Toddler's dependence takes enjoyment out of nursing

My son is 13 months old. He has just recently become seemingly dependent on my breasts. He puts his hand down my shirt, tries to lift my shirt, is inconsolable in the morning if his dad gets up with him and we don't nurse right away. We are planning to go away for a week when he is 17 months old, so I'd planned to wean him this summer. Is this new found dependence a result of his age? I only nurse him in the morning and one more time (either afternoon nap or before bedtime). His dependence is causing me to feel annoyed and not enjoy nursing.

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

If you are at the point where the nursing relationship that you have with your child is no longer fulfilling, and in fact has become very frustrating, it is time to make some changes.

First and foremost, the question to ask yourself is, "do I really want to continue to breastfeed?". If the answer is yes, I would recommend working on the behavior that bothers you. Is your little guy putting his hand down your shirt and asking to nurse at inappropriate times throughout the day? This is not an uncommon behavior for toddlers who haven't yet figured out just what is socially acceptable and what is not.

Set limits. Let your child know lovingly and in very simple terms that you are not happy with this type of behavior. Your child may simply be asking for more attention.

Whether you decide to work on correcting the behavior or begin to wean your baby from his remaining two feeds, I would recommend scheduling in more concentrated mom-baby (and dad-baby) time. Your little one still needs lots of cuddling and hugs, and would probably love to sit on your lap and look at a story book, go outside and take a walk around your neighborhood, or sit with you to enjoy a snack. You might want to make a list of interesting ways to spend your time together. Lots of one-on-one time may be just what he is looking for. This may be enough to cause his more demanding behaviors to decrease. Both a mother and a father can comfort a baby or a toddler. Though it can be frustrating in the beginning for husbands, when they just don't seem to have what baby wants (breasts), it is a skill that ultimately is very rewarding. Mothers also appreciate the much needed break. Very best wishes in mothering!

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