Help and advice for weaning 2 year old in the next 7 weeks? — The Bump

Help and advice for weaning 2 year old in the next 7 weeks?

I have to travel for a week-long mandatory conference for work in late June and cannot bring my husband and son with me. I had to travel for 3 days last fall and it was a disaster. DS only fell asleep after prolonged crying, and woke up within a few hours to full wakefulness and sobbing till he exhausted himself enough to sleep again. I do not want to put either of them through that again.

Because of this, I've been slowly trying to edge towards weaning for awhile, but we haven't really been making much progress. I've now learned that I also need to travel for work for 3 days in late May, which makes weaning more urgent (and anxiety-inducing). At present, DS nurses right before falling asleep, about half the time when he wakes up during the night (every other day or so), and before naps on weekends (he's in daycare during the week). 

Key Question: 
Do you have advice/experiences to share on weaning a toddler somewhat quickly? Especially one who strongly associates nursing with sleep, despite months of trying to gradually loosen the association?

A few more details (for those who want them):
DS is definitely on the clingy side, and has never been a good sleeper. He only started to sleep through the night on a semi-regular basis over the last couple months, and still wakes up most nights. Lately, I've been trying to put him back to sleep with a backrub, which works about half the time.  He only goes to sleep at bedtime for me, and does not seem to go back to sleep for DH during the night at all. DH was pretty traumatized by his experience last fall and has been reluctant to try bedtime or even naptime on his own since then. 

Until he was about 28 months old, DS would only fall asleep at the breast. After the fall trip, I stopped allowing him to do so at bedtime, which meant 2 months of cuddling a crying toddler for 40-90 minutes. These days, he doesn't usually fall completely asleep at the breast, but if he isn't close, then he tends to wake himself up again once he's in the crib and either wants to nurse again or gets totally hyper. I've been limiting him to 3 verses of "My favorite things" on each side, but if he asks for more once he is in the crib, I usually allow one encore. 

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Re: Help and advice for weaning 2 year old in the next 7 weeks?

  • I weaned DD2 when she was 26 months. She was pretty much just nursing before/after nap and at bedtime. I cut out one feeding each week or so. I offered a snack or drink instead, read her a book and rocked in the rocking chair, and told her she could have milk at bedtime. I cut the bedtime feeding last.

    The day of our last nursing session, I told her that night would be the last night for "milkies." She asked why, and I said the milk was almost all gone. When we sat in the rocking chair to nurse that night, I reminded her it was the last time for milkies. She was like, "I know, you told me already." ;) She nursed, and went to bed like normal. 

    Whenever she asked to nurse after that, I told her the milk was all gone, but that we could rock in the rocking chair, read a book, or whatever...She only asked a couple of times, thankfully. 

    Aside from the weaning aspect, I'd try having DH do nap time/bedtime when he can. You could try wearing one of DH's shirts for a while so it smells like you and then have DH wear it. If LO smells you, that may be calming for him. It took DD2 a while to adjust to my DH putting her down for bed. We decided to alternate each night so she'd be okay with either of us putting her down. 

    Do do you feel like you're ready to wean? If you really don't feel like you and LO are ready, you could focus instead on LO getting used to Daddy doing bedtime. For example, you nurse him, then DH bathes him, or reads a story or rocks him and puts him down.

    If you do feel ready to wean, I'd talk about it with your LO. Maybe he can tell you what activity he would like to replace nursing with. With DD1, I had to wean her at 16 months because I was pregnant again and my supply tanked. Even at that age, she understood when I told her Mommy's milk was all gone. 

    Good luck with however you decide to handle it!

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  • Thanks, Shotzie - those ideas and your experiences are immensely helpful! 

    I'm pretty much ready to be done nursing altogether, but particularly because DS's sleep association is so strong that it tends to really complicate a lot of work-related things that are outside business hours and even simple things like getting exercise. We also want to have a second child and I feel like I (or my boobs) need a break for awhile first. 

    I think I'm afraid of announcing a last time because it's so hard to refuse him. There really wasn't a struggle with daytime nursing, because he's very distractable and has never been a big eater in public or when things are going on around him (hence why we ended up with such a strong sleep association to begin with. It's a relief to hear that your daughter only asked a few times. 

    I might wait a few weeks yet on that, but ask DH to take on naptime during weekends. He naps fine at daycare, so theoretically that should be the easiest transition. Meanwhile, can figure out next steps.
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  • When will he be 3? He can reason ALOT BETTER than you probably give him credit for. I'd definitely talk to him and come up with various replacements. 

    Tbh.... it does souND like you are torn. While you are ready to have your body back you may not realize that you aren't ready to give up that aspect of your relationship with him.

    Don't feel like you have to wait until weekends or other issues to allow DH to try a new routine..... and surely DH should be willing to help with the transition for all of you.... 

    I bet you DS can and will do better than u think....
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