My Child’s Behaviour Following Weaning

  • Post category:Weaning
  • Reading time:8 mins read

“Soon after my three-year-old daughter gradually self-weaned, her behaviour seemed to change which I found alarming and difficult to cope with.  She has started having tantrums, which she didn’t really have before and is generally unsettled and difficult to deal with.

Maybe this behaviour is normal for three or four year olds and is not related to the end of breastfeeding, but I feel like my magic “cure all” is gone and I don’t have anything to replace it.  I have considered that a drop in mothering hormones due to not breastfeeding might be a factor as I certainly seem to have less patience now.  This is the hardest phase yet and I wondered if other mums have experienced anything similar after natural weaning or with four-year-old behaviour generally?


Sarah Hudson , Hamilton Central – It is like you have written my story down exactly. My daughter self-weaned at three-and-a-half, and it seemed like she turned into a completely different child. She had gone from being a very pleasant child into someone who screamed and had tantrums almost every night. At the time I thought it was due to weaning, and as she is my only child, and the oldest grandchild in the family, I didn’t have anyone to compare her to.  However, my niece, who is almost five, has gone through almost the same ‘change’ at around the same time, and she was weaned around two-and-a-half. So I have come to the conclusion that it is just something that they all go through and it does pass. My daughter is six now, and while that age brings new challenges in itself, she is mostly pleasant and fun to be around again.

Lisa Ross, Dunedin – I too found my situation was similar when I gradually weaned my son when he was 12 months old. He seemed to turn from a placid easy baby into a monster over night and about a week after his final breastfeed, when he “lost the plot”, I tried to breastfeed him again but he wouldn’t have it. In hindsight, I have wondered if the drop in oxytocin had something to do with this. We both could have done with continued breastfeeding and therefore oxytocin to help keep us calm. However he was only 12 months old and not self weaned.  Maybe a book like Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Discipline Solution could give you some tools to deal with what I bet is a stage. It may be that your daughter is also struggling to know what to do when life gets hard, now that she no longer has her cure-all. Good luck.

Angela Blundell, Papakura – Oh I hear you!  Everyone talks about the “terrible twos” but in my personal experience, it is age three and four that really stretched me as a parent.  My third child is currently mired in that stage and it is quite a challenge.

After natural weaning (mine were younger, between two-and-a-half and three and even when I weaned my oldest at 15 months) I noticed my children did need an increase in physical contact and cuddles.  So I would make sure that I was offering cuddles at bedtime, stories snuggled in at other times, asking my children for hugs and offering more if they seemed a bit down or tired or grumpy.  Diane Levy, family therapist, talks about filling a child’s emotional tank and to me this exactly describes what all children need but particularly this age group, as they work out the world and how it works.

The other thing that I try to do is make sure my daughter is having enough food and rest.  Lots of tantrums can be based around hunger or tiredness so making sure we keep to regular food and sleep routines is really important.  I did have to make sure I’d offer food when my children used to breastfeed, otherwise I’d forget and then it would all go to custard later on!

I also try to keep an eye on what pre empts the tantrum.  Sometimes they are unavoidable but other times they might be a certain tone, or a certain activity that isn’t easy for them and that’s when I might pop in and offer my help.  More often than not, it’s met with a “I can DO IT MYSELF” or similar but that’s when I can say, quietly, “Okay, if you need help you can ask Mummy” and encourage them to ask nicely rather than yelling or screaming.

When everything meets critical mass I’ve found that nothing make a difference. What I usually say to the screaming child is “when you have finished screaming, come to Mummy and we’ll have a cuddle and a talk”.  Maybe they won’t hear it and I might offer it a couple of times, especially near the end when the crying is becoming a bit more forced or there are gaps in the yells.  Depending on what has triggered the tantrum, it might that there are a couple of false starts before the child is calm enough to receive a cuddle and to talk.

I think that it is okay to cuddle and reassure a child after a tantrum but it doesn’t mean that you are giving in.  They still might have to pick up their toys, put on their clothes for preschool or not have a lolly but once they are calm it’s when you can move into quiet Mummy mode, sit with them, validate their feelings of frustration but still quietly stand your ground about what needs to be done.  Again, filling the emotional tank comes into it.

Sometimes, there might be certain things that have to happen, sometimes they can’t do what they want, have what they desire and sometimes Mummy cuts the sandwiches the wrong way… unfortunately this is life and they will learn to deal with it more calmly eventually.  Letting them get the emotion out and filling their tank after might be the only way to deal with it.

As far as the mothering instinct goes, sometimes I do think we see our children more grown up than they are, I noticed it personally when I had another baby, my next in line child seemed so much older and my expectations changed, so it might well be that since weaning, your daughter is less your ‘baby’ and more your child, which might change how you respond.  I find the best way to rediscover the joys is to do the things that are fun – reading stories, going to a playground, play tag or hide and seek or rough and tumble, do some tasks together.  Letting my children know that I am enjoying them at this time helps me through the harder times when their behaviour is less than enjoyable.

Probably the final thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes I can make it worse.  I need to pick my battles, do what is important in my family and for me but also let go of any delusion of control I might have had and make sure that I am responding in ways that are positive .  We can’t control our children any more than we can control the sea but we can provide the framework where they can learn new skills.  The No Cry Discipline Solution by Elizabeth Pantley has a fabulous chapter on dealing with parental anger, and in a way that does not make you feel like a terrible mother for having a bad day!

Kate Stonier, New Plymouth – I breastfed my daughter until she was three-and-a-half.  We didn’t experience any tantrums until her baby brother arrived just before she turned four, but that was short lived.  She also sucked her thumb until we decided it needed to stop (when she was four years and four months) before it damaged her teeth.  She stopped in three or four days but I noticed for about a month how her emotions came out and up.  I actually saw this as a good thing – a time for her to learn to handle her emotions instead of relying on her thumb or the breast.

It was hard work but she has really moved forward now, is more confident and is starting to self-regulate.  I gave her lots of space to feel what she was feeling and often held back while saying that I was there with a cuddle when she was ready.

It is difficult to be patient when you are tired.  I sometimes wondered where my gorgeous girl had gone, but it was a phase.  I am sure some of that is normal at this age but I definitely saw a link to her stopping the thumb-sucking too.  Hang in there, this too shall pass and your daughter will be back and even more capable and confident than before.

Continue ReadingMy Child’s Behaviour Following Weaning

Extended Breastfeeding

  • Post category:Weaning
  • Reading time:7 mins read

I felt a need say what a help La Leche League was for me with my second child. We had moved to live in
China and had been there a few months when I found I was pregnant. I was almost forty years old.
I had my first baby in New Zealand and had a marvellous midwife. I only managed to feed my first
child until she was nearly four months even though I had planned to feed much longer. Without my
midwife’s help I would never have breastfed for even the four months that I did, and because I had a little bit of knowledge already that is what helped me to get started with breastfeeding my second baby in China.

Sadly in Hong Kong women do not breastfeed their babies and though the Chinese government has been
trying to encourage mothers to breastfeed their children, the nurses and doctors have no idea where to
begin and so the babies are just kept in the nurseries  and given bottles then brought in to the ward to visit their mothers! I slept with one arm on my baby in her cot beside my bed so that they couldn’t sneak her off and feed her. I couldn’t speak the language and was the only white woman in the hospital so with my being the only one in the ward breastfeeding my baby I was a bit of a freak.

I was in the hospital a few days because I’d had a Caesarean. The medical and nursing help for me
after the birth was excellent and the nurses could not do enough for me. But if I had not had the
previous experience of breastfeeding my first baby (as short lived as it was) I would never have been
able to feed my second as there was no help for breastfeeding whatsoever in the Chinese hospitals.
If I sat up and fed my baby the nurses would come very grumpily over and roughly and loudly pull my
curtain round my bed and make tsk tsk sounds at me. It was so hot because the air conditioning vent
was outside my curtain and I spent most of my time with the curtains pulled. It was most uncomfortable.
I even had a nurse come and tell me off because I was not wearing a tightly fitted bra but I preferred not
to wear one at all under my gown because I had mastitis very severely with my first baby and thought it
best not to risk it. But of course they bind all the Chinese mothers to prevent their milk coming as
they’re not going to use it. Every morning they would come in greatly curious to see how this purely
breastfed baby was surviving and they were sure she was going to go into a decline through
Then at almost four months old (once I was home again of course) my baby decided to fuss and cry
when I tried to feed her. This is what happened with my first and I ended up giving her a bottle. My
mother in law was arriving and she was very anti-breastfeeding and I was afraid I was going to have the
same problem I had with my first. I was very upset. So I found a friend who was feeding her little boy;
they lived in a hotel near us. She was from the UK and she got information for me from La Leche
League about problems with breastfeeding.
As I remember there was some information about babies of around three to four months fussing and
beginning to get upset at the breast and the reason was that the milk supply was not enough. So I was
told to strip off and spend a day or two skin to skin in bed with my baby to get the supply going. It
worked too well and I ended up sick again with mastitis but that was much preferable to weaning my
Sarah and her daughter
In China breastfeeding in public was quite a bit of an experience too. I could be in a park with no one
about and the minute I sat down to feed I would have three or four spectators standing over me! It didn’t
bother me but my husband used to get a little put out. I did have a woman in the street approach me
and ask for help as she wanted to feed her baby and was having a real struggle. She was Chinese and
was having pressure from her family telling her that her milk was no good and the baby was starving etc.
I had the privilege of giving her some help and she did very well. I did find using a sling was a great
help. It was my best baby purchase.
I got many good suggestions from the La Leche League site and without it I never would have managed
to breastfeed my daughter for as long as I did. I fed her till she was well over two years old and had
intended to keep going until she decided she no longer wanted the breast.
Unfortunately I ended up in hospital with neurological symptoms similar to MS for a week and my
mother-in-law very kindly took my children to stay with her. She got my little one into a good night time
routine, sleeping in her own bed and without the breast so by the time I got out of hospital she was
already weaned though she did ask a few times for the breast but I had nothing there.
I tried to get back to breastfeeding but I was quite tired and was enjoying the rest so it never really got
back on track. I have been sad about that because I know it was something very beneficial for us both
and gave us a much closer relationship than I had with my first daughter. If I could have kept feeding
her for longer I certainly would still be feeding her now at the age of three and occasionally (especially if
she is unwell) she will say to me, “Mummy I really want your num nums,” and pat my shirt. But I tell her
it’s too late now and Mummy has nothing left any more. It makes me wish I was still feeding her.
Without the information from La Leche League I would never have managed to breastfeed my baby for
as long as I did because in Hong Kong the nurses and doctors didn’t have a clue – even the ones who
wanted to help and there were few of them. I would like to thank La Leche League and encourage any
other mothers who are breastfeeding their children to keep going and if they feel they would like to, to
breastfeed past the usual six months to a year. I think that extended breastfeeding is something that is
very misunderstood and very undervalued in the Western world.
By the way my friend in China who assisted me with breastfeeding is still feeding her little boy who is
almost four years old now and shows no sign of stopping yet.
There is a lot of information about getting breastfeeding started but I think the more information we can
get about the benefits and enjoyment of extended breastfeeding the better. I think La Leche League is
doing an extremely undervalued and important job.

In July 1997 Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. La
Leche League is active in Hong Kong with regular meetings and Leaders who speak; English, Chinese
or Spanish.

Find out more from the website of LLL Hong Kong – – Ed.
Reprinted from Aroha, Vol 12 No. 2, March/April 2010

Continue ReadingExtended Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding an Older Child and Weaning with Love

  • Post category:Weaning
  • Reading time:9 mins read

I have two beautiful girls. They are now aged six-and-a-half, and nearly four. I always believed I would breastfed my babies when I had them. My mother had breastfed my sister and me. She managed to breastfeed my sister for about five months until certain well-meaning health agencies suggested she was running out of milk when my sister seemed hungry and wanting more. In hindsight it is pretty obvious my sister was going through a growth spurt and trying to increase my mother’s supply. Mum was encouraged to introduce formula and there ended her breastfeeding relationship with my sister.

My mother was more determined when I came along and fed me
until I was 13 months old. In fact, mum told me often about how
the well-meaning health agency had continually advised her to stop
offering the breast and to get me onto a bottle. My mother stopped
telling them she was still breastfeeding and just did her own thing.
My mother had told me this story for many years and so I knew I
would breastfeed.

What I did not know was how long I would feed my children. When I was pregnant people talked a lot
about breastfeeding babies past six months of age. No one talked much about breastfeeding beyond a
year. When my first child turned 12 months I assumed she would just stop breastfeeding. I had no real
knowledge about longer term breastfeeding. Fifteen months came and Tia was still a motivated

Admittedly she was only feeding at night but I did not discuss with many people the fact she was still
breastfeeding. Most people I knew stopped before three months or just shy of a year. I felt quite alone
at the coffee mornings of my old antenatal class. I attended sporadically as the majority of mothers
had stopped breastfeeding.

I attended La Leche League meetings and received wonderful support and connection which inspired
me to continue. Eventually the breastfeeding decreased in regularity and I fell pregnant with baby two.
As the pregnancy progressed I became sick with nausea and tired. I was less motivated to breastfeed
Tia and strongly encouraged her to stop by not offering her the breast any longer and talking about it
being time to stop. By this time Tia was aged about two years and three months.

She called breastfeeding ‘mummy’s milk’. Eventually she accepted it was time to stop. Interestingly I
grieved for the closeness and relationship we had, especially when she woke at night with illness and I
could not settle her easily. Night feeding had settled her so successfully. This strategy had gone.
Baby number two arrived six months later, surprisingly by C-section. This was a disconcerting
experience for someone so committed to natural childbirth, however a footling breech baby required
intervention. Breastfeeding became established and my baby took to it with passion. Elyse fed
differently to Tia, feeding regularly and often. Having had the benefit of the first child experience I
relaxed and listened totally to my baby.

Our breastfeeding relationship progressed and my baby grew older and in size. Suddenly I was
breastfeeding beyond two years. Next she was two-and-half and showing no desire to stop
breastfeeding. Elyse was eating solids but still wanted to have ‘mummy’s drink’.

I had started relief teaching and would arrive back to collect Elyse from family who had cared for her
during my absence and the first thing she would seek would be mummy’s drink. This behaviour started
very early on – once Elyse could talk and walk. At times I found this tricky, especially around people
who were less supportive of breastfeeding an older child. Elyse grew older; suddenly she was three and
still a committed breastfeeder (feeding mostly at night).

I had established boundaries. I might add that Elyse protested verbally against each one and at times
her loud verbal protests meant I pulled back on the boundary for a while.

I let Elyse breastfeed only at home after a certain age and old enough to understand. We talked about
stopping at her third birthday and then at Christmas. My husband joked about which Christmas. The
next step was that she would only be allowed mummy’s drink at night. She was constantly waking at
night and seeking mummy’s drink and so that no one else was woken at night, and so I could get back
to sleep as quickly as possible, I continued to breastfeed her as she asked. Eventually I became tired of
this and so decided to put in the next step of the boundary. No more during the night.

Elyse continued to wake and ask for it and still can at times. I remained strong and said no. She
protested strongly but eventually accepted the change. This was quite an emotional time as I felt sad
and bad about the fact that I had stopped perhaps before she was ready. However, I was ready.

Aged three years and ten months she would have breastfed all the time I am sure if I let her. She had
mummy’s milk before bed each night. If I was away at bedtime she would settle without it.
I managed to convince her it was one side only. We alternated the sides each night. I often forgot
which side it was meant to be but the supply had dropped greatly. I knew that soon it would stop

I enjoyed breastfeeding Elyse for this length of time but noticed how I kept it to myself. In our society,
breastfeeding beyond one year is a rarity. Two years is okay and more acceptable now but beyond
three years? I am not embarrassed but unprepared to be misjudged by people who do not understand
a breastfeeding relationship with an older child. Some people can be quite rude with their comments
and strongly misguided.

My elder daughter is often quite sad that I did not feed her as long and makes little comments. If I had
relaxed more I may well have fed her longer too. As my confidence and knowledge has increased with
my second child I would probably feed any future children for as long or longer.

I have at times sought the advice and support of fellow LLL members who have had experience
breastfeeding older children. This was especially valuable at times when I was ready to wean totally
but my child was still very committed to breastfeeding.

The literature available in our LLL libraries is very helpful as well. Each breastfeeding relationship is
unique. Everyone has personal limits. I never started out thinking I would breastfeed a child for so long. Two-and-half years seemed long enough but even now looking at my girls I can see how young they are really. They are not little babies but they are still little children and infancy and childhood is such a short time in their life. They are both pretty healthy and rarely unwell.

The World Health Organisation advocates to breastfeed children beyond two years. It would be
fantastic if more people even made it to one year and beyond.

I am ready to end the breastfeeding relationship with my child but certainly have no regrets about the
length of time we have breastfed together. I am hopeful the real benefits will be more evident as she
gets older and reaches adulthood. Hopefully illness will continue to be a rarity for her.

Interestingly, just this week, aged three years 10-and-half months Elyse has finally weaned. I have
certainly encouraged this but also gone along with her desire to continue taking mummy’s milk. I had
concerns she may continue until she reached school age but finally she has stopped in her own time.
When I contacted a few LLL mums and support people over the last while as my willingness to
breastfeed Elyse decreased I was advised that eventually she would get there and that there were
various little things I could try.

The other day Elyse asked for mummy’s drink. I offered her the side that was due, as we had started
alternating sides as a way to decrease my supply gradually and her frequency!
She tried the offered breast and said, “Yuck! I don’t like it. It tastes yucky. I want the other side.” I said
“No that is your side.” But she persistently indicated she wanted to try the other side. I knew the
supply would have been low on that side but offered it to her. She tried it to find it was empty. So
reluctantly she went back to the side that was yuck. Well to her it was still yuck. In fact with
exclamation and disappointment she proclaimed it tasted like cat’s pee!! Not that she knows what
cat’s pee tastes like but obviously it no longer appealed to her.

I said, “Well it is all gone then.” Time to stop. So there it was. After such a long time of Elyse seeking
mummy’s drink she was quite accepting of the fact it was time to stop. Over the last few days she has
asked to feed but accepted easily the fact it has stopped. She is weaned.

Interestingly my emotions are mixed. I have enjoyed breastfeeding her. At times it has been quite a
commitment and a frustration but overall I have not resented it too greatly. I have known the benefits
of long term breastfeeding of our young ones and know that Elyse has benefited greatly.

Elyse is rarely sick and recovers quickly. During serious tummy bugs she has always coped well because
she has not struggled with dehydration due to the fact she has breastfed through each illness. Just this
week she has again fallen unwell with a tummy bug and is recovering very quickly.

There was an incentive for her to give up eventually. I had told her that when she finished
breastfeeding she could have something special. It was agreed she would get her ears pierced when
she finally weaned. So today, day four after weaning, she has asked to have her ears pierced. I was
happy for this to occur however she pulled out at the last minute; obviously she is not quite there yet.
I would support anyone who is nursing their child and wondering how it goes when they are older than
society expects. It’s a relevant topic at the moment with the recent publicity in the news.

From Aroha Vol 12, No. 4 July/August 2010

Continue ReadingBreastfeeding an Older Child and Weaning with Love


  • Post category:Challenges
  • Reading time:11 mins read

“As my baby gets bigger (more than a year), I feel like I’m constantly pushing her hands away from “twiddling” my other nipple.  I know it is a natural instinct to massage and rub to help with letdown, but she is much stronger now and my nipples are sensitive – it just doesn’t feel good.  But I feel a bit sad that I’m refusing her efforts to touch.  How do other mothers handle this?”


Clare Lyell, North Canterbury – Try wearing clothes that cover your other breast, then a necklace with big chunky beads, or a pendant that she can play with while nursing. Worked for my first and second.

Karen Swan, Canberra – My 14 month old is crazy for it!  He seems to only do it when we lie down to feed before naps or, as we co-sleep, during night feeds.  If I wear a nightdress/top that also exposes my other breast, he’ll be all over me, so I tend to wear something like a sleeping crop top.  If he can’t see it, he tends to keep hands off or just concentrate on the fleshier part of my breast, which I can handle!  Other than that, the only success I’ve had is to cover my nipple with my thumb or finger – it fools him sometimes!

It would seem the more I take his hands away, the more intent he becomes.  Downside?  Now he pinches me instead!  I know how strange it feels; I figure he’ll grow out of it like everything else!

I hope I’ve been of some help (as LLL is to me!)

Friederike André, Thames – I could not stand the touch at the other breast, and so I held my baby’s hand to stop him from doing it. He stopped trying after what seemed to me many months and would still keep trying on and off later. I kept telling him it hurt and once he understood that, it was okay. But that really was a long time later.

Jenny Coles, Lower Hutt – Hello, I understand the feeling of being torn between meeting the emotional and physical needs of your daughter and your own comfort. Touch is a natural part of breastfeeding and parenting.

We encourage our toddler to stroke or gently hold the breast he is feeding from, while saying “soft touching, thank you”. When he reaches for or twiddles the other nipple, I remove his hand saying “ouch that hurts Mummy” or “ouch, touch softly, thank you”. We have found saying “thank you” reinforces my words as a directive, as opposed to “please” as a choice.

Some days he only needs reminding once, other days, when he is feeling ill or teething, many times at each feed. We borrowed some touch and feel books from the library and received two for his birthday. They have aided his understanding of soft and gentle, rough and ouchy. When playing we alternate between rough and tumble and quiet gentle play to help him relax and unwind before nap time and bedtime. This greatly reduced the “twiddling” initially.

You may like to read Mothering your Nursing Toddler by Norma Jane Bumgarner. Reading this helped me understand the changing dynamics of the mother-baby relationship when I was having difficulty with the balance of his needs and my own comfort. Contact your local LLL Group or library for a copy or purchase one directly from LLLNZ.

Breastfeeding manners as toddlers often comes up at LLL meetings, especially when a mother is feeling uncomfortable or undecided about her own comfort versus her child’s behaviour at the breast. I try to remind mothers about breastfeeding being a love language and this is one of the many opportunities to teach our beautiful little people we are growing about respect for others. Just as we respect their need to breastfeed for more than nutrition, they need to respect our body by being gentle with it. We wouldn’t fiddle with our child’s body parts so they were uncomfortable or in pain while they breastfed. When we gently, firmly set boundaries about how they can touch our bodies this lesson can then flow on to how to pat the cat, stroke a new sibling or a friend’s new baby. Hopefully, this respect for others becomes an admired quality in our children as they grow into adulthood.

Merewyn Groom, Lower Hutt – My daughter is 23 months and has recently started doing this too. I can’t stand it! I try not to uncover the other side so she doesn’t have too easy access and hopefully doesn’t notice it. She is old enough that I can try and explain that it hurts Mummy, and I also invite her to hold my hand which she likes to do.

If you lie down to nurse you can use the “uphill” side, in other words, if she is lying on your left then nurse from your right breast, this way you have to lean over a bit and she won’t be able to get at the lower one. When we were learning to nurse lying down this is actually how we started out and I still find it more comfortable.

Tineke Snow, Lower Hutt – I had this as Jackson got older.  The only things I found helped were to distract him: give him something to hold in the free hand, play games on the free hand like this little piggy or round and round the garden.

Claire Hargest-Slade, Timaru – Charles still does this. I tickle him under his arm so he pulls his hand away.  Also I’m not above tickling his nipple or “milky” as he calls it in a bit of tit for tat!

Janine Pinkham, Kaiapoi – Gosh, that takes me back. I can remember my boys getting twiddly with my nipples as they got older – or trying to; it is something I always found really annoying but somewhat mean about as I watched other mothers happily breastfeeding, braless and with their toddlers twiddling the free nipple. In short I didn’t let my children twiddle. I would hold their hands away from my other breast, usually holding firmer and firmer as the urge to find the non-latched nipple got stronger during a feed. Sometimes I used words like, “no” or “I don’t like it when you do that” or “don’t do that”. If it was too annoying I would stop the feed and cover myself up completely.

Since I usually wore a bra and covered up the non-latched nipple the opportunities for twiddling were limited to nighttimes or when wearing a bathing costume or some other unusual clothing. When my twins were toddlers they usually fed simultaneously so twiddling was not a problem. One of the lovely things about simultaneous feeding is the two children holding hands. They would “twiddle” each other’s hands too, twisting and intertwining fingers and stroking each other’s faces. Another thing that can be cuddly is gentle stroking with the hand that goes around the back of you. That can turn to pinching, which is not nice.

Breastfeeding a needs to be an enjoyable experience for the mother and the child. If you are not enjoying an aspect of breastfeeding it’s only natural to stop the annoying behaviour. Toddlers are so wonderfully huggable there are plenty of other times for skin to skin touching when you are with them during the day so they can still get all the touching they need.

Jessica Parsons, Auckland Central – It’s not nice to feel like you’re in armed combat with your child, and this is something to address now especially if you think that you may still have years of your breastfeeding relationship left.  Older babies develop lightning reflexes and tricky fingers to seek out spots to send you to the roof before you know the hand was in your clothes!   My youngest seems to play spider fingers on me just to keep herself amused, which can get very tickly.  I often have one hand in defensive coverup position, and often I still get very pushy little fingers.

I will play gentle handholding games and kissyfingers, or move the wandering hand to the breast she’s latched on (so it’s safe).  I also demonstrate to her with my hand what gentle touching does feel OK to me.  It sometimes works to stroke her softly on the cheek or arm, which distracts her from touching me.

With older children you can explain that it bothers you – my five year old knows that he has to have good manners and quiet hands or it’s “all done time.”   I always try to tell them what they may do instead of just saying “Don’t do that!”  Also, check to see if you are modelling quiet hands.  Since I don’t have to use my other hand for holding a little one, I notice that I am often finger-combing my hair or other fidgeting myself!

Elaine Winchester, Petone – This situation is one that others can learn from in advance.  The solution parallels what we do if a toddler keeps putting things in the wall socket (without a cover that is!) or what mothers do when one set of grandparents find displeasure at open nursing in their home, when it’s okay with the other set.

Babies are learning even before birth and can learn from our tone of voice (firm and friendly) and consistent actions.  Repeat in a kind voice “no more” or “no thanks” “uhuh” while removing the little hand. I found holding the hand or putting the clasp onto my finger helped – or another object.  It takes patience, just as when they start looking/pulling around when people enter the room whilst breastfeeding.

La Leche League Leaders can prepare a mother for this situation with older babies, as well as helping her decide what she’d be most comfortable calling breastfeeding, in preparation for the toddler calling it out in public!

Rose Davis, Waiheke Island – How mothers feel while breastfeeding is important too!

The baby will be fine without twiddling your nipple and your experience of this irritation while feeding could lead to you weaning earlier than if you set limits that preserve your comfort.
I would encourage you to look after yourself on this issue, and let your baby know that playing with your nipple doesn’t feel good to you.

Your baby’s needs are of vital importance, but mothers need to care for themselves too, not least of all so that they can carry on being wonderful mothers.

Robin Jones Greif, Blenheim – This can be super annoying and be really off putting for continuing breastfeeding. After a year of age, a baby can learn that some things are just not acceptable during breastfeeding. After all, you wouldn’t let your baby bite you just because they wanted to and nipple twiddling is in the same category. A gentle “no” and removing the hand will be enough for some babies to get it; others benefit from putting something small and soft in their hand as a replacement. If it happens towards the end of a feed, if saying no doesn’t work ending the feed while telling the baby why s/he’s finished can work too.

Some children can be very resistant to stopping this, but it’s better to parent to halt this unwelcome activity than to quit breastfeeding because you just can’t stand it!

Jenny Della Torre, Sydney – If the baby is drinking well from a cup and commenced weaning, the breastfeeding time could be cut shorter as the twiddling usually does not happen at the beginning of the feed, when the baby is hungry. The breast that the baby is not feeding from could be covered. Hold the baby’s hand and stroke it gently or give your baby a favourite soft toy or small object to hold. Keep a note of which time the twiddling tends to happen more often and offer other substitutes first or use distraction. Without refusing the nursing, just cut the feeding time shorter.

Continue ReadingTwiddling

Sudden Weaning

  • Post category:Challenges
  • Reading time:4 mins read

On July 26th this year, the day my little girl Jessica turned 11 months, she awoke with a bad cold.   She refused her morning breastfeed and later in the morning after one small nursing began refusing every time I offered her the breast. I was surprised, as up until that day, she had breastfed happily several times a day and often once or twice during the night as well.

By that night I knew something was wrong as she was unhappy and crying a lot and I suspected an ear infection.  I was expressing milk and offered her that in a cup.  She was otherwise drinking water
happily from her cup and still eating.  The next morning I took her to our doctor who confirmed an ear infection and like me was confident that she’d start breastfeeding again once her ear healed up and she wasn’t in pain. He also felt that a blocked nose wouldn’t be helping although she’d had colds before that had hadn’t affected her feeding.

A month later, in August, Jessica celebrated her first birthday and, no, she hadn’t returned to breastfeeding.  What started as a nursing strike turned out to be a sudden weaning.

For the first week I expressed milk regularly
and fed her that in a cup as well as offering
her the breast.  Every time she would pull
away and cry.  After a while she would just
look at it, then look at me as if to say, “What
exactly are you trying to do here Mum?”
I was in contact with my La Leche League
Leader right through this time and also
spoke to a lactation consultant.  Both
suggested that I calmly offer the breast to
Jessica, perhaps while she was drowsy, or
in the bath, but never to force it on her.  I
tried everything but my very independent
little girl was not to be fooled.
My feeling is that the pain of feeding with an
ear infection was the first step for her to wean
and that she just decided within herself that
she no longer wanted to breastfeed.  I
breastfed her older brother until he was ready
to wean (three and a half years) and intended
doing the same for Jessica so this sudden
change of plans, initiated totally by her, came
as a big surprise.
As the weeks have gone by I have recovered
from my initial disappointment and shock at
her weaning.  There have been a lot of
changes for us both.  My milk supply took two
to three weeks to reduce to a level whereby I
didn’t have to express at all.  Jessica stopped
waking in the night from the day she stopped
feeding (a bonus for us all).  She is not
particularly keen on drinking any milk but will
drink a little bit of goats’ milk formula in a cup
with breakfast and before bed (she’s had
reflux and doesn’t tolerate dairy very well).  She eats well and drinks lots of water during
the day.  We have had to find other ways to
be close too, including more cuddling,  carrying (I have a backpack that gets a good
workout every day), playing and reading
It was quite stressful when Jessica weaned
so suddenly and there have been lots of
adjustments for us both.  There are many
people who think I’m lucky as I didn’t have to
wean her but I’m always quick to say that I
had no intention of weaning her, not in the
commonly­accepted way anyway.  I’m
learning very quickly that no two
babies/children are alike. Already mothering
my two children as been very different for
each and I expect I have so much more to

Lee­Ann Michelle, Balclutha Group
Aroha November/December 2004

Continue ReadingSudden Weaning