I fully intend to allow my child to nurse until she weans naturally. . . but I’ve come to the realization recently that I have to strike some balance into our nursing relationship to ensure a positive term nursing experience for her.
- Time spent nursing — If I allowed her to, Abbey would nurse ten to twenty minutes on each breast every time she nursed. And she would do this at least three to four times per day if I said “yes” every time she asked. At first, I decided that I would use the gentle weaning idea of “don’t offer, don’t refuse” to lead Abbey into a natural weaning process. . . but not refusing became an issue, because I felt like all I was doing was nursing and that started to be a negative feeling for me.
- Listening to “No Thank You” — I initially wanted to use the idea of “don’t offer, don’t refuse” to lead Abbey into a natural weaning process. But our nursing relationship became incredibly tedious and tiresome for me during and after my pregnancy with Joseph. Abbey wanted to nurse constantly. When Joseph was born, she wanted to nurse every time he did, and I just couldn’t take it. I explained that babies need lots of milk because that’s the only food that their little, new bodies can have, and I asked Abbey to think about all of the yummy, healthy foods she got to eat because she was a big girl. I told her that she could have mamas as long as she liked, but that she couldn’t have mamas whenever she liked – - – that mommy reserved the right to say “No Thank You” when I needed to, and that I felt frustrated when she would ask repeatedly for mamas after I had answered “No Thank You”
- My need for “No Thank You” arose out of a need for personal space. Abbey is very physical, but not really very gentle or cuddly in a relaxed sort of way. When Abbey gives a hug, or sits with you, or interacts physically, she is very enthusiastic and eager and fidgety, and that made nursing her increasingly more and more uncomfortable as she grew into a toddler and then into a preschooler. Her eagerness affected her latch, her enthusiasm had me cringing as she would find more and more ingenious ways to stimulate my milk to let down, and her fidgeting was causing problems when I would nurse her at bedtime. I decided that the nursing times that were most special to Abbey were those in the early morning and at night time, so I would make sure that she could nurse at those times, but during the day, if I needed personal space at a moderate distance from Abbey’s high energy and physicality, I would say “No Thank You” or “Maybe later” in her requests to nurse. In place of nursing, I would offer her some water and try to get her to have another sort of bonding with me, whether it was a book, or a cuddle, or playing a game together.