Cluster Nursing Your Baby Barracuda
I have a sweet, funny, amazingly cute 10 (almost 11) month old who is a breastfeeding addict. He would literally be attached to my boob every second of the day if I let him. He has been like this since he was born (the kid loves to nurse) but more so in the last month or two.
I work part-time and when I am gone, he only has a bottle before each nap (2 naps) and regular food for meals and snacks. (He eats a huge amount/variety of finger foods) but when I am home he wants to nurse non-freaking-stop, sometimes every 10 or 20 minutes! More when he is tired or grumpy so I’m thinking this is a lot of comfort /separation anxiety nursing. The problem is, this kid is persistent! When I try to distract him he will continue to scream and arch his back for up to an hour, wanting to nurse. Walks, snacks, sippy cups, nothing will take his mind off his goal. So I end up giving in because nursing him is so much easier than an hour of tantrums! And I start second guessing myself, thinking why would I take away something comforting he loves so much? I’m a pushover!
I have tried looking this up but any articles on “weaning” are so judgmental and make me feel like I am just being selfish. I am happy to keep breastfeeding past a year and I have no rush to completely wean him but not nurse every 20 minutes!
Anyway! My question is… How can I gently cut back on the endless nursing or is it better to just wait it out and hope he stops on his own?
Tired of unclipping my bra
As my own breastfeeding experiences fade further into the past, I admit that whenever I get a question about nursing I head over to KellyMom.com for a quick refresher before I formulate my answer. And indeed, the site has a pretty good in-depth take on the “velcro child/baby barracuda” stage of non-stop, clingy nursing.
(I was once told to ignore all advice regarding infant sleep, diapering and breastfeeding from any parent who hadn’t actually lived with an infant in the past two years. Probably not a bad idea, though it would put me out of a job so maybe let’s forget I said anything.)
Even though you don’t technically really want or plan to wean, I would suggest following the weaning mantra of “don’t offer, don’t refuse.” He’s a bit on the young side to understand nursing-access limits or that tantrums aren’t how we get our way, so I don’t think you’d be successful trying to teach those lessons for at least a few more months. Since your attempts to distract him with other things don’t work, it’s possible that he views those attempts as you “refusing,” which just makes him unhappy, more determined and perpetuates his desire to NURSE ALL THE TIME NURSE NURSE NURSE whenever he has access to you. Nursing right now is serving both a physical and an emotional need for him, and I would also probably just give in from the get go, let him breastfeed on demand to avoid escalating the separation anxiety situation. (Which kinda sounds like that might be happening a little bit, with the raging tantrums.) You’re not being a pushover. You’re just nursing your particular baby in his particular nursing style.
I am NOT suggesting that oh, there’s nothing to be done, just suck it up and deal, MOM. This is a PHASE, and it will STOP, I promise it will stop, even without you following Simple Miracle Solution Steps One, Two and Three. Be patient with him and yourself, because I Get It, it’s frustrating and tedious. But very common for his age…and increasingly LESS common as babies get older and grow more confident/secure in their attachment to Mommy as a person and not just as a milk source. Mommy goes away, Mommy comes back, Mommy will meet my needs, keep me safe, but also OH LOOK I CAN WALK AND CLIMB LET’S PARTY! He’ll find his independence, in time.
This is going to sound so freaking cliche and patronizing and Exhibit A for not seeking advice from people who haven’t nursed a baby in the past two years but oh my God: It goes by so quickly. He is going to move on and wean completely before you know it, and the day to day slog of the frantic cluster nursing that feels like FOREVER right now will suddenly vanish into a single moment of: Blip. Blink. Over.
It’s okay to take breaks from him. And no, working part-time doesn’t count as your “break.” It’s okay to ask your partner to take over one night a week while you grab drinks/dinner with friends or see a movie. Or have Grandma babysit so you can have a date night. It’s also totally okay to take your break during the prime clusternurse hours, even if it’s just hiding upstairs to take a bath for 20 minutes. When you’re there and WITH HIM, don’t refuse him. Nurse him, then try to engage him with something else in hopes of prolonging the length of time you can keep your bra on. But when you’re gone, DON’T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT. Let him work on his attachments to non-boob people and get additional experience with that whole “Mommy goes away, Mommy comes back” lesson.
You have your limits and that’s okay. We all do, and we all have to figure out ways to cope with the endless, non-stop demands and sacrifices of parenting while holding on to our patience and sanity. This too shall pass, and listen to this old irrelevant lady when she tells you that SERIOUSLY: Blip. Blink. Over. So fast!