Help! Weaning at 20 months = Encourage independence?
My daughter is 20 months and still breastfeeds, usually 2-3 times a day.
We've been having a tough go of things since December, lots of illnesses back to back, her sleeping is suddenly full of wake ups which means her dad or I are up with her in the middle of the night. I'm nursing her more (a good thing when she's sick).
Her general disposition is a mommas girl, I'm number one in her eyes. She acts less independently with me compared to anyone else. She wants me to carry her everywhere, even up and down the stairs!
We're just back from a family vacation with both sets of grandparents. They got to see the day to day of how my daughter is less independent when I'm around. Plus she was sleeping horribly while we were there, waking everyone up at night with her screaming, she wanted to nurse all night long - long story short, I'm exhausted and the grandparents are encouraging me to wean her.
I have been feeling more and more 'done' with nursing for a couple of months. And I wonder if she'd be more independent if I stopped nursing her. This way of thinking is counter intuitive to how I normally think about it - I'd prefer if she decided to stop nursing rather than me decide for her.
I feel sad about stopping and worry that I'm being cruel to her. If she's nursing more, she needs it, right?
As an aside, my husband and I would like to take a 3 day vacation without her in April - that'll certainly end my milk production - maybe we shouldn't go. We've never spent a night away from her.
Obviously I'm full of turmoil about this issue. 😭
I was in your exact shoes not long ago. In October, my son was 22 months and still nursing 2-4 times a day. At least once a night. I was around 20 weeks pregnant and so over nursing him. I was trying to wean him slowly since he turned a year but the more I tried to cut feeds the more he seemed to want it. The further i got in pregnancy I started to loose my milk supply and it started to become painful to nurse. I had all the same thoughts as you... "He must need it", "I want him to decide to stop", "Is it cruel to just stop?". Anyway I pretty much dry nursed him for a good month and a half thinking he will stop when he realizes there is no milk left or maybe my milk will come back...eventually I couldn't do it anymore. Our nursing relationship had turned completely negative to me. I hated it and decided one day I was done. I told him this is the last time and nursed him one last time. The first time I didn't nurse he cried a little I just kept telling him mommies milk was gone and it hurts mom now when he feeds. Also he's a big boy and doesn't need it anymore. It was pretty difficult for about a week...he never really asked for it after that first day but he seemed angry with me. He wouldn't snuggle with me or come to me and was really cranky. But once that week was over it was like night and day. He started talking more. He is actually more cuddly now (before he just wanted to nurse) now he will sit and snuggle me. He started sleeping through the night. He did become more independent for sure. He got over it and it's been such a blessing since I feel like we're both happier now that we are done. Not saying you will have the same experience if you just cut her off but I want to reassure you she will be ok when it's all done no matter how you go about it. My only advice is if you decide to just cut her off like I did then you have to be ready to stick with it. If you give in even just once it will only make it harder when u try again.
Whatever your decision make sure it is your decision and not about what others think looking in from the outside.
Regarding whether you are "making" her less independent by nursing, I don't think so. She will show her independence with others more and less with you because you are her safe place - in other words she doesn't think she can be clingy with the others so she is forced to fend for herself. However I think you can start insisting on somethings while still feeding her if you chose to, like not carrying her upstairs if she's perfectly capable and it is difficult for you to do. You can make it all about wanting to see how good she is at it etc. You don't have to infantilise her just because she is still feeding, however keep it in perspective, she isn't even 2yrs old yet, how independent is it fair to ask her to be?
Regarding the holiday, things may have changed such a lot by then, it may not be an issue. However it might be worth getting her used to being left with others before she has to go three days and two nights without either of her primary carers. We started with evenings out where she knew that we'd be there in the morning but if she woke before midnight it would be granny who came to comfort her. Then we went to one full night away, then two. I was really worried about doing it as she'd never been a great sleeper. If I hadn't got her used to it I think I would have spent the time away from her worrying the whole time that she was just screaming for me!
I was ready around the 20 month mark. My son was losing interest too. By that point we only had one nursing session a day (right before bedtime). When it was time to wean, he took it like a champ. In fact, I'm not sure he noticed. Lol It was me who wasn't ready. I mean...I was, but I wasn't. You know? Ultimately, I'm so glad I stopped. And Ds never took interest in nursing again. So he was definitely ready to stop.
If you want to wean, try taking out the mid-day nursing. Or whichever one seems to not be as important to her. Do that for a week. Then try another nursing session. The one right before bed might be the hardest....but for us it was no big deal.
I nursed my son for 21 wonderful months. And I hope I can do it again with my next baby.
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