Setting breastfeeding boundaries with a toddler

TODDLER BOUNDARIES

Breastfeeding has unique challenges at every age. You’d think after a combined total of 46 months of breastfeeding between my two girls I would have no stress, concerns or issues. Nope. Every child is an individual with their own virtues and vices. Every stage of breastfeeding has its own challenges and rewards.

In the toddler stage, I never worry about milk supply or if she’s getting enough milk. I know there’s milk. And at 19 months, Peach’s nutrition is coming from the family foods provided at meals and snacks. She’s getting a well balanced diet with multiple foods in each food group. Breast milk for her fills in nutritional gaps and provides immune boosting protection. I don’t worry about pumping. I retired my trusty pump almost 4 months ago. Shes (finally)(mostly) sleeping through the night and were both enjoying the rest. The biggest concern in the toddler phase is boundaries. How long and often can/should she have access to the breast? What to do when she asks for the breast and for whatever reason it’s not appropriate to feed at the moment?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It comes down to what is best and what works for your family. Some will continue to nurse on demand and others will limit to certain times of day. Both of which are good choices. Both also mean continued breastfeeding and neither option necessarily means you’re ready to wean. But it can be difficult to process through how to manage these boundaries and navigate your next stage of development. Especially as toddlers are learning to ask for things and control their environment. And then tantrum or act out of frustration when they don’t get their way. If you’re struggling with this stage, I have phone consultations available to help find what works for your family.

Tandem breastfeeding

It’s common for a toddler, or an even older child, to ask to breastfeed after a new sibling is born. Toddlers who were weaned immediately before or during pregnancy may be especially curious. Many just want to know if you’ll say yes – or they may just want your attention or “babied” themselves. Continuing to breastfeed, or letting them try to breastfeed again after weaning, can ease the transition of gaining a sibling. They are less likely to be jealous of the baby who is always with mommy if they can nurse alongside them. Nursing your older child once the new baby arrives can reduce engorgement when colostrum transitions to mature milk and can protect milk production if your newborn is not feeding effectively. If you say yes to a weaned child, many will just touch, lick or kiss the nipple, some will have forgotten the mechanics of how to breastfeed and won’t have further interest. Others can successfully breastfeed again. If you are happy to nurse your toddler, go for it. If it is overwhelming, it is still your body and you get to decide when and for how long toddler is allowed to breastfeed. You may prefer nursing your baby and your toddler separately or together. Breastfeeding is normal and it is normal for children to be curious and want to breastfeed at 2, 3, or even 4 years old.

When you give birth your body will continue to produce colostrum, with milk becoming plentiful after around 3-5 days. As with your first baby, breastfeed at least 8-12 times per day to establish your milk supply. Some will feed their newborn baby first or encourage the older sibling to nurse less until breastfeeding has been well established to ensure the newborn has full access to breast milk. Look out for feeding cues and give your newborn unrestricted breast access to help ensure they get plenty of milk.

Some times if your toddler is breastfeeding frequently, they may lose interest in solid foods for a while from increased milk intake. They may have looser stools. This is normal and should regulate with time.

It can take a while before your body adapts to the needs of two different feeders. You may feel lopsided if one breast drains more than the other. Eventually things will even out and you’ll find your rhythm. Alternating breasts for each feed helps with development of newborn vision and keeps the size of your breasts balanced. However, some mums find that giving a toddler his ‘own side’ works for them.

You will not run out of milk, your body will make more to accommodate however many nurslings there are.