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Thread: 16 Month Old Still Nursing 13 Times a Day

  1. #1

    Question 16 Month Old Still Nursing 13 Times a Day

    I'm a SAHM to a 16 month old who still nurses all day, 9 times on average but as much as 13 times within 10 waking hours when you exclude his two-hour nap. He's always been a high-needs child who's relied almost exclusively on the breast for comfort. He adamantly refuses pacifiers and other comfort items (e.g., lovey) we've tried. The frequency might go up slightly if he's teething or hitting a milestone, but he basically just never slowed down from infancy-level nursing. I'm not ready to wean and really enjoy this time with him, but there are times when only 30 minutes has passed since his last nursing session and he will have a full-blown tantrum if I resist nursing that instant. To paint a picture, when he wakes up, DH brings him to me in bed to nurse, which he does for an hour. Then he eats breakfast—and this kid eats, like teenager eats . Then, we'll clean up, I'll change his diaper and clothes, and he immediately wants to nurse again . This means he's either nursing or eating table food from 6:30 to almost 9:30 a.m., and that's just our morning. My first question is, has anyone experienced this type of toddler appetite? And if there are times during the day I don't want to nurse and he doesn't NEED to nurse, what's the best way to say "not right now" without 1) sparking a toddler meltdown and 2) inadvertently pushing him toward weaning? And if I say no, and he has a meltdown, how do you on-demand mamas handle that? Is there a happy medium between on-demand and feeling like you're still a newborn level milk machine? I love breastfeeding, but this is feeling excessive for me, and I'm at a total lost as to how to handle it.
    Last edited by @llli*pumpkin2016; May 28th, 2017 at 07:30 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: 16 Month Old Still Nursing 13 Times a Day

    Hi and welcome.
    I am curious. Is your child nursing overnight?

    Anyway, this nursing frequency is not excessive or in any way abnormal. Does every one year old nurse this way? No, but plenty do, and if they do not nurse this way during the day, they do so at night. Also it is likely not about appetite entirely, but rather a combination of need to eat or drink and also need for comfort, connection, entertainment, etc. Nursing is a 100% healthy activity, and there is no reason to not nurse baby with high frequency unless YOU do not want to nurse so much. If that is the case, then you can begin to set limits. While limits might push a child into a nursing strike or early weaning, it is unlikely that gentle limit setting would do this.

    If you would like your child to nurse less often, my best suggestion is to get out of the house lots and do other things. Basically, distract your child from nursing.
    To say "not now, but later", try simple phrases your child can understand. "We will nurse after lunch" or "after I unload the dishwasher" or whatever. And yes he may have a tantrum. If I had a solution for how to avoid tantrums when you tell a child "no", I would be a rich woman.

    This article may have other ideas: http://kellymom.com/ages/older-infan...ing-manners-2/

    A good classic book on this subject is Mothering Your Nursing Toddler.

  3. #3

    Default Re: 16 Month Old Still Nursing 13 Times a Day

    Hi Maddieb, thanks! No, he's not nursing at night anymore. Yes, most of his nursing is for comfort, and yes, it is I that doesn't want to nurse as much. That, and I probably wasn't clear that the frequent nursing is sometimes becoming a Band-Aid fix to tanturms (e.g., he throws a fit, and the only way to calm him down is with the breast). The cycle feels like it's rewarding the bad behavior. That, or for instance, if he comes over to nurse while I'm on the floor, and I want to go sit on the couch and nurse where I'm comfortable, he throws a fit between me picking up and the time it takes me to get him to the couch, so he essentially latches mid-tantrum. I'm getting concerned that this cycle of him expecting instant gratification and me offering the breast mid-tantrum is sending the wrong message and instead rewarding the behavior. Does that make sense? My breast feels like it's become a treat (e.g., juice or a cookie) that if he doesn't get INSTANTLY, he loses his mind. I'm having a really hard time coping because I don't know how to find a balance between nursing on demand and not rewarding bad behavior with an audience and a mouthful of milk.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: 16 Month Old Still Nursing 13 Times a Day

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*pumpkin2016 View Post
    Hi Maddieb, thanks! No, he's not nursing at night anymore. Yes, most of his nursing is for comfort, and yes, it is I that doesn't want to nurse as much. That, and I probably wasn't clear that the frequent nursing is sometimes becoming a Band-Aid fix to tanturms (e.g., he throws a fit, and the only way to calm him down is with the breast). The cycle feels like it's rewarding the bad behavior. That, or for instance, if he comes over to nurse while I'm on the floor, and I want to go sit on the couch and nurse where I'm comfortable, he throws a fit between me picking up and the time it takes me to get him to the couch, so he essentially latches mid-tantrum. I'm getting concerned that this cycle of him expecting instant gratification and me offering the breast mid-tantrum is sending the wrong message and instead rewarding the behavior. Does that make sense? My breast feels like it's become a treat (e.g., juice or a cookie) that if he doesn't get INSTANTLY, he loses his mind. I'm having a really hard time coping because I don't know how to find a balance between nursing on demand and not rewarding bad behavior with an audience and a mouthful of milk.
    I do understand what you mean, and you are certainly not the only mom to feel this way - that nursing when a baby is upset is somehow rewarding or encouraging that behavior. I have a different perspective, however.

    I would first suggest that a 16 month old having a tantrum or a meltdown is not "bad behavior." A child this age is not capable of controlling their emotions in order to choose to behave well or behave poorly. Children this age typically have a meltdown either due to discomfort or frustration. Tantrums caused by discomfort may be avoided to some extent by making sure child is fed, watered, dry, and has enough sleep, which would almost always include at least one nap a day. Once potty learning starts, add making sure child is given plenty of opportunity to go to the bathroom to that list.

    Frustration at this age is almost always linked to an inability to communicate. To some extent this is unavoidable, the pre-verbal or early verbal child is just going to have a really hard time communicating with others, and as you can imagine, this is very frustrating. In this case, offering the child lots of loving touch may help, as this is a way to communicate to the child that no matter how frustrated they may get, they are always deeply loved and completely safe.

    Ok, so about treats. Your breast and your milk may indeed be viewed by your child as a treat. But in fact, it is not a treat in the way we usually mean treat. It is nothing like a cookie or juice, which have no health benefit at all (yes even juice) and are not in any way required for life or beneficial for a person to consume. This does not mean one never gives a child a cookie or juice, if you want to, you can. But yes you do not want to give those too much or use them as a reward, generally speaking.
    But breastmilk is only 100% healthy, in no way unhealthy. Would you refuse your child fruit? vegetables? Probably not, but in fact breastmilk is much healthier (more nutritionally complete) than any fruit or vegetable or any other single food could ever hope to be.
    The act of nursing at the breast is also 100% healthy. It is much more than a nutrition delivery system. Nursing is comforting, and children also need comfort almost as much as they need food. Nursing also acts to normally develop the face, mouth and jaw.

    We make a big deal about overindulging our children. But I think we get confused about what that actually means. Comforting a child is not indulging them. If you think about damaged, angry, very unhappy people, they are not typically that way because they were comforted too much in childhood! Actually what studies are showing is that resilience and happiness in later life is linked to children forming strong attachments in early childhood. Nursing (and cuddling and holding and caressing etc. etc. between parent and child) promotes healthy attachment. What is nice about nursing is it also helps a child regulate their blood sugar and quench their thirst at the same exact time! Also it is allowing a child to have oral comfort (which children normally need) and touch comfort at once. A child who is having a meltdown or tantrum needs comforting. The problem with many cases of tantrums is it is hard (even impossible) to physically comfort the child who has fallen into a complete tantrum, and you can only wait it out. But if the child will nurse, that solves that problem nicely.

    So, if you want to reduce how often or when etc. your child nurses for your own comfort and happiness, then the resources I suggested above will probably help. You could also look at weaning books, because although you do not want to wean, you are talking about reducing nursing and that is of course part of the process of weaning. How Weaning Happens and The Nursing Mothers guide to Weaning are good ones. But I would suggest there is no need to feel you are somehow doing a disservice to your child by letting him nurse as much as he likes. There is no evidence such an idea has merit, and it also does not make sense from a biological perspective.

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