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Thread: No longer a balanced partnership...

  1. #1

    Default No longer a balanced partnership...

    Hello = )

    I am seeking guidance from bright, sensitive and not overly-opinionated mothers regarding an issue I am facing. It's that age old "human pacifier" dilemma and yes, please note I already know this term bothers some of the mamas on here. But when you're on our side of the coin, this description perfectly befits. I am a breastfeeding peer counselor; I wouldn't encourage this term with other mamas.

    My baby girl (sorry, I don't do the whole "DD" thing, being an English teacher an all!) is not exactly a baby anymore. She's just under 2 years old (and has her teeth) and this vampire thingie she does has been going on since birth.

    My older girl, now 5, was my champion nurser and still nurses occasionally but our child-led weaning has been a natural, healthy process that you might say is still wrapping up.

    My 22 month old came out of the womb with the same determination to qualify as an Olympic medalist nurser...until I started to pick up on something not quite holistic about our nursing relationship. She nursed all the time, right through teething and other growing pains. It's never really diminished. She is super sensitive and has an inability to self-soothe. Pacifiers and pumping: waste of money and complete bombs. And yes, this mama put her heart into it.

    If she feels insecure for any reason, if she and her sister tug-o-war over a toy or a snack, if I reprimand her for pulling the dog's tail....if I put her down and she still wanted to be carried, if I walk away for a moment and it makes her anxious....her reactions are excessive. She will fall to her knees in despair and cry bitter tears and then immediately come to claim her breast. Since birth, she has seldom shown an ability to find her own calming mechanisms. She has never cried herself to sleep unless you count crying for so long that 30 seconds of nursing to cap it off is what does the trick...but then you have to endure the crying for as long as you possibly can...and she will outlast your tolerance. She can tough it out for hours.

    A lot of people think it's "medical." If you have ever heard of a condition that seems like something could be wrong but vanishes the second I pick her up (being held and carried works too, but the second I sit down and get into a more relaxed position she's all over me), then please attach said medical term here. But I think she's just desperately sensitive, needy, insecure and unsure about this world. She also likes sensation-pleasing things, like warm water, food, massages etc. I believe she behaves with something akin to an addictive personality (even though we're a sober family with alcoholism being as far away as one great-grandfather). She also seems sort of anti-social. She has very few bonds outside of her parents, and even those are tentative and mood-dependent. She is very sweet and giggly but largely cranky, irritable and upset. She has seen endless chiropractic treatments and some reiki.

    I made a committment a few months ago that I was going to "stop struggling" with this and just nurse her whenever she needs it, as long as she needs it. And I would love her and stroke her hair and whisper to her. But that only seems to feed (pun) into it more. Even now as I write this, she was waiting for me to sit up so she could immediately ditch her play and come looking for my chest. She will do this all day long. She will watch and wait and the moment I sit down, the baby predator hones in on its prey! Sorry gals but ya gotta have a little humor when this is your reality 12+ hours a day!
    She will also thoroughly nurse both breasts, crying in frustration when she has drained them both completely (yes, I have a good supply, yes she will nurse for that long!)

    She's always been a great sleeper, falling alseep with me at the breat and co-sleeping at night. Don't need this department to change.

    But our relationship has changed, as she's older and eats meals (and boy does she love food!) and ever though we have many sweet and comforting nursing moments, the number of times she comes to me to be pushy and demand and cry insistently about it far outnumber. Mother-baby dance? More like mother jerked onto the dance floor against her will!

    Sometimes she will cry and if I push her away enough, she'll go play with her sister or something, but those are notable rare occasions that happen a couple times per week. Even my husband laughs when I finally hit my threshold and yell out "That's enough! Go do something else" and you hear her delatching like a plunger. He says "She looks like a little leech when she does that!" Sometimes she just detaches and wanders away, which I admit is kind of funny. But sometimes I push her away to declare my own space, and she throws herself onto the ground in bitter agony. Ever seen that scene in Braveheart where William Wallace collapses to his knees in utter defeat and betrayal? Yeah, she's get an Oscar, too.

    I just love her so much. She's my sweet little lovee. She's funny and intelligent and gives the sweetest baby kisses guaranteed to melt your heart. But this world just seems hard for her. Physically she's doing fine but there's this inner anxiety that superimposes everything. Mama's breast is the hieght of comfort, but sometimes I intuit that it's also her drug, her "fix." It doesn't always feels healthy and it doesn't feel like an evolving, natural dance relationship.

    This mama just wants to help her baby out. Any thoughts, o wise women?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default Re: No longer a balanced partnership...

    I think the key here is to remember that at not even 2 years old, your baby is still just a baby. The frustrating moments you're experiencing- they're just part and parcel of having a kid this age.

    Everyone talks about the "terrible twos", but no-one really explains what that means, and that is that your child will have increasing independence, willpower, physical strength, and mobility while simultaneously having a baby's need for physical connection and reassurance, and also a still-nascent understanding of other people's needs, desires, and feelings. Some kids are more dramatic and more demanding than others- it sounds like your first child has a more relaxed temperament, so this second kid comes as a surprise. Am I right? I am often glad that I had my first and very demanding child first, and my more relaxed second child second. If the order had been reversed, I think the increased level of need would have driven me over a cliff.

    Dealing with a kid who has a high level of need and whose need for connection will sometimes center on the nursing relationship is a challenge. The three things that will help are communication, distraction, and patience. You need to gently and firmly communicate that there are limits on nursing. This may mean that biting is not allowed, or that baby may nurse only in certain places or at certain times. If baby pushes that limit, then you try distracting her, you patiently comfort her when she throws a tantrum, and you continue to communicate the limit (e.g. "I'm sorry you are sad, but we are not nursing in the grocery store. Would you like to help me push the cart?").

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2009

    Default Re: No longer a balanced partnership...

    I agree with mommal. It sounds as if your baby girl is very different, temperamentally, from your older girl. I experienced a similar difference with my two sons, but in my case it was the oldest who was the most attached (by my side 24/7, no matter where we went, whether nursing or not, basically right up until starting Kindergarten.) I worried quite a bit about why he was who he was and about how he ever would function in the wider world. He is about to turn 10 now and...well, all I can say is my worries were unfounded. He is a wonderful boy- still prone to 'fussiness ' and a degree of excess worry and tension, but he is handling school, participation in an intense sport, and peer and family relationships beautifully. He is growing ever more independent while still enjoying a very close attachment to me and my husband.

    Maybe because he was the oldest of the tandem nursing pair, I quickly found I needed to set limits on nursing-the limits started when he was two, I was pregnant, and nursing was painful for me. They changed when he was three and I had his baby brother to nurse and nursing them both with the frequency of a newborn was too overwhelming. I was very happy to nurse my son when pregnant and to tandem nurse, but for my sanity limits needed to be set. And yes it is WAY easier to say "just set limits" than to actually do it! It is not like the child is going to react positively to limits. In my experience, they do not. It is hard. But I did find that limit setting was a positive thing in the long run for both of us.

    For the painful, too vigorous nursing, I asked my son to 'open wide' when latching, (and showed him how) and to 'nurse gentle' When he could not get the concept, I said 'nurse more slowly.' that, he understood.

    For limiting length of sessions, I gave a simple choice. For example, I told my son he could nurse for the time it took to sing one of two similar length songs, and he chose the song I sang. Or for the time it took to count to 10 dinosaurs or 10 trains, (he chose) or for count of 10 or 20 (sometimes he chose 5-he is much better at math now!)

    For limiting amount of sessions, I told my son he could nurse certain times of the day. (wake up, nap, bedtime- whatever works for you that your child can conceptualize.) 'Secretly' I knew I would nurse 'off schedule' when and if it worked for me.

    If a particular chair or position gets your daughter 'attacking, ' avoid the chair or position!

    While it was not easy, I found setting limits helped me nurse my son with more satisfaction and joy for us both. By being able to say 'yes and' or 'yes when' or 'yes, for this long,' I did not have to keep saying 'no' or gritting my teeth to get through a session. I could also once again offer to nurse happily. Maybe the quantity went down, but nursing quality time went up!

    These are all weaning techniques. But they need not lead to full on weaning - I get the impression you are not wanting that yet? My older son nursed until he was 5.

    BTW, how close is your older daughter to full on weaning, do you think? I wonder if no longer having to share this special bond with mom will help your baby daughter gain a little more perspective about nursing-see it as one of her special/favorite ‘activities.’ rather than the only special, favorite one!

    How often does dad take the girls for outings? Caring for two young children with no ‘me’ time is really tough. My husband would (and still does) take my boys off to do things for a few hours almost every weekend to give me a much needed break. Fun time with no mom around lets the child learn they can survive for short periods apart from mom and nursing.

    Medical issues? Addictive behavior? Anti social? I find those concerns a little extreme, while I do understand your being concerned….but (imo) a two year old requires no bonding beyond her own parents (or another regular day to day caregiver if there is one) and cannot be 'addicted' to nursing. Addictions are to things that are harmful or, at least, harmful in excess. Nursing is a healthy way to meet certain needs. The limits suggested are more for your happiness/comfort and the health of your relationship, not because I think there is any need to limit time at the breast for your child’s health.

    Have you ever read "Your Two Year Old" by Ames and Ilg? I personally have not, and I suspect it will discuss nursing little if at all. But their series of books on the normal range of behavior year to year has long been recommended in LLL circles. When I was struggling with my younger son’s behavior when he was 6, I found their book for 6 year olds very reassuring. I also suggest the book Mothering Your Nursing Toddler.
    Last edited by @llli*lllmeg; July 12th, 2013 at 12:09 PM. Reason: for clarity

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2011

    Default Re: No longer a balanced partnership...

    My son (20 months) is a nursing aficionado, too. Even now, I'd estimate he self-selects to be about 75% breastfed for nutrition.

    You might be relieved (or dismayed, depending on your perspective) to learn that inbound sensitivity and need for attachment are largely temperamental. This article might provide some perspective on the phenomenon that you're experiencing, called "overexcitability". It's really just due recognition for the fact that different people are more attuned to various environmental/psychological factors than others.


  5. #5

    Question Re: No longer a balanced partnership...

    Thanks so much for all 3 heartfelt replies. I read them over very carefully, and all were helpful. I guess some of my terminology was a bit extreme, but that's also how I see her nursing behaviour---as extreme. I guess I just don't know how to separate her very real needs as a baby from my projection of possible future adult behaviour.

    "communication, distraction, and patience"...if that's the key then I guess I'm on the right path. Just getting hopeful for a different outcome.

    She is definitely super sensitive, much beyond the norm for a kid. She is always crying and fussy. A reaction from friends and family might be "Hey, she's actually not crying right now!" and it's true that she's cranky much more than she's happy.
    One friend made a comment that was not as offensive like it definitely sounds, but while watching her doing her usual screams and tantrums she said..."Wow, that's a face that only a mother could love!" And the reminded me of what she probably seems like to others. 3 excellent baby-sitters quit on us in the span of 2 months, pushing me to leave my evening teaching job. She will cry for 6 hours. She won't self-soothe.

    She'll go play for a little bit then ditch what she's doing to come back looking for breast. All day long. She often wants to eat and nurse at the same time, read and nurse...do just about everything and nurse at the same time.

    I'm not interested in weaning right now. But unlike bottle-feeding, where a mother's goal is to wean as soon as she can, I am a believer in the mother-baby dance, which flows and changes just like the songs. Even with my older girl, we had to learn to change how we did things in public, or to wait longer, etc. But my baby girl seems interested in only 24-hour accesss. And she adores her daddy and will actually spend any length of time with him but as soon as she sees me she needs to nurse. Whether we have been together or apart, it just feels like she is more interested in the nursing bond than anything else with me. Her daddy can rock her or hold her until she falls asleep, but I can't. She demands the breast. He can show her trees and animals and cool things and she loves to check them out. When I show her the same things, she turns away from them and cries impatiently to nurse.

    Limit-setting has thus far been a bomb. "Setting firm limits" result in disturbing meltdowns which result in...nursing.

    I'm glad to hear than there are mamas who have come from similar places and who have the hindsight to realize worries were unfounded. It reminds me that no matter how extreme this feels, she's still 2 and not yet 3 or 4 or 5. Her life experiences are few; her talents have yet to emerge. I guess I can only continue to walk this road with her day by day.

    A story of hope, perhaps: we took her to a family party and there was a 21-yr old boy who saw her and made a deep internal connection. He said "She's hiding in there and no one can see her. I was the exact same kid." He got her to open up so completely she just followed him around like a puppy, sitting on his lap and giving him kisses, all of which was unheard of apart from myself and Daddy. She's not even that close with her sister. Maybe it takes the right kind of bonds to help bring her out of her shell...


  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default Re: No longer a balanced partnership...

    Mama, if you are this concerned about your LO's behavior, have you considered taking her in to the child psychologist for an evaluation?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Keepin' it weird

    Default Re: No longer a balanced partnership...

    I just have to say, you're an extremely patient woman! I think I would've run away and joined the circus were I in your shoes.

    I'm no doctor or psychologist, but it does sound to me like your little girl might have a sensory processing issue. Everything may be too bright, too sharp, too loud, too much for her to handle, and the breast is her solace. I second mommal's suggestion; if her behavior is extreme enough that it's concerning to you, an evaluation may put your mind at ease. Have you spoken with her pediatrician about your concerns?

    For what it's worth, if your gut is telling you there's something wrong, listen to it. You may have to push hard, but don't let it rest until you're truly satisfied with the answer.
    Breastfeeding, babywearing, sci-fi loving, total geek of a mom!

    Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind. — Dr. Seuss

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2012

    Default Re: No longer a balanced partnership...

    I've been thinking about your posts since I read them earlier in the day, and came back on here to suggest the same as mommal and froggylogic. I agree that temperaments are certainly different from one child to the next; but if you feel that your daughter's behavior goes beyond being a normal variant, no harm in at least exploring that possibility. The possible outcomes are: 1) her behavior is normal, if difficult, and you may learn some new coping techniques; or 2) her behavior isn't entirely normal, and may benefit from skilled intervention. Either way, you and your daughter stand to gain.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2011

    Thumbs up Re: No longer a balanced partnership...

    Tania, I would be curious to understand how the 21-year-old boy was able to connect to her. That seems like quite a breakthrough, from your description, and it might be worth trying to replicate some of the elements of that meeting in day-to-day life to see if your daughter can be comforted with a non-breast source occasionally.

    As someone who is emotionally, sensorially, and intellectually "overexcitable", I can assure you that the flip side of these behaviours in later childhood and adulthood is positive-- insight, passion, artistic sensitivity, courage, ability to form deep relationships, etc.

    By all means seek a consultation with a healthcare provider if you think something is amiss, but I'd also caution you to be wary of professionals who pathologise behaviours that are on the long tail of normal. Particularly for gifted children, SPD, ADHD, ASD, and other diagnoses are known to be confounded with early signs of intelligence. (http://videos.med.wisc.edu/videos/32540) If your daughter is showing any signs of being cognitively ahead, I would be be particularly mindful of the documented misdiagnosis bias. Naturally, you know your daughter best.

    Sending love your way. Hope you can find a satisfying resolution to this struggle soon! You're obviously a caring and compassionate mother, and I'm sure that your presence is a wonderful comfort to your girls, particularly your younger daughter.
    Last edited by @llli*alphawoman; July 12th, 2013 at 10:22 PM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2012

    Default Re: No longer a balanced partnership...

    I'm in agreement with alphawoman. Like her, both dh and I have very spirited temperments just like our ds so I have a lot of empathy for him. Reading the book Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka (parentchildhelp.com) was a breakthrough moment for me around ds's first birthday (re-read it last night for bedtime help!). The year before was a long, frustrating struggle to understand exactly why ds reacted to life the way he did. Everyone else had those easygoing type babies who didn't cry about anything. I had family members suggest autism at 6 mo because he had such an intense case of stranger anxiety. The book emphasizes ways to rethink traits in a positive manner. The disturbing meltdowns becomes extreme tenacity. You can be assured no one will push your daughter around as an adult!! There is also a mention of how good nursing is for these types of children. I am glad to see your day by day attitude in your second post. Ds also nurses with a greater frequency than most newborns. With each passing day, ds's language skills improve, which makes boundary setting so much easier.
    Like you, I quit my job after only 6 weeks back. The first night I went back, he stayed up until 6 am waiting for me to nurse him to sleep. He had been on a regular 8ish bedtime for months before that. And it never improved. He cried 6+ hours every night for dh. Family members refuse to be paid to watch him for even an hour because of the intensity of his meltdowns when I leave. I hold on to hope though as a few times when visiting g-ma, he's chosen to stay with her instead of us. It's not a nice planned out date for dh and I but an hour alone is always welcome!
    ah he's up. Have to finish later

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