toddler nursing and separation anxiety - Mothering Forums
Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy > toddler nursing and separation anxiety
cww's Avatar cww 09:59 AM 09-17-2012

My MIL watches my 20m old during the day, and says that it is a problem that she sometimes flips out and gets very upset if anything reminds her of me during the day (seeing the sling that I usually carry her in, hearing grandma talk to someone on the phone in English because she and I often talk on the phone to coordinate pickup of the LO, hearing herself say "Mama" when she is playing and then seemingly realizing that I am not there).  Apparently occasionally she really gets herself worked up  and will really scream a bit, in the way that she does sometimes when she throws a temper tantrum (like when she is tired and I take her away from the dogfood because she won't quit playing with it after I tell her "no.")  


MIL is convinced that this behavior is pathological, and since it only occurs with respect to me (and not to my husband), that the only way to "solve" this behavior is for me to stop nursing on demand.  She in particular seems to think that the fact that DD nurses for reasons other than hunger is a problem, which I find frustrating.  Right now I mostly nurse DD whenever she asks, which when we are together can sometimes be quite frequently.  Sometimes she gets very insistent, and sometimes it is annoying and problematic in the way that she asks, but I think when she is well-rested and not hungry or hurt, she will nurse sweetly for a bit and then run off happily to do other things.  I do sometimes tell her that she cannot nurse right when she asks, and she understands that, but will keep asking repeatedly for it, or if she is in a bad mood, will throw a bit of a toddler temper-tantrum.  Her tantrums are pretty short lived (I think) for a toddler, typically only lasting a couple of minutes.  In short, she is sometimes impolite and irritatingly insistent about wanting to nurse, but she's also like this with crackers and toys, and I think this is totally normal for a 20m old!


I feel that DD's behavior is pretty age-appropriate.  And while I would sometimes like to set a bit more limits with BFing (i.e. be able to say no and have her accept it without protest occasionally), I haven't been too strict about this because I feel that it is too complicated for her to understand why she can sometimes nurse and sometimes not, just because I say so.  I don't want to go to only letting her nurse at home, or only upon waking and at bedtime, for example, just for the sake of consistency.  But I don't know how to make the argument to MIL that DD's behavior is normal and that BFing is not a problem that causes separation anxiety flip-outs.  


In particular, does anyone have any good evidence that I could use to convince MIL that:


1) DD's current nursing behavior is not a problem (insofar as any toddler behavior which is sometimes "good" and sometimes "bad" is a problem);

2) DD's separation anxiety tantrums are developmentally normal; and

3) changing the nursing relationship is not going to improve the separation anxiety tantrums.  


I am happy to talk with my MIL about other steps we could take to reduce DD's periodic tantrums about my not being there, as I don't want DD freaking out about my absence either for DDs sake or my MILs, but I don't have any ideas about what to do there, so if any of you have ideas on this point as well, that would be helpful...


Anyway, thanks for reading my long! post and thanks in advance for any advice!

transylvania_mom's Avatar transylvania_mom 11:55 AM 09-17-2012

I don't have any evidence that what you describe is normal toddler behaviour, although I agree with you. But I would suggest that you don't make any argument to your MIL to convince her of anything. You might give her the impression that your decision to nurse your toddler is up for discussion, that she is automatically right and you need to prove your point. Personally I would tell MIL to get over herself and find a way to interact with her grandchild that doesn't involve attacking your parenting choices. (Maybe in a more polite way, though... bag.gif) I would refuse to discuss the subject with her.


I am lucky in that my MIL also watches dd. She hinted a couple of times that I should stop nursing then she gave up when I was just nodding and not engaging in an argument. MIL is amazing with dd and just accepts that her behaviour gets worse when she sees me.


I don't know if my post helps or not, just wanted to offer support...

Asiago's Avatar Asiago 04:08 PM 09-17-2012
Originally Posted by transylvania_mom View Post

 But I would suggest that you don't make any argument to your MIL to convince her of anything. You might give her the impression that your decision to nurse your toddler is up for discussion, that she is automatically right and you need to prove your point. ................. I would refuse to discuss the subject with her.

I agree.

It also pertains to most parenting decisions. Google the expression 'Pass the Bean Dip', Basically it is a polite way of saying 'it's not up for discussion'. I put up with much meddling, and defended my decisions early in my son's life until I read about 'Pass the Bean Dip' thanks to wise MDC members. Now my energy can be put to better use instead of making copies of research data, pulling out books I have read, etc.

cww's Avatar cww 09:08 AM 09-27-2012

Thanks for your responses, transylvania_mom and Asiago.  I appreciate your perspective.  I find it trickier to implement this approach with my MIL, though, as she sees DD practically everyday, and she sees herself as an equal parent, which is somewhat true, in that she spends as much time with DD (during her waking hours) as I do.  She and I mostly have similar philosophies about raising children, but there are these odd places where she has what seem to me to be idiosyncratic ideas based on how they did things in Switzerland or London (where she grew up and then raised her kids) back in the 60s when she raised her kids, and I always have trouble convincing her that these ideas are not evidence based.  We are very lucky to have her to watch our DD so that she doesn't have to go to daycare, but it also means that we can be put in the position where if my MIL doesn't like something that DD does, there is this idea that my DH and I have to do something about it, or we are otherwise not respecting her effort in caring for our daughter.  My MIL and I are also just both not at all on the same wavelength, so that doesn't help - we try out best to communicate with one another, but it's tough sometimes.   I feel like I'm often put in the position of being the "bad guy" in particular, because my husband's approach to things tends to be just to agree with other people in order to "be nice" - he also hasn't done a lot of reading or thinking about child rearing, and so he has less firm opinions than I do...


Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read my post!

transylvania_mom's Avatar transylvania_mom 11:43 AM 09-27-2012