Written by guest blogger, Andrea J. Blanco, IBCLC
Have you ever read Dinosaur vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea?
“ROAR!! I’m a dinosaur! ROAR! NOTHING CAN STOP ME!”
It’s a cute little book about this dinosaur who faces many challenges, and wins all but one. The dinosaur is FOR SURE a toddler. I just know it.
In my previous post, we talked about some of the reasons why nursing a toddler can be a helpful transition for you and your little one. Dealing with a little person who has so many changes going on all at once can feel a lot like those battles in Dinosaur vs. Bedtime. Here are some suggestions for turning the tables on your little dinosaur or dinosaurette.
I want to keep nursing, but am being pressured to quit.
In this society, if you happen to be nursing your 3 month old, you are in the minority. Six months? You are an anomaly. If you’ve gotten to the point where you’re thinking of nursing your toddler, then it is safe to assume that not everyone around you will understand or agree that you are doing a very important, *normal* thing. However, dealing with that lack of support is crucial to your wellbeing and to the likely continuation of your breastfeeding relationship. So what can you do if the people closest to you don’t necessarily share your same enthusiasm?
First, have a conversation about their concerns. Be a good listener and find out why continued nursing is bothersome for them. It’s rarely about YOU nursing YOUR toddler that is offensive to them and has to do with other concerns, like spending time with you (in the case of a partner) or spending time with the baby (in the case of extended family) or concerns (real or perceived) over your work duties (in the case of an employer). If you’re able to get to the real issue for which breastfeeding is taking the hit, making small changes to show you are conscientious of their concerns will get the attention off the nursing and you and your toddler can continue your breastfeeding relationship.
There are times when despite your best efforts, it will feel like a lonely journey. However, in this day and age, that needn’t be the case. A lot of communities offer breastfeeding support groups and even breastfeeding toddler groups. Check with your local hospital or La Leche League chapter to see if there are any in your area. When my first was approaching toddlerhood, I found my support through online forums where I met some great, like-minded mommas whose virtual support was key to our continued breastfeeding success. If you’re on Facebook, become a member of one of the many groups there are offering mother-to-mother support. Are you on Twitter? Search #breastfeeding and for the most part, you’ll be met with tons of virtual kindness. What about downloading some great podcasts from The Boob Group? You don’t need an army of people cheering your name – sometimes one person who gets what you are going through is enough. Toddler Nursing vs. the World? Toddler Nursing WINS!
My toddler is very demanding about wanting to nurse, even when I don’t want to.
As you’ve probably realized, toddlers are VERY demanding about EVERYTHING. Nursing will definitely not be excluded. It’s easy to continue to fall into this routine of “on-demand” nursing when you’ve been at it for so long, but with your child’s developing language comes the understanding that we live in a world where patience and manners are necessary and there are boundaries. While breastfeeding does still serve a nutritional purpose in that second year of life, it probably isn’t what your toddler is surviving on alone. In the same way that you are curbing the throwing of sippy cups on the floor so hard that the top comes off and the water (if you’re lucky, it’s just water!) spills everywhere, you can begin to curb the octopus arms toddlers suddenly develop when trying to get to the breast. Model the behavior you wish to see and be gentle, but firm about it (laughing or smiling and cooing at how cute it is that your little one grabs at your shirt and pulls so hard while yelling for some milkies when you’re trying to say no isn’t very effective). Octopus Hands vs. Nursing Manners? Nursing Manners WIN!
But, what if I’m out and my toddler still wants to nurse?
Maybe nursing a baby in public has been a challenge for you. If so, then the idea of nursing a toddler in public is really intimidating. Because toddlers are all about exploring the world around them, they are [generally] easy to distract when you’re out. There was, however, that one time at mass when my little angel decided that the crayons and snacks I’d brought along weren’t going to cut it. Nothing like hearing “BOOOOOBIEEEEEE” being yelled out in a quiet room built to echo. As mortified as I may have been at the moment, it’s also one of my most cherished memories. If distraction isn’t working, with a little quick thinking, there’s always a quiet place you and your little one can go for that needed pit stop, breastfeeding under the choir robes included. Also, while you are aware you’re nursing a toddler, most people wouldn’t even think of it, so just as in the case of a baby, to a passerby, it can look like your child is sleeping on your lap, and nothing else (this, of course, doesn’t apply if your son has already announced his plans to the entire congregation). Boobie vs. Echo? Boobie WINS!
When all else fails, don’t forget – you can set boundaries. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I’ve dealt with countless clients who, by the time their child gets to a certain age, are having a hard time continuing the nursing relationship because of these demanding moments. If you are at your wit’s end and feel like you want to keep nursing but…, try to find a middle ground. If you are able to target the most stressful times and/or nursing behaviors, you can then find ways to work around them. Maybe that means finding gentle ways to say no by way of distraction more often than you are used to, but if it goes hand in hand with keeping your sanity and in turn, continuing your nursing relationship, then, whether your toddler agrees with you at the particular moment or not, it’s still a win/win situation. Demanding Toddler vs. Boundaries? Boundaries WIN!
Nursing a toddler, like having a toddler, isn’t always easy, but if you so happen to embark on the journey, you may find it is always worth it. It gives you another mothering tool to help navigate those battlefield moments and is a sure fire way to connect with your child amidst this busy life we lead. One day my little one got his finger caught in the door and came wobbling over to me, tears of pain streaming down his soft, round toddler cheeks. Instinctively, I lowered my shirt and offered the breast. The older one, worried about his brother, came over and said to him “You see, B? There is love in there so you’ll be ok.” I realized the only reason he felt that way was because of what he experienced at the breast by way of watching and doing. I couldn’t have asked for a bigger reward from my nursing relationships. Toddler vs. Breastfeeding? Love always wins.
Andrea Blanco is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant at The Milk Collective Lactation Care, working with families in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area. She is the proud mom of 2 loving, spirited boys, who teach her humility, patience, humor, and the rules to more sports than she thought she’d need to know every day. When she’s not helping families achieve their breastfeeding goals, you can find her on the sidelines, at karate tournaments, or with her toes in the sand. She can also be found at themilkcollective.co, on Instagram @themilkcollective_ , facebook.com/themilkcollectivelactation or by email at: email@example.com.