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Thread: Limiting or weaning a two-year-old??

  1. #1
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    Apr 2006
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    Default Limiting or weaning a two-year-old??

    My daughter is 2 (almost 27 months), and still an avid nurser: in fact she seems, if anything, even more eager to nurse now than she was a year ago. If I try to persuade her to wait, or else try to get her to nurse for just ten minutes, or while I sing ten songs, or some other strategy so I'm not stuck with it for an hour, then she has a tantrum. Even bribing her with toys or cookies doesn't work. Nights aren't too bad now; she usually wakes up once or twice, but usually not till around 5, nurses for five minutes and goes back to sleep. I think I could get her off the night nursing entirely if it was important to me right now; I've night weaned her temporarily before now. But it's not such a major concern. It's the endless daytime nursings that are getting to me. When she wakes up in the morning, she wants to nurse for literally an hour. She has a hysterical screaming fit if I take time out to go get a glass of juice, or if I try to persuade her to get on to the next stage, have breakfast, whatever. I"ve tried reasoning with her, too ("Mummy's tired, the nannies are tired now, let's play with X. now and nurse again later" or "you had it already, it's all finished". Doesn't work. My daughter has more insight into the wishes of my breasts than I do. "NANNY'S NOT A BIT TIRED SAYS BAD WITCH. NANNY WANTS TO NURSE SHE SAYS".) It would be ok if I could just spend the whole day in bed nursing her, except even then, my nipples start to feel pinchy after 45 minutes or so. Enough already. And I"m thirsty all the time. The same thing when I pick her up from her nursery in the afternoon; the same thing when she wakes up from her nap. So I"m curious for your perspectives on the theory here. Part of me feels strongly that I'd like not to force the pace or wean her before she's ready. I"d nudge her to wean, but I'd like it to be gentle. I can see, too, that it's hard for her to have a working mother, and she's fairly recently started at this new daycare place; the long nursing is a way of hanging on to me, which she needs even more when she doesn't have me for the mornings. So one approach is just to nurse her as much and long as she wants it, in the hope that when the need is met, she'll outgrow it naturally. Alternatively -- given the fact that it does drive me a little crazy -- I could start trying to be consistent about setting limits to the time and the times she nurses. Except that when I've tried doing that, she freaks out. And having her around with a zillion tantrums doesn't help me feel less crazy. My husband -- whose anti-extended-nursing views I"ve already posted about -- is of the opinion that I should wean her entirely, then she'd "develop her own coping mechanisms and not be so dependent". This seems a very dubious claim to me, rather on the model of, "If you drop a child in the swimming pool, she'll learn to swim soon enough". But what am I to do to stay sane? And how long will she be like this?

  2. #2
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    Sep 2006
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    Default Re: Limiting or weaning a two-year-old??

    Nursing a toddler can be really demanding, especially when they become velcro child. My daughter is 25 months and every time there is a change in her life, she goes back to nursing a lot and won't sleep without nursing, and wakes up if I try to leave her. Any limits I put on her are met with tantrums. I hate the screaming, but it seems the only way to get past it is to have a 'battle of wills' and let her scream it out. It took three days of tantrums last time, but once we got through it my daughter was happy again and accepted the limits I placed on her (nursing once each side instead of flipping back and forth endlessly; letting her fall asleep on her own; sitting in her own chair at the table instead of my knee). The first time we went through this, I was too jet-lagged and tired from a recent trip to try and stop her from screaming (and too fed up to let her nurse constantly, which would have stopped the screaming). I didn't want to wean my daughter as the benefits of bf are just too great (I don't have to worry if she isn't eating all her food, since I know she gets extra nutrients from my milk), but I did set limits so that we nursed on my terms. I was surprised at how well she adapted to the new rules. Unfortunately, we have since had another trip and dd is back to screaming again if she doesn't get nursed to sleep and nursed all morning. So I am back to laying down the law and trying to be as consistent as possible so she knows that there is no room for negotiations (or the screaming might never end!).

    My advice is to decide what you are comfortable with; if it's ten minutes of nursing, then stop after ten minutes and let your lo scream it out. Talk to her and let her know when she can next have milk. Reassure her as a person and tell her about all the good things she does and the fun times she has had and how proud of her you are and that as a big girl there are limits she has to live with, but there are things big girls get that babies don't, etc.. She will eventually listen to you and accept the limits. You do have the right to limit how much of yourself you give to your toddler or baby. This in no way limits your love for her. But you need to be a whole person too and take time and space for yourself. It is too bad that your husband is not more supportive. He will probably never appreciate the wonderful advantages you are giving your daughter by breastfeeding her. Weaning will not make her more independent and it will not stop the tantrums. Tantrums seem to be one of those things that all parents must work through regardless of how they nourish their child.

    It sounds like you are doing a great job and I wish you best of luck in getting though this challenging toddler stage!

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Limiting or weaning a two-year-old??

    Emily, have you read _Mothering Your Nursing Toddler_ by Norma Jane Bumgarner? It is sort of the classic handbook on how to navigate some of these issues. Here is the link to it in the LLL online store:

    http://store.llli.org/books/product/85

    Different approaches are going to work for different families and especially different children. Your daughter has always struck me (through your descriptions here) as exceptionally intense, imaginative, and articulate. She probably fits in the category of "spirited" (ref. the book _Raising Your Spirited Child_ by Kurcinka).

    I suspect that whatever approach you take to limiting her nursing will have to take her temperament into consideration to have any success. But please rest assured that most mothers who nurse beyond the first couple years or so find that they need to set some limits during certain phases. Nursing a toddler is very different in this way from nursing a newborn, whose wants and needs are the same thing. I will also encourage you that your daughter is not many months away from developing the capacity to understand that "later" does not mean "never" and thus the ability to delay gratification if she is motivated somehow.

    I wish your family would stop backing you into a corner and help work with you on this issue, but it sounds like little has changed there, and I'm sorry to hear it. I suspect as she adjusts to the new daycare, she will need less nursing. Another thing to consider is teething -- might she be cutting her 2nd-year molars?

    --Rebecca

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Limiting or weaning a two-year-old??

    Thank you, Rebecca and MegansMom; both really helpful responses.

    I have read Mothering Yr Nursing Toddler. I've been putting off reading Raising Yr Spirited Child, because I'm uncomfortable with all that labelling. But maybe I should read it, I'm sure my daughter fits the category if anybody does. My question largely came out of thinking about the Mothering Yr N. T., which makes a very strong case for NOT limiting in a strict or pre-set way, tho' it's ok to say Enough if you're going crazy. The author describes how one can set rules about when and where to nurse, but the heart of the book is in the claim that a child whose needs are totally met will grow out of those needs -- and that it's ultimately easier for the mother to meet the child's needs, than to be constantly thwarting them. I found that a pretty convincing idea, though I also agree that it totally depends on the child and the whole family. If my DD were more readily trainable, in the kinds of ways that MegansMom suggests, I guess I"d feel more gung ho about that kind of approach. But she is incredibly stubborn. She responds to imaginative persuasion; she doesn't respond well to rules. When I've tried to lay down more consistent rules about either nursing or bed-time, and stick with them for days on end, she is quite capable of still fighting me all the way, every time. So -- maybe I'll just go on muddling through, maybe I'll reread some of MYNT, maybe I'll think harder about how to make non-nursing kinds of comfort seem attractive to my daughter, and maybe I also need to try harder to get some personal support, like call old friends. Because really the toughest part about this is trying to figure it all out on my own.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Limiting or weaning a two-year-old??

    I am wondering if your daughter has a transistional object? Around this time my nursling had a favorite doll she liked to nurse with (yes, I had to nurse the doll too LOL). I am just wondering if you perhaps nursed all the time with a favorite toy or blanket then your daughter could also take that item with her to daycare to help her feel more secure? Maybe that might be worse though if the item got lost! Just an idea to consider.

    I do remember going through this at times but it usually resolved after a few days of extra attention. I knew we would always have an extra long nursing after any seperation. My husband tells me that when I am gone dd tells him that when mommy comes home she is going to nurse me and I do. She also asks me on the phone if I will nurse her when I come home. Since she is approaching four it doesn't last nearly as long as when she was younger and sometimes she even forgets because she is too caught up in me coming home and what I brought with me.

    Hope you find something that works for you soon.

    Momuvseven

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Limiting or weaning a two-year-old??

    I started limiting my son's nursing when he was about 22 months. At that time he was nursing CONSTANTLY. After my initial limits, though, he actually then started dropping a lot of nursing on his own. For us it was very helpful to have a consistent routine of when we nurse and when we don't. That way he knew what to expect. The times we nursed were all tied to an event in the day (i.e. when we wake up, after breakfast, after lunch, etc.). In the beginning I did make it very frequent, though, so that he wouldn't have long to wait if I had to say no. If your daughter is very resistant to any limits, maybe you could start with just a very small limit--like "No nursing while mommy's eating" or something like that. Or when she asks you could say not right now but we can nurse in 5 minutes (or maybe 2 minutes ). For some kids it helps them wait to have a visual representation of the time. You can use an hour glass timer (or they do make somewhere a timer that shows a red section of the clock that you can watch get smaller).

    One thing that helped us a lot with night weaning (which was much more difficult than limiting the daytime) was making a book about it that we read each night before bed. I made it with actual pictures of my son. You could try something similar for daytime.

    Overall, I'd say give some things a try, and if your daughter really seems not to be ready for the limits--wait a few weeks and try again. Eventually she should be able to handle it a little easier.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Limiting or weaning a two-year-old??

    I'm still skimming the responses but I'll agree to what I've read so far. I've been there. My daughter is over 2.5 years old. Frankly, I think that while a nursing toddler is a little unique in or society, a screaming toddler is not. If my daughter weren't nursing, she'd be screaming at me to hold her a certain way or something. I hate the thought of turning nursing into a discipline issue, but fighting with me after I say no has become a discipline issue.

    The first and best limit I set was no nursing during dinner (made going to restaurants easier, and gave dad time to see our daughter's face). This was a good one to start with because she could see when my plate was empty and in the beginning I ate fast to get throught the screaming. I just let her leave the table and throw the tantrum while I scarfed down dinner. As she learned to wait, I ate more and more slowly.. eventually we all started having nice dinners together, but it took a week or two of AWFUL dinners. Then when we ate out, I just left some food on my plate and she didn't even ask. Then I just stopped nursing her in public and explained my need for privacy (my nursies are just for her and daddy to see) and to this day she really respects that.


    Then there were certain chairs I would avoid, etc. We are now limiting it to before bed (or sometimes I cave and nurse her to sleep but not when she wakes at night), once in the morning, and at nap time. Her dad started making her say please to nurse. That was a nice touch. She learned a little respect with that.

    She'll sometimes say, "Think it's time to nurse." and I'll look at my watch and sure enough it's nap time. But she still has meltdowns and cries for nursies at the "wrong" times. Oh if I could just nurse her whenever on some days and not on others, but that is just too confusing for her. Because I've mannaged to hold firm lately, she makes it through fine. But there are times when she's sick or traveling where I've changed the rules or been ambivelant and it feels like we are starting all over again, with tantrums and everything - all about nursing.

    She's doing pretty well right now and today when she was crying about something and looked at my chest and sobbed "I want..." I was sure she'd say nursies but she paused, looked at my face, and said, "a graham cracker." She didn't even eat much of it... she just wanted to demand something that she could get. I think it was about being in control... and having the firm limit helped her to make the demand successfully. Trust me, such success is rare for both of us. Limits are not my area of expertise, but I am certainly learning a lot.

    Its very nice to meet you. I'd love to have more mom friends of nursing velcro kids in my life. Many of her peers are either weaned or don't sit still long enough to nurse as much as mine would if she were allowed to... Wow, I don't think I'd have to get up from the couch if I still nursed on demand. She's a cuddle bug, that's for sure.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Limiting or weaning a two-year-old??

    Just curious here, but what happens if you say "no" when she asks to nurse? For instance, if she asked to nurse at say 11 am and you said "not right now honey, you may nurse before your nap at 1 o'clock" or something like that... I know you said she gets really upset, but do you actually hold your ground, or do you give in when she continues to scream? I'm not saying it's a bad thing if you gave in, but just curious if you've gotten to the point yet where you're ready to hold your ground and put it off for a longer period of time than just 10 minutes...like an hour or 2?

    My oldest self-weaned at 2 yrs, so I may not have all the right advice for you, but I do know that when he did wean, he was developmentally capable of waiting and understood that he needed to wait to nurse occasionally, as he'd learned that he had to wait occasionally for other things as well.

    It could be that this isn't so much of an issue of nursing, but an issue of toddlerhood and her learning patience and waiting, and how deal with her emotions...hence the tantrum when she doesn't get what she wants.

    So, I guess I have 2 suggestions...I don't know if either one would be right for you...only you know that, but here goes just in case one of them helps you:

    #1 Do like in paragraph #1...say no, let her know when in the future she can nurse, and stick to it no matter how many tantrums she throws. Help her through the tantrums and hug her and love her, try to distract her, but don't nurse her until the time you said you would initially. Don't give in. Then, the next day, do it again at the same time of day if she asks to nurse at the same time. I would only try to lose one nursing session at a time this way though...and take a few days before trying to lose another session...while trying to teach her to wait until the prescribed time to nurse...and then nurse her as normal the rest of the day.

    #2 Or try to work with her regarding learning to wait and learning patience in other areas of life...even grocery store lines and waiting for a snack can be helpful in this area...everything can be a lesson. You can also try to work through some of her emotions regarding the tantrums and try to teach her how she's feeling when she has a tantrum...Alot of tantrums have been avoided in our household by teaching ds#1 about emotions very very young...so he could verbalize that he was angry instead of just kicking and screaming. After she works through some of the patience and tantrum issues, you could try again to limit the nursing.

    Again, I'm not sure if either suggestion would be right for you guys...only you know that, but those are what came to mind.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Limiting or weaning a two-year-old??

    It's really nice to hear from all you other mothers going through similar things with two-year olds.

    You know, even in the couple of weeks since I first posted on this issue, I've been having a huge amount more success with getting her to accept limits about nursing. For a while now, I've been making a pretty half-hearted effort to night wean her, asking her to wait till morning time (but then giving in if she totally freaks out) -- and similar with other limits. Suddenly, it's actually working: she asks for a cuddle, not "nanna", when she wakes up in the night, and she falls right back asleep in my arms. And she has been doing a whole lot better about accepting that I don't want to spend the whole evening nursing her. I think the key thing is that she's made a big developmental leap about understanding narrative, and being able to tell stories. I've been saying for a long time things like, 'Wait till I've finished dinner sweetheart, then you can nurse again'. But now, all of a sudden, she can internalise that pattern, and say things like, "I wanted nanna, but Mummy said, Wait till after dinner! You had it already!", or "We'll have dinner and then we'll have nanna", or "I'll get my pyjamas on and then we'll have nanna, OK?" The sequence of events in her day makes sense to her now, in a way it didn't even a couple of weeks ago. There are still a lot of times when she wants to nurse for what seems like forever, and I have a hard time persuading her that it's time to move on to some other activity -- and she has a tantrum if I push it, quite a lot of the time, especialy in the afternoon. Pick up from nursery is very tough. But still, I'm pretty impressed with her.

    I like the idea of transitional objects, but I haven't had much success with introducing them. My daughter loves animals and dolls and other toys, but she's fairly fickle in her affections. I guess I could work on getting her to love one more than all the others. Actually, there are times when I manage to use a teddy or similar creature to persuade her to shift her attentions away from my breasts, even without having a single special one. Even when she's done nursing, she usually wants to hang out with the breasts, read them a story, tickle them, tell them about her day, whatever. It's very cute for a little while, and gets very annoying when prolonged for long periods. But sometimes she'll be willing to tell her story to teddy and the breast together, and then accept it when the breast withdraws from her ministrations.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Limiting or weaning a two-year-old??

    I was so happy to see this thread.

    My son is 28 months old and we are still nursing. He is not doing it as much as he was about 3 or 4 months ago, which is such a relief to me. I am so happy that I have been able to nurse him for so long, but my original plan was to only nurse him for 2 years. Well, he does not agree with that plan.

    When he hit 2 it seemed that he was nursing more than ever. I was becoming resentful of the nursing, but I could not imagine making him stop. Talk about screaming. Like I said, he has slowed down considerably and I do not have the resentful feelings very much any more; however, I sometimes feel "yucky" nursing him. I don't know. I feel weird. Just like it isn't "right" any more. These are my own feelings. I have not heard any negatives from family or friends. My husband and I were talking about it the other night and he feels that my nursing our almost 2 1/2 year old son is perfectly normal.

    Does anyone else get these "icky" feelings?

    If it were up to me, I would stop nursing. There is no way I will go past 3 years old. I am already starting to think about how I am going to stop him at 3, unless he stops on his own.

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