My 3 year old PDD-NOS ds constantly begs to nurse. I figured by this time we'd be down to nursing once or twice a day, but he nurses more often than his 12 month old brother (and would nurse even more frequently if I didn't redirect him half of the time he asks.) Between the frequency of requests, having to have him constantly fix a lazy latch, and working on his meltdowns resulting from being redirected when asking too often... I am just burned out on nursing him. not looking to wean him (still hanging on to the idea of child-led weaning) but really needing to vent here after another stressful nursing session.
I feel for you, we didn't receive a diagnosis till long after DS weaned, however looking back I think sensory seeking played a huge part in breastfeeding for him and in my decision to wean. He's nearly 7 now and we weaned at about 2 1/2.
He was always a fairly frequent feeder and a fiddler leaving me gritting my teeth through many a feed. I was able to place some limits once he was around 18 months, he'd accept feeding while I sang a nursery rhyme or counted to 20 or something. I could sing/count faster/slower depending on how I was feeling . I also tried (again with mixes results) giving him something else to fiddle with while he was feeding, wearing a necklace, or giving him a taggie toy or something like that.
As he got a bit older we also tried only feeding in one spot in the house, a particular chair. My hope was that eventually I might be able to sit in another chair without being jumped on but I don;t think he ever really go it, though I think it did help with night time weaning.
In the end I took the decision that I needed to wean him, I was finding myself resenting spending time with him, and trying to avoid sitting with him or playing with him because then he'd want to feed. I felt strongly that I needed to be able to spend time with him without feeding and while I would have preferred to maybe keep just a couple of feeds it didn't seem that he was able to handle that. He was (and still is) an all or nothing boy.
Looking back I'm not sure how much it helped, he still needs the sensory feedback and has just transferred this to other things, chewing/licking clothes, toys and other less appropriate things. He's still not very aware of personal space and still pulls at my clothes and hair and needs to circle around me while he's talking to me. I'm still feeling touched out! We did loose a great tool for calming him, especially when out and about and it has (and still is) been hard to find other ways to replace that.
On the other hand seeing that these needs have not gone away I do not think he would have weaned without my leading the process. Had I know more about sensory processing at the time I wonder if I would have seen these needs as separate to the breastfeeding and been able to approach it differently but at the time it seemed like the only solution.
Having just weened my sensory seeking almost 5 year old, I 100% understand how you feel.
At around 3 years old, I began to dread nursing him much of the time. Partially because he wanted to fiddle with my other nipple and got very, very upset when I wouldn't let him. Until around 4, he probably nursed 3-5 times a night plus 2-5 times during the day. We also had an epic, morning "boob-fe" where he would sleep nurse from about 4-6am. At around 3.5 years, I mostly day-weaned with rare daytime nursing and our nighttime nursing went down to just the morning long-nurse session.
I really, really wanted to let him self-wean, but at around 4.5 I just found it to be hurting our relationship. I was cringing and hating every second of it. But when I thought about actually weaning, I was so worried about its impact on him, and I really worried about its impact on our very cuddly/happy relationship.
I finally couldn't nurse any more and, about 2 months ago, I explained to him that my milk was going to be "all gone" and then went cold turkey. There was some rooting and a little crying the first three nights. But no more than 5 or 10 min then he fell back into a restless sleep. After that, he's only asked to nurse one more time.
I fully expected it to be a nightmare full of tears and drama. And it wasn't AT ALL. Obviously I went a long as I could and he was 4.5 so that's different than where you are. But I do think we could have weaned sooner. All it took was such a tiny little push I suspect he would have been ready a year or more ago.
On the up side, it has actually improved our relationship. He is much more cuddly at night and wants more hugs during the day. I don't feel like a milk vending machine, and he seems to be seeking a new kind of comfort from me.
Just my experience. You are doing an amazing thing for you little one!