Extended Breastfeeding, Part II: I Just Weaned My 3-Year-Old

mother breastfeeding toddler on beach

This is part two of a series about extended breastfeeding. To read part one, click here.

Growing up, I had very little exposure to breastfeeding. My mother did not breastfeed and I recall seeing one family friend breastfeeding once when I was a child.

However my closest friend at the time of my first pregnancy (PCS means this is a rotating position) had just given birth to her first and was very pro-breastfeeding, so I was getting a lot of up-close-and-personal education. I liked the idea that it was “easy” in that:

  • I wouldn’t have to prepare bottles (nevermind all the ways it is not easy)
  • formula costs money (breastfeeding costs time and some money as well)
  • it was “good for the baby” (the formula is too)

mother sleeping in bed with two daughtersI remember telling her I would give it a try but not lose my mind if it didn’t work out.

I ended up breastfeeding my first daughter for four years, due to her developmental delays and oral aversion to any sort of cup or bottle. When I got pregnant the second time, I intended to breastfeed for two years while ensuring she knew how to take a bottle early on. This seemed like a reasonable goal, based on World Health Organization recommendations. As usual with parenting, things didn’t go as planned.

My daughter just celebrated her third birthday in November, and we finally weaned from breastfeeding.

Her second birthday came and went, and the kid had zero interest in weaning. The fact that I truly didn’t know how to get her to sleep without it, despite her napping at daycare, added to the extension.
During quarantine, I refused to nurse her to sleep for her nap, thinking this would be our time to wean. The “compromise” was that she quit napping until she returned to daycare in August. We co-sleep as well; if she woke in the middle of the night, she would often whine and fuss, and it was easier to get her to be quiet and go back to sleep by just giving in. There were a few stages when I would try to cut her off, but it would end with crying and less sleep for everyone.
I assumed it was going to take a long week for the two of us (barely) sleeping in the guest room to finally cut her off, and it never seemed like the right time to do that. Which week would be ideal for you to sign up for terrible sleep for X days?

We started telling her about a month ago that her birthday was coming and that she was going to be too big for “Boobie.”

mother and toddler daughterShe was excited about presents and her birthday cake, so the idea of also ending our nursing relationship didn’t seem so bad. We really talked up how she was getting so big, and she was going to have a birthday! Presents! Cupcakes! Fun! No Boobie! Elsa cake! You’ll be THREE!
In the two weeks or so leading up to her birthday, I started setting a timer on my phone for 10, then 9, then 8 minutes. I told her she could have it for a while and then when the timer went off, she could roll over and snuggle and fall asleep just like she does at school/daycare.
One milligram of Melatonin was definitely used more than once. It still is. I swear no matter how tired my kids are when the alarm goes off at 6:15 AM, they are still wide awake at 9 PM more often than not. Please leave insight and advice in the comments.
The night before her birthday, I didn’t use the timer. I let her go as long as she needed to fall asleep, knowing that it was hopefully the last time. 

The day finally came. She was three.

She had her cake, took cupcakes to school, and all of her gifts had been opened. At bedtime, I reminded her that she didn’t need Boobie anymore. I gave her Melatonin and crossed my fingers.

She (eventually) fell asleep.

Yes, it takes a bit longer, especially if I try without the Melatonin. But overall, it has gone shockingly well compared to every previous attempt. She tried to latch the first night or two while half asleep but adapted quickly.

father snuggling with daughterI suggested she snuggle to sleep with Daddy one night (he gives magic back scratches that can get her to sleep) and she declined. She still likes to hold Boobie. She likes to snuggle and kiss it, or just fall asleep with her face against my bare skin. Whatever it takes, kid. If she needs a few more weeks of the comfort that comes with being in such close physical contact with me to become a more independent sleeper, I am okay with that. Because I know it won’t last forever.

The next step will be hyping up and purchasing a new bed for her and her sister. I intend to move them both into a double or queen so it isn’t as big of an adjustment to be in a new room; they can snuggle against each other.

After about 8 years of being pregnant/nursing/short break/pregnant/nursing, I almost have my body back to myself.

I have enjoyed my extended breastfeeding, but I’m glad the weaning was successful. One of these days I can sleep like a starfish, but I am not in a huge rush. For now, I’m celebrating this win and enjoying the snuggles while I can.