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Thread: Tips for weaning a 3 1/2 year old who has been through a lot

  1. #1

    Default Help weaning a 3 1/2 year old

    I need to wean my 3 and a 1/2 year old son and am wondering what your experience is mamas with weaning at this age and what you did....whether it is easier to stop with a celebration party of sorts or do it gradually...whether one is "better" than the other. My sense is gradual weaning will lead to constant battles as he is still very attached to weaning. As I said in an earlier post, he is excited about his "big boy" party after he stops, but I don't think he actually wants to or is ready to give it up...we only nurse at bedtime at night, a lot first thing in the AM, and sometimes during the day (sometimes not). I would deeply appreciate any tips on how to best wean him, how to talk to him, etc. and hear some more about your experiences. Thanks so much.
    Last edited by @llli*berkeleymama; June 16th, 2013 at 12:08 PM. Reason: need more specific reply

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2012

    Default Re: Tips for weaning a 3 1/2 year old who has been through a

    Welcome here, and I am so sorry for your loss - it must be so hard.

    3 1/2 was when I was very keen on weaning too, for a lot of reasons. I most hated the first thing AM feed. He had stopped nursing outside the home at about 3, when he started day care but still asked for it at home. I joined this forum in search of ways to wean him ... and actually over the course of the alst year we are now down to a very short nursing to go to sleep most nights, i would say 5 out of 7 nights. So he is 4 1/2 and nurses to sleep but really just for a few sucks most of the time, only longer if he had a hard day. I can live with that. He says he will stop when he is 5. We will see.

    So we are taking it real slow. what worked for me was to stop the nursing during the day, and also speak ever so often to him about ending nursing sometime. He is actually interested to talk about it, and to talk about how babies nurse all the time, and toddlers less and children like himself only nurse at night to go to bed until one day they stop. I think it reassures him to see the progression.

    It was not really very easy at all, but gradually he began to accept it that it will eventually end. I told him that nursing was for going to bed only and when he asked for it at other times I told him that we would do it later, and if he asked when, I said at bed time. this was no instant success but I remained quite firm offering cuddles and let him knead my elbows (soething he also always done while nursing) but i did make exceptions if I felt he needed it very much.

    I also began to srticlty limit the lenght of time - telling him that he could nurse until i counted to ten, or for the duration of a lullaby i sang. after some time he was fine jsut with the cuddling and counting as a comfort (yes he is odd), only stipulating I count to 100 instead of 10 and then he would tell me he was now satisfied and run off.

    The AM feed I was able to end by getting up before him, while he was still asleep. now this only works perhaps because of our morning routine - and as he sleeps very late if nothing wakes him, regardless of when he went to bed. He is definitely not one of those who wakes at 6AM. So once I was dressed and ready I woke him, not mentioning or offering nursing and for a while he still then asked to nurse and I would tell him yes but only to the count of ten and only sitting not laying down (his fave position) and offering distractions such as his favourite breakfast. and he always accepted that he had to fiinish when i stopped counting and finished promptly at count of ten. eventually he no longer asked in the AM at all but for breakfast instead. I think it took about 6 months.

    Very rarely now he wakes in the night and asks to nurse and i simply say yes, sure, but if I do not then actually pop out the breast (he only ever now uses the left one) he goes right back to sleep perhaps only putting his hand on my covered breast.

    I think if you think of alternative ways which would comfort him (and this is trial and error and luck) and substitute those during the day and then work on some way to avoid the AM feed, the nursing to sleep is probably the least bothersome, at least it is for me. It is still way the quickest method to get him to sleep which is important to me as I am alone with him most of the time.

    Also what worked in replacing the day time nursing was offering him water. We bougth a special bottle together which for a while he took everywhere.

    So while I cannot offer a quick solution, i can certainly reassure you that it is possible to reduce it to managable. I think it is quite hard to wean a 3 1/2 year old quickly, as they are good at expressing themselves. So it is negotiating and compromising.
    Last edited by @llli*mammi; June 3rd, 2013 at 03:03 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2009

    Default Re: Tips for weaning a 3 1/2 year old who has been through a

    Welcome to the forum. I am so sorry for your loss.

    Are you sure that nursing a three year old 2 or 3 times a day can be harming your health to the point it is worth upsetting both of you to wean now? Nursing a child for years is biologically normal, nursing does not normally 'drain' women or make them ill. Have you considered addressing your health concerns without weaning? Are there some medications or supplements you want to take you are concerned would not be compatible with nursing?

    Do you have friends and family around you who support your nursing your child? Anyone who disapproves, is giving you a hard time? Because nursing this long (and longer) and your child’s attachment to nursing is entirely normal and healthy, and would be even without the loss of his dad.

    Anyway, to your question-in LLL philosophy and the experience of many mothers, weaning ideally happens gradually and with love. Of course your child is already well into the weaning process, so your child has already had the enormous benefit of weaning gradually for years. So how you approach eliminating the last few nursing sessions will depend on you and your child and both of your needs.

    I will say I don’t think eliminating a session at a time is likely to cause more resistance than going cold turkey. Personally If I discovered I had to start moving to wean a child of any age, I would certainly still take it as slowly as possible. But you know your child and his personality best.

    Should you decide to try more actively weaning, here are some tips for gently encouraging weaning-I don’t know what, if any, you have done already?

    Shorten sessions, but maybe with some choice for your child. For example, Say "We can nurse for the time it takes me to do this or that" (Count to 10 or 20, sing two similarly short songs, etc.)

    Do not offer, do not refuse.

    Offer alternative activities or food/drink

    Distract child from desire to nurse

    Delay nursing session

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