Ben was an enthusiastic on-demand nurser from the get-go, and that worked for me just fine, especially early on when he desperately needed comfort, and nursing was the most effective comfort I could give. At around nine months, though, it occurred to me that I wasn't 100% happy with on-demand nursing anymore. I'm not sure that I can give a particular reason or list of reasons that would logically outweigh whatever reasons someone else might give for continuing. I have reasons, and I will list them, but I think more than anything it just felt to me that he didn't really need it any longer, and I didn't really like it any longer, and that feeling was more of a motivation than any of the reasons I'm about to give.
So here are some of the reasons:
I'm not entirely comfortable with the conflation of eating and comfort past a certain age. I'm sure plenty of people comfort-nurse well into toddlerhood without creating bad eating habits, but there's something about it that bothers me. I didn't want a toddler who fell down and then needed to nurse to regain his composure.
I've never much liked nursing in public. I don't think I'm excessively modest, and I certainly got over my initial squeamishness about it very quickly, but Ben happens to enjoy the eat-a-little-talk-a-little method of breastfeeding, which is mildly irritating at home, but creates a lot of nipple-management issues at, say, the mall.
He's a very good eater of solids, and he's a chunky little dude. I am in no way concerned that he's getting too little good nutrition. In fact, he eats way better than I do, and I believe he gets better nutrients from his plate than at my breast.
Even so, I probably would have continued on-demand nursing if he had put up any kind of fight about moving to a schedule, let alone eliminating feedings from the schedule. He didn't. I realized that he was usually nursing before and after every sleep, plus once overnight, so the first thing I did was experiment with no nursing before naps, which he didn't even seem to notice: no trouble at all. At first he did ask to nurse occasionally (he pokes at my sternum), but didn't appear fazed at my refusing and offering some kind of redirect. So he was now nursing at an early wake-up (around 4:00 or 5:00), again when Andy left for work and handed him over to me (7:00), after each nap (around 10:00 and 2:30), and at bedtime (6:30), and that went on for a couple of months. (I wasn't a total hard-ass about it, either -- if he was sick or having a very hard time with something and wanted to nurse, I let him.)
So last week we were in Wisconsin at Andy's parents', and it occurred to me that with all the distraction and excitement, Ben might not even miss one of the post-nap nursings, so I skipped it and gave him a snack of crackers and milk instead. No problem. (It should be mentioned that this kid is a huge fan of crackers.) So no more nursing after the morning nap, check. And the day before yesterday, I did the same for the afternoon nap, and again, he didn't seem fazed in the slightest.
Now I'm perfectly happy to go on nursing in the morning and at bedtime for as long as he shows the slightest interest. But he threw me a bit of a curveball yesterday: suddenly his enthusiasm for his second morning nursing (the 7:00 one when Andy brings him to me in bed) seemed drastically reduced! He was way more interested in clambering around on the pillows and beating on the wall behind the headboard. I heard the slightest plaintive note in my voice when he squirmed away for the third or fourth time and I asked, "Nurse more, kiddo? Nurse more?"