Weaning a 2.5yo from breastfeeding

My daughter is nearly 2.5yo and I am still breastfeeding her at night and at nap time, and once in awhile if she gets hurt for comfort. She really loves breastfeeding. She is my last child, and I have been glad to continue until now. But the frequency at night has increased to nearly all night (she is an extremely light sleeper), and I am waking up exhausted. So, I feel that it is time to wean. I have practiced gentle parenting with all three of my children, and am not an advocate for crying it out. I am wondering if anyone has successfully weaned an older child without CIO? If so, can you please share your process/experience?

Thanks so much!

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I went away for a three day weekend when I weaned my last child at age 2. By the time I came back, my milk had dried up and when he asked, I just said I didn’t have milk anymore, but that it was okay because we could still cuddle. It wasn’t really cry it out, since he didn’t “need” to breastfeed, he just preferred it. It was quite a while ago now, but I don’t think it was terribly hard on my husband either. Breastfeeding was absolutely associated with Mommy and he didn’t expect it at all from Daddy.  Not sure how you’ll pull that off in these times, but it worked for me. Good luck.

This was a long time ago now, but I weaned my youngest at three years.We talked about it first, and set a day that we would have be the last day for "nursies." We decided we would throw a party to celebrate growing up to the next level. I promised that we would keep snuggling and being close. I remember that I also wore high-necked shirts for a couple of weeks so they couldn't access my breasts! It remains a beautiful memory for me, 10+ years later. I reveled in the extra sleep, too. 

Hi! I am just doing the same. My guy is 2 and I’m pregnant so I really wanted to stop night nursing. 
my 2 big tools have been:

1. We spent/spend time talking about how he’s a big boy now and going to be saying “all done chi chi” & “bye bye chi chi”. We talk about it at least 2-3 times a day. I make sure he actually says the words a few times. I point to his older siblings and say they used to have it but they are big now & don’t anymore. 
just mentally preparing him.

the other big thing we do is Big breaths. That’s a practice we do a lot also so it’s something he’s familiar with. So when he wakes up I lay him down and say “all done chi chi, big breaths” sometimes I’ll count “1 2 3 , big breaths” and say “good job” whenever he takes big breaths. If he keeps crying I’ll just repeat myself several times. Sometimes I’ll just lay next to him, if he needs a little more I’ll cuddle him a bit. He does cry and fuss. But I prefer holding him and being next to him while he does that then leaving the room. Eventually he unwinds and falls asleep. 

Initially it could take a while. Now it rarely takes more than 5 minutes & he’s only waking 1-2 a night max. 
so it’s been great. We’ve been doing it for just over a week now. 
I hope any of that is helpful & good luck!!!

I stopped breastfeeding my son on his 3rd birthday.  At around 2.5 years, I started reading this book to him:  https://www.amazon.com/Loving-Comfort-Toddler-Weaning-Story/dp/0692847367   I spoke frequently about how his last breastfeeding would be the night before his birthday, and I'd ask him to share his feelings about this upcoming transition so we could process it before the actual event.  We'd talk about what a big boy thing it was going to be to not have "boo boo" anymore and that we'd still snuggle, just without the breastfeeding part.  The morning of his 3rd birthday, I told him I had a big surprise for him to celebrate graduating to big boy status.  We don't do sweets too much, but I got a can of organic whipped cream in a can and sprayed some into his mouth, kind of symbolizing the boob but also all the other things there are to enjoy.  He never asked for boob again!  Good luck, mama!

I weaned my son when he turned five. I didn't expect to nurse that long, but the feeling you describe, of feeling that it was time to wean, just didn't set in until well past his fourth birthday. There wasn't a whole lot of milk at that point, but he still loved to nurse a little before going to sleep or for comfort. A couple of weeks before his birthday, I said matter-of-factly that I'd be with him as much as before when he turned five, but without nursing. He didn't seem upset or puzzled, but seemed to assume this was part of growing. I was curious, so a few weeks after his birthday, I asked him if he remembered what it was like to nurse. He said "almost not at all".  And just to forestall worried comments: He is now a happy, well-adjusted high school student with a delightful girlfriend.

With my youngest I also nursed a long time.  When she started unbuttoning my shirt to nurse while sitting in the shopping cart at the grocery store it was clear to me that we needed to wean.  We did it gradually, starting with nighttimes and lots of praise for reducing her "momma milk" times: planning (you are getting big enough now to go until morning}, follow-through (remember, no momma milk at night) and lots of appreciation for success.  Slowly, it was only nursing at home, only in the daytime, only for comfort when something went amiss.  The bedtime suckle was the last to go. Good stories to read helped, as did a "spell" I taught her: I would draw a "magic circle" around her, three times counterclockwise to dispell and remove the negative, three times clockwise to bring safety and happiness, and "if you wake up and feel alone or scared, you can do this for yourself," along with practicing that new skill.  For the final weaning of nighttime suckle we set a date. In this case it was her 3rd birthday, a very special day when she would be big enough and confident enough -- and also I must confess I told her the milk would be gone by then, just dried up and done.  Each night in the week leading up to the birthday I would remind her of the change that was coming and how it might feel difficult at first but she was big enough now to know what to do. When the night before her birthday came, we talked about the fun that was coming the next day and how proud we were of ourselves for growing so nicely (both of us, really!). And then that night when she tried to nurse as usual, I reminded her that she was three years old, big enough now to comfort herself to sleep.

This was so long ago I confess I can't remember if there were difficulties or slip-ups after that, but we weathered the change together.  She is now 41, a successful mom who gracefully weaned her kids (twin boys first then a daughter) when she felt it was right.  And she still remembers the magic circle and uses it with them.

I had a heck of a time weaning my toddler! He was between 3.5 and 4 when we were finally done - he too loved it, and I did not want to "cut him off" cold turkey. My older son had a nice gradual, mutually-agreed-upon weaning at 15 months old, so I was unprepared for this BIG BOY who wanted to nurse forever. There is also a dearth of info out there about it! I follow a lovely RD on Instagram named Jennifer "Kids Eat in Color" (whom i recommend wholeheartedly for everything having to do with feeding your kids!!) who wrote a fantastic blog piece about weaning her toddler. It's here: https://kidseatincolor.com/how-to-wean-a-toddler/

It's just one approach, obviously, but I love it, and maybe it will either work for you or give you something to start with. Good luck! (In the end, after lots of talks and encouragement, my 3.5 y/o just decided he wanted to stop, and while he had a few sad nights where he wished he could go back to nursing, I knew it was time to gently reinforce his decision and he ultimately did it, which was a big boost to his self esteem!) 

Hi there!

I am in the process of night-weaning my little one, too! She’s 20 months and also loves breastfeeding (she would latch the whole night if it was her choice). Though she still feeds a couple times at night, when I don’t have the will power to do anything otherwise, here’s what has helped so far: 1) We make sure she eats a nice meal before bed, so that her hunger is completely satiated. 2) At the last feeding, I tell her “When you’re done drinking, the milk will be all gone.” At first she absolutely hated this but eventually it started to stick. 3) When my partner does the bedtime routine, he makes sure she has all her comfort items. 4) He turns off the light and they lay together. Sometimes she asks for milk but he reminds her that it’s all gone for the day and there will be some tomorrow. At the beginning, she would get upset but he was always there to comfort her. Eventually she would find her comfort items and cuddle with them and fall asleep. 

I hope this helps and wish you good luck with your journey!

I weaned my first kid at 2.5 and the other on the day before her 5th birthday! I NEVER left my kids to cry it out. If you contacted a La Leche League leader she would have lots of gentle advice for weaning. The most important thing is to be sure within yourself what you want. Kids can sense it if you're wavering. Also, night weaning is much harder if you are co-sleeping with your child.

I remember having a problem with my 2 year old wanting to nurse during a "mommy and me" music class. I explained to her that she could nurse before the class or after the class, but now that she was a big girl, never nurse during the class. She accepted that limit because I explained it to her in advance and I was firm in myself that there was no way I would continue nursing her during class. When I weaned my almost 5 year old I talked about it with her a lot in the month leading up to it. We started a new bedtime routine, playing music or recorded children's stories as she was falling to sleep. We also intended to do some kind of weaning ritual/party, but got so distracted by her 5th birthday that it never happened.

For my first child (the 2.5 yr old), we had a "weaning party." I asked for my kid's input on what should happen at the party. "Cake" was the answer. We invited another family to this dinner/party who had a 3 yr old who had recently weaned. I gave both children "big kid necklaces," since they were both beyond the worry of choking on the beads. 

I breastfed both of my daughters until about 2.5 and just finished weaning my youngest a few days ago. What worked for me was gradually dropping a feed at a time, starting with whatever is easiest (I was down to morning and night so gradually dropped morning first). For the final end, I explained that soon my boobs would be empty and there would be no more milk, then we could snuggle instead. We talked about this for a few nights then dropped to just feeding one side, then none. She was surprisingly ok with it even though she loved to BF.

Night weaning can be harder if they like to nurse through the night. Try stretching out the times between feeds to start until the whole night is off limits. Again, since they are old enough now to understand more, you could explain that if/when they wake in the night you won't be nursing until morning (or after the sun comes up, or whenever you agree on that makes sense). It can be hard and there may be tears but you can come up with an alternative together. It is helpful if they can sleep somewhere that is not next to you if possible. If a partner can help sooth at night that is very helpful. Stay strong and the new routine will sink in and both of you will get more sleep, which is SO important.

Go with your instincts on what you think will work for both of you and trust yourself. Good luck, Mama!

This is a sweet book that keeps mother and child connected through the weaning process. Sally Weans from Night Nursing. https://www.amazon.com/Sally-Weans-Night-Nursing-Mitchell/dp/1483933830/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=sally+weans+from+night+nursing&qid=1613658572&sprefix=sally+weans+&sr=8-1

I just weaned my daughter at 29 months, at that point she was only breastfeeding when she woke up in the morning and going down for naps on the weekend. Couple things we did were offer her milk in her straw cup and me leave the room when she wakes up and her spending time with my partner. If she didn’t see me she didn’t ask for  it. We started doing this every other day, then every 2 days until she stopped asking for it. Eventually she stopped! We also reminded her she was a big girl now.  When we weaned her from night feedings just after 1y, it was same my partner gave her watered down milk bottle and I left after reading books. If she’s waking up in the middle of the night it might be sleep regression, my daughter was just waking up every night for 2-3 weeks and we’re almost back to sleeping thru the night. We didn’t do CIO but would walk her back to her room several times, rub her back, and almost always ended up sleeping on her twin floor bed with her. Good luck! 

Thank you so much for all of these helpful responses!

I feel like I have a better sense of how to do this. I really appreciate this community!