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Thread: Breastfeeding and Independent Toddlers

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2010

    Default Breastfeeding and Independent Toddlers

    I had a friend visit with her nursing 3 year old daughter the other day. I have to say, I think she is the most dependent and clingy child I have ever seen...
    They were visiting for about 4 hours, and she asked to nurse about 20 times in that time. I'm not exaggerating. She was also getting really upset about my 18 month old pulling on her t-shirt, or wanting to take a toy she was playing with, or us suggesting she go outside in the yard to play with him. She also co-sleeps with her mom and nurses all through the night and refuses to sleep or nap without her, and cried herself sick the two days when they tried to go to daycare for a couple of hours.
    I always thought that nursing toddlers makes them more independent... I am sure there are different kids all over the spectrum, but honestly this sort of scared me a little bit... I am not planning on weaning mine until he is at least 2, and then I think it will happen naturally since we are planning on the second at that time, but... Can you please reassure me?
    First time mommy to a wonderful baby boy, Kai, 3/26/2010
    Birth Weight: 7lb 8oz
    1 month: 9lb 6oz
    3 months: 13lb 10oz
    6 months: 17lb 1oz
    9 months: 19lb 13oz
    12 months: 21lb

    We are , love to , cloth diapering that and taking him with us everywhere.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: Breastfeeding and Independent Toddle

    I don't think that nursing affects their temperament either way (although I do have a sense that early weaning can cause some security issues in some kids). I will offer you my real-life example, which is my nursing 3.5 year old. He was INCREDIBLY shy for the first year or so, wouldn't even let my mom touch him, even though we spent loads of time with her at least a couple of times a week, and she is truly a kid magnet. And nursing pretty much every 45-60 minutes around the clock, more often if he was in a social situation that made him nervous. I let him nurse on demand through his second year, and it stayed that frequent, although he began being more comfortable in social situations, warming up to interaction in about 30 minutes. By the time he was about 2.5, I was placing some limits on his public nursing (but still fully nursing on demand at home), but it was because I could see that he was not as uncomfortable in public. He was taking less time to warm up, was VERY chatty and engaged, and roaming farther from me. By the time he was three, he was no longer shy in public, although he still does need up to a half hour of warm-up time in new situations. But I figure that is to be expected since his dad and I are both shy people. Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is he grew out of it, and I think it was helpful for him to have the haven of my embrace to turn to as he learned to process it.

    ETA: I think the thing about nursing toddlers being more independent or confident is compared to themselves if they had been actively weaned earlier, not compared to other children.

    25 May 96 and 14 January 08 and 27 February 2012

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    Default Re: Breastfeeding and Independent Toddle

    I wonder if the independent (not ultra clingy, tantrumy) toddlers who are still breastfeeding are just not on the radar because they are not clingy. So if a hypothetical 85% of nursing toddlers are not the way OP describes, well you wouldn't hear about them anyway, you only hear the stories about the most annoying clingy toddlers, nursing or otherwise. It seems like if nursing isn't to blame then the storyteller comes up with something else (mom/dad does/doesn't spank/timeout/spend enough time with/spends too much time with/etc). When I talk about nursing LO with my mom she always brings up her stepgrandkid who is superclingy "He is always asking to nurse and throwing fits" etc etc. Implying that my extended nursing may in fact create such a toddler...but I've told her its just him, not the nursing. In fact the nursing calms him down from his clingyness from what she's told me. Also I doubt she knows/remembers about other nursing toddlers because they were the ones NOT making a scene,KWIM.

    eta: OP, I am not implying that you personally as a storyteller are coming up with anything to explain the behavior, just that I've seen that in general
    Last edited by @llli*oakdryad5; September 17th, 2011 at 05:44 PM. Reason: clarification
    Can't believe I've been and a full-time SAHM to Elena (5/2010) for over 2 yrs!
    Mami de mi preciosa Elenita
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default Re: Breastfeeding and Independent Toddle

    My first daughter nursed until age three, and was on the low end of the clinginess scale. I mean, she would sometimes get upset and cry when I left her at preschool, but about 5 minutes after I left she would be happy and playing with other kids. By 15 months she would go down the tallest slide at the park, the one some 3 year-olds were scared to climb. At age 5.5, she is very, very independent and barely shy at all, and not at all clingy. In fact, temperament-wise, the kid she is most similar to is one who was nursed for only a month.

    So, yeah, breastfeeding has nothing to do with it.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2010

    Default Re: Breastfeeding and Independent Toddle

    When my son was 18 months my mom said the nursing was making him so clingy but I tried to explain that is was normal all kids that age are clingy. And sure enough around 2 he started being more social and independent. Now he is 3 he goes to gymnastic class all by himself for 45 minutes. When I got to work during the day one of my sisters watches him, he always asks if he can go to work with me but when I say no he is so good and never even cries. Also my mom and my sisters just go on and on about how good he is and that he never makes a peep. They still like to attribute things to him nursing for example my mom has a pool so LO learned to swim independently this year does a great job but won't swim in the deep end because he's scared his cousins are older and they will My sister says I think I know why. Whatever, I just ignore her. I think all children are different and need different things I wonder what the child you are referring to would be like if she wasn't still nursing might be even more clingy.
    But be reassured not all nursing 3 year olds are like that. The only place my LO asks to nurse is as home and church ( becuase he knows we can go to the mother's lounge and so he can get out of the main service after the main service he goes to class all by himself and stays for 2 hours). So no not all nursing toddlers are like that.
    Did this for 9months with Kailey and Hailey
    who are now 8.

    weaned Dane somewhere around 3.5 no longer he likes to sleep with his sisters He's now 5

    Now I am , , My baby Cruz who is almost 6 months and my last baby

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Northern Cal.

    Default Re: Breastfeeding and Independent Toddle

    Some children are naturally more independent than others. It's possible that without nursing, this child would be exactly the same, or EVEN CLINGIER, who knows? And it also changes and goes through phases. Joe has always been on the clingy side, but lately he is Mr. Independent. I let him have his space, but he can always come back if he feels nervous. But anyway, I think it's all personality - nursing or not nursing might make a little difference, but not nearly as much as your child's temperament. In general, I think we parents take too much credit, and too much blame, for our children's personalities. Yes, you have an impact. But also, that's not all that's going on.

    You can call me JoMo!

    Mom to baby boy Joe, born 5/4/09 and breastfed for more than two and a half years, and baby girl Maggie, born 7/9/12.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2008

    Default Re: Breastfeeding and Independent Toddle

    Another mom here to say I nursed my DD until she was 3 yr 3 months. She's nothing like the one you describe. REally. I mean, the last time we NIP or nursed in front of anyone besides dad is when she was 2. After she turned 2 she really didn't ask outside the home. And she's never really been clingy like that when we are out.
    Proud mom of 2:
    DD 5/2008 nursed for 3 years and 3 months.
    DS born 8/2011 nursing like a champ

    Sorry for the short responses...always, always, always NAK or holding a baby

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2010

    Default Re: Breastfeeding and Independent Toddle

    I must say, my LO is 20 months and sounds exactly like the toddler you just described -- sometimes. But in general, I find it's more of a reflection of his overall temperament along with the setting we're in. When he's comfortable, that type of scenario would be very unlikely. But if it's a new place and/or new person, his need for comfort would definitely drive him to be that way. Also, from about 18 months onward, he has been becoming increasingly independent and interested in exploring new environments. So I am not worried about it one bit. Once he feels comfortable in his surroundings, he is hands down the most gregarious, charming one of any bunch.

    But I have to add... sometimes when I am in situations like the one you just described, I have felt judged pretty heavily by the other momma who is just oogling me and passing all sorts of unfair judgment on my choices of how to raise my child. I can understand your worry, but why does it automatically have to be something the mom did wrong that's causing the undesirable behavior?

    Hands down, I'm SO done to figure out other momma's mistakes ... I have enough to keep me busy at home!
    In His Love, Rosie

    Graicen Wynter
    1-6-10 at 11:48pm
    7 lb. 12 oz

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2011

    Default Re: Breastfeeding and Independent Toddle

    Agree (of course! ) that this is general temperament, and nothing to do with the breastfeeding.

    Wanted to add, though, that it's okay to start introducing "nursing manners" when you need to, based on your unique situation. My LO is one month to the day older than yours, OP. We stopped nursing on demand at Grandma's house several months ago to keep the family peace. If it's naptime or another dire situation, we will go to a quiet room and nurse. We also don't NIP in public in general very often any more, just because I find the toddler gymnastics so embarrassing.

    In addition, Happy Toddler gets lots of time with Daddy--and away from me--on Daddy's days off, and she doesn't mind being away from her "snuggle-snacks" at all.

    So, yes, the clinginess is SO not the breastfeeding! But at the same time, there are little things you can do to help encourage the independence and the weaning transition.
    Mama Jen

    Mom to:
    Happy Toddler, 19 months, still bfeeding
    Late Son, passed at age 8, bfed 5 months
    Daughter the Elder, age 19 yrs, bfed for 22 months

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