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Thread: 16 month old, lots of comfort nursing?

  1. #1
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    Default 16 month old, lots of comfort nursing?

    So, I posted about a month ago about how my 16 month old DS has majorly ramped up his nursing as of late. He's in the process of getting his one-year molars, and I'm sure that's part of it. He can stay mostly on the boob for hours at a time, if he has his way--I can think of a day last week that he was mostly on the boob for about 3 or 4 hours straight in the morning, and then two days ago when we were flying cross-country, he was nursing nearly non-stop the whole plane ride (5 hours), which I allowed because it was the only way to get him to sleep and it was a nighttime flight. He'll get off the boob and play for a minute or two but then he wants right back on. I can't even fasten my bra and pull my shirt down before he's looking to nurse again.

    I guess I'm just wondering if it's normal for him to want to nurse SO MUCH at this age? I'm a little worried that nursing seems to be the main way I have of comforting him. Shouldn't we be developing other comfort mechanisms at this age? He can be comforted by Daddy or his grandma without nursing (obviously) so he accepts other forms of comfort from other people, but from me, it's always nursing he wants. Occasionally I can just give him a hug or rock him when he's upset or tired, but usually he wants to nurse. It just seems like at this point he shouldn't be using the boob so much as a crutch and I should be able to comfort him in other ways. I am worried that I'm holding his development back by not encouraging him to seek comfort from me in other ways, and also it just really wears me out psychologically to nurse him for hours on end, unable to get up and pee, unable to eat, etc. He's usually a very happy kiddo but he's also emotionally intense. When he's upset about anything, he is REALLY upset and doesn't calm down easily (except with nursing, that calms him right away). He can be pretty fussy and clingy at times, but that's usually related to being hungry or overtired, or not seeing much of me for a few days because I'm working more than usual, or changes in his routine (visitors, traveling, etc.). I don't think he's insecure and that's why he needs to nurse all the time. I guess I'm just wondering how I transition him to accepting other forms of comfort besides nursing? I don't mind nursing for comfort when he's tired, hurt, etc. but these hours-long marathons are getting old, and I worry that it's not even good for him.

    Thanks in advance for any help or input. Maybe I'm worrying over nothing and this is normal, I would love to hear from mothers of older children if your kids were like this as young toddlers and if they grew out of it on their own or how you helped them. I just don't want to be stuck non-stop nursing a 2 or 3 year old who can't be comforted in any other way.
    First-time mama to Joshua, 10/29/11. 29 months and going strong! for 14 months; now finished with pump weaning!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2006
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    Default Re: 16 month old, lots of comfort nursing?

    The behavior you describe is normal. Intense and frustrating, but normal. I know that at 16 months, your baby seems like such a grown-up toddler in many ways, but trust me: 16 months is still basically a baby. Your LO still really needs to nurse, both for nutrition and for comfort, and there's nothing wrong with using the breast as a parenting tool.

    At this point, the only thing I would suggest working on is making sure your LO accepts reasonable limits on nursing. 3 straight hours of nursing is just going to wear you out, so your LO has to accept that when you give notice, the nursing session needs to pause. With my kids, I've always done the "I will count until 10, and then it's time to stop nursing/go play/read a book/ put on shoes/whatever".
    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!"

  3. #3
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    Default Re: 16 month old, lots of comfort nursing?

    Thanks mommal. We seem to have a new problem now--my DH is getting upset that DS still nurses so much and has been saying how he 'can't wait for him to wean' I've told DH that I am not willing to actively wean DS yet, and he accepts this (I think he realizes it's not up to him) but he at minimum wants me to start setting limits with DS and nursing. The thing that seems to upset him most is when DS refuses to eat dinner with us, and wants to get out of his high chair and nurse at the table. This behavior really upsets DH and he blames me for allowing it. He really wants us to eat family dinners but often what happens is its already near bedtime when we sit down for dinner, so DS is tired and doesnt want to eat, and cries to come to me, so i eventually take him out of the high chair and nurse him at the table while eating dinner one-handed. We had a blowup followed by a discussion the other night which ended in me agreeing to leave DS in the high chair for 3 minutes after he starts to fuss while DH tries to get him to eat, and agreeing that if I remove him from his high chair I will not nurse him at the table but will take him to the couch, to try to break the mealtime=nursing association DS seems to have. Now, my opinion onDS's dinner time behavior is that he doesn't eat because 1)he's overtired and 2) DH pushes him too hard to eat and it's becoming a battle of wills. What do I do? I would prefer not to nurse at the table, but I absolutely want to keep nursing on demand at other times. Most of all, I'd like DH to go back to being supportive of me nursing rather than grudging. He's always been supportive until now, and I don't want to cause a problem, but I really don't want to wean yet. DS loves nursing and it would break his heart if I just took it away. I won't do that, regardless of what DH thinks.
    First-time mama to Joshua, 10/29/11. 29 months and going strong! for 14 months; now finished with pump weaning!

  4. #4
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    Oct 2012
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    Default Re: 16 month old, lots of comfort nursing?

    I think you can put limits on nursing while still meeting your son's needs. I look at it this way: mammals in the wild sometimes find that they need to interrupt a nursing session to grab food or avoid being someone else's food (or pee), so they wiggle their babies off the breast, do what they've got to do, and after that the babies carry on nursing. I think that delaying a baby by a few minutes because you need to pee or eat is still feeding on demand listening to your baby. I think that you can consider waiting to nurse until you've finished your meal so that at least you've got both hands available to eat with, if that is easier for you. You can talk to your son about what you're doing and when you'll be ready to nurse.
    The three minutes idea sounds kind of like an arbitrary limit to nursing, though, and sounds like it might just stress everyone out. Would your husband be happier about dinnertime if you told him you wouldn't interrupt your meal to nurse but you want him to not push your son to eat more than he wants to in exchange?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: 16 month old, lots of comfort nursing?

    I'm sorry your DH is being so ridiculous, Mama. That sounds rotten. Disagreements over parenting are some of the hardest ones a couple can face. (Ask me how I know. )

    At this point, it sounds like you have more of a husband problem than a baby problem. Your baby is displaying completely reasonable, completely normal toddler behavior. If it makes you- and perhaps your husband- feel better, let me describe dinners with my kids when they were that age. We'd sit down for dinner, put the baby in the high chair, and some days she would sit and play and eat, and other days she would scream bloody blue murder until she was released from the awful prison of the highchair, at which point she would insist on sitting on someone's lap. If she sat on my lap, she would inevitably nurse. And then toddle off to gnaw on a board book or get into some other form of trouble. My 7 year-old now has excellent table manners, and is an engaging and engaged dinner companion. The 3 year-old... Well, we're working on it. Most of the time she's great, but dinner with her still involves some unreasonable demands (e.g. "I want a blue plate, not a yellow one! Waaah!"), a considerable mess, and a chance that she will bite her tongue, fall off her chair, spill juice down her dress, etc.

    At this point, I think you choose a calm time of day (like after your LO is asleep, on a night when you're not both stressed out), and ask your DH for some more explanation on what is troubling him about your LO's eating and nursing habits. Why is your DH so upset that your LO wants to nurse at the table? What about that particular behavior troubles him? Does he feel that when your DS is nursing, you are not having a "family dinner"? Does the baby have to be in his highchair in order for a "family dinner" to be taking place? Can your DH think of a way that you, the mom, can meet your child's needs while also getting a shot at a hot dinner? Does your DH feel that there's a battle of wills developing between him and the baby over dinner?

    Once you've listened patiently to his explanations, without trying to get into an argument over why he's wrong, then you pause for a moment, thank him for explaining, and affirm that it's understandable that he's frustrated and you really want to work with him on making dinners better for everyone. Then, once your DH feels like you care, you present your non-negotiables. For me, those would be things like "You don't need to support me when it comes to nursing, but you do absolutely need to avoid saying things like 'I can't wait until he weans'."
    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!"

  6. #6
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    Default Re: 16 month old, lots of comfort nursing?

    Thanks for the advice, LLLadies. Mommal, I appreciate the description of dinnertime at your house when your kids were my son's age. I told my DH that I'd been 'talking' to the ladies on the LLL boards, and they said this was normal, and that actually did seem to make him feel better. He said that 'sometimes it's hard to remember what a little guy he is, still'. I think we look at him and he seems so big so we expect more 'grown-up' behavior than is really realistic, especially my husband who always seems to want DS to grow up faster. He is comparing DS to formula-fed kids, or kids who were weaned right at a year, and so of course they eat more solids than DS does because they have no other choice. I also pointed out to DH that DS actually IS eating quite a bit of solids, since he only eats solids during the day while we're at work; it just doesn't happen as much when we're around to see it. But his diet is probably 50% solids, I would guess. Nursing is still his favorite and since he is only able to nurse when I'm around, mornings and evenings, when I'm around he nurses A LOT.

    I was also able to bring up that I think part of the problem is that dinner is getting to be a power struggle and DH agrees with me on this, and that we don't want it to be a power struggle. We've agreed that DS doesn't have to eat if he doesn't want to (we can't make him, anyway, and I think it's counterproductive to coax too much or pay too much attention to what he is/isn't eating). I also pointed out that maybe DS doesn't want to nurse so much as he wants to get out of his high chair and play. We've been keeping him in there all through dinner (only 15 minutes or so, but could seem like forever to a toddler) to the point where now he starts crying when I try to put him in there. We certainly don't want dinner to be an unhappy time for him. That's the last thing we want. So, we're going to try letting him out of his high chair as soon as he indicates he doesn't want to be in there, but making him wait until I'm done eating my dinner before nursing. I feel like this is a reasonable compromise. I mean, I really would prefer not to have to nurse him at the table every night, and since he is nursed the moment he asks the rest of the time I think it's reasonable to make him wait a few minutes while I eat. His language skills are probably just about at the point where he will understand if I tell him we can't nurse until I'm done eating. If he doesn't quite get it now, he will in a month or so.

    Talk about weaning has subsided for now. I've noticed DH gets on 'kicks' about this where he is tired of me nursing or something about the nursing pattern is bothering him and then he's all about weaning, then when things are going smoothly again he stops talking about it. He's explicitly said he's ok with DS still nursing, just not at the dinner table, so that's good

    Thanks again for the advice, ladies. It makes a world of difference to be able to come here, since I don't know anybody else who's still nursing their kids at this age, and it presents its own unique issues (how they go to sleep, how much solids they're eating, how they're comforted, etc.). I find nursing my toddler to be totally rewarding, but mothering a nursing toddler is a bit different than a non-nursing toddler, and it's just nice to be able to come here, compare experiences, and commiserate.
    First-time mama to Joshua, 10/29/11. 29 months and going strong! for 14 months; now finished with pump weaning!

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