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


  • 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

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding 8th Edition

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding 8th Edition
La Leche League International’s iconic manual has been through many incarnations in its previous
seven editions, but this eighth edition is a complete overhaul to bring it up to date with 21st
Century language, concepts and research.
It is laid out in logical sections to help make this either a book you read cover to cover, or one you
just dip into as needed. Part One takes a mother through her journey from pregnancy through to
birth and the first breastfeed and is called “New Beginnings.” Part Two looks at breastfeeding
from the first few days through to toddlerhood. Part Three deals with sleep, working out of the
home and other separation from the baby, and starting solids, and Part Four looks at issues
outside the ‘norm’ such as premature babies, induced lactation and adoption, multiples along with
a ‘Tech Support” section which is alphabetised for easy reference.
There is a lot of text (about 500 pages) but it is not overwhelming due to the easy-to-read
language. It is supported by black and white photos, and clear line drawings. The text is all
supported by frequent web references, along with a ‘Tear Sheet Toolkit” which is also available
online via > Store > Tear Sheet Toolkit.
Mothers own stories are included – look out for one from our own Barbara Sturmfels at the end of
Chapter 8. This book is heartily recommended for LLLNZ Group Libraries and as a must-have for all
new mothers and mothers to be – a perfect gift!

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 12 Number 5

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding 8th Edition
By Diane Wiessinger, Diana West and Teresa Pitman
Ballantine Books, USA, July 2010
Reviewed by Donna Henderson, LLLNZ

Continue ReadingThe Womanly Art of Breastfeeding 8th Edition

Attached at the Heart

Attached at the Heart is written by the co-founders of Attachment Parenting International (API),
who began their parenting with LLL and first learned about attachment parenting from the books
of William Sears. Thus the book is an excellent fit with LLL philosophy. It not only discusses
breastfeeding as the optimal feeding method for babies, but also talks about breastfeeding in the
context of developing healthy relationships and becoming attuned to our babies by responding to
feeding cues and being in close physical proximity. Weaning ‘gradually, with love’ is encouraged.
Starting solids is mentioned, along with LLL philosophy – almost word for word – of nutritious food
being in as close to its natural state as possible. The chapter on positive discipline fits with LLL
philosophy around loving guidance.

It covers API’s Eight Principles of Parenting:
1. Prepare yourself for pregnancy, birth and parenting
2. Feed with love and respect
3. Respond with sensitivity
4. Use nurturing touch
5. Ensure safe sleep – physically and emotionally
6. Provide consistent, loving care
7. Practice positive discipline
8. Strive for balance in your personal and family life.

One reviewer mentioned Chapters 7 and 8 in particular. In Chapter 7 the authors list their top 25
tips (pp 225-240) for practising positive discipline. This list is extensive, understandable and
practical. Many families will also appreciate Chapter 8, ‘Strive for Balance in your personal and
family life’. We know that many well meaning friends or family may recommend separation from
our babies as a healthy choice for ‘me time’. This chapter offers much support for our style of
parenting while respecting the needs of our children and again offers many practical ideas. There
is also a section on the myths and facts about attachment parenting and Appendix B is a list of 12
questions for parental self-reflection. This is a wonderful tool for assisting parents to really
understand themselves and their behaviours and is highly recommended to all parents-to-be.

The book is written in an easy-to-read style. It has extensive references and a long list of
recommended reading, including many familiar books from our Group Libraries. It is highly
recommended by both reviewers for inclusion in Group Libraries and could also be of interest to
health professionals. Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker have done a beautiful job of articulating
the philosophy, offering practical suggestions and encouraging us to connect with our own hearts
while trusting our instincts as parents.

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 13 Number 6

Attached at the Heart – 8 Proven Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children 
Barbara Nicolson and Lysa Parker, USA 2009
Reviewed by Donna Henderson and Connor Kelly
Combined review by Rosemary Gordon, LLLNZ Book Review Convenor

Continue ReadingAttached at the Heart