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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

I have a 3.5 year old stepson whose mother still breastfeeds him. Under normal circumstances I say to each his or her own, but given that we have shared custody (50/50--half a week with her, half a week with us), I'm concerned that this is not in his best interest and is creating problems both now and down the road. Before anyone jumps down my throat about how there couldn't possibly be any negative aspects to extended breastfeeding, please hear me out.

DSS is, generally, a well-adjusted and happy kid, if more fearful and anxious than most kids his age. Which is understandable given his living in two houses. When he is with us, the only times he cries for his mom are times when I know she nurses him--other than that, he never mentions missing her. (Not even when he gets hurt or goes to sleep at night.) This is especially hard because I feel it's causing him unnecessary stress. My partner, DSS's father, agrees with me but isn't sure how to proceed with his ex. Any time he's brought it up in the past she gets hostile "crazy eyes" and vows she will continue BFing until DSS asks to stop. He's pretty sure that mentioning his concerns about it make her MORE committed to BFing as long as possible, because he doesn't want her to. He's also an substance abuse counselor, which is relevant because lately he's started to notice addictive behavior around BFing. Addiction is often associated with having access to something extremely pleasurable, and then having it withheld from you for periods of time. As is the case with DSS's access to boob juice. Mind you, we're not concerned about his being "addicted" to BFing--we're concerned that he's being set up to have a proneness to addiction later in life. The literature on addiction strongly supports this hypothesis, though of course not specifically with regard to BFing. (I think cases such as ours are rare, as usually mothers who choose extended BFing have full custody of their children.)

I've always had to be extra careful to wear tight bras and avoid exposing my upper body to DSS because he goes a little nuts when around breasts--groping, yanking down blouses, nuzzling his head against them. I can deal with that (reluctantly), but I'm also pregnant, and I worry about how he's going to deal with me having milk. The last time we brought up him having a sibling (which was posed to him in a hypothetical way), he freaked out at the idea of having to share his milk, and refused to listen to our reassurances that he wouldn't have to. He stayed really upset for a while at that one.

My last concern is that his mother is doing this for the wrong reasons--that is, far and away the biggest reason he has for wanting to go back to her house is to BF, and she knows this. Part of me suspects that she likes having something that we can't give him and therefore is ignoring the fact that NOT having access to breastmilk for half his life is making him anxious and stressed out.

What do you all think? Am I in the wrong for having doubts? I know many mothers, especially on this forum, get really defensive around extended BFing. In this case, though, I think whatever marginal health and bonding benefits he's getting out of it are being outweighed by his anxiousness and stress levels.
 

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Personally I think you need to stop analyzing it and drop it as an issue. You have no control or right to control this in her house. You should literally never even mention it to her. By bringing it up you make it an issue between the households and create extra tension between the adults.

Of course he's going to miss it. But he will get used to the schedule at your house and adjust. Just because his parents are split doesn't mean his nursing relationship should change. And I don't think it's an argument you could (or would want to) take to court and win. It will end soon enough anyway.

You can reassure him that your baby won't be having his mom's milk and he won't have to share her with the new baby.

I do think it's great you are looking at how to make things easier for him. 3.5 is a hard age but it gets easier and easier!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Well, first off, no one said anything about court (a step that literally hadn't even occurred to us, and we would never even consider.) And perhaps I should clarify that while the groping and obsession with breasts and fear of sharing breastmilk isn't necessarily good, it's not at all the point of this thread. We'll continue working on those things. The point was to share my concerns about DSS's mental well-being and development and perhaps start a conversation about ways to share those concerns in a constructive way with DSS's mother. Which, by the way, I would not be involved in--that would be my partner's conversation. I am only trying to gather information and ideas to be supportive. As DSS's father, he has a right to voice his concerns when he believes possible harm is being done, which he thinks there may be.

I don't think his mother realizes the effect her actions are having on DSS. She doesn't see his stress, anxiety, and breast-obsession--we do. I would like to think that a loving parent would put her child's well-being first. And I don't think my partner is asking her to stop tomorrow or anything like that. But as it stands, she fully intends to BF for as long as DSS wants--and I know she has friends that have breastfed their kids until age 5 or later. That's a LONG time for this cycle of access/denial to continue.
 

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Hmm...well, I'll say that every kid/relationship is different, but I'm wondering if you and your dh are perhaps reading what you want into his behavior. It may be unintentional, but it sounds like perhaps you are taking it personally when he misses his mom and it's easier to say that he only misses her because of the nursing. It's totally normal for him to miss his mother-I'm sure she hears that he misses his dad when he is with her. I'm sure he misses nursing too, but a big part of nursing at that age is the bonding, the physical contact, and the connection to mom-I bet that is what he is missing more than the actual milk.

My ds was about that age when his dad and I split up, and yes, he was still nursing and continued to do so for nearly a year after the split. He always came home and wanted to nurse right away, but my breasts were certainly not all he missed. He still is excited to see me after being away now and he is no longer nursing. I continued to nurse him during that time period for lots of reasons, but a big one was that it was a source of comfort for him, and I certainly didn't want to take that away during what was already a really big transition and upheaval to him.

If you know when mom usually nurses him (which it sounds like you do), I'd make an extra effort to be doing something fun/distracting OR relaxing/peacheful then for a while-it might take some trial and error to figure out what works better, but if he's used to that snuggle downtime at certain times a day, your husband could try recreating the same kind of thing-giving ds the bonding that he is missing, without the nursing obvi. If he's really missing mom then, then a fun distraction might work better.

I do find it slightly out of the norm that ds is grabbing your boobs and such-my kids did that with me, but never with any other women, especially at that age, and I don't know any other kids who did that either. I'd definitely have a talk with him about personal boundaries regardless.

Being worried about sharing his milk with the new baby is likely a reaction to a) being confused about the fact that this new brother/sister has a different mom than him, which is normal for that age, and b)just being worried about sharing anything/everything, including love and attention, with a new baby. It sounds like you are dealing with it well.

As far as extended breastfeeding setting kids up for addiction later on in life...well, I'd love to see a source for that, but otherwise I have to say I'm highly skeptical. As an example of the apparently rare mother who extended breastfed her kid while not having full custody, let's just say I'm not worried.
 

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humans are biologically designed to nurse into early childhood (the worldwide weaning age is 4.8, that's counting the millions of westerners who barely nurse a months or 2) Little kids, especially ones who are stressed or who are being weaned, are breast obsessed, it's how small mammals soothe themselves so it's what they look for.

Your step son is dealing with a lot of atypical situations having his parents living separately, getting a new sibling with someone who isn't his mother, etc, and he's figuring these things out. 3.5 is tiny, seriously. My oldest seemed SO big at the same age when I was pregnant with his brother but he was really just a teeny kid trying to figure it all out and make sense of the changes in his world.

You & your guy need to stop paying ANY attention to this subject. Your stepsons nursing relationship with his mother has nothing to do with either one of you. You can help him get through the transition of being away from his mother when he is used to the soothing of nursing, but otherwise, it should be a non-issue in your household.

Also, while I won't jump down your throat about your ideas about "extended" breast feeding, they are very shaped by a certain mindset that has no bearing in biology or anthropology and you might want to educate yourself more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I appreciate everyone's feedback. It's a good idea to do something distracting during what are regular nursing times at his mom's house. I didn't mean to imply that all DS misses about his mom is the BFing--of course that's not true. But the only time he ever says so is when he normally nurses--which I take as a good sign that he is well adjusted to being at two houses. If he cried a lot about missing mom, I'd worry about his well-being in that case, too. When he was REALLY small we agreed to a non 50/50 custody arrangement because we all agreed it was better for him to be with his mom more.

Perhaps I wasn't clear on studies relating to addiction--as far as I know, there aren't any linking breastfeeding and addiction, and I thought I'd made that clear. There ARE numerous studies linking addiction to the cycle of having something highly desirable available at all times and then suddenly taking it away, and repeating that cycle over and over. Which is part of our concern with the breast obsession/pulling on shirts. It's an indicator of physical dependency, and I agree that it's at least noteworthy that he does this to me AND other female caregivers (not just mom). We do often talk about boundaries and he is usually remorseful after a groping incident, but it's alarmingly a knee-jerk reaction for him. (e.g. he's often already involuntarily grabbed or groped before remembering that he's not supposed to.) This hasn't changed much over the last year.

People seem to feel pretty strongly that it's not okay to broach this subject AT ALL with mom, and I can respect that. Contrary to what it may seem, I have no issue with extended breastfeeding. However, there's just not any information out there (that I can find, at least) on how having limited, part-time access to BFing might affect a child later on. I have no doubt that DSS and mom get a lot out of the experience--my concern is, is it in DSS's best interest if it's causing him stress? And I what I hear loud and clear is, it's none of my business since I'm not his mom. Fair enough.
 

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Hi all,

I have a 3.5 year old stepson whose mother still breastfeeds him. Under normal circumstances I say to each his or her own, but given that we have shared custody (50/50--half a week with her, half a week with us), I'm concerned that this is not in his best interest and is creating problems both now and down the road.

It's easy to see things best from your spouse's perspective. That doesn't mean you're being malicious. Arguably it means you're a good wife. But I think you have things backwards. His extended breastfeeding isn't contrary to his best interest because it complicates 50-50 custody. I would argue that 50-50 custody is not in the best interest of a child so young who's still breastfeeding. (And I am SO NOT anti-father or anything like that, if you skim through my past posts.)

Before anyone jumps down my throat about how there couldn't possibly be any negative aspects to extended breastfeeding, please hear me out.

DSS is, generally, a well-adjusted and happy kid, if more fearful and anxious than most kids his age. Which is understandable given his living in two houses. When he is with us, the only times he cries for his mom are times when I know she nurses him--other than that, he never mentions missing her. (Not even when he gets hurt or goes to sleep at night.) This is especially hard because I feel it's causing him unnecessary stress.

Again, from your husband's perspective as a loving father, the solution to this might mean convince Mom to quit breastfeeding so he'll adjust better to not having her around to do it, during his weeks. I think a more logical solution is for Dad to be willing to have less than 50-50 custody because he sees that his very young child still wants to breastfeed and has a hard time going a solid week without doing it. I know that's not a common, practical or maybe politically correct solution. But it does more directly and logically address what's going on with the child.

My partner, DSS's father, agrees with me but isn't sure how to proceed with his ex. Any time he's brought it up in the past she gets hostile "crazy eyes" and vows she will continue BFing until DSS asks to stop.

That's not crazy. I am by no means a BF'ing crusader. I don't give people a hard time, if they choose not to. I was open to only BF'ing my youngest for a year. But he continued wanting to nurse until he was 4. And he really did quit on his own. He just quit asking to do it. The mom here is not crazy. ESPECIALLY if you sense that there are ways this child has even minor trouble adjusting to his parents' divorce (you mentioned he's more fearful than the normal child, etc.) Mom senses letting him nurse until he loses interest can help him feel secure. She's right. Unfortunately, she's inconvenient.

He's pretty sure that mentioning his concerns about it make her MORE committed to BFing as long as possible, because he doesn't want her to. He's also an substance abuse counselor, which is relevant because lately he's started to notice addictive behavior around BFing. Addiction is often associated with having access to something extremely pleasurable, and then having it withheld from you for periods of time. As is the case with DSS's access to boob juice. Mind you, we're not concerned about his being "addicted" to BFing--we're concerned that he's being set up to have a proneness to addiction later in life. The literature on addiction strongly supports this hypothesis, though of course not specifically with regard to BFing. (I think cases such as ours are rare, as usually mothers who choose extended BFing have full custody of their children.)

Listen to yourself. If you're concerned that your DSS uses breastfeeding to feel secure and that feeling stressed because sometimes he's forced to go without it for a week, then he feels relieved the next week when he gets to imbibe again...will help form an addictive personality... Let's say you're right. One solution is to insist he stop BF'ing cold turkey even though neither of the two people involved in the actual breastfeeding are comfortable with that. Another solution is stop making the 3 year old child spend every other week away from his mom's breasts, until he's a little older and he doesn't care. The first solution is convenient for you and your husband. The second one makes sense for the child.

I've always had to be extra careful to wear tight bras and avoid exposing my upper body to DSS because he goes a little nuts when around breasts--groping, yanking down blouses, nuzzling his head against them. I can deal with that (reluctantly), but I'm also pregnant, and I worry about how he's going to deal with me having milk. The last time we brought up him having a sibling (which was posed to him in a hypothetical way), he freaked out at the idea of having to share his milk, and refused to listen to our reassurances that he wouldn't have to. He stayed really upset for a while at that one.

All of this sounds completely normal for a breast-fed kid. There is no reason for you to hide your breasts or your breastfeeding of a new baby, from him. Like mothers of tons of other breastfed toddlers, gently correct him when he behaves inappropriately.

Do you think he'd handle weaning better if shortly after he's forced to quit nursing before he's ready, he sees you start to nurse a new baby?

My last concern is that his mother is doing this for the wrong reasons--that is, far and away the biggest reason he has for wanting to go back to her house is to BF, and she knows this. Part of me suspects that she likes having something that we can't give him and therefore is ignoring the fact that NOT having access to breastmilk for half his life is making him anxious and stressed out.

Again, listen to yourself. Not having access to breastmilk for half his life is making him anxious and stressed out. So change his circumstances. Recognize his needs - his temporary needs as a very young child - and give him more access to breastmilk. If you recognize that it comforts him, why wish that you could cut him off from it even when he's with his mother? You are looking at this from the perspective of what makes your and your husband's family life smoother.

I do think it's possible that moms who are still breastfeeding 8-year-olds are pushing it for their own needs and not for the kids. I've heard of moms who feel upset about older, weaned children growing more independent and aloof from them and who wonder if they should try to reinstitute BF'ing. If that were going on with you, I might agree that your DSS's mom is trying to enmesh him with her or emotionally manipulate him.

That is not a valid concern with a 3.5-year-old. My strong impression is that you perceive the BF'ing as negative, detrimental and indicative of an unhealthy mother-child interaction because it would be more convenient to your family if it stopped. You are not looking at it from the right perspective. And again, I don't think that means you're bad. But you asked. I hope you want honest answers.

What do you all think? Am I in the wrong for having doubts? I know many mothers, especially on this forum, get really defensive around extended BFing. In this case, though, I think whatever marginal health and bonding benefits he's getting out of it are being outweighed by his anxiousness and stress levels.
~~~
 

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I just wanted to chime in that both my kids who bf'd until almost four had the tenancy to try to access breasts even with people other than me. It's just a habit. It just took time to make them understand it wasn't appropriate and stop the behavior.
 

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You have to drop the addiction thing. It's a fairly common issue that mental health professionals can find themselves overapplying their professional knowledge, and this is such a case. Your partner is looking at a child behaving like an unweaned preschooler, and he's thinking omg, addiction? It's not a reasonable concern.

There are lots of incidental sources of stress in your son's life. If you think being away from the mom who nurses him is causing him stress, one approach would be for him to not be away from her. I'm guessing you wouldn't be on board with that plan. Unless I'm wrong, your best bet is to let this issue drop.
 

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I actually think you should talk to his mom about it. But not in a confrontational you should stop bf way. I would ask her what she suggests you do when he is missing her during nursing times. If I was his mom I would want to know and she might have some good suggestions. When my dh has to take care of my dd who is really attached to her "boobie" he distracts her. I would suggest a special lovey, a special song, or book. Anything that comforts him that you or his dad can do. Then always do that. When he is with his mom and needs comfort he has bf. Give him something to consistently comfort him. Maybe his mom can sing the same song or whatever while she nurses so he gets used to that comforting him too? Jmo:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I really appreciate others chiming in that their kids are also boob-obsessed, even with women other than their mom. Glad to know that it's at least somewhat normal and something he'll likely grow out of. I'm also really appreciative of the people who don't see any link between extended breastfeeding and physical dependency and/or addiction. I am really hopeful that this will be a non-issue in the future, and I guess I was hoping for some folks to back that up.

With regard to us giving up custody--thanks, I guess, for the thoughtful feedback, but that is out of the question for many reasons. One of those reasons is that DSS has a wonderful, close bond to his daddy and would be far more adversely affected by losing that than being weaned. (I'm actually shocked that anyone would even suggest that a preschooler losing his relationship with his father is in any way preferable to being weaned from breastfeeding.) Another reason that giving up custody is not an option, and I'm assuming based on previous responses that this will resonate more with the people reading this, is that DSS's mom would be the FIRST person to veto the idea of anything other than a 50/50 custody split. She is pretty inflexible to taking any more time with him than she already has (even a couple of hours more) and often finds excuses to pick him up late when she can.

I just want to say again, since it seems to not be coming across, that I DON'T THINK THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH EXTENDED BREASTFEEDING. (I also don't think there's anything wrong with NOT doing so if that's what mom prefers--though I do support the whole 1 year minimum thing when mom is able to.) And in any case, it doesn't matter what I think about extended BFing, because that's beside the point.

My concern is that there's really very little information out there regarding BFing children who live separate from their mothers and the effects that separation can have on them. Like all mothers (birth, adoptive, step and every other kind) I want DSS to thrive. Plain and simple.

If anything, putting this question out there to you all has made me realize that the decision to BF is mom's and no one else's, and that any concerns I or DSS's father have about it just need to be left unsaid. This is clearly a very polarizing issue for BFing moms, and as far as (possibly) creating future mental health issues go, it sounds like that's just a risk we have to accept.

For all those who advised me to drop the issue, I hear you loud and clear.
 

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I think it's great you are here having this discussion. It's great that you care about him so much.

Love your user name too.
 

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That's a LONG time for this cycle of access/denial to continue.
I think an earlier poster said it well....that breastfeeding is just one part of a close bond with mom. If it weren't breastfeeding it would be something else that he gets, and then doesn't get. Maybe he gets a certain kind of hug or activity with Dad...and then doesn't get that for a week. Too much speculation to make it an issue. He's still developmentally so young to read too much into it.

I could be off base, but I'm wondering if you have respect for his mom? I'm not getting the sense and I haven't heard any indication of positive comments about her parenting. That can make things hard on the kids and increase anxiety.
 

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I think maybe the issue is that you seem to be focusing on his separation from breastfeeding, where likely separation from mom herself half the time is the issue, and of course being separated from dad half the time is another issue.

Divorce/separation of parents is not the ideal situation for kids, but I'm sure your dss's parents chose not to live together with their son for a reason. I know my kids are better off with their dad and I not living together, even though that very separation will likely cause other issues too.

Bottom line is, we can't control for everything in life, and we certainly cannot control what other people do, even when that person is our children's other parent.

I apologize if I came off as harsh-I admit I was hearing that you basically imply that this little boy only misses his mom because of nursing, and that hit a nerve for me because of my own experiences. I just want to gently reemphasize that is normal and healthy for a 3.5-year-old to miss the parent he is not with, for whatever reason, and he likely cannot even articulate exactly what he is feeling at that age-i.e. you are hearing him upset and crying because he wants to nurse, but really he is just missing his mom and doesn't understand why he can't have her right then. He might do this re: his dad at mom's house too!

I've been on both sides of the blended family thing (step mom and now single mom) and I know how hard it is when you want the best for these kids and feel like so much of it is out of your hands. I also know how easy it is to blame things on the "other" parent when it's not valid or necessary. I agree with the PP that it's great you care so much about your dss. Try to remember that what mom does is out of your control, what dad does is out of your control, and all you can control is your own actions.

I'd encourage you, once you have your baby and if you decide to nurse, to include your dss in the process if he seems very interested or confused/upset about it. Talk about how much he enjoys nursing with his mom, and now the baby enjoys it with you, how it's one way to show that you love the baby just like his mom loves him, but how you can show him love in other ways too like (whatever you enjoy doing together). You might find that this is hard to do, to include his mother (and even dss himself) in something you want to be purely yours-but it might help him feel a bit more secure and help you relax about it as well.

And congrats on your pregancy/the new baby as well!
 
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With regard to us giving up custody--thanks, I guess, for the thoughtful feedback, but that is out of the question for many reasons. One of those reasons is that DSS has a wonderful, close bond to his daddy and would be far more adversely affected by losing that than being weaned. (I'm actually shocked that anyone would even suggest that a preschooler losing his relationship with his father is in any way preferable to being weaned from breastfeeding.) Another reason that giving up custody is not an option, and I'm assuming based on previous responses that this will resonate more with the people reading this, is that DSS's mom would be the FIRST person to veto the idea of anything other than a 50/50 custody split. She is pretty inflexible to taking any more time with him than she already has (even a couple of hours more) and often finds excuses to pick him up late when she can.
I usually lurk on this forum since I don't have a blended family *yet* but hope to get to that point (still working through the end stages of my divorce), but figure I'd chime in since I breastfed one child to almost 4 and another to almost 3 and my separation played a role in my decision to wean my youngest.

Your description read to me like it's the 50/50 split he's not quite comfortable with. Not because he doesn't want to spend time with his dad, but because he's young and having trouble adjusting to no longer having one primary caregiver most of the time. Assuming you live near his mom, it's too bad that she's not amicable to an arrangement where he does fewer overnights with you (but still gets more regular day or evening visitation with his dad throughout the week) until he's closer to weaning.

For what it's worth, my daughters *did* want to touch other women's breasts while nursing, but only women they felt close to... i.e. they didn't understand why their aunt (my sister) couldn't nurse them. You may want to start talking to him about how much more little babies nurse and preparing him for how much you'll be nursing his sibling... in a very upbeat way, helping him to 'reminisce' about how much he nursed when he was that age. My children have a 3 year age difference, and the book What Baby Needs seemed to help my oldest. It's written for children in non-blended families, but you could read it changing the names/titles where applicable.

Separating from my ex and the logistics of our split custody was a factor in the timing of weaning my youngest, but I probably would have backed off on it and/or we would have figured out a different arrangement if she hadn't accepted it so easily. (My oldest would never have accepted weaning at the same age.) It sounds like you're really trying to understand his needs and figure out what's best for him. One thing that might help with that process (for you) is trying to understand how for a toddler the nursing relationship is somewhat indistinguishable from his/her overall relationship with his/her mother.

It's also probably not easy for his mother. I know that I (and all of my friends who nursed past age 2) felt conflict at various points between meeting what was still an obvious need and wanting my body back to myself; I'm guessing this could be one reason why she's so adamant about the 50/50 custody. If you think she would be receptive (maybe via email if that would be easier) talking to her about the times/situations where you notice that he's struggling with not being able to nurse and asking her how you and his dad can best help him through that would be helpful.

Maybe also talk to his her about how she would feel about introducing the concept of his eventual weaning to him and talking about the other ways he gets love/affection from both her and the other adults in his life. I talked to my oldest about weaning for months before she did (even then, it was more my decision than hers but handled in a way that she felt like she participated in the decision).There are a few titles written for nursing toddlers (designed to familiarize them with the idea of one day weaning), that were a big hit with both of my girls and seemed to help my oldest move toward weaning (it was initiated by me with both kids) while getting used to the idea that her sister would still be nursing. The two we have are Maggie's Weaning and Michele the Nursing Toddler. They both emphasize the positives (from a kid's perspective) of nursing and that it's a finite thing they'll one day leave behind and illustrate all of the other ways/relationships they find love/caring and have their emotional needs met; they're more books about growing up, really.

I guess my point with the above paragraph is that rather than weaning, it sounds like he needs reassurance that he has multiple caregivers who love him and aren't going anywhere and that there are many ways of showing that love. Ideally, his mom would start that conversation in regards to breastfeeding and you and your husband would reinforce it and everyone would be on the same page.

The only other thing I'll note is that toddlers/preschoolers test boundaries and seek reassurance in a variety of ways and if he weren't still nursing it would be something else. I usually say that when speaking with nursing mothers who are getting burnt out/struggling with establishing boundaries around breastfeeding with their toddlers, but it might be good to keep in mind in this case too since he'll likely be testing boundaries once there's a new baby regardless if he's weaned by that point or not.

Children of divorced parents ARE statistically more likely to have addiction or drug/alcohol abuse issues as adolescents, but that seems to be more related to the stress of having parents who have a high conflict co-parenting relationship. So really the best thing your husband can do right now is try to see breastfeeding from her and his son's perspective and work with her to find a common narrative to share with him that will give him reassurance about the stability of his living arrangements and the love present in both households. (I know that's kind of easier said than done when so many of the things about your child's other parent drive you crazy or you wouldn't be divorced in the first place...)
 

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...With regard to us giving up custody--thanks, I guess, for the thoughtful feedback, but that is out of the question for many reasons. One of those reasons is that DSS has a wonderful, close bond to his daddy and would be far more adversely affected by losing that than being weaned. (I'm actually shocked that anyone would even suggest that a preschooler losing his relationship with his father is in any way preferable to being weaned from breastfeeding.)...
To clarify, I never advocated anything so all-or-nothing as "giving up custody" or "losing his close bond to his daddy", much less "losing his relationship with his father" altogether.

I know nothing about this particular mother, but breastfeeding is part of the bond between a mother and child who do it. That bond matters, too. Who's to say that weaning before he's ready would be "far" better for him, than a minor reduction in his hours with Dad, until he weans? There are 84 hours/week of middle ground between A) spending a strict 50% of his time with Dad and B) having no relationship with Dad, at all. And a parenting time adjustment at age 3 need not be set in stone through age 18!

My point was that nursing and weaning are necessary parts of every child's development, regardless how and when they happen; while learning to adjust to 50-50 custody is not an essential stage of development. It's a choice. Plenty of divorced/separated parents don't have 50-50, yet both parents still have custodial rights and their children still have close bonds with both of them. Plenty of custody arrangements also change over time, to accommodate the changing needs of growing children.

Maybe 50-50 is the only workable option for all the adults involved, in your case. That does not necessarily mean it's the ideal arrangement (right now) for the 3-year-old, such that you should view his desire to keep nursing as unhealthy, undesirable or less important than him adjusting to the custody arrangement. And that is how you presented it.

Figuring out your relationship with a live-in step-child can be so tricky. Is it possible you feel a bit threatened by him having this connection with his mom that can't be reproduced - or an equivalent found - when he's with you and your husband? That would be very natural. I've struggled with that, with my step-son, who lives with my husband and me.
 

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I agree with PP. 50/50 is almost always for the adults. 50/50 "quality time" with both parents, but with one parent having primary residence is another story. 3 yr olds don't keep track of time.
 

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Poor kid. Of course he misses his mom and of course he misses his milkies! My daughter is close to his age and she wouldnt be too happy with such an arrangement. I agree that 50/50 is arbitrary.
 

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You have a baby on the way and you'll have enough stress on your own! I say drop this issue and wait it out. It will go on for a year more, tops. Nobody breastfeeds forever.

Having a 3-year-old cry for his mom while he can't see her is pretty normal behaviour. My son, who is the same age (and weaned at 2.5) cries for me sometimes at the babysitter's house. When my husband went away on a business trip for a week, he cried a few times for Dad.

While I'm sure it's better for your son for his biological parents to be separated, it is still sad for him to be away from them like he is. You will just have to let him be sad and try to be there for him and understand that the grief he feels for his missing parent is natural and age-appropriate. Forget about the breastfeeding thing; it's a misdirect. He would be sad and miss his mom whether he nursed or not.

As a nursing mother, I can understand his mother's reluctance to wean. She probably also has some sadness over being away from her son for so long like she is, and it makes it difficult for her to let go of this special, bonding ritual they have together. But she will let go, on her own time, and I honestly think it would be best for you to just wait patiently for their nursing relationship to end. It will, but maybe a bit later than it would have without the divorce, and I advise just being silent and patient.

As for addiction, I wouldn't worry about it. Your son is mostly weaned if he can go through whole days without nursing. His mom's milk is drying up from so many days away, and likely they don't nurse a whole lot. It's just a comfort thing, and why deny him comfort? He has a special Mom Thing he does when he's with her. I just don't see how that will lead to lots of crack later.

The only thing that may screw him up is if his parents are at odds. This is a battle waiting to happen! Don't fight this battle, because it will just create resentment and negative feelings between the co-parents. Drop it and wait it out.
 

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I want to say that it's not abnormal for a 3.5 yo to be grabby. They have not yet been conditioned to believe that breasts are private or sexual objects. They see them for exactly what they are, a source of food and comfort and bags of squish that are nice to cuddle with. That might make things awkward for some people but that's just part of parenting a toddler/young child. He will outgrow that behavior eventually, in the meantime just keep letting him know that it isn't okay to touch you there. He'll learn.

I personally think 3.5 is too young for 50/50 custody but that's just my opinion. Obviously a stranger on the internet isn't going to convince you to change your custody arrangement. But if your husband is going to insist upon having 50/50 custody then he needs to be prepared for the outcome. That's not a good enough reason to ask the mother to stop breastfeeding. In fact, breastfeeding might very well be helping him out a lot right now. This is a huge transition for a little guy to make. He doesn't need anymore life changes thrown in the mix.

That's just my 2 cents.


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