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Thread: 2.5 year old wanting to nurse ALL THE TIME?

  1. #1
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    Default 2.5 year old wanting to nurse ALL THE TIME?

    Hi, many of you "know" me as I've posted here multiple times before. My DS is almost 2.5 and for the past several weeks, has really been ramping up his requests for nu-nu (what we call nursing). This confuses me. We had been down to around 3-4 times a day. Now suddenly he wants to nurse multiple times in the morning before work, and usually several times in the evening as well. He asks less often if we're out and about or if Daddy is around, but if it's just the two of us nursing seems to be his favorite activity. I asked him today why he wanted so much nu-nu and he said "because I miss you, Mama!". I don't know if I planted that idea in his head...I asked one time a few weeks ago after a period where I'd been working a lot if he wanted nu-nu because he missed me and maybe he caught onto that and it stuck? Or maybe that really is the reason. I don't know. I don't feel like I've been away from home an unusual amount the last week or two but we did have visitors in town and have been busy with Passover, etc. so maybe he's not getting as much one-on-one time as he usually does.

    I'm just somewhat confused and a little bit bothered by the fact that we seem to be going BACKWARDS with regard to nursing. I had thought he'd be well along in the weaning process by now. I am willing to continue nursing awhile longer but I don't know if nursing all the time is good for him at this point. His father thinks he should be weaned already (although he is tolerating our nursing without any comments).

    I guess I am unclear if I should be going along with these requests, trying to distract him, or what? I am not really thrilled about having a 2.5 year old who seems to want to nurse as often as he did as an infant. His behavior in general has been difficult lately--he's been resistant to direction, not listening well, and so we're having more conflict--so maybe this is somehow related.

    I can "go with the flow" a little while longer if it's developmental or really is related to him missing me. I am quitting my job and will be starting a new, part-time job (2 or 3 days a week) in about 6 weeks, so things will improve and I will be home a lot more then. I am hoping that once I'm home more these constant requests for nu-nu every time he sees me will decrease. He really won't let me out of his sight these days. I feel bad that he seems to be struggling for some reason but I also don't know if the best way to handle this is to allow him to regress to a more "babyish" stage or if I should be encouraging him to be a "big boy". Maybe my little birdie needs a bit of a nudge from the nest? He doesn't seem to be giving it up on his own. Or maybe it's a 2 steps forward, one step back kind of thing.

    I would still appreciate any advice from moms who may have dealt with something similar. I'm confused how to deal with this. Right now I've been mostly letting him nurse when he wants but I'm not sure if it's the right way to handle things, especially as I am hoping he'll wean in the next 6-12 months. I want to meet his needs for security, but I wonder if maybe he needs a little nudge to act more like a big boy. He seems to be resisting being a "big boy" in all kinds of ways, including absolutely no interest in potty training.
    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: 2.5 year old wanting to nurse ALL THE TIME?

    I don't really see weaning as a linear process, where children steadily nurse less until one day they stop. I mean yes, on average that is what happens but day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month - probably not. There could be many reasons that DS wants to nurse more this week than last week, all of which are developmentally appropriate. I think a lot of this is about your expectations of what DS should or should not be doing at this age. Because really, he's NOT a big boy, he's a very young boy! For example, potty training - my older two kids could be induced to sit on the potty at 2.5, were not interested in getting rid of diapers until after 3. And, as you know, many children who wean at their own pace do not do so until much later than 2.5. I certainly don't think it's in any way harmful for DS to be nursing at this age, whether a little or a lot. Whether and how much to limit that nursing I think depends entirely on how much it bothers you. So does it bother you that he's nursing a lot? Or is it more that you feel pressure to wean from DH, family members, society? Because you seem a little conflicted - just a couple weeks ago you were worried about DS weaning prematurely if your supply dropped....

  3. #3
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    Default Re: 2.5 year old wanting to nurse ALL THE TIME?

    I agree, it seems like weaning/nursing the whole experience can be very circular at times, definitely not a gradual linear process as I expected.

    And it is totally normal for a 2.5 year old to be uninterested in potty training. Just yesterday my friend was changing an almost 4 year old's diaper. And she's not uncommon in my group of friends. I would say by age 3 or 3.5 maybe a definite interest would emerge.

    My daughter is almost 4, and she is just now entering what I would call a "big girl" phase. She's extremely smart and has the vocab of a much older child, but that doesn't really mean anything. There will be plenty of time to be a big boy! So little time to be a very little boy! Even my potty hating daughter uses the potty now for the most part, she naturally realized that she didn't want that stuff in her pants. Same thing with my 16 month old who has a new desire to sleep in her own space vs. right next to me. Children grow when they are ready...but of course if nursing so many times is really starting to get annoying there is nothing wrong with saying "later" or after lunch, after nap, etc. My daughter went through a similar phase where she requested to nurse non stop for about a month. It was hard but she got past it and I didn't limit her too much except when I was really starting to get a little touched out.
    and Mama to two little girls

  4. #4
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    Default Re: 2.5 year old wanting to nurse ALL THE TIME?

    My untested opinion is that maintaining equilibrium is about creating a number of meaningful "wins" for a child. Life is tough for toddlers: they have just enough competence and independence to long for freedom, but they're still aware of how inextricably they rely on us.

    In your shoes, I'd evaluate how much of your undivided attention your son is getting when you aren't nursing. Moving to part-time work will definitely give you an edge in being able to meet your son's need for dedicated mom-son time. I would focus first on activities he values most that bring you physically close with lots of eye contact, like reading while snuggling, wrestling, piggy-back-rides, making up riddles/jokes, etc. Based on my son's approach to nursing, a large part of nursing is the physical closeness and intimacy, not the milk per se.

    I'd also support the extra nursing. My guess is it's a short-term need that will pass if met.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: 2.5 year old wanting to nurse ALL THE TIME?

    Bfwmom, yes, I am confused/conflicted. On the one hand, I don't want to do anything to cause DS to wean. I'd feel guilty about precipitating it. On the other hand, I do hope he'll wean on his own within the next year or so. I think what really bothers me about this behavior is I feel like maybe it's DS' way of showing he's in some emotional distress about something. If that's the case I want to help him with whatever is bothering him. I also feel guilty about being gone a lot (although nowhere near as much as plenty of other working moms). He seems to really miss me right now and not be handling it very well. As far as the nursing itself--sometimes it's annoying, like when he won't let me cover my boobs even though he's not actively nursing, or when he wants to nurse right when I want to get in the shower, and other times I still really enjoy it. As for him, he unequivocally enjoys it. And that's great. But I have wondered if maybe I wasn't doing what I should be doing to help him move along, developmentally, to the next stage. Or if his sudden clinginess indicates distress that I need to address somehow. Nothing has really changed so I don't know why he'd be distressed now when he was fine before.

    But, it seems you and KatiePerry are saying that weaning is not linear and that toddlers just act like this sometimes, for no particular reason (thanks, KatiePerry, for your input! Much appreciated!). DS is my first child and I don't have much experience with toddlers this age so maybe I'm expecting him to be more "grown-up" than is realistic. DH certainly thinks DS should be more "grown-up" by now. DS' behavior has been challenging of late (he'd always been pretty much a doll until maybe a month ago) so I'm looking into some positive discipline techniques to help us improve listening and reduce power struggles without resorting to time-out, etc. I suppose nursing could be DS' way of getting reassurance from me that he's still very much loved despite his sometimes difficult behavior. We've been battling more than usual lately and maybe he's feeling insecure because of that.

    I guess I was just concerned that my child was indicating distress and I needed to do something about it, or that I wasn't "helping" him along, developmentally, in growing up. There's also the fact that I feel like it's really taboo to still be nursing at this age and it will be even worse once he is 3. I'm not sure how much longer I can keep this going, due to others' judgements and expectations. I never expected to be nursing a 3 year old and yet it looks like that's where we're headed. I'm not sure I like that and I definitely don't want to nurse a 4 year old (plus his father would just die). I feel really stressed now about keeping the fact that we're still nursing secret from all but family and a few very close friends, and I feel embarrassed when DS asks to nurse even in front of family (like my Dad, who was visiting lately). I do still enjoy it a lot of the time when it's just the two of us, and I don't think there's anything intrinsically wrong with it, but I'm very aware that in our culture, it is NOT socially acceptable at this point and that puts me in a difficult position. So, it's a lot of things. Mostly though I just want to be sure that this new increased nursing and clinginess isn't a sign of some problem I need to address. That was my biggest worry and it seems you guys are saying, as experienced moms, that this is pretty normal for toddlers.
    First-time mama to Joshua, 10/29/11. 29 months and going strong! for 14 months; now finished with pump weaning!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: 2.5 year old wanting to nurse ALL THE TIME?

    My friend and I were just talking about this the other night over dinner...that with your first child, they turn 1 year and you think they are huge and so grown up. Then with your second child and so on, a 1 year old seems like a tiny baby compared to what you had thought!

    I think you are 100% a normal mom of one child. I was the same exact way with my daughter. If some day you have another, you will see how much it changes the way you think about age related milestones. I get silly comments from even my dad (MY DAD!!! are you kidding me! how in the world would he know!), about how my 16 month old is a big girl now and shouldn't be nursing. So I say that I won't bug him about smoking and he doesn't bother me about nursing my child.

    I totally understand what you are saying though, that you are seeing the extra nursing as a sign that something is bothering him. If the extra nursing seems to help and you don't mind (sometimes) then that makes sense to keep helping him in that way. Soon enough he'll be older, and in a few years he'll probably want a hug instead or even be able to tell you exactly what he's thinking and what's bothering him.

    It is so, so much more fun to be a parent without putting those age limits on milestones. It sounds like your DH does that, and to be honest I'm sure it would be hard for him to change that about himself. My DH was kind of like that, and then now he's the opposite. Now he cosleeps on the floor with us when before he was mortified at the idea. He was so upset at the thought of giving up our bed frame and putting a mattress on the floor. Over the months he evolved as a parent and realized he didn't care very much about the furniture.

    It's always hard for that first kid, hard on the parents, hard on the kid. Not sure if you were a first child, but I was, and so was my DH and we had some very unrealistic expectations placed on us.
    and Mama to two little girls

  7. #7
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    Default Re: 2.5 year old wanting to nurse ALL THE TIME?

    I think what really bothers me about this behavior is I feel like maybe it's DS' way of showing he's in some emotional distress about something. If that's the case I want to help him with whatever is bothering him.
    I am sure that he does have something emotional going on when he wants to nurse more than usual. Distress might be too strong a word for it. You say that he's been distracted and resistant to direction- that's normal for a 2 year-old. Especially when holidays and general changes to routine are in the mix.

    We all have to find our way through the terrible twos. The nice thing about nursing is that it usually works better than any other other technique, when it comes to resolving these normal frustrations. It sounds to me like your major issue is that you think you shouldn't be using nursing in this way- that somehow it's wrong to do so? Developmentally unhealthy? If that's what you're worried about, then maybe it would help to examine where that idea comes from. It's not something that emerged from research. It's a purely cultural bias.

    This is a nice article, originally published in Mothering Magazine, about how different the cultural lens can be, when it comes to breastfeeding and to using nursing as conflict resolution: http://www.incultureparent.com/2011/...-genghis-khan/


    But, it seems you and KatiePerry are saying that weaning is not linear and that toddlers just act like this sometimes, for no particular reason
    Add my to the idea that weaning is a non-linear process. My kids gave me upticks in nursing frequency, but the overall trend was down.

    There's also the fact that I feel like it's really taboo to still be nursing at this age and it will be even worse once he is 3. I'm not sure how much longer I can keep this going, due to others' judgements and expectations.
    I totally understand why you feel so pressured to be done with nursing. Your DH is actively against you nursing at this point and it sounds like you don't get support from family and friends. It can't be easy to continue on when you are surrounded by that level of negativity. What you do about taboos sort of depends on what sort of person you are, I guess. Maybe on what sort of person you want to be. When confronted with a completely ridiculous cultural taboo, do you want to be the person who conforms to make other people more comfortable, or do you want to be the person who doesn't give a flying $&%# and blazes a different path? There are merits to both approaches!
    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!"

  8. #8
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    Default Re: 2.5 year old wanting to nurse ALL THE TIME?

    and this increase in nursing could be a way for your son to confirm that he is still loved if he does something he's not supposed to, like color all over the brand new furniture with markers (like my kids!). In my experience children are always looking at us to see if we still love them no matter what they do. And being a toddler is all about figuring out "what happens if I do this?"
    and Mama to two little girls

  9. #9
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    Default Re: 2.5 year old wanting to nurse ALL THE TIME?

    It's hard for toddlers to buffer their emotions. My toddler will go from content to crying in a heartbeat - whether because she's bumped her head, been told she can't have something she wants, or whatever else. (My LO got all upset by a piece of lint on the floor the other day - she thought it was a giant bug.) And nursing just makes it easier to get back to content from crying! The way I think of it, toddlers are realizing that the world can be upsetting, and nursing reassures them that they have someone who can help them cope with the upset. I can't tell you how often I wish my almost-four-year-old was still nursing so I could help her in the same way! Because there is still plenty that upsets her, too.

    I also think sometimes nursing gets caught up in the frustration that sometimes comes with parenting a toddler. My LO might be driving me crazy because of boundary-testing, stubbornness, etc and then constant demands to nurse can be one more thing that she is doing that is driving me crazy. But sometimes nursing actually completely changes the dynamic - maybe what she's really trying to do is get my attention, and nursing reminds her that she has it, and reminds me that really she is just this little person who can barely understand all the things she is feeling, let alone communicate them. And that she has an instinctual need to know that she IS being protected and cared for by someone who is capable of doing so, because at the age of two she most definitely cannot fend for herself.

    I totally agree with karrieperry that I've enjoyed parenting much more once I've learned to roll with whatever it is that my kids are going through! I do think there's a lot of cultural pressure in the U.S., as mommal says, around "making" kids more independent etc before they are really ready.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: 2.5 year old wanting to nurse ALL THE TIME?

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*bfwmomof3 View Post
    It's hard for toddlers to buffer their emotions. My toddler will go from content to crying in a heartbeat - whether because she's bumped her head, been told she can't have something she wants, or whatever else.
    Mine (2.5) will cry to nurse when she doesn't get something she wants, or if she get's in trouble. It's like a consolation to her. Maybe yours is stepping up the nursing because of more conflicts in other areas? Often I can distract. But if I am not too busy I just nurse her and the problem is solved immediately. Personally I would not give in to things like keeping the boobs out, or nursing right when I am abut to get in the shower. If she asks in a store I will just say ok we can nurse when we get home. I will often say "we can nurse when I finish X."

    Personally I would not try to potty train and do any major weaning at the same time. Whichever feels more important, do that first maybe? For me, it would be potty training first, but I see from many on the list that is not the case necessarily for all parents/kids.

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