Your expectations for clw were unrealistic. It is extremely unusual for a child to self wean at the age that you expected it. 2.5 is pretty much the youngest to expect clw and much older is not unusual at all.
"In societies where children are allowed to nurse 'as long as they want,' they usually self-wean, with no arguments or emotional trauma, between three and four years of age ... The minimum predicted age for a natural age of weaning in humans is two and a half years, with a maximum of seven years." -- Katherine Dettwyler, PhD, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Nutrition at Texas A&M University, and author of "Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives."
What is child-led weaning like?
Each child has his own developmental timeline for child-led weaning - the age that a child is ready to self-wean varies greatly from child to child and commonly ranges from age 2 through age 4 (though you certainly see children on either end of this range). When mom initiates weaning, then the closer the child is to weaning on her own, the easier it will be (for both mom and child) to accelerate this natural progression.
Child-led weaning occurs when a child no longer has a need to nurse - nutritionally or emotionally. It's relatively unusual for a baby younger than 18-24 months to self-wean if they are not being encouraged in that direction (though things like mom's pregnancy may also affect the timing).
A child who is self-weaning will almost always cut down on nursing very gradually over a period of months, one session at a time (anything abrupt is most always a strike). Many children will continue with only a nighttime, morning or naptime nursing session (or a combination) for months before weaning. When a child self-weans, she will also have been drinking well from a cup and getting the vast majority of her nutrition from solid foods for a while.
Your expectations for clw were unrealistic. It is extremely unusual for a child to self wean at the age that you expected it. 2.5 is pretty much the youngest to expect clw and much older is not unusual at all.So basing my expectations of DC#2 based on the fact that DC#1 self-weaned at 15 mo was dumb. Got it.
I'm working on weaning my 25 month old now. Here's the journal I've been keeping about his process. HTH!!