the morning, before nap, after nap, before bed, once during the night, and sometimes an extra time sometime during the day. (5 or 6 times in 24 hours) i weaned her at 23 months.
At 15 months, my 2nd daughter was still nursing first thing in the morning, mid morning, before nap, after nap, evening time, bed time and 2 or 3 times during the night. (8-10 times in 24 hours) She has food allergies, and can't drink cow milk. She actually gained weight better than her older sister who nursed less frequently.

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Em - posted on 03/04/2014

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Thank you so much for sharing your story. I'm learning from your experience. I can relate to your story, especially the part about nursing in the morning to be in bed for longer and the nursing before nap. Really appreciate your advice!

Em - posted on 03/03/2014

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Hi Lori, thank you for your reply. I feel good knowing that there is a mom out there who breastfed her toddlers frequently over the age of 12 months like me. Most of my friends have stopped breastfeeding or only breastfeeds once a day. Their toddlers love to eat solid food + dairy and they're growing fast.

I enjoy breastfeeding my boy. I've found that not nursing him at least an hour before meals help with his appetite and he is eating solids more and more each day. He was gaining weight but very slow, and he didn't eat solid as much as other toddlers his age. He is active. I was getting concerned as his upper body seemed very thin and his weight according to the charts is at the 15th percentile. This was even with lots of breast milk (at least 6 times in 24h), and frequent solid feeding.

I'm happy with where things are at atm, I'm still nursing him during the day but just after meals and before&after naps. I think I can feel him growing a bit heavier.

It will be very helpful for me to know how you weaned your baby at 23 months. Did she self wean or did you give her a hand?

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