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Thread: Setting limits on nursing for a 13-month old

  1. #1
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    Default Setting limits on nursing for a 13-month old

    My DS has always nursed on demand. I work, so during the day he gets milk in a sippy cup, but when I'm home he nurses whenever he wants. He's 13 months, eats solids really well and has no problem with the cow's milk when I'm not home.

    The problem is that now he wants to nurse constantly when I am home, and I'm getting a little annoyed! It's also how he "asks" - which in reality is just that he dives for the boobs if I'm holding him and roots around in my shirt with his hands if he can reach it. It was cute at 10 months, not so much anymore.

    It's especially bad in the early morning hours -- between 4 and 6am he wants to live in my nightshirt (we co-sleep), and he'll throw the pacifier away if I try to replace my boob with it after I think he's nursed a good amount. At that time of day I just really want to get a couple more hours of sleep and he won't let me (I can lightly doze while he nurses but it's not really sleep).

    So how can I set some limits on this constant nursing and touching my breasts? Without disrupting the nursing relationship completely, b/c I don't want to wean at all, I just want some more control over how often. He doesn't say any words yet, but he does understand "no" pretty well when we warn him away from something dangerous.

    I'd also be curious about folks general strategies for dealing with this transitional stage between baby and toddler. The parenting books I've seen all deal with kids 2 and up and assume you can use language effectively to communicate, and I just don't know how much he understands yet - he's a little behind the curve in social skills.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Setting limits on nursing for a 13-month old

    At this age I think it's all about patience and consistency. Like you said, he's always had free access so it's going to take some time and clear messages from you to get him in the habit of nursing manners. And it still is pretty young for him to really grasp, so definitely start now but don't expect immediate results.

    Does he have his one year molars already? That could be part of the issue with the early morning nursing- he might actually be in pain and needing the hormones he gets from nursing to soothe it. If that's not the case then you can either try letting him nurse but telling him only for a minute, then unlatching him or telling him no nursing until the sun comes up (or whatever limit you want to set). The problem with both of those approaches is that either way you're going to go through a period (possibly a long one at this age) where you are going to get LESS sleep enforcing your limit before he starts to understand and settles into the new routine. You might check out Dr. Jay Gordon's nightweaning method for more specifics on how to put that into practice. I know you aren't nightweaning exactly, but his method is geared toward cosleepers looking for a longer stretch of sleep at night after their kids have turned one so it might be useful.

    During the day it's a little easier. Like I said it's mainly about consistency. Just like you'd teach him to say please when asking for anything else, you can teach him to 'ask nicely' to nurse. Depending on where he is verbally you can have it be one word or a question or even a hand sign, but if you consistently correct him when he dives for your breast, stop him and say the word or use the sign, try to get him to mimic you, and then nurse him he will eventually pick up on the new routine and he'll start to be better about asking. Again, like any new lesson it's just a matter of being consistent and setting your expectations to a reasonable level given your child's abilities (which you know best).

    Again, the frequent nursing could be developmental. Maybe he's getting molars, maybe having a growth spurt. How long has it been going on? Some ways to put him off gently and try to get him to wait might be offering an alternative snack or drink, offering an activity you know he likes- basically distracting him for the moment. I found it best with my daughter if I didn't actually use the word no. I'd say things like "yes you can nurse when I'm finished making dinner" or "yes you can nurse when we get home." So I was putting her off without actually refusing her. And then I tried whenever possible to follow through and nurse when I said we would.
    “We are not put on earth for ourselves, but are placed here for each other. If you are there always for others, then in time of need, someone will be there for you.”
    --Anonymous

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Setting limits on nursing for a 13-month old

    Terrific advice from the PP. Just wanted to add that restrictive nighttime clothes can be useful- if baby can't easily gain access to the cookie jar, he might be a bit more inclined to give up.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Setting limits on nursing for a 13-month old

    Ds would pull my shirt down in public at that age. I taught him the sign for milk (making a fist and squeezing repeatedly, as if milking a cow). It takes several weeks for that age group to learn and use a sign themselves but it's been so helpful once he did. I'll also tell him we can only nurse for as long as it takes to read a book or sing 'twinkle,twinkle'. Then I pick him up and move him to another area to distract him.

    The nighttime question is harder. I do like Dr. Gordon's method but haven't tried it yet. We have molars coming in so the timing is just not right. Have you tried any pain meds for him? It's worth a shot. We also went through a couple week long patches of constant night nursing. I was a basketcase but kept repeating 'this too shall pass.' And when it did, he made huge jumps in his verbal skills.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Setting limits on nursing for a 13-month old

    Thanks, this advice is helpful.

    Regarding teeth, he's definitely teething right now (front teeth actually, he's a late late teether, too! Sooo not looking forward to molars... ). But usually we can tell when his teeth are bothering him - he latches then unlatches and cries and it's just a whole cycle. We give him Tylenol when that happens. The early-morning nursing seems unrelated. More like he's kinda awake but not really ready to be up (and neither are we). I may let this slide for now and look into night-weaning a la Dr. Gordon in a few months.

    I'd believe something developmental, it's been going on for a few weeks now. I know he misses me when I'm not there and this is one way of re-connecting. But I nurse when I enter a room and then 5 minutes later and then 5 minutes later....

    I'll definitely use some of your suggestions and try to teach him to sign for nurse instead of just digging the boob out! Thanks again!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Setting limits on nursing for a 13-month old

    If you do the hand sign for 'milk' it works really well to also show him the sign when you feel your milk let down so he connects the sign with the actual substance. And say the word out loud when you do the sign so even if he can't talk yet he'll recognize the word when you say it.
    “We are not put on earth for ourselves, but are placed here for each other. If you are there always for others, then in time of need, someone will be there for you.”
    --Anonymous

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