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Toddler Tips

Burned Out on Breastfeeding?

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 14 No. 5, September-October 1997, pp. 150-1

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.

Situation

I have been either breastfeeding or pregnant since the oldest of my four children was born eleven years ago. I'm afraid my two-year-old may be getting shortchanged because I seem to be burned out on breastfeeding. I nurse him once or twice during the day, and as often as needed in our family bed at night. I know that he wants to nurse more than I seem willing to. I don't want to wean him, but I am starting to feel overwhelmed. How can I become more tolerant in this last stretch of my breastfeeding career?

Response

I have been nursing now for six years and am starting to feel overwhelmed too. I have two boys. The oldest, Joel, nursed till just past four years of age. I tandem nursed him and his baby brother Daniel for a year and a half. I had always planned to nurse my second child at least as long as my first. Now that Daniel is three, I'm finding it hard to keep nursing.

I have been parenting alone most of the time lately, so I haven't been getting many breaks from the kids. I was starting to really resent each time my youngest asked to nurse, especially at night. I finally "poured my heart out" to several nursing moms one afternoon. Just speaking aloud about what I was feeling and all of the difficulties I had been going through helped me gain perspective on the situation. As my friends asked me questions, I came to realize that it wasn't just the nursing, but my entire life that was overwhelming me.

From there, I did a lot of thinking and taking notes on myself throughout each day to see what was specifically bothering me. I decided that it was important to me that my son learn to fall asleep without nursing. I concentrated on that, and on asking friends to take the boys for a few hours so I could have time alone.

One statement in particular from a friend motivated me to look closely at my nursing relationship. She said, "I would feel so sad for you if you weaned him now because you are overwhelmed, and then in six months when your life is less hectic you regretted that you weren't nursing any more." I realized then that maybe it wasn't so important for me to push so hard to wean, and that I could hang in there a little longer.

We are still nursing. I am thankful to my friends for helping me hold onto this special part of motherhood for a little while longer.

Lania Chesser
Columbia MO USA

Response

As the mother of six children, I have also spent an extended time being either pregnant or nursing a child. I know how exhausting mothering can be. There are challenges in meeting the needs of a young child while still being available to the busy schedule of older children.

One of the advantages of being the youngest child is that even when mother is busy, an older sibling is often available to give attention to the younger ones. Two-year-olds have very intense needs and let everyone know it.

Through nursing these two years you have learned to read his needs. You can tell when he wants someone to play with or when he really needs attention from you and/or nursing. Breastfeeding is a wonderful way for both of you to reconnect after a stressful time.

Being the mother of a large family, I get burned out easily. It is extremely important that you take some time for yourself. Pamper yourself. It will help with feeling overwhelmed. Find a support group like your local La Leche League group.

Remembering how fast children grow up will also give you perspective on those difficult days. Happy Mothering to you.

Ruth Solomon
Harrisburg PA USA

Response

I, too, have been pregnant or breastfeeding for 11 years. I've nursed through a pregnancy, tandem nursed and now am nursing 18-month-old twins! I do not have the easy, relaxed truly "on demand" breastfeeding relationship now that I started with all those years ago. Some days I feel like just don't want to breastfeed any more. I am much more likely to comfort with hugs and cuddles, or to distract with crackers and juice. Like you, I nurse each baby only a couple of times a day, and then as much as they need during the night. I find myself setting short-term goals, just as I did nursing newborns: I'll breastfeed for another month, until summer vacation, until they are two years old.

I have also wondered about shortchanging my babies. I remind myself of something so often pointed out to doctors and new mothers: Toddlers don't only nurse for nutrition, they nurse for closeness and togetherness. My twins may get less time at the breast than my singleton babies did, but between Daddy, sister, two brothers and Mommy, I truly believe they get all the holding, cuddling, and closeness they could want. And just look at all the people they have to love them!

Anne Roy
Stanley NC USA

Response

As a mother of seven children, ranging in age from one year to 19 years, I can certainly appreciate your feelings. I have had periods where I absolutely love nursing and periods where I didn't think I could take it another second. I have come to recognize that many things affect how I feel about nursing at any given time: my hormonal state, environment, obligations, the age of my baby, my health, and even the weather!

Nursing a child when you don't feel like it isn't any less meaningful than a nursing a child when you do feel like it. We do many things out of love for our children when we would rather be doing something else. Yet we never wonder if this is a sign that we should stop rocking, holding, feeding, reading, changing diapers, or rubbing a back. We have many periods in our lives as mothers when our enthusiasm is overflowing. We also have periods when there is little enthusiasm. Our love is always constant.

Allow yourself to be where you are with your feelings, whether positive or negative, high tolerance or low tolerance. See if there are any areas of your daily life that you can let go of. This may give you more time to nurse without feeling under pressure.

Remember, too, life is not fair; everything is not equal; your children will not have the same life. They are all individuals with different birth orders. They will each see different sides of their mother. There are benefits to being first in the family, benefits to being the youngest, and, of course, benefits to each child in between. Perhaps it isn't a matter of becoming more tolerant of nursing, but more tolerant of yourself and the feelings you are experiencing.

Marianne Byers
Fresno CA USA

Response

I've been nursing continuously since my first child was born six and a half years ago. When I feel burnt out or overwhelmed, I take a mini-vacation. Sometimes this can be taking an uninterrupted shower on Sunday mornings when my husband is home, or sneaking in a half-chapter of a good book during an unexpected moment when the kids are quiet. Sometimes when my little one wakes me late at night, I'll make a short call to my friend in California (while rates are low).

My best source of recharging is my husband. When I feel touched out, even the shortest back rub or massage seems to work wonders. I appreciate my husband's understanding and support. When I have mixed feelings about nursing, he helps me remember the value of the gift of health and well-being I am giving our children.

Joanne Green
Philadelphia PA USA

Last updated Tuesday, October 17, 2006 by njb.
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