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Thread: Should I wean my 2 year old?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
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    Default Should I wean my 2 year old?

    Hi everyone,

    My daughter is 21 months and nurses quite frequently, pretty much on-demand except when I don't feel like it. We nurse in public, nurse to sleep, nurse during the night several times. Most days I am happy with this arrangement.

    I always said I wanted to nurse until age 2, to meet the minimum WHO recommendation. But now I don't want to stop.

    I have spent every night with her since she was born. However, I will be going away for 5 days shortly after she turns two, leaving her with her dad.

    My husband thinks I should wean her before my trip - but I don't really want to wean. There is also starting to be some (slight) pressure from family to wean. Sometimes I don't feel like nursing as much as she does (e.g. at night) but that's very different form wanting to wean her completely. I treasure our breastfeeding relationship, and I also don't want the hassle of trying to wean her now when nursing seems so important to her and she doesn't have a lot of language.

    My husband has always been very supportive of nursing, and always bugged me to nurse her even at times when I didn't want to (e.g., after long nursing sessions when she still hadn't fallen asleep). But now I feel like he's changing the deal because he's worried about being alone with a still-nursing toddler away from her mum.

    My husband thinks she will be a screaming mess the whole time I am away, if I don't wean her first. This has kind of happened when I went away for the day and she cried for over an hour (until I got home), leaving puddles all over the floor, and would not let my husband console her, and would not fall asleep for her nap.

    Should I wean her slowly over the next few months before I go away, as my husband suggested? Or should I be actively trying to reduce the number of nursing sessions in a day? Or do you think it's reasonable to continue as we are until the day I leave, then suddenly leave her for 5 days with no boobs and no mum, for the first time ever? If the latter, how can I convince my husband?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Should I wean my 2 year old?

    Why would you wean your daughter if neither of you wants to wean?

    Your child IS going to miss you. It would be unnatural if she did not. How this manifests itself is anyone guess. But I would suggest that the limited amount of studies on young children and long separations from their mothers suggests your child will not scream the entire time. At some point, she will have to stop if for no other reason than that she will have to shut it down to conserve energy. She WILL sleep. She WILL eat. Will she be happy and easy to care for the whole time? Probably not. She will be sad because she will miss you and does not have the ability to understanding when or even that you will return. When you do return, she may be withdrawn from you for a bit, and sometimes, such separations lead to weaning due to this. But they need not, and if you gently encourage your child to nurse it can be a wonderful way to reconnect when you are together again.

    This is how young children (not only nursing children) respond to long separations from their mothers, according to studies. The idea that whether you nurse or not will make a huge difference one way or another is, at the very least, debatable.

    It sounds like times you have left your baby alone with your husband can be counted on one hand. I would suggest that dad's lack of experience in caring for your child on his own, particularly at bedtimes, is adding to his fear.
    Here are some things I would consider if I were in this position: 1) Do I need to go away for 5 days? 2) Can my child come with me, perhaps with a caregiver? 3) if no, what tools can I give my husband to help him handle what is probably just as scary a separation for HIM if he is not used to being the sole caregiver of our child? 4) One outing ended in disaster, so that is all my husband has to go on. Maybe we should try a few other mom only outings to see how things go? 5) Is there someone else who can step in and help my husband-a grandmother, aunt, trusted friend, etc, on the off chance things really are to hard for him to handle?

    But weaning prematurely (prior to when you want or when it will naturally occur) due only to fearing what will happen during this separation makes no sense to me. Nor does weaning due to 'pressure' from relatives. Yes assuming you still want to nurse your child for the time being, it makes sense to nurse as much as you and your child want right up until you leave. If you start eliminating nursing sessions, that is the same thing as weaning.
    Last edited by @llli*lllmeg; August 1st, 2013 at 12:50 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2006
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    Default Re: Should I wean my 2 year old?

    Don't borrow trouble from the future. But do give your DH more one on one time with your toddler. That will help him become more confident and will help your LO figure out how to act when it's just her and daddy.

    My DH is always traveling- he's an academic and there's always fieldwork or a conference or a talk. My kids have learned to adjust or those separations, but they are't easy. My point being that it doesn't matter which parent goes away. Kids just don't like disruptions to routine or to family.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
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    Default Re: Should I wean my 2 year old?

    I agree with the others: try to give your DH more one-on-one time with your toddler before you leave. I am an academic, and I have to go to conferences as part of my job. Before my DS was 2, I took him and my husband or my parents with me to conferences. DS nurses to sleep, even today, when he is home with me. A month after my son's 2nd birthday, I had to go to a conference by myself for 3 days. My DS was still nursing at night, and he had never been apart from me overnight before. Was DS a bit of a wreck while I was gone? Absolutely. Did my DH survive it? Yes. They both did. DS did go to sleep for DH, though it was rough going a couple nights. DS was quite eager to nurse again when I came home, too. That trip, my mom and my brother both stayed at our house to help DH (though he only would have needed one of them).

    The last conference trip, I had two conferences back to back and was gone for a week. DH was home with DS alone that whole time. They did fine. There were some really difficult nights where DS just didn't want to go to sleep, but there were some nights where DS just laid down and went to bed. And again, after that separation, DS went back to nursing just fine. We had night-weaned in between the trips, but that didn't really make a difference to how DS behaved with DH. And nursing DS was a wonderful way for us to reconnect after the absence.

    If you don't want to wean, there's no need to do it before your trip. Your daughter is smart enough to know that she isn't going to get breastmilk if mom isn't there. That doesn't mean she won't cry because she misses you, but she'll be okay. So will your DH. I do think he should have some practice alone with your daughter before you go, if you can manage it. Like you, I hadn't been away from my DS much before those trips, and never overnight. But it will be okay. So, no, I don't think you need to wean her or cut down on nursing sessions.

    As for how to convince your husband that you don't need to wean before you leave, I'm not sure what you can say. You know him best. But clearly, your daughter knows that she can't nurse when you're not around. So, I'm not sure that your physical distance from her makes a difference: you could be at the grocery store while she's at home or you could be out of town; either way, if you're not there, she can't nurse, and she knows that. She doesn't necessarily cry because she can't nurse (though that may be part of it). She cries because she misses you. And she'll miss you whether you are nursing her or not. Maybe explaining that will help?

    Remember to take your pump with you , and good luck!
    First time mom to DS, born 2/21/2011.

    due with #2 6/26/2014

  5. #5
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    Jun 2012
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    Default Re: Should I wean my 2 year old?

    Thanks for your responses. To clarify, she has been alone with my husband quite a lot when he was the primary caregiver a few months ago, but it was only for 5 hours, then she'd see me to nurse (and fall asleep for nap), then a few more hours with DH in the afternoon.

    She has also been with me and her grandmother for 10 days while her dad was in the field, and she was totally fine, even though she normally sees him most of the day. She seemed to understand that her papa was in the field and we'd see him again when we went home. She did not seem distressed. In contrast when I have been away and she is tired, she can have major tantrums. The tantrum I described in my first post was similar to times I was trying to reduce night-feedings so was refusing to nurse between 11 pm and 4 AM.

    I think having another friend stay with them would definitely boost DH's confidence. I will see if we can find someone. It's true DD and DH could also come away with me (it's for a conference). DH had initially said he didn't want to go and would prefer to stay home alone with DD. But then he started saying I should wean her to make it easier for him!

    I know that I will end up doing a lot of childcare if they come to the conference, and I worry my brain/work will suffer.... I just think it will be really difficult to pull off teaching a mini-course and my first plenary talk (and in my third language!) under those circumstances....But then it may be hard if I am missing DD too and my boobs are exploding all over the place...!!. I have a hard time imagining being away from her more than a day.

    I won't wean her or try to reduce feedings. I'll try to give DH some more practice alone with her for longer periods. And I guess in the end he can decide if he'd really rather go to the conference or stay home with her.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Should I wean my 2 year old?

    My middle child was very difficult to settle without me there at bedtime. Sometimes my husband could get him to sleep by lying down with him, but not always. So my husband simply stopped making our son go to bed in that circumstance. If both my husband and I were out at night, we gave our sitter 'permission' to also not make our son go to bed! He could stay up and play in the living room if he wanted. The sitter would read to him, and if she got tired of that, she would read for herself or watch fairly quiet, (non scary) tv. Eventually our son would get tired and go to sleep.

    This would not be my choice for every night, of course. But it took the bedtime pressure off both my sitter and my husband and certainly did my son no harm.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Should I wean my 2 year old?

    I honestly think the easiest thing to do might be to take your daughter and DH to the conference with you. I sympathize with the pressures of the plenary talk, etc. but if she isn't there, you'll miss her and be worried about how she's doing, plus it might be traumatic for her. If she is there, you'll be harried trying to pay attention to her and get your work done. Either way it won't be easy. I traveled with my DH and my then-15-month-old DS to a conference this spring (although I wasn't giving a plenary talk) and overall it worked out well and I was very glad to have brought them. I couldn't have imagined being away from him for 5 days at that age and would have not gone to the conference rather than going without him. Granted, 21 months is quite a bit different from 15 months, but just some food for thought. Either way I agree with everyone else that you do NOT need to wean in order to leave her with DH and there is no particular reason to think it would make things easier if you did wean. My DH had actually suggested a few months prior to my conference that leaving then-15-month old DS with him while I went to the conference would be a good way to wean him (grrrr!). However, once we actually got to 15 months, DH saw what a baby DS still was, and fortunately now that we're actually toddler nursing at 21 months, DH is my biggest supporter and thinks we should nurse as long as we like
    First-time mama to Joshua, 10/29/11. 29 months and going strong! for 14 months; now finished with pump weaning!

  8. #8
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    Jun 2012
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    Default Re: Should I wean my 2 year old?

    I guess I just feel frustrated by many things around nursing. I would like it to continue but to be optional. I think I imagined at this point it would be just a few times a day, like a nice quiet time to reconnect. instead she demands to nurse about every hour or two during the day and several times overnight. I offer food instead but she wants "teta".

    This last week has been particularly bad. LO, DH and I have all been sick with a cold, and it coincided with me training 3 new people in the field. At one point I had a student literally hanging from a tree above me floundering with the climbing gear, and my husband on the cel phone reaming me out because LO was crying inconsolably for "mama teta" for the last 40 minutes. I had only been away for 3.5 hr. I had to hang up on my husband to make sure the student didn't fall out of the tree. I am frustrated that my daughter wants to be attached to my boobs so much, and frustrated with my husband for not being able to look after her for more than a couple hours at a time. I'll explain to my husband I need the whole morning with my students and he'll come find me anyway because LO is fussing to nurse.

    I have tried to set limits on nursing overnight (jay gordon) and it was hell. it did reduce the night nursing sessions but I don't have the energy to enforce it. DD screams bloody murder and I just don't have the energy to deal with that again. Again I don't mind night nursing generally but I feel mad sometimes when I get up early to do some work and so LO wakes because I'm not in the bed. I feel like i can't do the things I need to do because DH won't look after her for more than a couple hrs, and I can't even get stuff done while she's sleeping. I have to take her in the field with me, then she's fussing in the backpack or want to nurse just when I need to demonstrate something tricky.

    On the one hand DH says to wean her (he has now changed his mind), and then on the other hand he brings her to me every time she wants to nurse, and tells me to nurse her so she'll be quiet!

    Sorry for such a rant. I feel frustrated.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Should I wean my 2 year old?

    Disciplining a toddler is a frustrating process in general. Whether it's teaching them to respect your limits with breastfeeding or teaching them not to throw food on the floor or whatever else. It's even harder when you aren't getting the support you need from your partner. I see this is a discipline issue, rather than a nursing issue. She's learned that if she puts up enough of a fuss you guys give in and she gets nursed- even to the extent of daddy hunting you down to make it happen. If you want the limits to be there, you have to enforce them consistently or it's going to be a battle every time. You kind of have to decide whether the struggle is worth it. Is it easier to just continue to nurse her on demand (and it may be- I can't say what would work best for you) or is it easier to go through the struggle to teach her that nursing now happens on your terms? I also think you need to sit down and have that conversation with your husband. Not in a confrontational way, necessarily, but maybe frame it as you needing his help to make things better. Be clear that it will get harder for a while because she will be resistant to change, but in the long run it will be easier on all of you.
    “We are not put on earth for ourselves, but are placed here for each other. If you are there always for others, then in time of need, someone will be there for you.”
    --Anonymous

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Should I wean my 2 year old?

    Couldn't have said it better than Still.here.

    How verbal is your toddler? Could she potentially understand the concept of you returning and nursing at a given time? For example: "I am going to help people climb trees right now. I will be back for lunch, and then we can nurse. Until then, can you be good for papa?" Sometimes when your kid knows what to expect, it becomes easier to deflect her from a tantrum. Uncertainty, on the other hand, can make her more demanding and obdurate.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

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