Mamas, I need help. My just-turned-three year old daughter and I are having epic power struggles over our nursing relationship, and I've been in tears over it several times in the last week. I'm 28 weeks pregnant with my second and have a strong nursing aversion. She cut herself back from nursing all. the. time. when I got pregnant, to nursing only at bedtime, naptime and waking, so I followed that lead and would try to distract her if she asked to nurse during other times. That was fine for a while, but lately, since around her birthday, she has been asking to nurse a lot more and getting extremely upset if I say no. If I allow her to nurse, she often won't let go of my nipple when I ask her to be done, regardless of whether it has been 30 minutes or 3. Just this morning I let her nurse for nearly 40 minutes when we woke up, and she wouldn't let go. I had to plug her nose which I hate doing, but it is the only way to get her to let go. Then she wanted to nurse the other side. I told her no and she started to get herself worked up, which is what she does. I told her she could nurse for a minute if she promised to let go when time was up, and she agreed, but then didn't want to let go when I asked her to. Less than 20 minutes later she got upset because I wouldn't let her climb on a dresser to pretend to get her diaper changed (she's been potty trained for close to a year), and she started asking to nurse again. Epic tantrum ensued when I told her no. Epic. I mean uncontrollable, nothing I can do to soothe her tantrum. She will not take comfort from me in any way other than nursing. If I try to hold her and soothe her, she just pulls at my shirt and she's quite strong. If I try to walk away to cool down, she hangs on me and pushes me, and won't let me leave. This is becoming a daily occurrence here, we start pretty much every morning having a struggle over it, and I can pretty much be certain at least one other time during the day she will ask to nurse and have a tantrum if I say no or not now. I feel like she would benefit from unrestricted access, but it's very painful for me to nurse her, and I get contractions after about 5-10 minutes that are uncomfortable, just have an aversion in general. I don't want to wean her altogether, but I can't keep going like this... it's negatively affecting our relationship as I feel resentful of her and dread any time when she wants to cuddle because I know she is going to try to nurse and have an epic tantrum if I say not right now. I would like advice on how to set nursing boundaries and have them respected. She does not accept or respect any nursing boundaries. She also says the most heartbreaking things, like "I have tears now I get to nurse" or telling her baby doll, "I will let you nurse for one minute and then I will make you cry"... it makes me feel like I'm scarring her. But then another part of me wonders if this is just a way that she's exerting control, and it's truly just a power struggle and not really even related to "needing" to nurse. Please help me!
Firstly, congratulations on the pregnancy and for extended breastfeeding to 3!! That's amazing!!
I have been through this a couple of times to varying degrees. I always feel like they just know that soon enough they won't have unrestricted access anymore, and they react accordingly.
Maybe try explaining it to her in a modified-fit-for-a-3yo type of way? Maybe if she has some type of expectation or understanding of the parameters you can wean her back accordingly? Nothing "doom and gloom" - but perhaps gentle comments letting her know that it is creating some discomfort for you. Mommy can only nurse for a couple of minutes because more than that makes my belly hurt, but after that I would love to cuddle with you. Or, because of Reason A, we can nurse at X Y Z times. ?? My oldest had a very hard time with that stage as well. Nursing (especially extended breastfeeding) creates such a bond - that it's no wonder the littles have a hard time letting it go and want to have that closeness when they are experiencing changes, stress, sickness, etc. It sounds like you have already followed many of the recommended strategies (set times, limited nursings, distractions). Is it possible she's going through some type of developmental stage (in addition to impending sisterhood)?
It is so hard to be in the thick of it. I know for me that my kids feed off of my mood - and when things get really crazy in our house, sometimes mama needs to go out for awhile sans children to gain some perspective (and sanity) again. Hopefully you can find a happy medium that satisfies the both of you.
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