Questions about extended nursing and how weaning occurs... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 11-16-2009, 01:28 AM - Thread Starter
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DS is about 2.5 years old, and we're still happily nursing 3-4 times a day. I love that we've made it this long, and am happy to keep going as long as he wants to. However, there are a few things that make me wonder if I should think about maybe cutting back his nursing - so I'd love to hear from other moms who are/have done extended nursing.

1) We've been TTCing for a year now, and no luck. I'm quite sure I'm ovulating, based on charting. My cycles are regular. My luteal phase may be a bit short. We got PG with DS on the first try, so I suspect that breastfeeding is preventing PG right now. I'm not too concerned, I have a feeling that a bigger gap will be better for DS. However, I'm nervous that if he's still nursing when he's 4 or 5 and I'm still not PG, I'll be a bit upset. Who knows, but that's one issue.

2) He usually nurses upon waking, and often falls back asleep. It's very easy to have our schedule shift later and later, to the point that he sleeps/nurses until 9 or 10am, and then is up until midnight. It would be easier if I could wake him up at a regular time in the morning (say 8am), and our day could consistently start then. Again, i'ts not a big deal, but I find it hard to maintain a reasonable wake-up time, because he just nurses back to sleep if he's not ready to be up, and that pushes naptime and bedtime back.

3) He nurses to sleep for both naptime and bedtime, and it's basically the only way he falls asleep, unless he's in a stroller or car. So it's a bit limiting for me, since I have to be the one to get him to sleep. It's rarely a problem, and I don't mind, but it would be nice to have the flexibility to go out in the evenings sometime and not have to stress about DH trying to get him to sleep, or getting him back to sleep if he wakes up.

Anyways, these aren't huge issues, but they are just things that have crossed my mind lately. So anyways, I guess my questions are - did you or your child determine when to cut out nursing sessions (like first thing in the morning, for example)? If your child only nursed to sleep for a long time, when did they develop the ability to fall asleep on their own? Did that happen when they stopped nursing, or did you continue nursing after they could fall asleep on their own?

I have absolutely no problem nursing him until he's 5, if that's what he wants. However, I guess I'd just like to know how the nursing relationship would potentially change over the next 2-3 years, if he continues nursing. If you did decide to cut down on the nursing sessions, how did you do that? I know that DS mainly nurses upon waking or to go to sleep - he's usually quite grumpy during those times, and so I can't imagine that a suggestion to do something other than nursing would go over well The odd time that I've had to say no, he's pretty much had a meltdown. So anyways, I can't imagine how it would happen - other than him just deciding not to nurse when he wakes up or when he wants to go to sleep. I guess that's child-led weaning, right?

Thanks very much for any comments!
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#2 of 6 Old 11-17-2009, 12:34 AM
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1. For the TTC, you'll just have to decide what you and your family needs the most. Many women conceive while breastfeeding; for me as my older daughter started to breastfeed less frequently I think my fertility increased (my LP increased, anyways). If you're not conceiving at at some point really want to, you may need to change your nursing relationship. But it may change on it's own, anyways.

2. Around this age I stopped nursing in bed in the mornings. Mostly because we had latch issues with the two year molars, and side-lying was worse. We shifted to get up, pee and sit on the couch and nurse. You could try a change in routine where you still get a morning nursing, but your son is less likely to fall back asleep. For us it was still a long morning nursing session, which was my daily book reading time (and on good days my husband would bring me a cup of tea )

3. If I was at home, my daughter would ONLY nurse to sleep. But if I was gone she would sleep for dad with stories, rocking, lying together, etc. It was a gradual adjustment, but one that they could only figure out when I wasn't home. If you want to go out, you might try it and be surprised. Or you might get called home and need to wait a little while to try again.

We continued nursing after she could fall asleep on her own. For a while her routine was reading a story, then nursing. Then she started falling asleep quite often during the story. If she didn't, we would still nurse. If she still didn't fall asleep nursing, we would lie quietly together until she slept. Mostly things happened through gradual transitions, and occasional surprises. Sleep schedules changed when she dropped her nap just before turning three, and bedtime suddenly got to be very easy and often without nursing.

"Guess what? It's a magical world. And when I sing, my songs are in it."
Madly in love with my 7 and 4 year old daughters

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#3 of 6 Old 11-19-2009, 03:04 PM
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My DD nursed to sleep and upon waking up(kind of breakfast in bed) until 3 months before turning 4 years old. Then she just stopped drinking milk. She would latch on then smile and say all done. She continued nursing for a couple of more months but it would last literally seconds. We never talked about weaning and I never limited at all. It seemed she just stopped wanting my milk, but still liked the idea of it for awhile longer. As for when she cut out sessions, most of the night sessions stopped after all her teeth came in at about 2.75 years old and the day ones slowly dwindled down after turning 3. She would still nurse alot if ill or upset though.

I kinda feel that never talking about 'giving up' nursing made it just something she didn't want any more. Though I had planned on talking about weaning if she was still nursing at 4.5.

We had a transition period of several weeks while she learned how to go to sleep without milk. She would put the covers over her head and roll around abit until she fell asleep. Now she puts the cover over her face and cuddles my arm. It takes about the same amount of time to go to sleep as it did when she was still nursing, but the first couple of weeks it took about twice as long to go to sleep.

About the staying up late, that became a problem for us too after DD turned 2 until we dropped her nap.
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#4 of 6 Old 11-29-2009, 03:29 PM
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I can address a couple of the issues you're facing.

Re. nursing in the morning. My twins stopped nursing in the morning because I simply wasn't there - they would sleep later than I wanted, so I'd simply get up and start my day. At first, waking up meant calling/crying for me to come nurse (by which point they were typically awake enough that they didn't nurse back to sleep), then they'd come find me to nurse, and eventually they didn't ask to nurse after waking at all. Not sure how long this all took - probably years, as they nursed until 5 1/2 and 6. As far as sleeping late, my older two are definitely night owls like DH, while I'm a morning person (it appears that the baby is going to be like Mommy, thank goodness!). So a late bedtime and wake up worked better for them. When bedtime started getting too late, it seemed more related to them being ready to give up their afternoon nap. Then they were tired earlier and went to sleep earlier ("earlier" is relative - if my kids are in bed at 8:30, that's early, 9-10 is typical here. . .). So the sleeping late may simply be his natural rhythm, but if you want to try changing it, I'd just set everything back about 15 minutes, wait a few days, then another 15 minutes. . . until you're at the times that work better for your family, or until it gets too hard to maintain.

I work one evening a week, and get home after they'd be asleep, so DH was getting them to sleep one night a week without me on-going. If I wasn't around, they would fall asleep cuddling with Daddy, walking in the sling, rocking, stroller, or whatever else was DH's preferred method at that time. Otherwise, they only wanted me. If having this flexibility is important, then you might try simply not being there at bedtime. DH can always call you to come home if your DS gets too upset, but they'll figure out their own routine eventually. Eventually, it reached the point where DH could lay down with them even if I was at home and they'd fall asleep with him (and without nursing). But they were probably 4-5 by then!

Bedtime nursing was the last to go for both my big kids. However, they weren't nursing to sleep for some time by weaning, maybe 1-2 years. Nursing was part of their bedtime routine, but they'd stop before falling asleep. I did encourage it with my son as at some point it became clear that nursing was actually energizing him, not helping him relax and fall asleep. I think this change happened gradually, as they became more verbal talking became more important than nursing. This is one of my favorite parts of having a family bed, as it seems like a lot of uncensored thoughts come out at bedtime and I really get to hear what's going on in their minds.

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#5 of 6 Old 11-29-2009, 03:46 PM
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DS nursed before naptime until he gave up naps. By age 3, he wasn't napping anymore- we'd have the afternoon nursing session and then he'd hop off my lap and go play.

He always wanted to nurse before nap or bedtime when I was there, but he didn't have a problem falling asleep for Grandma when I wasn't available, if it was time for him to go to sleep. I didn't need to change our nursing patterns at all- he simply developed other going-to-sleep routines when I wasnt' there (such as snuggling in Grandma's bed watching TV and then he'd fall asleep in the middle of Sesame Street.) I didn't often leave at bedtime (because I was too tired to go out much in the evenings!) but I'm sure he would have done fine at bedtime without me, even before he weaned.

I didn't really set limits on when he could or couldn't nurse, not until he was almost 4 years old and I was getting ready to be 'done'. At that point, I told him "we only nurse in bed"- that cut out the "after preschool nursing session" as well as random "I'm bored so let's nurse" nursing sessions. He continued to nurse before bed and upon waking (and during the day when sick) for another few months, before he weaned completely at 4.25 years old. If he'd protested the "only nurse in bed" rule, or started dragging me to bed to nurse in the middle of the day, I wouldn't have insisted on it- clearly he was ready for that limit to be set.

Ruth, single mommy to 3 quasi-adults
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#6 of 6 Old 12-23-2009, 04:49 PM
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In response to your concerns 2 and 3:

My DS1 is 2 1/2, and still nursing strong with a new baby and a renewed supply... Here is what has worked for maintaining my sanity and seems okay with DS, though he does occasionally push limits if he's sick or super-tired or extra-needy (and I cave if he really seems to NEED it).

1. We have "special nursing times" that were our routine times before the baby arrived: on wake-up, upon my return home from work around 5:30, and at bedtime. I have decided that I would like to stick with those as much as possible because I don't want him to get used to free-feeding when I have to go back to work, I want to ensure adequate supply for the baby, and I sometimes just don't wanna nurse all day, every day.

2. We co-sleep, but if I get up before him, he has to get out of bed to nurse. So, he has to potty and come to the living room and sorta start the day if I beat him getting out of bed. Sometimes, he forgets to ask to nurse in the morning, and I don't offer if I am busy with the baby or other stuff and he seems cool without it. Also, when I was working (and when I return to work), if he isn't up with enough time for me to nurse before I leave, he's S.O.L. until I get back.

3. I flipped our bedtime routine from brush teeth, read books, sing, nurse, sleep to brush teeth, nurse, read books, sing, sleep, so the lights are on and he's still awake when we finish nursing. I also, while I was pregnant and my supply dried up and it was super-painful to nurse, started telling him that the boobies are tired and need to stop nursing, so he's used to me being the one who stops a nursing session. They (DS1 and the boobies) say "goodnight, and see ya next time" to each other. Sometimes he says, "I want moooore," like Oliver Twist, but I have been firm about saying that boobies are tired, and they have to sleep so they can make more milk for morning, and he seems to buy that and doesn't make a huge stink about it if I get excited about books or ask what songs he wants to sing.

Doula, WOHM, wife to a super-fun papa, mama to the Monkey ('07), and his little brother, the Sea Monkey ('09).
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