Obsessively nursing toddler -- help!
June 17, 2015 11:09 AM   Subscribe

My daughter is almost 16 months old and is nursing ALL THE TIME. Help!

My daughter has been a champ at nursing from the start; at birth, she latched on and hasn't really let go. That's been okay with me for a long time. She also took the bottle and was in childcare three days a week. Now I'm home with her a lot more, and if I'm home and sitting down, she always wants to nurse.

We started "night-weaning" recently -- which basically has meant I don't nurse her to sleep, and only my husband goes in to comfort her. We're hoping once she realizes she won't get me or the milk, she'll sleep through the night. It's gotten better, but he's still getting up 2-3 times a night. I know we could do sleep training but 1) we tried it a few times, and it only took once -- and then I didn't know you have to do it after every teething, move, vacation, etc. -- I can't bear that much crying and 2) we don't have a living situation that could support that much crying --- our neighbors would freak.

What can I do? If I refuse to nurse, she freaks out BIG TIME. Perhaps I should just bear it, but it is so sad. I think she's using the breast the same way other kids use a blankie or a teddy -- as a comfort and safe object -- and taking that away from her feels mean (I would never take away a blankie, for example.) But I really need for her to cut back. I'm happy to nurse mornings and nights for as long as she likes, but I really, really can't do this daytime nursing. She no longer takes the bottle (well, I won't give her one), and she drinks OK from a cup, but not heartily (I doubt she's getting enough liquids from the cup alone for her level of activity.) And for reasons beyond our control, there are often changes in her life -- we're living somewhere temporarily for the summer, with a temporary nanny, etc. -- that may mean she needs more comfort than usual.

That said, our current situation is untenable. Any thoughts on what I can do to ease the transition?
posted by EtTuHealy to Human Relations (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you won't give her a bottle, and she doesn't drink well enough from a cup to be hydrated for her level of activity, it doesn't seem too surprising that she wants to nurse all the time in heat and activity of the daytime.

Probably some of it is comfort, but give her enough to drink first and see if she nurses less.
posted by sputzie at 11:16 AM on June 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

"I think she's using the breast the same way other kids use a blankie or a teddy -- as a comfort and safe object -- and taking that away from her feels mean (I would never take away a blankie, for example.) But I really need for her to cut back."

You are not a blankie, you are an autonomous human being, and your needs are valid. I understand SHE doesn't understand this, but you do not need to feel guilty.

When you say she's not a great cup-drinker, are you using sippy cups? Have you tried a few different tippy cups with different tops? Or, for water, we had really good luck with the Sigg Water Bottle with Kids Cap, which "sucks" like a bottle (no straw inside -- they tip it up like a bottle) and has no weird valve in the mouthpiece and locks down to prevent leaks by twisting. We got it specifically so our recently-weaned, outdoor-loving little one could have water available while we were hiking and things, and it's sturdy enough to still be in service four years later. Maybe you could give water by the water bottle and milk by cup?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:26 AM on June 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

We started "night-weaning" recently

This is why she wants to nurse more during the day. She's reminding herself that mommy is still here and still loves her and nothing is horribly wrong. The child wanting to ramp up nursing at other times of day during the weaning process is normal and to be expected. That doesn't make it easier to live through, just... understandable.

If I were you, I'd try to soldier through juusssst a few weeks more until it looks like night weaning has become routine and everyone is cool with it, and then try to redirect her to snuggles or stories or other playtime with you during the day. That way she's still getting that feeling of affection and time from you -- and especially right now when she might be a little less sure of you because she's not getting nighttime mommy anymore -- but you're not feeling like somebody is pawing at you *all the damn time.*

If you're ready to just stop nursing completely, then it's a lot easier on the kid if you explain what's happening and make it gradual instead of going cold-turkey. "Today we are only going to have milk together at breakfast and then at dinnertime, OK? Two times only." And then a very sympathetic, "I know, I'm sorry, I know you want milk right now, but it's not time until dinner." Or whatever works for your schedule.

The ten-day business trip away works real well, too, but it's not really an easy way to manage it for anybody. Weaning is hard, it really is, but don't feel bad. Every kid has to stop nursing sooner or later!
posted by Andrhia at 11:44 AM on June 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

My 16-month-old was like this and he'd been nightweaned since before he turned 1, so I'd be careful about assuming the two are related. They could be, or it might be just a coincidence. In general, right around 15 or 16 months was when my toddler really seemed to understand that he could ask for things and get them and just generally assert his will, and got VERY UPSET if he didn't get what he wanted. It was hard for me to break the mindset of nursing on demand that I had internalized during newborn- and early infant-hood, but I felt like this was the point that more generally we were shifting towards not feeding him except at defined mealtimes or snacktimes and I came to see nursing as an extension of that.

I started telling him "No, it's not time for that right now," and re-directing him to a water bottle and/or a book that I'd offer to read, and the vast majority of the time that has worked. Both the clear "no" along with an alternative activity (or beverage, if I think he's thirsty) has been important in preventing his annoyance at being refused from escalating into a full tantrum. If you feel like you need more of a reason to offer when saying no, a friend of mine had success with telling her daughter around this age that "Mommy needs more time to make milk, she doesn't have any right now" as a way to explain why she was limiting nursing to twice a day.

Also my son at 18 months still can't get a ton of liquid from a cup, but will drink heartily from a straw cup. Maybe try some different non-bottle methods of offering liquid, and offering a mix of milk and water?
posted by iminurmefi at 12:01 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Are you done nursing?
posted by k8t at 12:48 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

If your kid has trouble with a sippy cup, I heartily endorse the Take & Toss straw cups. We had to switch to those at 16 months after Nanopanda started aspirating liquids and was banned from using sippy cups. They're dirt cheap, durable enough to last awhile, not perfectly spill proof but keep messes to a minimum if you're even vaguely paying attention to the kid.

And they're MUCH MUCH easier to drink from than anything with a valve.
posted by telepanda at 2:18 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

When you are done nursing, she will hear it in the tone of your voice when you say, "no. No booby right now."
Shower her in snuggles and love. Offer distractions or drinks, depending on what you think she needs.
There is no way to avoid her crying the first three days or so. Be consistent and loving. It will pass.
You are now teaching her that life is okay without the boob, that mommy loves her with or without breastfeeding and that everything will be okay again because mommy promised it would be.
This is all very necessary!

Don't feel guilty! Consider that reluctant, resentful nursing will damage your relationship way more than her brief shock of having to make fo without the boob.

(Mom of 18 month old who is in equal parts a loud shrieker and a fast learner. Contrary to you, we nurse before bedtime only. Because we like it that way!)
posted by Omnomnom at 2:20 PM on June 17, 2015

Well, in terms of human evolution, the teddies and blankets are replacements for mama and milk, not the other way around. You really are the main source of comfort, especially in what you admit is a chaotic time right now.

Some gentle parenting sites I frequent suggest that 18 months is an easier age to night wean as they understand more about what is going on and what you say. Would that be possible to wait a bit longer til then? They also tend to say that sleeping through the night is a developmental thing, too, and that night weaning does not necessarily mean sleeping through the night. So that is something to consider, too.

The Thinkster straw cup is a winner at our house. Easy to drink out of, easy to hold, and the closing cap and slitted straw end make spills much less likely. We offer water at every meal with the cup right next to them.

16 months tends to mean that they can get distracted more easily. Can you go out on walks and outings? This can help get kiddo out of her "nurse all the time" cycle during the day and give mama a break, too.

I'm sorry you are having such an intense time right now. It sounds like life is up in the air for you, too! Are you able to get your own self care right now? I find it easier to deal with those extra needy toddler times when I've had time to myself to do my own thing. Put on your own oxygen mask first, and all that.

Take care, mama. These kiddos sure take a lot of work, don't they?
posted by jillithd at 6:45 PM on June 17, 2015

Thinking more on it, my kiddo was very change averse at 16 months. That was when he moved from the infant room to the toddler room at daycare. We really screwed up the gentle transition by taking the whole week before off on vacation to Florida. He was unhappy and extra clingy for weeks!

One other thing I thought of is, has your cycle returned yet? I've found my patience for toddlers is SIGNIFICANTLY reduced just before my cycle. This also coincides with a noticeable decrease in my supply, which causes the kiddo to nurse more, which makes me even more frustrated. Could that be aggravating the issue, too?
posted by jillithd at 7:33 PM on June 17, 2015

This may be a terrible suggestion, but a I knew a mother who was desperate to stop her daughter from nursing at 2.5 years old. After months of exhausting every other option, she finally put a dab of Tabasco sauce on her nipples. Her daughter was very confused at first, but it worked.
posted by onecircleaday at 7:38 PM on June 17, 2015

Tupperware also makes a sippy cup without a valve in the lid, out of heavier stuff than the take n toss. Safe-for-babies plastic, and while they're expensive they will last FOREVER and can be used as just plain cups without lids too. (My mother owned a previous incarnation 30 years ago and they were still beating around the cupboards when I was 18, having survived four kids.) They are not spill-PROOF but the lid is a decent transition between bottles and cups (as opposed to tricky valve tops), and keeps ALL the milk from ending up on the floor.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:42 PM on June 17, 2015

I still use this Nuk Learner cup for my 2 year old daughter, she is always asking for her "froggie bottle." It has no valve but the holes in the sippy part are tiny, so if it tips over it doesn't spill much at all.

I also like this Pura Kiki Sippy Bottle if you, like me, are interested in avoiding plastic products.

It sounds like there's a lot going on in her life right now... even though you are night weaning, couldn't you still nurse at bedtime? I sleep trained my daughter way back when she was 4 months old, but continued to feed her at bedtime, and I do the same for my son right now. As long as she knows how to put herself to sleep when she wakes up during the night.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:31 PM on June 17, 2015

I am still nursing my 24 month old but to get both my kids to sleep through the night I had to night wean them. Very similar process as you are going through but we found that using A BOTTLE WAS KEY. It seems crazy because everyone is all "you shouldn't use bottles after 1" but I like to think that does not apply to us nursers. After so many months of the boob there is no way she's going to become attached the the bottle the same way. Think of it as a crutch to get you through the next 2-3 months. I promise you it will be easy for your little one to ditch. What I suggest is Daddy (or non lactating parent type) do the bed time and offer a bottle of whole milk. During night time wakings Daddy goes in and only offers a cold bottle of milk. it didn't take long 1-2 weeks max before the kiddos learned that this wasn't much fun and gave up the night wakings.

To make it easier we put a bottle of milk in a little cooler with an ice pack and put it in the kids room. That way there was no running around in the night. Also Daddy slept on a mattress in the kiddos room for the first week cause he found it easier to just be able to shush the toddler as soon as they stirred. I think having Daddy there also made it super clear to our kids that MOMMY WAS NOT COMING. We offered a bottle of milk for a couple months at bedtime, then a sippy cup of milk for a month then a little Dixie cup of water at teeth brushing since.
posted by saradarlin at 10:28 PM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

How's her eating? My daughter nursed like this and virtually refused solid food. It turned out she had a bizarre set of dietary intolerances that made a lot of the foods I was feeding her really painful to eat. If she's also turning down solids, that might be an avenue to investigate.
posted by KathrynT at 10:57 AM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

« Older My iPhone is now a nibblefest for fish. What to do...   |   What does Rick Perry gain from running for... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.