Asking to nurse as a way of manipulation???? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 05-28-2010, 01:00 PM - Thread Starter
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My 21 month old daughter nurses constantly, she always has. I have always nursed her on demand and thought I wanted to go the child-led route. Well, lately I'm feeling so torn and confused. It seems like she may be asking to nurse as a way of manipulation because she knows that I won't ever tell her no. If I'm not constantly giving her my undivided attention, and get up to do something else, like the dishes, cook dinner, go the the bathroom, brush my teeth, she is hanging on my leg begging to nurse. If I tell her to wait a minute because mommy has to finish washing the dishes, she throws a complete fit. I'm sort of at my wits end here. She's also using it as a way to get out of whenever I start to brush her teeth or put her in the car seat, she yells "more numnum!" And gets mad if I don't give it to her right then and there. I'm feeling very exhausted and sort of taken advantage of. I sort of feel like she's controlling me with nursing as a way to get what she wants. I can't get anything done, ever. I feel like all I ever do is sit on the couch and nurse her. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE nursing her and cherish our breastfeeding relationship. I would love to continue nursing her for another year or so, if she was interested. But, nursing several times an hour is really wearing me out. And, no...this isn't just a phase. She's been nursing like this from the very beginning. I'm just feeling worn out; I've spent the last 21 months dropping absolutely everything whenever she so much as mentions nursing.

I'm thinking that I need to start setting some limits or boundaries, but I'm torn and confused about how to go about it. I have to admit that I'm very uncomfortable with telling her "no" when she asks to nurse. I've just always believed I'd continue to nurse her on demand and follow her lead until she decided she was ready to wean. I want to avoid initiating weaning and I'm afraid that by me starting to tell her no, it may start a snow ball effect and lead her to wean. Also, I've always felt like nursing is sort of like a big, it makes me said to deny her something that for us is an expression of love.

I'd really appreciate some help and suggestions on how to deal with this. I'm sure many of you have been in this situation before. Please, any advice would be very appreciated!

Blissfully happy and devoted wife to my best friend and anamored by my sweet baby girls, DD1 (8/8/08) and DD2 (06-17-11). Proud attached, tandem breastfeeding, baby-wearing, blw mama.

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#2 of 7 Old 05-30-2010, 12:07 AM
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I can't say whether or not you DD is using BF for manipulation but I wouldn't worry about that too much right now.
Something that I think is easy to forget about our breastfeeding relationship is that it is that-a relationship! It goes both ways. If you are not happy about something, I think it's ok to change it. Personally, I would be much happier to make some changes to create more balance than staying in a place I might resent. Setting boundaries can happen gradually. I love what you said about nursing being like a big hug- that's awesome! Maybe replace a couple of nursings a day with a special activity (play-doh, books, songs, dancing, whatever). It can still be a special time where her love needs are met! Maybe offer to wear her while making dinner if that's when she asks.
My DD was always a frequent nurser but I got to point where I felt I couldn't do as much. There have been times when she needed more and I do my best to be sensitive to that too.

Becky- Wife to DH, Mama to "Nani" (July '08) "Coco" (July '10) and Decker the Wrecker (May'13)
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#3 of 7 Old 05-30-2010, 12:10 AM
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My DD nursed all the time like that. It could be very overwhelming at times. You can set boundaries without starting on the fast track to weaning. Just because she has always nursed all the time, does not mean she needs to continue doing it now. Her requests are wants as well now, not just needs, and you can set limits. You need to if you are feeling stressed about it. You don't want to have negative feelings overwhelming you about nursing. Setting limits does not mean you are taking away her lead on nursing.

At those times when you need to finish doing something or put her in the carseat or whatever, rather than saying No, telling her when she can nurse may help. A postively phrased "yes-later" is received much better than "No." At first she will resist, but before long she should get with the program. Or finding a Playful Parenting way to put her off can create enough of a distraction that it can move her away from her insistence-tantrum mood. It won't work across the board, but try it.

You can talk to her about it at that age, knowing she will try to use nursing to get out of the carseat, nurse her right before you are going out and explain that nursing is done and she can nurse again when you get there or when you get home or whatever, so if she asks when you are strapping her in, remind her what you just discussed. It will sink in eventually.

Also it helps a lot to change the way you are thinking about all her requests. Thinking of them as manipulation, can really make you that much more aggravated and she will pick up on it and be that much more persistent. I don't really see it as manipulating you. Asking to nurse results in you dropping everything to accommodate her, so of course that is what she will request when she wants mama-time.

It's a very needy, demanding age. So if it weren't nursing, she'd be demanding your attention in other ways. It is perfectly normal for her to do this. And it is also perfectly reasonable for you to start gently setting limits. Find ways to get her to help with the household tasks, so she may not need to insist you stop. Make you brushing your teeth into toothbrush time and have her do her own at the same time. "Let's do the laundry" may work better than you doing it on your own. It will take longer if she "helps" but that may fill her need for connection then and result in fewer demands to nurse.

I think when you start putting limits, it can go much more easily if you change the routine. So if, every time you sit on the couch she asks to nurse, don't sit there. Adding fun activities into the day can really help distract her from nursing, and it may be easier to put her off if she asks when you are out. My DD did NIP all the time in many places, but the fact was that if we were doing a bunch of fun things outside of the house she did ask less and then when we were home more, she was less in the habit of constant nursing.

Delay nursing with other attachment activities. "Okay we'll nurse after we read this book" or whatever, she may not need to nurse after the book. Also make sure you are offering her water and snacks. Clearly most of this is not food/drink related, but if she is thirsty/hungry she will be more likely to keep asking to nurse.

Putting limits in no way put us on a path to weaning. DD still nurses at 3.5 so don't feel forced to continue to nurse on demand. Limit setting does not have to harm or cut short the nursing relationship.
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#4 of 7 Old 05-30-2010, 10:56 AM
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Oh goodness this must be exhausting for you, I would highly recommend the book Love and Limits, its a great book and may be useful for you, I think that you are correct that she knows what she's doing and wants but she's growing up and there are differences between needs and wants. Anyway i could go on for hours - lol, but I highly recommend the book, also Liberated Parents Liberated Children and How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk both books by Faber Maslich, wonderful wonderful books; also another one I really love is Confident Children by Gael Lindenfeld; and the Steve Biddulph - The Secret of Happy Children - lots of reading there but some really great books. Good luck - it's not going to last forever!! Hang in there.

ewe + dh = our little lambs + we and have many just : and : life .
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#5 of 7 Old 05-30-2010, 11:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Thank you all so much for your suggestions. I appreciate the ideas on distraction and hearing your personal stories. I'm planning to start implementing them soon! :-) Oh, and thanks for the advice on books...I'm always looking for great recommendations on parenting books.

And, kiwiva...I love when you said "Putting limits in no way put us on a path to weaning. DD still nurses at 3.5 so don't feel forced to continue to nurse on demand. Limit setting does not have to harm or cut short the nursing relationship." I really needed to hear that, so thanks!

Blissfully happy and devoted wife to my best friend and anamored by my sweet baby girls, DD1 (8/8/08) and DD2 (06-17-11). Proud attached, tandem breastfeeding, baby-wearing, blw mama.

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#6 of 7 Old 05-30-2010, 12:37 PM
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Welcome (a bit early) to life with a two year old! At this age they have a huge need to test boundaries and figure out the rules of their world which translates into really demanding/obnoxious behavior but it isn't manipulation in the same way it would be if an adult/older child engaged in the same behavior. I agree with previous posters that if you weren't still breastfeeding your daughter would be exhibiting the same behavior in another area.

What helped me the most with breastfeeding a child who was a a super frequent nurser was to tell her "you can't nurse right now for X reason but you can nurse at this time." And I'd always follow through and offer to nurse at that later time even if she had forgotten about her initial request. A lot of things (like teeth brushing and getting in the car seat) I just made non-negotiatoble.

And yes her nursing frequency eventually began to decrease, but it was very gradual and I think a normal part of CLWing. It didn't dramatically decrease until I became pregnant with #2 when she was 2.5 (which may not be strict CLWing but that's a different thread). Once she turned two and had 2 full years of nursing in I did start offering her food/water first sometimes when she asked to nurse which also may not be strict CLWing but can help a lot if you're starting to feel really burnt out.

Mothering Your Nursing Toddler is a great pep talk on all aspects of life with a nursing toddler and it leans WAY more toward CLWing than MLWing.
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#7 of 7 Old 06-04-2010, 12:33 AM
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I'm too tired (from nursing my 27 month old all day and night, lol), but I just wanted to also say that if your child is nursing that frequently, I really doubt that putting a few limits on it will in any way push her toward weaning. Sure, technically we start "weaning" from the minute we give them solid food, but a child who's that attached to the boob is not going to give it up just because you put a few gentle limits on it! I also have a champion nurser...I once calculated when she was about 2 months old that in a 24-hour period, she was unlatched from my boob for a total of maybe 4 hours, spread out in 15-minute increments. Now at 27 months, she nurses at LEAST every 3 or 4 hours round the clock, usually a lot more. (I like to say that she nurses as much as the average newborn...). And I've been setting limits on her nursing since 18 months. One technique I really like is counting--we count to ten on each side and then we're done. It only works for a brief distraction, but when I pick her up from preschool we nurse to 10 on each side and then she's ok with driving home before she nurses more (for an hour). And when she wants to nurse before bedtime routine, I can put her off with ten on each side and then finish our routine before she nurses to sleep.

I only wish weaning were that easy...a few gentle limits and she's done?! Before she turned two, I felt like you do--I was scared she might wean early--but now I'm just about done. She's nowhere near ready, though.

Mama to DD, my 2/24/08 BIG KID formerly known as sling baby, and DS, my 12/23/11 train-loving, wall-climbing toddler! 
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