When breastfeeding a new baby it is important to nurse on demand. Sometimes baby is hungry and sometimes baby needs comfort, but nursing on demand is the key to a good supply.
The more baby nurses and works to empty the breast it signals the body to produce more milk. It can be so exhausting nursing all the time, but this period only last so long.
How long should you nurse on demand? When is it okay to start setting breastfeeding boundaries? How do you do it?
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How To Set Breastfeeding Boundaries and Start Weaning a Toddler
How long should you nurse on demand?
Well this will vary for my oldest I nursed on demand till she was 2 because she didn’t eat much food and I wanted to make sure she was getting what she needed, my newly 1 year old I will occasionally distract her, but honestly she goes hours without nursing because she is too busy playing.
If nursing on demand is become too overwhelming for you and your child is eating table food and drinking water (older than 12 months) you can start to set some breastfeeding boundaries.
When to set breastfeeding boundaries
This is going to be different for everyone. Setting those breastfeeding boundaries is easiest if you start with one time of day at a time. Think about when you struggle the most while breastfeeding because your mental health is important too.
- in public
- at night
- after 10 minutes
- when it is painful
Day time breastfeeding boundaries
This can be as simple as we only nurse in this chair or only in bed. My oldest knows now that besides our morning nurse and snuggle time she doesn’t get “meme” unless we are in bed. She will be 3 in October and I feel this is completely reasonable.
Some nights we even go into bed just to nurse for 10 minutes and then back to play. I started this because she has been having a terrible time with going down to bed and I was hoping this extra benefit of going to bed would help.
You can start by stopping one common nursing sessions by making sure you talk about dropping this feeding and by adding something different in to your day. Whether that is your child’s favorite game, play with their favorite toy, or maybe just snuggle time.
As time goes on you can drop another session and so on until you are at a comfortable level or weaned.
How long will this take?
You should drop one session a week to ensure your child has enough time to adjust to the new breastfeeding boundaries and feel comfortable with what will come next.
Update: She is now 3 and a few months and I am pregnant! My 3 year old is now only nursing before bed maybe 2 days a week. But we did night wean a few months ago.
Related post: How to night wean a toddler
When in public
It can become harder to nurse when out and about as the little ones get older and this is the main time I set breastfeeding boundaries.
It isn’t often that my 2 year old ask to nurse when we are not home because she is too busy with everything else going on, but when she does and I don’t have an easy place to sit (because lets face it she is almost 3 ft tall and I’m not even 5 ft, carrying her around to nurse just doesn’t work anymore) I simply tell her we can nurse when we get to the car.
Then when we get to the car I don’t ask her about it I wait for her to bring it up, I guess it is my way of gently weaning her. I just simply don’t ask if she wants to nurse. My 1 year old on the other hand I usually just go ahead and nurse her but I usually have to do it in the car because she can’t be stopped for little things like eating!
This may cause some drama at first and tantrums, but those are bound to happen anyways. Learning how to handle a tantrum in public and how not to handle a tantrum can be the difference between losing your mind and keeping your sanity.
When it’s painful
Sometimes my toddler hurts me when I’m nursing and when I was pregnant it would hurt so bad. I just had to set time limits. It was hard but sometimes you have to think about yourself. That can be so hard as a mom to not feel selfish when setting these breastfeeding boundaries, but if you can’t physically handle it your attitude towards both breastfeeding and your child will not be a good one.
Every once in a while we have to think about ourselves!
When this happens you have to remain calm and explain that it hurts you and you need a break. I started to count to 10 and then we were done. If your child can’t count you can sing a simple song. This gives your child warning before stopping and you know that it will end soon.
There are nights when my little ones just want to nurse and I can’t spend hours nursing them, especially my oldest. My 2 year old can be pretty demanding especially at night and I have to set limits.
I usually let her nurse mostly because I don’t have the energy to fight her and her crying wakes up Delta and then it’s just a crappy night, but what I do is tell her a set amount of time she can nurse for.
- Give an amount of time like 1 minute
- Say you can nurse till I’m done singing this song (ABC’s, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Jesus Loves Me)
- Say you can nurse till I’m done rubbing your feet (Adella LOVES when I rub her feet so it’s a win win)
Related Post: How to gently night wean and toddler
How to set breastfeeding boundaries
So what can you do during the day to help your child cope with waiting to nurse? Again every child will like to do something else, and don’t expect it to go smoothly right away or every time because it won’t. I’d love to be able to tell you it will be great fun, but we all know how a 1 and 2 year old act when they don’t get what they want!
- Read a book, my oldest wasn’t a fan of books but the youngest loves them! We love this book, because it is sturdy which is so important for our 1 year old.
- Puppets, OH MY GOODNESS Delta loves puppets! We have this duck puppet that quacks songs and she thinks it is the funniest thing. She tries to put toys in its beak and we just have so much fun with it! If you don’t have any puppets, get some. I found these animal puppets which are great for teaching your kid animal noises and tell funny stories.
- Go outside! If the weather is nice at all get out there! Enjoy the sunshine, the wind on your face, and play! Delta loves to just carry around chalk and walk around! Yesterday she had a diaper rash so we did naked time outside! killed two birds with one stone!
- Just sit on the floor and play. Grab your little ones favorite toys and enjoy some time playing.
- Get your partner involved. Unfortunately, Luke works long hours and he works overnight so I am on my own when it comes to distraction, but when he is home I have him take the kids so not only I can get a break but he can bond with them when they feel like they need that time.
Why not just wean?
So I’ve heard this all too much from well meaning friends and some family… “Just wean her, it’s time”. First, it’s not their decision on when I wean and second how the hay would they know?
I mean who is around my kids… ME!!!
I’m with them as close to 24/7 as possible and if was “time” to wean she would have! I have made the decision that it will be something she has a say in, and we will cross that bridge when we get there. I’m not holding her back and she doesn’t have to nurse if she doesn’t want to.
I’m not ready for her to wean either. I love the bonding time we get, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t stress me out sometimes. Sometimes when she was nursing for what felt like the 100th time by noon, I just wanted some space. I’m home all day and with them all day, who could blame me right?
I know I’m not alone! It wasn’t so much a nursing aversion as it was just being touched out!
When we are ready to wean we will until then I will continue to do what works for us. No two kids are the same and nor are two moms. We are all just doing what we can for our families and what we think is right. For us setting some breastfeeding boundaries has saved our nursing relationship! Not to mention my own sanity!
Have you thought about setting some breastfeeding boundaries? What kind of breastfeeding boundaries do you think will work for your family?
Need more breastfeeding tips? Check out this post with over 50 breastfeeding resources