October 22, 2010 7

“Wait, why am I still nursing you?”

By in breastfeeding, diet & nutrition, toddler

Nathalie and her 27 month old nursling.

Most days, I’m completely happy and confident in my decision to practice full term nursing or child-lead weaning. My son will be 3 in January and continues to nurse several times a day.  I know its health benefits and I know that while it’s not the “norm” in the United States, it certainly isn’t uncommon around the world.  This was a conscious decision that I made and one that was well researched.

However, occasionally I get “touched out.”

Sometimes, I just want to be able to do the dishes without being whined at to nurse. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like having someone sitting on top of me every time a get a minute to relax.  Sometimes, I just want my body to be MINE again.

I’m sure many moms nursing children of any age can understand.  It’s usually on a day when my independent toddler is feeling uncharacteristically needy and nursing frequently.

I look down at the squirmy kiddo who’s somehow managing to stay latched on while attempting somersaults and think “Why in the world am I still nursing you?”

That’s when a few reminders really help.

First, I think back on last winter.  Remember…when everyone was absolutely losing their minds about Swine Flu?  I admit I wasn’t completely immune to the hysteria.   Then, my sweet (just turned) 2 year old munchkin came down with H1N1.  ( At this point the vaccine wasn’t even available but we wouldn’t have gotten it anyway.) It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be although Maddox would NOT eat or drink anything…with the exception of breast milk.  Knowing that he was getting everything he needed from nursing made a scary situation much less stressful.  The fact that he would nurse probably kept him from becoming dehydrated and saved him a trip to the E.R. to get an IV.

That alone is enough to keep me motivated to allow Maddox to decide when he is done nursing.  Knowing that when all else fails he WILL nurse is wonderfully reassuring.

Then, I think about how nursing  stops a meltdown in its tracks.   When my little guy takes a tumble at the playground or gets his feelings hurt, the fastest way to stop a freak out in the making before it spirals out of control is to nurse him.   Just a quick nurse and cuddle and he’s calm enough to talk to me about his feelings.  Was he scared?  Is he sad?  Is he frustrated.  Once that’s addressed, he’s back to his happy self.  It’d be much harder if he was still too upset to carry on a conversation. 

Laura nursing Olivia at 2 1/2 years.

I also like to reread some of my favorite articles on extended breastfeeding:

Breastfeeding Past Infancy: Fact Sheetby Kelly Bonyata, BS, IBCLC

Not Just For Babies: 10 Good Reasons to Breastfeed Your Toddler By Elizabeth Bruce. Issue 103, November/December 2000 of Mothering Magazine

A Time to Wean by Katherine A. Dettwyler, PhD Department of Anthropology Texas A & M University College Station Texas from Breastfeeding Abstracts, August 1994, Volume 14, Number 1, pp.3-4

Just taking a few minutes to evaluate how much more enjoyable breastfeeding my toddler makes our family’s life is all it takes to reaffirm my conviction that it is the right thing for my son and for me.  Instead of looking down at my toddler and wondering when he’s going to wean, I am grateful that we have this tool at our disposal and know that I will be sad when Maddox decides he is done.

Do you ever get “touched out” or frustrated nursing?  What do you do when that happens?

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7 Responses to ““Wait, why am I still nursing you?””

  1. Laura says:

    I had a really hard time when I was pregnant with Naomi. I think I had what’s called D-MER. I wanted to be violent with my sweet child. I hated myself for feeling that way. I had to do some REALLY deep meditation, I did chakra affirmations, and I just hummed to myself while she nursed. It was excruciating for me.
    When Naomi was born it subsided for a while and then it returned with vengeance. I tandem nursed for about 3 months and decided it would be to our best intrest to gently mother-led wean Olivia. She would still nurse if I let her and I know that if she gets sick I can still reinitiate.
    I miss the nursing experience with her but I know being gentle and weaning was the best for she and I.

  2. Jenn says:

    My son self-weaned just after turning 1, and my daughter a couple months after turning 2. (And what was interesting…a few months after weaning she wanted to try again, but had apparently completely lost the sucking reflex and no longer remembered how.)

    The only advice I can offer–as she was getting older and more verbal, I found that I could talk to her about the squirminess and the “when you turn your head while you’re doing nursey it hurts mama” and “If you’re going to wiggle around like that, we will have to stop nursey for now.” (Nursey, or rather “nuh-nee,” was the name she gave it.) I would think that maybe (though every kid’s different of course) he might at almost three be able to respond to some limits around nursing, where yes he can do it as often as he likes, but when he does, he needs to be pretty still so he doesn’t give mommy an owie. I used to, whenever she’d whip her head around with the nipple still in her mouth (YOWWW!), immediately de-latch her, make eye contact, and say, “NO, sweetie, that hurts mama.” pause. “Do you want to try nursey again, but be more gentle? Gentle nursey?” She’d usually nod, re-latch, and we’d take it from there. For a while there it happened two or more times in a session, and sometimes I’d just call it and say, “Okay, we’re done for now,” if it was getting too painful. But she got the hang of it, sort of…and by the last couple of months it was just morning and night, and we nursed primarily in bed, which made external stimuli much less stimulating–God, I could have kept that up for a couple more years, if she’d wanted it…

    She’s five now…I miss it sometimes…the hard part of child-led weaning is that the mom never knows when the last nurse is, you only look back later and realize that it’s over. In fact, I don’t even remember when the “last” nurse was for either of my children…

  3. I’m tandem nursing my two: 15 months and 33 months. People are always asking “So is she weaned yet?” (referring to older child.) I say, “Nope, she’s not interested in weaning.” There are times that I don’t want to…and sometimes I gently (temporarily) talk her out of it. I’ve also taught her “manners” (like we don’t pull on mommy, bite mommy, etc.) and I also tell her that it’s MY body and that she needs to respect that. I snuggle her and allow her to nurse but it’s totally a two-way street. I think that’s important with older nursers.

    I also like that you said that AFTER you’ve nursed during a tantrum, you take the time to talk it out. I’ve had many people assume I substitute talking with nursing and that my kids will grow up with some strange addiction to emotional eating. It’s important to settle them first with nursing and THEN talk! My daughter constantly unlatches while nursing to tell me her thoughts. It’s definitely not an either-or situation!

  4. I love this! My husband often jokes that I’ll be sending my son to Kindergarten with a kanteen of breast milk (which I’m not going to lie, often times crosses my mind!). But it’s so much more than just the breast milk at this point. When he was first born I didn’t have much support with breast feeding aside from my husband. Everyone around me tried to convince me that formula is so much easier and “you turned out fine.” Well, I didn’t want my son to possibly turn out “fine!” I wanted to give him the healthiest start I possibly could. I would never serve my child fast food, so why would I deprive him of a healthy, “home-cooked” meal, and give him a quick and easy bottle of formula instead? So despite how hard it was in the beginning, I pushed on constantly reminding myself that I was doing what I feel is the best for my child. It didn’t matter what anyone else had to say about it.
    The greatest part of extended nursing is that once he started getting older, I quickly realized breast feeding was even more important than just the nutrition provided from breast milk. My son and I have such a special, unspoken relationship. When he’s feeling under the weather, or just in a cranky mood, he finds such comfort cuddling with mommy and nursing. So many moms I connect with have such a difficult time with their baby or babies. I feel so sad when I hear about it because although it is much “easier” to use formula, in reality it’s actually harder. Our bodies were created to nourish and soothe our children. So doesn’t that mean our children are born craving that nourishment and comfort? I believe it is. I’m so passionate about nursing, that my long-term plan is to become a lactation consultant. I want to reach out to as many moms as I can to help them succeed with breast feeding.
    Now that I’m 3+ months pregnant, I receive SO much criticism for continuing to nurse my son. “How are you going to handle nursing 2 kids?” “You’re going to deprive your newborn of breast milk because your older child will be consuming a lot of it.” “What if your son resents the baby for nursing?” When I am bombarded with negativity surrounding my decision to tandem nurse, I go back and reread my favorite articles as well to remind myself why I am doing this. The most reassuring of all, however, is when I look down at my son while he is nursing and my heart smiles at how peaceful he is. :)

    • Christie

      I totally agree. Part of the needs of a child include skin contact, comfort, immune system support, and even comfort-nursing in the middle of the night as a part of natural rhythm.
      One of the things I’ve always said of people who breastfeed only for a short period of time or never can’t understand is that breastfeeding, especially into the toddler years, isn’t just about nutrition. It honest-to-god is an entirely different way to parent — the biologically designed way.

    • Emily says:

      I was heartened in reading this becouse my husband was unsupportive of breastfeeding when our son was first born. We did have a hard time and it took about four months for nursing to feel like a “natural” thing. I remember realizing one day that everything was just going smoothly. Now, my son is almost one and both my husband and I see no reason for him to stop nursing. I don’t know what magic people think happens at 1. My son is still such a little baby. I honestly can’t imagine not nursing him. I look forward to keeping it up as long as he needs. I know I will look back on this time and long for it someday much too zoo .

  5. Keri says:

    I nursed my second child for 30 months. I am still nursing my little girl and she is 20 months now. There are days I just want to get things done, but she makes me stop and relax for a few minutes so she can nurse. It helps me when I am stressed out to have to stop for her. I don\’t like the acrobatics and sometimes put her on the floor if she is going to play, but most of the time we like our bonding time.

    She just brought me her po, (pillow) so I guess it is time to stop and nurse her for a bit.

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