Happy Mothers Breastfed Babies
Page 1 of 4 1234 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 34

Thread: Handling requests to nurse in public

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    California
    Posts
    418

    Default Handling requests to nurse in public

    My DS is nearly 27 months, and we're still nursing, which is fine with me. However, our family and a lot of other people think he's far too old to be nursing, so I'd prefer not to advertise the fact that we still do. My DS, being 2, naturally feels no self-consciousness whatsoever about asking to nurse wherever, whenever, in front of anybody. We're about to start him in preschool and last week we went for a visit with him so we could see how he reacted and if he liked it. He did great for about two hours with me and DH sitting in the corner of the room. He was coming over to us occasionally but mostly playing around the other kids and teachers. Then, it was time to come inside when he wanted to stay outside, and he kind of lost it. Requests for "go outside, Mama!" rapidly turned into requests for "Nu-nu, Mama!" (Nu-nu is what he calls nursing). DH and I explained to the teacher what was going on, and you could tell she thought it was strange that he's still nursing at this age. DS can be very persistent about what he wants, so for the next 15-20 minutes it was escalating requests for "nu-nu, Mama!" met with tears and more crying for nu-nu when I told him we'd have nu-nu at home. I wasn't about to nurse him in the middle of the preschool classroom, with his teachers and the other parents watching. I'm fine with him still nursing but I'm no longer comfortable doing it in public at this age. I think he's old enough to accept some limits, and we really haven't nursed in public at all in at least 6 months, so I thought he understood that it was something we only do at home now. Anyway this tantrum for nu-nu on the day we met his preschool teachers was embarrassing for me, and even more so for DH, who snapped at me right in front of other parents that it was "time to wean". Well, I don't have any intention of taking this away from my son yet, and I hope to let him self-wean, but I would love to avoid these embarrassing situations in public. I get that the first day in preschool was very overwhelming for DS and he just wanted comfort in his favorite form, but I was still highly embarrassed and am now worried what his teachers and the other parents think of us. Something similar happens any time we travel to visit either set of grandparents; he becomes a nurse-aholic, wanting to nurse non-stop for comfort because he's stressed and not in his familiar environment. This is also embarrassing since my in-laws already think it's nuts that I'm still nursing him and that I need to cut the cord. At home, when he isn't sick or teething or feeling insecure, he nurses usually 3-6times per day, but if he's sick or in pain or feeling insecure he wants it non-stop. This embarrassment of DS wanting to nurse non-stop in front of others is now causing my DH to push for total weaning (although he knows it's my decision and that that ain't gonna happen). I think if I could get DS to stop asking SO MUCH and so persistently in new or scary situations, DH would get off my back about the whole thing, as he doesn't seem to mind me nursing at home when it's just the three of us (and in fact sometimes encourages nu-nu when it aligns with what he wants, such as not having to get out of bed yet in the morning). It would also be really nice for me not to be embarrassed by these requests in front of other people. But how do you teach a toddler the concept of privacy or keeping a secret, especially without making it seem to DS like nursing is somehow shameful? I'm at a loss for how to handle this and would love suggestions. The only thing I can think of is partial weaning, cutting our sessions down to specific times (e.g. morning before I go to work, afternoon when I get home, and bedtime) so DS knows not to expect nursing at other times, but I'd prefer not to cut back that much yet if there's some other way of avoiding these situations. Thanks in advance for any insights! DS is otherwise a happy, confident, securely attached little boy. He just really loves his nu-nu and as my DH says, it's kind of like his Valium when he's upset or stressed.
    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
    Dec 2011
    Posts
    365

    Default Re: Handling requests to nurse in public

    My feedback may be too pie in the sky to be helpful, so please excuse my post if it sounds pithy. In a nutshell, I think the root issue is a cultural one that centres on you navigating your desired relationship with others in the face of conflicting opinions, not nursing itself.

    My son is also 27 months and demonstrates a similar love of nursing. As an example, he attends a weekly parent and child music class with age-mates (2-3 year olds). Out of 10 children, 4 are routinely breastfed (including my DS) casually in class. The others may be breastfed at home; they attend the class with caregivers other than their mothers. Everything is copacetic. I have an easy time parenting the way I do because the cultural expectation aligns with my values.

    We obviously live in areas with different cultural expectations surrounding breastfeeding, but that need not dictate different outcomes for our children. There is nothing wrong--and everything right--about nurturing and nourishing your child in the best way you see possible.

    I guess the three key questions are:
    1. Do you think your decision is the right one?
    2. How much personal pushback are you able to shoulder?
    3. What is the difference between the adverse effect of your son not nursing in public vs nursing in public?

    On #s 2 and 3, it sounds from this post and others like your husband's and families' thought process is culture-bound. In that sense, I think your situation is similar to one where family members hold different religious beliefs but have to find a way to live harmoniously. I think it isn't unreasonable to expect that you should all agree to disagree. This, for me, would involve family agreeing not to remark on breastfeeding in your son's presence. You are the parent and hold the legal authority to parent according to what you perceive to be the best interest of your son.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Posts
    365

    Default Re: Handling requests to nurse in public

    I'd just like to add that I think children should generally be allowed to behave like children. Adult-level expectations, like sensitivity to the needs and sensibilities of others, should be reserved for those above the age of reason. Why should a 2 year old be required to give up what he values most because a third party adult perceives himself to be inconvenienced on the 925th most important facet of his life?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    21,096

    Default Re: Handling requests to nurse in public

    I also see this as an issue that is more society's problem than it is yours. You are doing something normal, natural, and healthy, helping your child navigate the stressful situations he encounters as he becomes increasingly independent and as more is expected of him. But I also totally understand why nursing in public has become difficult for you, with such lack of support from your DH, his family, and society at large.

    If this were me, I'd let a smile be my umbrella. Don't let other people's weird looks or stupid statements make you feel uncomfortable. Just power through it and show them that you have the self-confidence that they only wish they had. And read your DH and his family the riot act about critical statements. Tell your DH that if he wants to discuss weaning, then he can use his big boy skills and WAIT until the two of you have a private time/place to talk. Tell his parents that when and how you wean is between you, your child, and (to a lesser extent) your husband, and you really don't want to discuss it with them, thank you very much.

    Now, this doesn't mean you can't set limits on nursing. At 27 months it is totally okay to set limits! You can limit where, when, and how it takes place. E.g. only at home, only in a special chair, only at bedtime, only after you finish making dinner, only if you can go to the bathroom first, only if the child doesn't twiddle, only until you count to ten, etc.. Setting limits on nursing can be tough, though. Kids who are dedicated nursers often don't give up easily!!! But this is where your child's increasing language skills can help you out.

    Let's say you're in a situation where he wants to nurse and you really don't- you can tell him that he can have nu-nus when X happens (when you get to the car/house/park/whatever) and that will be soon, hopefully in just a few minutes. He may protest- in fact, he probably will! Now you really have to bring your parenting A-game. You offer distraction- "Let's go play with those toys!" "Let's make a snack together!" Nursing is, to some extent, a request for your undivided attention, and undivided attention is something you can give your child without having to nurse. If distraction doesn't work, and he's still crawling up your shirt, have another adult take over. Your DH has been demanding that you wean- show him what weaning is really like!!! Instead of mommy always stepping in with her nu-nu Valium, daddy is going to have to step up and deal with a cranky or anxious toddler. He's probably not going to like that, and once he realizes just how easy nursing makes HIS life, he may stop asking you to wean.
    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!"

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Posts
    365

    Default Re: Handling requests to nurse in public

    ITA with mommal that reducing nursing in public is totally understandable and reasonable if done on your and your son's terms. +1 also for the riot act.

    If we're shopping or at a place where it's inconvenient to nurse, I describe to my DS the sequence of events that lead up to nursing and give him a time estimate. E.g. "We need to finish grocery shopping, then we'll check out and go home to nurse. I have to find chicken, milk, and eggs. Then check out and the walk home will take ten minutes. I know that feels like a long time. If you can help me, we can get out of here faster and nurse sooner." Then I'd enlist him in finding the food, putting it on the grocery conveyor, inserting my credit card into the terminal, etc.

    More generally, I find making him part of whatever activity I'm doing offers the best distraction until nursing. Preparing dinner and grocery shopping are the hardest times of day for us with delayed nursing gratification, but I'm of the mindset that some waiting builds resilience. I understand how frustrating it can be!
    Last edited by @llli*alphawoman; January 26th, 2014 at 10:06 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    2,476

    Default Re: Handling requests to nurse in public

    DD3 is now 23 months. She nurses a bed time, through the night, in the morning and at naps if I'm home. She'll also nurse if she's having a meltdown or is hurt.

    Thinking out loud here, but your little one may be a nurse-aholic when you're in strange situations because he's feeding off of your stress. I wouldn't pass your stress on to your 2 year old. I don't want to sound mean, but expecting your 2 year old to take on the responsibility of your discomfort with the situation really isn't fair.

    When we can't nurse in a situation, distraction is key. A favourite toy or blanket. A high value snack. Moving to a new location. Putting on music. Keep in mind that there are some tools you need to keep in your bag ONLY for these types of situations. That way they STAY high value.

    So we avoid the focus on the "no" and shift it to something new. In situations where she just needs that comfort, I make it happen. Why would I with hold that from her? If I were crying and upset and all I wanted and needed was a hug, I'd be devastated if my husband refused to give it to me. I'd take it really personally.

    So relocate, find a quiet corner, do what you need to do to parent your baby.
    Last edited by @llli*amysmom; January 26th, 2014 at 10:22 AM.
    Mommy to our DD1 early bird (34 weeks, 2 days, 7lbs, 14oz)! Oct. 2nd, 2008 Emergency C-Section, Frank Breech, HEALTHY Girl!
    Weaned @ 17 months
    Our DD2 early bird (37 weeks, 3 days, 7lbs, 12oz) Aug. 10th, 2010 Our Successful VBAC, growing like a bad weed!
    Weaned @ 15 months
    Our DD3 early bird (37 weeks, 3 days, 7lbs, 6oz) Feb. 16th, 2012 Our 2nd VBAC and lightening speedy birth!

    Loving being a Mom of 3, 40 months apart!!
    and

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    California
    Posts
    418

    Default Re: Handling requests to nurse in public

    Thank you all for your feedback. I appreciate it. We went to DS' first real day of preschool yesterday and fortunately we got through the day without any tantrums for nu-nu. Phew! You have all raised some good points. I do agree that this is largely a problem of a conflict between cultural expectations, and DS' needs/my way of parenting. That said, I just don't have it in me anymore to take on the entire culture in addition to my husband and family and push back against it all as a champion of toddler nursing-in-public. I can take the flack about nursing a lot around DH's parents, but nursing in preschool and other truly public places is just not okay with me at this stage of the game. Of course DS' needs are number 1, but my needs and feelings about our nursing are important too, and I'm just not comfortable with it in public anymore. I really do worry what his preschool teachers and the other parents will think of me, but also what they'll think of DS. I don't want them seeing him as overly dependent, babyish, having emotional problems, etc. I don't want them seeing me as the wacko mom who is incapable of cutting the cord. I don't think it's good for our peer group to perceive us this way. It may not be fair, but that's how they are going to perceive us if they see us nursing at this age. We are just meeting these people, and I'm hoping to make friends with some of the other moms, so I really don't want to be perceived this way. The preschool is also attached to the temple we just joined (we're reform Jewish) so it's my religious community as well, and I really don't need the negative judgement from people I'm just meeting and trying to befriend. So, I've explained to DS that nursing is only going to happen at home now, and I've been reinforcing that message at random times. If he doesn't expect to be nursed, we won't have a problem. As an absolute last resort in an injury or melt-down situation, I could quietly whisk him away to the bathroom and nurse there, but I'm not letting DS know that that's a possibility.

    Alphawoman--where do you live that nursing 2 or 3 year olds is so common? Lucky lady! I wish it was like that here, but it just isn't (Western US).

    I have spoken to DH and let him know that it was really hurtful and embarrassing that he made that comment about weaning in front of everyone, and that I think weaning is a private subject to be discussed between the two of us. He halfheartedly apologized, but made a point that if he's asked about DS nursing he's not going to keep it a secret. His attitude is "if you don't think you're doing anything wrong why are you so embarrassed about it?". I told him, because I'm aware it's pretty unusual to still be nursing at this age. I think it's healthy, it's normal, but it isn't common, and I'm aware of how it may be perceived. I think he thinks if he embarrasses me enough about nursing, I'll give up and wean DS. Sigh. I do like your idea, Mommal, of SHOWING him what weaning would be like, and seeing how he likes it. DH is pretty great at distraction, though, so it may not bother him that much to have to deal with a fussy DS without nu-nu. I did tell DH that if he wants so badly to work on weaning he needs to stop using nu-nu to incentivize DS to: stay in bed awhile longer, go home from the park when he doesn't want to, get out of the bath when it's bedtime, etc. I said he can't have it both ways, using it when it's convenient and criticizing at other times. I don't think he understands how weaning works, and that this is going to be a gradual process over many months. I think he thinks that I should just cut it out, we'll deal with tantrums for a couple weeks, and then life will go on. NOT HAPPENING. Not that way. I said I am okay with limiting nursing to at home only, and with not offering (don't offer, don't refuse) but that's it for now. I told him if I'm not offering nu-nu to make my life easier then he can't do it either. I also told him if he wants to scrap the morning nursing session at least some days, in favor of getting his butt out of bed and making breakfast for DS while I sleep, that would be just fine Needless to say, he wasn't enthused about that idea, and says until I'm ready to "get serious" about weaning (apparently suddenly) he might as well take advantage of DS still nursing. Kind of trying to have his cake and eat it too

    Mommal, I like your point that requests for nursing are in some ways requests for my full attention. I have noticed this too; like at my in-laws, I think nursing is really a way to get Mommy's undivided attention and get away from the hubub of being around a group of people he doesn't know well (since I take him somewhere private to nurse). You're absolutely right that I can give my undivided attention without nursing, and a lot of times, that's good enough for DS.

    Amysmom, when my DS was 23 months, I would have found a quiet corner and made it work if he needed to nurse. Now, at 27 months, I honestly feel he's too big for that. He needs to be able to accept limits and alternate forms of comfort. Otherwise it doesn't work for me. I don't think I'm projecting my stress onto him and that that's making him a nurse-aholic. While I don't enjoy visiting the in-laws, I'm not majorly stressed out by it. DS is stressed though from being around all new people who he doesn't see often, and being in an unfamiliar environment. He asked me while there to make "all the people go way". I told him I couldn't, but he could have a cuddle anytime he liked, and we could spend some alone time together. I think the frequent requests to nurse at the in-laws are in large part about getting time alone with me, away from everyone else. Often once I got him upstairs he'd be more interested in playing than nursing. He does find it stressful to be around a bunch of new people he doesn't see a lot. Similarly, I wasn't stressed at preschool, but he certainly was stressed about the new environment and all the other kids (he's on the shy side and hasn't been around groups of kids a whole lot). I don't think I'm projecting my own stress or discomfort onto him. I do think setting limits at this age is reasonable. There has to be a happy middle ground between weaning before age 1 and nursing anywhere, everywhere, on demand until age 5. That's the balance I'm trying to find. I realize DS would LIKE his nu-nu, but he's big enough to accept another form of comfort if we're in a place where I can't give him that. I prioritize his needs, but my feelings count for something too. I pick him up, I cuddle him, I rock him, I'm certainly not turning him away when he's upset, but I think it's okay not to nurse him every single time he would like it. Your post kind of insinuated that I'm not being adequately sensitive to DS' needs, and that kind of offended me, honestly. Maybe I'm being overly sensitive and that's not what you meant.
    First-time mama to Joshua, 10/29/11. 29 months and going strong! for 14 months; now finished with pump weaning!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    18

    Default Re: Handling requests to nurse in public

    That was a great, thoughtful follow-up that expresses a lot of the big-picture challenges involved with nursing a toddler! My LO is way younger, but I can already relate to bits and pieces. It sounds like you're doing a great job working towards a balance and trying to re-enforce some limits.

    It can be hard sometimes to feel more committed to nursing than all the moms you know in real life, but still not willing to be a one-woman cultural warrior.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    21,096

    Default Re: Handling requests to nurse in public

    The preschool teachers and other parents might surprise you. The teachers almost certainly will- trust me, if they have been in the preschool teacher biz for very long, they have very likely seen nursing toddlers! And they have also seen a lot of behaviors that will make toddler nursing seem tame by comparison. I've been involved with my kids' preschool for almost 6 years now, and in that time we've had biters, punchers, potty-mouths, revenge pee-ers (there was this one kid who went and peed all over the restroom, and sometimes in the classroom, when he felt thwarted), screamers, lickers, temper tantrum throwers, all-day criers... Just the other day I saw this absolutely angelic 4.5 year-old stick her fingers right up her butt and then sniff them with evident delight. And these are all absolutely lovely, adorable, typically developing children. My point being that at age 2-4, all children are "special needs", and if you've worked in a preschool for more than a minute you're probably pretty sanguine about it, and you're unlikely to see any child as "overly dependent" or whatever just because he nurses and gets stressed in unfamiliar, anxiety-producing situations.

    The congregation might surprise you, too. I remember nursing my baby out on the preschool playground, and just as our elderly rabbi walked by, she pulled off and milk went spraying everywhere. He just said "hello" and continued on to his car- I learned later that his wife had nursed twins into toddlerhood! And as you get to know people, you may find that a lot of them have nursed or are nursing. In our little preschool, almost everyone nursed. Some for just a few months, some for years. Our current champ is the mom who nursed her kid for 4 years. You wouldn't know it to look at them- they all appear very conventional and not hippy-dippy or weird at all.

    None of this is supposed to be pressure on you to be a "one woman cultural warrior" as the PP so eloquently put it! It's just to encourage you to feel at ease as you navigate this new social world you've joined.

    ETA: Is your DH a reader? Having him read "How Weaning Happens" might be a good way to correct his misconceptions about the process.
    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!"

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Posts
    365

    Default Re: Handling requests to nurse in public

    Quote Originally Posted by Joshuas.mommy
    Alphawoman--where do you live that nursing 2 or 3 year olds is so common? Lucky lady! I wish it was like that here, but it just isn't (Western US).
    Urban Canada, in a downtown university neighbourhood. I'm definitely on the more enthusiastic, pro-toddler/preschooler nursing end of the spectrum. There is considerable sample bias at play.

    I completely respect your choice whichever approach you take. That said, I agree that you might be pleasantly surprised by others' openness. Church is one of the places I feel most inhibited nursing but, since the Pope issued a specific statement encouraging mothers to breastfeed at Mass, I don't go to any special effort to be extra-discreet at church, and I've only noticed smiles and nods in my direction.

    Completely your call, though. Without wanting to sound paternalistic, I think you do a lovely job balancing your needs and those of your son. It must be exhausting to be up against such insistence from your DH. Mine pushes back on my cosleeping with my DS, who I'm beginning may have a touch of SPD, so I can commiserate with your plight.

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •