My question relates to breastfeeding, sleep, and weaning. My son is now two-years-old and is still an extremely enthusiastic breastmilk drinker, nursing about ten times a day, sometimes for up to 20 minutes at a time. At this point, he shows no signs of losing interest in nursing, while I have very mixed feelings. On the one hand, I really like and respect the idea of child-led weaning. I can clearly see how much my son seems to need that time with me, and I don’t want to deprive him of that if it might be traumatic for him. But at the same time, I feel personally ready to wean.
There are several reasons. One is that we cosleep, and he still wakes up at least two or three times a night to nurse, sometimes more. In addition, he rarely naps without waking up at least once, often after 35 minutes or so, wanting to nurse again. As I am a stay-at-home mom, this leaves me feeling exhausted much of the time, or at least not well-rested, especially as it has been going on for over two years. Also, I am facing some pressure from my husband, who feels that it’s time to wean him, and that it’s OK to push him a bit in order for him to learn how to self-comfort, etc. And, finally, nursing a busy toddler as often as I do of course takes time, and of course has consequences when we are not at home, but he needs to nurse (it’s very difficult for him to fall asleep without nursing, for example). What should I do? Is it OK to push him a bit, as my husband suggests, or is it important to let him choose the time to wean?
I totally support long-term breastfeeding. My wife nursed our kids for two years, three years, and three years. Having said that, I do think it’s OK to push a kid a little bit. Start off with the “Don’t offer, don’t refuse” approach.
But you are probably already doing that. If you are, you can move on to the “OK, but just a second” approach where whenever he asks to nurse, you say “OK, but mommy’s going to go get a drink of water first, or go get the mail, or go outside for a minute, or make a sandwich…” or whatever you want to do to briefly distract him. Then, you don’t go back to sitting down after you are done with whatever you are doing. You walk around and stay busy. Engage him in whatever you are doing. If he gets very persistent, then sit down and nurse. But often he’ll forget and become interested in what you are doing. So, you haven’t said no; you just distracted him. Then when he remembers later and asks, you nurse. You alternate between saying yes and distracting. That may cut down on the nursing some and become a first step toward eventually cutting back to only nursing at naptime and bedtime (and during the night). But this is a start.