I've been observing the following phenomenon with my 18-month daughter...when it's just the two of us, she tends to want to be right with me, doing whatever I'm doing. She wants to nurse often (which is no problem). When someone else is there with us, adult or child, she tends to act more independent and seems content to run around and play by herself. I'm not concerned, just curious if anyone's experienced that and what you think it might mean? Her "school teachers" (she goes to daycare part-time, 5 hrs, 3 days a week) say that she likes to hang back and observe, prefers to do more introspective stuff like color and read books and shred blades of grass, rather than play with the other kids.
One thing I'd note is that I try to allow her space to play by herself when we're home together. I sit with her to read books and play with her stuffed animals, and then when I'm doing chores she just kind of tags along, and makes up games along the way -- with clothes, if I'm doing laundry, or with a pan of soapy water if I'm doing dishes, or with whatever else she finds: shoes, the cat, sometimes she'll venture outside to the sandbox. We are pretty active a lot -- maybe she wants to nurse a lot because she just wants to relax. And I guess it does vary, depending on whether she is tired or hungry, or not...
Hmmm...I love thinking about the psychology of my child, though I try not to get too analytical about it!
I'd say totally normal. When someone else is around it's novel and thus where their attention goes. When it's just you two, you're where the action is, and especially at her age when she's probably wanting to try what you're doing herself. Can I stir that pot, crack that egg, sweep that broom, push those buttons? The extra nursing when it's just you two is probably just that there are fewer distractions and she might get bored. DS (19mo) will go 4 or 5 hours without nursing if there's stuff going on, but if it's just us at home with the same boring ol' toys he wants to nurse like every twenty minutes.
Also very normal for kids to be more reserved at daycare or with a sitter - when they're with you, they're "safe" and essentially know that you won't leave them no matter what. With other care givers they don't have that security and act out less.