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When Nursing Your Child Gives You the Heebie Jeebies and A Tandem Breastfeeding Anniversary

arm rolls extraordinaire

Arm Rolls Extraordinaire

Can I make my own definition here?

Nursing Aversion:  The toe-curling, blood-boiling, rip-your-hair-out, bite-the-back-of-your-hand and want-to-go-running-down-the-street-screaming feeling that you may get when your toddler asks for the boobies (again).

My older daughter was about 20 months old when I found out I was pregnant with my second child.  We were happily breastfeeding and I saw no reason to stop.  I mean, this girl’s life line was actually MY BOOBS.  She loved them more than anything.  When I picked her up from daycare, instead of yelling “MOMMY“, she would run at me yelling “BOOBIES!!!”

I breastfed through pregnancy and her little sister’s birth period with only minor annoyances.  Around two months post partum, out of the blue, I was hit with some of the most unimaginable breastfeeding aversion, towards my 2 1/2 year old.  Like worst ever, in the history of man-kind.  Like, I would growl and bite my pillow and have steam coming out of my ears and literally scare the crap out of my poor kid who was just innocently sucking away.  I suddenly hated breastfeeding my older daughter.  I didn’t know what to do.

So, I joined on-line support groups and re-read all the literature out there supporting extended brestfeeding.  I said to my husband at least three times a day that I was over it and was going to wean her.  Of course, I said it… but I didn’t.  I went over, again, the emotional and psychological benefits of tandem feeding…. I wondered if my feelings of blood boiling were as nature intended… I researched to see if any other animals tandem feed (kangaroos, I found, do it and have a complex tandem feeding/pregnancy system).

I was a bit overwhelmed with the pros and cons of weaning, so I decided to give it some time before making a final decision if I should pull the plug.  I took it day by day for the next SIX MONTHS.  To my surprise, the nursing aversion towards my older daughter went away almost as fast as it came on.  We’re now 14 months into tandem feeding and it’s looking all a-ok. It’s not all lovey, dovey, airy, fairy (although, for some woman who tandem feed, it most certainly is).  Sometimes it’s a pain and I have to tell my older daughter to bugger off.  But, overall, it’s been a really positive experience and I’m happy I stuck with it.

Whatta ya say... I'll have the right one, you have the left?

Whatta ya say… I’ll have the right one, you have the left?

Here are some things I learned along the way if you’re looking to save your breastfeeding relationship with a child whom you’re feeling nursing aversion towards.

1.  Keep Yourself Fed, Hydrated and Rested.  Nursing aversion most often rears it’s ugly head when you’re exhausted.  Rest when your baby rests.  Go to bed when they do, or very shorty after.  Save facebook for next year, it will still be there.  The dishes and the laundry… they will also be there tomorrow. But, seriously, get to bed if you can.  If you have more than one child, see if you can get them to both rest at the same time.  We do big family naps and it’s a life saver.  If you know how to meditate or do yoga, do that too!  De-stress ‘yo self!

Drink a lot of water throughout the day and REMEMBER TO FEED YOURSELF.  Not only will you be grumpy if you don’t eat and are not rested, but your supply will suffer too.  If your supply is low, you’re on a downward spiral.  If your big headed toddler with a mouth full of teeth is sucking away for five minutes before let down happens, because your supply is low, you are bound to get that blood curdling feeling.  Keep those boobies full and for the older child, try to feed when you know those boobies are most full, usually, in the morning.

2. Blame it on Hormones.  For real.  Hormones play a gigantic role in nursing aversion.  Pregnancy hormones can lead to pretty wicked nursing aversion, but my WORST recorded aversion to breastfeeding occurs just before and at the start of my period.  I also found that even when I was ovulating my aversion was quite strong!  Mostly, my nipples were sensitive, so sucking (especially from a squirmy kid) was enough to drive me bonkers.  At times when you suspect that it’s hormonal aversion, again, stay well rested, fed and watered.  The extra rest and food will give you an edge when that aversion is in full swing!

Interesting note:  Sometimes let down would not even happen when I was experiencing strong aversion towards my toddler, but the second the baby got on there, let down happened instantly!  Boobs are very intelligent! Also, just a minute before let down occurs, nursing aversion can be at it’s worst! 

3. Use Your Let Down as a Tool.  If you’re tandem feeding, try feeding the kids in the same session.  This generally worked best for avoiding nursing aversion towards my older child.  Let down happened quickly when they were both on there.  If you’re not feeding them simultaneously, see if you can feed one straight after the other.  This saves you from all the extra ‘suck’ time that is needed to get let down going.  Also, it’s less time that you’re being touched and groped (if you’re having a day where it feels like that).

If you’re feeding one child, another thing I’ve done plenty of times is literally GRAB my older child and stuck her on the boob if I felt let down happening randomly.  She has been so delighted and surprised when I’ve done this and this satisfies their craving for in-mama’s-lap-time, on top of getting the milk.  Again, it’s to save the ‘suck’ time needed to get let down happening, and being ready when your boobs are ready, if you’re having one of those days.

4. Set Limits.  I’m all about feeding on demand, don’t get me wrong.  BUT, if you’re feeding an older toddler or preschooler and you feel like you’re about to wean because you’re going nuts, try setting limits first.  Setting limits is what saved my breastfeeding relationship with my older daughter.  I first cut her down to three a day and then down to two, which is where we are now.  You can offer something else instead.  My daughter actually asked for a bottle of rice milk for fun (she had never drank from a bottle before, it was one that came with the breast pump).  So, I happily gave it to her sometimes.  I also would warn her that sometimes it would be a short session because mommy’s boobies were sore, or that I might get grumpy if she stayed on for too long.  When nursing aversion strikes, you may be feeling some very intense resentment towards an older child.  These feelings are very normal, but don’t believe that these feelings are a true indication of your love towards your child.  If you can get them into a routine where they’re not on the boob all day, you might feel a bit more inclined to continue the breastfeeding relationship.

5. Expect Emotional Releases.  There will be tears.  Could be many of them.  The good news is… toddlers cry a lot anyway!  The crying that happens because you say ‘no’ to boob, might have been a cry that needed to come out anyway.  It is certainly a very emotional process.  Limiting mama time.  Saying ‘no’ to their very first food source.  Yes, yes!  It’s very emotional.  I’ve never tried to stop the crying or tried to distract.  I just let the emotions come out.  Of course, I might offer water or something else to drink instead of boobies.  But, when the emotions are running raw, I let them be.  I found that if I had to say ‘no’ to boob, she would have a good cry and then be over with it in a few minutes.  I also practice a very gentle technique called ‘cry in arms’, which is just a fancy way of saying that you allow a child to cry, in the loving presence of a carer (never alone in another room).

This Too Shall Pass and Whatever You Decide is Best for You and Your Child.  So, you’ve tried all of the above (and then some) and you’re still not coping with the nursing aversion… Well, you need to trust your intuition!  Many woman report that when they finally weaned, their relationship with their child improved, as it wasn’t focused on the boob anymore.  Other woman desperately want to preserve the breastfeeding relationship at all costs and through perseverance they overcome the aversion.  You really can’t go wrong.  So long as you’re providing your child with a loving space and with emotional support, it’s all that you can do.  It’s the BEST that you can do.  So, don’t feel bad.  The feelings of resentment that you might feel towards nursing an older child nursing is very normal and instinctual.  There’s nothing that you can do other than see it for what it is.   As long as you are informed and making the decision on you and your child’s behalf, and nobody else’s, then you can rest assure that everything is as it should be.

*Read the comments below for some excellent information supplied by other readers!  You mamas are not alone!

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