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Thread: thoughts on "don't offer, don't refuse"

  1. #1
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    Default thoughts on "don't offer, don't refuse"

    I've often seen the advice for breastfeeding a toddler and child-led weaning portrayed as "don't offer, don't refuse".

    I don't think I've seen much written on the logic behind this, but I'm assuming that the idea is that the LO knows what they need and will stop asking to nurse (wean) when they are ready.

    I've been thinking about this, and based on my experiences with DS I think that the "don't offer, don't refuse" approach is perhaps flawed. At almost two, my DS has a pretty impressive vocabulary and generally does a good job of letting us know what he wants / needs. He is able to tell us he wants to eat, snacks, water, soy milk juice, grapes, crackers, cookies, pasta, bread, fruit, etc.

    But he's also only (almost) two and does not yet have complete communication skills. My observation is that my DS uses "mommy milk" (nursing) as a *fall back* when he's hungry/thirsty and either doesn't know exactly what he wants to eat/drink OR when he's really really really hungry/thirsty and too hungry/thirsty to be thinking clearly.

    There are times (like yesterday mid-morning) when DS asks for "mommy milk" and I steer him to eating/drinking something else instead. Sometimes this does involve tears from DS, but no different when I tell him things like he needs to put on shoes to go outside or other typical toddler "testing limits" behaviors.

    While DS says he *wants* mommy milk, I know that what he *needs* is to get more actual food into his tummy. And once he eats he feels tons better and is smiling and happy again.

    This might sound like heresy, but I'm feeling like my role is to help DS recognize when he's hungry / thirsty and help teach him the best ways to communicate that to us. And I don't think that me always "not refusing" to nurse is the best approach to help DS learn to understand what his body is telling him and how to communicate that to us.

    I don't want to start a debate (or get flamed) but am interested in others thoughts & experiences.

    Thanks!
    Lynn
    DS1: bf 7/2006 -> 4/2009; multiple food allergies
    DS2: bf 9/2009 -> ???
    ; multiple food allergies
    Breastmilk Donor - http://hmbana.org/index/donatemilk
    Click HERE to learn about baby led solids (BLS) / baby led weaning (BLW)

  2. #2
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    Default Re: thoughts on "don't offer, don't refuse"

    Lynn I can give you my thoughts. We (kinda) practice this now in a sense that it's not hard and fast for me. I sometimes offer and I sometimes refuse depending on whether she's overtire and I know it will calm her and get her to sleep, or if this is the third(or fourth) session in 2 hours and mama needs a break, or if we are out and about and I just want to get home. I am able to offer her other things: foods, snack, water, but her preferred method for washing any of those things down is with breastmilk. Lately, she will finish an entire cup of water and then half of another cup but then will want to nurse. I don't have issues with it, nor do I think that if you want to replace/redirect to solids or other liquids that that is a bad thing. We each have to follow the cues that our LOs give us. I know that K will happily eat whatever is put in front of her and want mommy milk. There are yet other times where only mommy milk will do. I just go with the flow for both of us.

    Mama to my little Diva: Miss K (7/15/06)
    And her little sister: Lulu Pie (3/21/09)

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    My body creates, houses, nurtures and nourishes life. That is awesome.
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: thoughts on "don't offer, don't refuse"

    I don't necessarily think not refusing equates to not redirecting if I think Nora is only asking to nurse out of huger/thirst/boredom. I'll often ask her if she wants to have drink of water or snack instead or, like this weekend several times she'd ask to nurse again right after she'd just finished and I suggested she get a book and we'll read instead. I don't see that as not refusing, I see it as providing an alternative. Most of the time lately if I redirect her to another activity she is perfectly happy to do it.

    But then I'm not exactly following the "don't refuse" rule, since I've been trying to night wean her.
    “We are not put on earth for ourselves, but are placed here for each other. If you are there always for others, then in time of need, someone will be there for you.”
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: thoughts on "don't offer, don't refuse"

    I've been under the impression they presented "don't offer don't refuse" as a technique of mother-led weaning rather than child-led.
    For us, it isn't a practical approach at all - at least if the goal is to change nursing patterns. I have never had to offer the breast to Z. He has always made it very clear when he wants to nurse (which is all the time). I suppose it might work better for a different kind of baby.
    I think that helping a toddler distinguish between wants and needs and to communicate clearly is a good approach to nursing as well as to other areas. Its more or less what we have been doing. I do offer food or drink if I don't think he should nurse right then. But just as often he seems to be asking to nurse out of boredom so he's really looking for a new activity.
    Honestly, I suspect that DODR is just something they suggest to let mothers feel like they have more control and are "doing something" about weaning even though it doesn't really do anything.
    Katie
    Just one more fanatical cloth diaper convert...
    Mom to Morgan (01/10/04) and Zachary (07/12/06)
    What are M & Z up to now?

  5. #5

    Default Re: thoughts on "don't offer, don't refuse"

    I nursed my oldest son until 2 years when he self weaned, and my youngest is still nursing at 28 mos.

    From my experience, nursing is not the same as regular food and drink, though I have noticed that when one of the boys has been extremely hungry or thirsty, that they would sometimes ask to nurse in those situations.

    They really do know what they want though, and during times where I think the issue might be thirst instead of a genuine desire to cuddle and nurse, I'll simply ask them which they want "Do you want a drink of water? or do you want to nurse?". They're smart kids, and when they were thirsty, they'd say "Water, please." and when they wanted to nurse, they'd let me know that. Same goes for food.

    If there are tears when you tell him that he can't nurse and offer him a drink of water instead, then you have your answer. He wanted to nurse, and didn't want a drink of water. It's up to you to decide how you want to deal with that, whether you want to wean him, or allow him to continue to nurse.

    FME with my own kids, I don't think we need to teach our kids to recognize when they're hungry and thirsty. I think the breastfeeding relationship has already helped them learn exactly when and how much they need simply through the on demand aspect of it.

    That being said though, there are times now, where sitting down to nurse would be inconvenient, or even just something I don't want to do at the moment for whatever reason. I myself have set up boundaries, and will offer a different food or beverage, or a hug and a story if I'm not feeling like nursing at the moment. I think that's ok. At 28 mos., my youngest son is quite capable of learning other ways that I can comfort him, and already eats and drinks all sorts of other things to curb thirst or hunger.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: thoughts on "don't offer, don't refuse"

    Ds doesn't necessarily ask to nurse, he demands or he cares less. There are times when he is demanding and I can redirect him, but with him it always comes back to that he wants to nurse. He isn't over demanding so I don't mind most of the time! I think we are starting to show signs of child led weaning so this may have something to do witht he fact that I don't have to deal so much with the DODR, because it's not that often anyways.
    Kelly

    Mommy to Gabriel born 12/25/06 Breastfed 12/25/06 - 12/09 and possibly here and there still
    Madelyn born 9/24/09 delivered at home and caught by my husband

    "To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right."

  7. #7
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    Default Re: thoughts on "don't offer, don't refuse"

    All of our experiences and all of our LO are very different.

    At 2 yo I think my DS is very good at telling us what he *wants* but this isn't always what he *needs*. He might tell me he only wants to eat cookies, but I don't follow his lead and only let him eat cookies because I know he *needs* other foods as well.

    And there are times when DS asks to nurse but what he really *needs* is something else and then the (sometimes tough) challenge is to try to figure out what is going on whether its hunger, pain, attention, or something else and help teach DS how to communicate that need.

    There are times when its nursing or nothing, and I do quite happily nurse my DS.
    Lynn
    DS1: bf 7/2006 -> 4/2009; multiple food allergies
    DS2: bf 9/2009 -> ???
    ; multiple food allergies
    Breastmilk Donor - http://hmbana.org/index/donatemilk
    Click HERE to learn about baby led solids (BLS) / baby led weaning (BLW)

  8. #8
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    Default Re: thoughts on "don't offer, don't refuse"

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*lsksam View Post
    All of our experiences and all of our LO are very different.


    This goes for us Mamas, too. If you feel like you need to set some limits or refuse and the time is right for you, then give it a go. You definitely know him better than us. Drawing that line between wants and needs isn't always clear cut, especially when nursing because while they might not need it for nutrition or to survive, they might need it to emotionally reconnect. That's a tough one.
    Mother - Wife - Artist - Cook - Writer - EnvironMENTAList - Cloth Diaperer (but we are soooo done with diapers) - Organic Health Nut...I'm sure there's more.

    DD1 - 12/15/05 Breastfed for 16.5 months
    DD2 - 8/6/07 Breastfed for 3 whole years and 3 little, extra days.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: thoughts on "don't offer, don't refuse"

    Dont ask dont refuse

    baby is throwing a holy fit you know nursing will calm him down, dont ask
    baby wont eat dinner, nursing will fill his tummy, dont ask
    baby fell down bumped her head, dont ask
    baby wakes in the night and is just crying, you know nursing will settle her, dont ask..

    baby throwing a fit, ask to nurse, you do
    baby wont eat, ask to nurse, you do
    baby fell down, ask to nurse, you do
    baby wakes, ask for milk, you do..

    many moms have found that staying busy, not sitting during the day, standing alot! ( this worked for us when I was early preggo and cut Thomas back during the day, and dum dums as a distraction) & getting dad more inolved at bedtime. I am not sure if you are asking for weaning help or if you are just thinking out loud both are fine of course.
    babies/toddlers/children all use nursing for different things and at different times in the day, if Thomas is whiny and hanging on my leg ( he was 3 in May) begging for milkie and he has not eaten in a while I will offer him so food, as in make it for him and give it to him, if you ask what he wants he will always say no.
    I found dont ask dont refuse to be the most helpful when I was pregnant and Thomas looked as if he was weaning

  10. #10
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    Default Re: thoughts on "don't offer, don't refuse"

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*nolamomma View Post


    This goes for us Mamas, too. If you feel like you need to set some limits or refuse and the time is right for you, then give it a go. You definitely know him better than us. Drawing that line between wants and needs isn't always clear cut, especially when nursing because while they might not need it for nutrition or to survive, they might need it to emotionally reconnect. That's a tough one.

    I agree- all lo's and their mamas are different, with different wants vs. needs and methods for handling each. Ithink it's great we have a place that we can express our concerns, questions, thougths and so forth and know that they will be received and someone will have some feedback from their POV that we can take or leave.

    Back to the topic.... what works for us when it's not clear what he may want or need- is offering options. LIke one pp said, if they are seeming to want to nurse and you ask would you like to take a drink of water or nurse, you can see if they are happy with their choice.... tears when not nursing is a good indicator that they want/need to nurse.
    Kelly

    Mommy to Gabriel born 12/25/06 Breastfed 12/25/06 - 12/09 and possibly here and there still
    Madelyn born 9/24/09 delivered at home and caught by my husband

    "To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right."

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