My story of weaning at 3rd birthday… (and continuing to cosleep/bedshare...)
My DD turned three almost 3 weeks ago. She LOVED her nursies. (and still does) I started telling her a couple months ago that 3 year olds don't nurse. I also started cutting her off... that is, I became firm about only nursing at bedtime (during nightime) and at wake up time. Before/after naptime was allowed too. However, I would only allow her to nurse for a little while, and ALWAYS made her stop before she or I fell asleep. I rarely said no, but always gently pushed her off after a brief nurse. As long as she put her head down on the pillow for a little bit, then I would allow her to nurse a little more if she asked. I also started sleeping in fitted shirts, even layers of shirts, to make it more difficult to get at them.
So… the day/night of her b-day we had dinner, cake and presents. Then got ready for bed as usual, including reading many books. When I wouldn’t let her nurse, she freaked, wanted to be a baby, wanted to give her presents back, told me she was NOT 3 years old, NOT a big girl, etc. She hit me, kicked me, pulled my hair, etc. It was horrible. I cried too, but I have been ready to wean for while. I did not let her cry it out though… I held her, rocked her, sung to her, picked her up and carried her over my shoulder and paced around like she was an infant, turned the lights back on and read more books, and started over again. She finally fell asleep crying in my arms. When she woke up during the night she cried again, I held her, and she fell back asleep quickly.
In the morning she asked to nurse, we talked about it calmly, and I told her how proud I was of her, and gave her one more special little cuddly toy as a present. (I had not bribed her with this in advance, it was a true surprise. For us I don’t think bribing with a toy, party, etc. would have worked because I think she would have chosen nursies over anything else.)
Since that first night we’ve had a few bad moments, but very brief compared to that first night. It was really just one bad night, and some very early mornings of turning the light on and reading books (instead of nursing) because I couldn’t get her back to sleep or to snooze. Now, almost one month later, she still usually falls asleep with her hand down my shirt touching the nursies, which I’m fine with. (I still sleep in a shirt.) Occasionally she still asks to nurse, but I tickle her and tell her that would be silly. I’ve also learned to read verrrrryyyy slooooowwwllyyyy and sometimes she falls asleep while I’m reading. Daddy has done this a few times too, but she usually wants to fall asleep with me.
FYI – It was important to me to be as gentle as possible. (I know some may disagree with my mother-led approach b/c she did get upset for a while.) I know she may have memories of nursing and weaning, and I want her to remember that I was with her, at her side, cuddling, reading, singing, etc. I never left her alone and never got mad at her (even when she was mad at me).
Also FYI – I have taken a few trips, and been away from her for up to 5 nights. I even thought my milk dried up once b/c I hadn’t pump at all. We told her my milk was gone, but when she tried it was still there!
P.S. If 3 doesn’t work for you, you could try 3 ½. We potty-trained cold turkey at 2 ½. We had a little cake, cards, and wrapped up big girl underwear for her present.