8 Tips for Breastfeeding With Boundaries

We talk a lot about breastfeeding on demand, so much that when I found myself breastfeeding a toddler I just kept right on doing it on demand! It wasn’t until I was pregnant and experiencing nursing aversion and all kinds of touched out that I started to feel drained. I birthed my new baby and embarked on tandem nursing thinking it would all be cool and I could just breastfeed the whole damn family on demand. I was losing my mind and my friend finally told me that she went through the same thing and needed to put up boundaries around breastfeeding with her oldest. Boundaries!? With my precious first born? But what will he think of all this. Weaning was not far from my mind, but with a new baby in the family and all the changes I just didn’t feel it was a good time. Boundaries was the answer! A few tips from our house to yours:

1. Start Small: With a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old I have boundaries galore, but at first it seemed scary and I was wracked with guilt. Start really small and go from there. Try taking the least important session of the day and limiting its duration. I say, “2 minutes and then we’ll cuddle.” Others sing ABCs or count. Then after a few days you can move to other sessions and limit the durations more. Then remove a session altogether. And progress from there to a place that feels manageable to you.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, breastfeeding son

2. Keep it Moving: A moving toddler thinks about nursing less than a stationary toddler. Get outside, go to the park, go on a walk, just do something other than what you really want to do which is sit around and relax. Some days getting out of the house seems like the biggest chore, but when things get too cozy around the house I can feel my toddler zeroing in on my nipples.

 3. Get Out of the Recliner: You get all of this advice when you have a baby to create your nursing station. Find the coziest place in the house, get tons of pillows and put your feet up. That’s great when you’re feeling like a breastfeeding goddess, but when you just want your nips to stay in your shirt you better avoid that place. The toddler knows! They will totally stalk you.

4. Illegal Snacks: Go to the store and stock up on things that you ideally wouldn’t feed your kid on a daily basis. After my second son was born and my first son was hitting the ceiling and wanting to nurse all day I was desperate. I would have served him chocolate cake 6 times a day if it had gotten any worse. We combed the grocery store for new snacks that he had never seen and tried them all. It was a good distraction.

5. Get Others Involved: My husband took a giant leap forward when it came to tending to our toddler. Daddy time took his mind off of nursing and put it on exciting new activities they could do “just the 2 dudes.” I also made a point to go to busy playgrounds and meet friends so that there would be many people around for distraction.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder's husband and son

6. Explain Your Feelings: They can handle it, they really can. I often tell Jack that he is getting bigger which means his mouth is too. I tell him that this doesn’t feel good to mommy. I tell him that I know he loves “boobie,” but mommy can only do it for a little bit. We have variations of this conversation daily. It’s the most important one.

7. Brainstorm New Activities: When I really committed to this boundary thing there was a bit of resistance. Ok, a lot of resistance. My tot was none too happy with this. I struggled for a long time with guilt about it, but now I know it is the best thing for us. During one of our most heated weeks Jack started to say, “what can make me feel better?” when I would say, “no” to a nursing session. It was really hard and heart-breaking. My husband came home from work with a list of things we could introduce into our routine. Many of these things are still solid parts of our new routine. It went like this: new books, new puzzles, play trucks, go to the library, dance, wrestle, play Man-Cub and Ballou, paint, crayons, playground (list of 4 in our neighborhood), sandbox, dry oat bin, cutting with scissors, telling stories, telling jokes, running, soccer, baseball, play-doh, matching game, call grandmas. In a pinch we just consulted the list.

8. Say No: So yes, part of removing sessions from the day or night involves saying, “no.” It’s really one of the hardest things I have had to do as a mother. I never thought about it before doing it. It never crossed my mind that I would ever turn down my child! But when my emotional health was on the line it became obvious we had to push through this. There were days when I gave in and I don’t think it did anyone any good, but it’s a mind fuck to see your kid crying the deepest sobs you’ve ever seen for the one thing that made the two of you so close to begin with. Just remember, you are there, you are talking, you are comforting. Change is hard. You will all be OK. If my little man can get through it, anyone can!

Abby Theuring, MSW

Comments

  1. Jessica says:

    Thanks for sharing this! While I am not tandem nursing, I am nursing a toddler and that in itself can be very trying…..weaning has been on my mind but I just know how much he loves it 🙁

  2. This is exactly what I needed to read tonight. Thank you!

  3. Jessica says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m dealing with the mummy-guilt of setting boundaries right now, as I’m currently 19 weeks pregnant and trying to cope with the nursing aversion that has set in. Thankfully, my 2yo seems to be coping with the boundaries without too much distress. It’s so good to read about others going through the same challenges!

  4. Yes, boundaries helped a lot when I was nursing and newly pregnant. One thing I found is that my daughter usually was hungry when she asked to nurse during the day, so if I offered her a snack she’d often forgo nursing in favor of food. It was just easy for her to ask for milk so that’s what she did. Because I knew I was wanting to wean before the end of pregnancy, I started with small boundaries at the beginning of the pregnancy and got us down to nursing for naps and bed time by the beginning of the second trimester without too much fuss. It also made finally weaning her a bit easier when I did. I’d already put in some boundaries, so I was prepared for her initial reactions to the new ones.

  5. Full of great ideas and emotions I can definitely relate to – summer time has presented the need for some boundaries as lower-cut shirts and tank tops seem to be an open invitation to nursing my toddler. Thanks for the post, its so very clear that you care deeply about your child(ren).

  6. I nursed all five of my children until they were between 3 and 5 years old. The were all born within seven years, so yeah – if you do the math on that, there were years when I was nursing 3 or 4 kids at a time! I remember once demanding that no one could touch my boobs until tomorrow! Including the husband!

    Such memories… but really, I just want to agree with you about boundaries. I never really had too much trouble with it, because every older child understood that when the next baby showed up, baby ALWAYS got first pickings. They understood that this was how they helped baby grow up, by making sure baby got the most milk. It helped to have lots of kids because the displaced toddler always had someone to distract her (and empathize with her). And they all knew they’d get their turn, whether that was the once-a-day bedtime suckle for the oldest, or the good-morning, nap-time, and bedtime snuggles for the toddler.

    So don’t feel guilty about it. Weaning is as natural for the older child as learning to eat with a spoon or how to tie shoes. Boundaries help them learn self-discipline.

  7. This helped alot, thank you so much! I was about to go crazy.

  8. Laura Powell says:

    Aww man, you made me cry with that last paragraph! Great suggestions. Thank you!

  9. I enjoyed this post. I recently weaned my son at 26 months due to my pregnancy. I was 7 months along when nursing became physically painful to me. He had already self-weaned down to only two sessions a day, so it wasn’t a big leap to stop. I did struggle with guilt for a while, but I know a sane mommy is best for my little ones. We are due this week and will embark on our 4th breastfeeding journey!

  10. What would you say is the minimum age for this?

  11. Ugh! I’m just beginning my research on weaning a toddler. Honestly, I don’t want to wean her because I know she is not ready but in the same breath I’m ready. #8 #8 is so so hard. This reminds me of when I was doing the “cry it out” method. I lasted all of 9 minutes and felt horrible for even bothering with that. I tortured my baby for 9 minutes only to give in into her cries. I find myself doing the same thing now with weaning. The bloody cries and tearing at my clothes makes me weak….

  12. Thanks for sharing this. I’m going crazy with my boobie crazy 19 month old. She’s also teething, which seems to irritate and create pain in my nipples. Blech. She’s old enough for me to create boundaries. I’m going to start these ideas.

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  1. […] other really excellent articles that may help you along this part of your journey are here, here and here.  These are strategies that have worked for me and my kids.  Ceasing to breastfeed […]

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