Weaned, But Curious
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 16 No. 1, January-February 1999, pp. 18-19
We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.
"Toddler Tips" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents of toddlers. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.
My daughter weaned when she was twelve months old and I was three months pregnant. Ever since her little sister was born, she asks to nurse after the baby is finished. So far when she asks I have told her, "You used to nurse when you were a baby like your sister." This seems to satisfy her as she becomes occupied with a book or toy, yet she continues to ask. What should I do about this?
Try to remember that your older daughter is really still a baby herself. She needs the warmth and comfort that an open lap and arms can provide. If you feel comfortable nursing her, I encourage you to do so. Toddlers usually just want to know that mommy still loves them as much as the new baby. I tandem nursed my two boys until the eldest was about two-and-a-half. He weaned about six months ago, but will occasionally still ask, when the baby has finished, if he can have milk too. He only latches on for a minute or two, then laughs and says, "I like milk too." Asking to nurse may be your daughter's way of letting you know that she still needs special time with you.
If you feel uncomfortable nursing your toddler, make an extra effort to include her in your nursing time. When you nurse the baby, snuggle your daughter beside you with a blanket, book or toy. Allowing her to share your lap and simply watch the baby nurse while you enjoy a chat session can he helpful. My older son will sometimes place his hand on my breast and say he is helping the baby to nurse. You may also find MOTHERING YOUR NURSING TODDLER by Norma Jane Bumgarner (available from the LLLI Online Store) to be a helpful resource whatever the decision you reach.
I know this is a time that seems a little stressful now, but your older daughter will soon be too busy to care when you're nursing the baby. Embrace her now. These moments will soon be fond memories. Good Luck.
My son was older than your daughter when his sister was born, and he too looked at my nursing with yearning. I told him that he could have a very little "Big Brother Ninney." He very happily nursed for a bit and then went on to other things. He is and was very verbal and I asked him why he liked it so much. "Mommy," he said. "it is so warm and delicious and good!"' If it doesn't bother you to let your older daughter have a short and simple nurse, let her. It will mean a lot to her, and won't interfere with your milk supply for the baby.
Candace M. H.
My son Brendan weaned himself shortly after I became pregnant with my daughter. He was twenty-one months old and told me "dere's no milk in dere." Brendan didn't ask to nurse again until my daughter was born. I was told it might happen, so instead of making a fuss I just let him climb on my lap and nurse. He wanted to lie on the pillow exactly as his tiny sister, Katie, had been lying. When I looked down at him, he looked so big that I took a fit of laughter. He enjoyed his short "nursey" and did ask a few times again in the weeks to come, but then he just stopped asking. I really believe that because I let him nurse, everything went very smoothly. I think had I said no, it might have become one of those "Why can Katie do it and I can't?" What you are doing seems to be working nicely for you. You may want to have a little cuddling time with your older daughter when you are done nursing the baby so that she can have special time with mommy also. Maybe it is not so much that she wants to nurse but that she sees the baby getting to spend lots of time with you. Let her know that because she is older she gets to do things that her little sister can't.
Ann K. N.
When his sister was born, my son was three-and-a-half and nursing once or twice a week with each nursing lasting only a few seconds. When my milk supply increased after the birth of our baby, he was quite keen to get a taste. He settled into my lap with great anticipation and "tried" to nurse. I say try because it had been months since he had last latched on properly and in that time had magically forgotten the wondrous art of breastfeeding! It seems this is a common phenomenon with recently weaned nurslings. Since he was still filled with a desire to taste the milk that had once been his life's blood I expressed some on a spoon for him. He eagerly gulped, crinkled up his nose, and stuck out his tongue. Yuck! would have best described his reaction.
Letting your daughter try to nurse may just give her the help she needs to put closure to a wonderful memory in her life. It may also give her the reassurance that she, too, will always be her mama's baby.
It sounds like your daughter needs reassurance of how special she is to you and how much you love her. She sees the time you spend with your newborn, much of which is spent nursing. It is natural that she asks to be close to you by asking to nurse.
When children wean during a pregnancy, they often ask to nurse again when the new baby arrives. Many moms let their toddlers try only to discover that they have forgotten how or are simply content to know they are still welcome at the breast. Other toddlers do take up nursing again for a time.
My children are 19 months apart. My older child's need to nurse decreased when I was careful to show him extra attention and give him more physical closeness. I rocked him like I rocked the baby and held him on my lap whenever the baby wasn't there. I also showered him with kisses and hugs. At night, both children slept with me and my husband.
It is a challenge, especially if your newborn is high need, but perhaps extra physical closeness with your daughter will help her know she hasn't been replaced.
It is not uncommon for even young children to wean during a pregnancy. However, if we look at the age many children naturally wean, your daughter may have ended her nursing career before she was ready. At eighteen months many children still derive many calories and much of their nutrition from nursing and the immune benefits are there for children for as long as they nurse. The American Academy of Pediatrics current statement on breastfeeding recommends nursing up to one year and beyond for as long as it is mutually satisfying for mother and child. Your daughter may truly have a need to nurse. On the other hand she may just want reassurance there is still a place for her not only in your heart but also at breast. Once reassured she may decide that she doesn't really need to nurse after all. It is challenging to meet the needs of more than one child, especially when they are close in age. You are obviously sensitive to your children s needs and I'm sure will find a way that will work best for your family.