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Thread: Nursing on demand with a 21 month old?

  1. #1
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    Default Nursing on demand with a 21 month old?

    My son is 21 months, and we still nurse on demand. I work, but when I'm home, the 'demand' can be a lot! Some days, it is nearly non-stop--as last week, when we were on vacation visiting my parents in a different state. I think he was nursing more there for comfort, because we were out of our usual environment. Normally, it's maybe 2-3 times in the morning before I leave for work, 2-4 times in the evening, and maybe once overnight.

    I'm just wondering if it's weird or in any way detrimental for him to still be nursing so much at this age? I know a lot of mamas here have nursed their toddlers, even to older ages, but it seems like in most cases, the toddlers are only nursing a couple of times per day by my son's age. I'm quite happy with our nursing relationship and so is my son, it just seems like it's unusual to still nurse so much at his age.

    I'm probably going to let him self-wean (though it depends--if he gets to be 3 or 3.5 and is showing no signs of weaning, I might nudge him a bit). However, I'm just not seeing how we're making any progress towards weaning given that we're still nursing 5-8 times per day? Will he really reduce the frequency on his own, eventually? I prefer not to deny him when he wants to nurse, but I can't see keeping up nursing at this frequency as he approaches age 3 or older. Maybe once or twice a day, but not non-stop. If nothing else, I don't know how to handle the comments from my family and I don't like having to seclude myself in a separate room for a large part of our visits because DS wants to nurse all the time!

    I'm also unsure if it's still developmentally appropriate that nursing is his primary form of comfort (at least from me). Sometimes cuddles suffice, but a lot of the time he really wants to nurse. Also not sure how I'm going to get him to sleep once he's eventually weaned, seeing as nursing to sleep is the only way he's ever known.

    He's growing beautifully, eats solid foods well, is around the 50th percentile for both height and weight, and is meeting or surpassing all developmental milestones.
    First-time mama to Joshua, 10/29/11. 29 months and going strong! for 14 months; now finished with pump weaning!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Nursing on demand with a 21 month old?

    Not weird, not detrimental. Not even that unusual. At 21 months, my kids were generally nursing at least 3-5 times a day and once overnight. And of course any time they had a boo-boo or a tantrum or were feeling anxious, they threw in additional nursing sessions. I am sure the nursing is a little more concentrated in your case because your toddler is using it as part of his "connect/reconnect with mommy" strategy, centered around your departure to work and arrival home from work.

    One of the best lessons I've learned as a mom is "don't borrow trouble from the future". If worrying about high nursing frequency at age 3 is causing you to doubt your mothering strategy now, when your child isn't even 2, then you're borrowing trouble. There is a LOT of change coming in the next year or so, and I am willing to bet that your child's nursing frequency is going to continue to drop as time goes on. It's going to drop even if you do absolutely nothing.

    One thing that does sound like a problem now is that you feel like you have to go and hide in order to nurse. At 21 months, you can either get comfortable with nursing in public or you can tell your LO to wait. Enforcing good nursing manners is part of the key to nursing a toddler.

    Don't let your family's comments get to you. If someone does have a comment, there are a lot of approaches you can take, including:
    "Thank you for your concern, but we're fine. Next topic!"
    "Wow, Aunt Gertie, you seem awfully interested in what I do with my breasts. Not sure it's your business, though. Next topic!"
    "My pediatrician is thrilled that we're continuing to nurse."
    "You seem every interested in extended nursing. Meow about I print out some literature for you to read?"
    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: Nursing on demand with a 21 month old?

    This sounds about like what my 20 month old was doing, except most of the nursing was overnight, when I got pregnant again (which is when I hit my breaking point). Despite this intense amount of nursing, I weaned him easily and gradually over the next 4 months as I got more pregnant and my milk dried up, with really basically no problem. So yeah, I totally agree with Mommal about not borrowing trouble - make things work for your life right now, and then keep reevaluating at every stage, is this still working for us? Rather than assuming that intense nursing now means *anything* about how it'll be a month from now.
    DS1 6/7/11
    DS2 10/29/13

    Nursing, pumping, cloth-diapering, babywearing, working professor mama with the awesomest SAHD ever.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Nursing on demand with a 21 month old?

    I'm in exactly the same boat frequency-wise. DS still nurses about 8x during waking hours, then another 3-4 overnight. He's 21mo. This past week frequency has been up as much as 20x/day...no joke...thanks to what I suspect is a final round of teething. It's intense, but extremely short lived, so I'm choosing to go with the flow. In my off -teething time, I'm seizing the opportunity to be a mighty lactivist.

    You know you're a lactivist when...you feel as comfortable exposing your breasts while nursing as your face when in public, haha
    Last edited by @llli*alphawoman; August 15th, 2013 at 10:43 PM.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Nursing on demand with a 21 month old?

    Both of my boys nursed at LEAST 8-10 times a day at this age. They nursed to sleep, they nursed a lot, etc. They are now 10 and 7 and entirely normal-(well, I would say they are exceptional because I am a proud mommy!)

    I do not think it is so that "most toddlers" are nursing only a couple times a day. Of course, by far most toddlers are not nursing at all at this age, just as most 4 month olds are not nursing. But of those that do, some nurse infrequently, but many others nurse with the kind of frequency you describe. Of course it is fine, developmentally. Have you read the work of Kathy Dettwyler on this subject?

    The problem is we (humans in much of the world) have gotten so far away from what actually is 'normal' when it comes to feeding and caring for young children we don't know it when we see it!

    Anyway, how/when a child naturally weans is going to vary quite a bit, but if left on their own to wean in their own time, what basically happens is the child outgrows the need. When that happens, nursing frequency drops pretty rapidly.

    Since you are planning to nurse until at least 3 (child willing) and your baby is not yet two, there is no reason to be concerned that you are not making "progress" toward weaning. Yes, in my experience a child WILL just start dropping session on their own. But there are also gentle weaning techniques you can employ that involve redirecting, substituting, distracting etc. that do not involve out and out saying no. Whenever/if ever you do begin to wish to move weaning along, or just want to understand the process better, the books How Weaning Happens or The Nursing Mothers Guide to Weaning are great. If you do not already have Mothering Your Nursing Toddler, I strongly suggest getting that one.

    It sounds as if you are having issues not so much because your child wants to nurse a normal amount, but because your family is not accepting and you feel you can only nurse at home. Would you like suggestions for dealing with those issues?


    A natural age of weaning (Dettwyler) : http://www.kathydettwyler.org/detwean.html

    Jack Newman on toddler nursing: http://www.breastfeedinginc.ca/conte...agename=doc-BT

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Nursing on demand with a 21 month old?

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*lllmeg View Post
    I do not think it is so that "most toddlers" are nursing only a couple times a day. Of course, by far most toddlers are not nursing at all at this age, just as most 4 month olds are not nursing. But of those that do, some nurse infrequently, but many others nurse with the kind of frequency you describe. Of course it is fine, developmentally. Have you read the work of Kathy Dettwyler on this subject?

    The problem is we (humans in much of the world) have gotten so far away from what actually is 'normal' when it comes to feeding and caring for young children we don't know it when we see it!
    So true!!!

    You might also enjoy this terrific article about breastfeeding in Mongolia (originally published in Mothering Magazine): http://www.drmomma.org/2009/07/breas...ghis-khan.html. It kind of goes to show how widely social norms vary, when it comes to nursing.
    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!"

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Nursing on demand with a 21 month old?

    My DD nursed a lot more than that at that age. I night weaned her at 27 mos because I was pregnant and it hurt too much to sleep while nursing her but until then she nursed about 6-8x just at night and all the time during the day.
    Nursed my sweet daughter 3 years, 3 mos.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Nursing on demand with a 21 month old?

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*mommal View Post
    One thing that does sound like a problem now is that you feel like you have to go and hide in order to nurse. At 21 months, you can either get comfortable with nursing in public or you can tell your LO to wait. Enforcing good nursing manners is part of the key to nursing a toddler.
    Thank you for your advice. I'm glad to hear you (and others) think my son's behavior around nursing sounds normal. I think you are right that part of the problem is needing to hide away from my family to nurse. I nurse openly in front of DH and my mom, and I would be happy to in front of other female family members except that THEY don't seem comfortable. My dad, my stepbrother, and my FIL are another story. I'm not comfortable nursing in front of them and I can't imagine they'd be the least bit comfortable with it, either. Part of the problem is my son doesn't let me nurse very discreetly--he usually insists on having both his 'nu-nu's' out and available to him at once (he twiddles one side while nursing on the other). I just can't sit there virtually topless in front of my male relatives. Might work in some families, not in mine. So, that means going to another room to nurse. When we're out and about in public, or in our own home, I am usually able to delay DS when it comes to nursing--tell him 'not now', offer a snack, etc. However when we visit my parents in their home, it seems like he's more anxious being out of his own environment, and he wants to nurse A LOT for comfort's sake (and maybe because he's figured out it's a way to get away from all the hubub and be alone with me--I think being around so many people he doesn't see that often was stressful for him). I'm not sure what to do about this, since he would absolutely melt down when I tried to refuse him while at my parents' house. Maybe this will solve itself as he gets older, gains language and becomes more independent, but any suggestions in the meantime?
    First-time mama to Joshua, 10/29/11. 29 months and going strong! for 14 months; now finished with pump weaning!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Nursing on demand with a 21 month old?

    Thank you! That was a great article--I'm bookmarking it for future reference.
    First-time mama to Joshua, 10/29/11. 29 months and going strong! for 14 months; now finished with pump weaning!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Nursing on demand with a 21 month old?

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*lllmeg View Post
    Both of my boys nursed at LEAST 8-10 times a day at this age. They nursed to sleep, they nursed a lot, etc. They are now 10 and 7 and entirely normal-(well, I would say they are exceptional because I am a proud mommy!)

    I do not think it is so that "most toddlers" are nursing only a couple times a day. Of course, by far most toddlers are not nursing at all at this age, just as most 4 month olds are not nursing. But of those that do, some nurse infrequently, but many others nurse with the kind of frequency you describe. Of course it is fine, developmentally. Have you read the work of Kathy Dettwyler on this subject?

    It sounds as if you are having issues not so much because your child wants to nurse a normal amount, but because your family is not accepting and you feel you can only nurse at home. Would you like suggestions for dealing with those issues?
    First, thanks for the reassurance that many nursing toddlers nurse as much as my son. I thought we were on the far end of the frequency spectrum but I'm pleased to see that's not the case.

    Second, yes, I would love suggestions for dealing with nursing around my family. As I mentioned to mommal, my son (unfortunately) usually demands to have both boobs out and at the ready for him at once, which makes nursing in front of male relatives impossible--I'm just not that bold. Even if he would settle for one at a time, I don't think I'd be comfortable in front of my dad or FIL, and I don't think they'd be comfortable either. Which means the only answer is getting my son to accept more limits, which is really tough when he's out of his usual environment, overwhelmed by new people, and wanting comfort! So yes, if you have any suggestions for dealing with these issues, I'd love to hear them.
    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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