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Breastfeeding a toddler is like trying to fill up a moving car’s gas tank – if the driver of the moving car is a circus clown with a heavy foot, and somehow the car can fly and jump and flip (basically it’s a spaceship), and also if the gas pump is your nipple. Also, also if the circus clown can reach his arm out of the moving car/spaceship to touch and twiddle and pinch your other nipple.
Not the best analogy, but you get the picture. Breastfeeding a toddler isn’t always easy. And this is the stage of toddler breastfeeding my little and I are in – wiggling, squirming, twiddling, and playing.
But before I dig more into this, I have to get a little sappy and say that even though breastfeeding a toddler can be challenging it is worth every struggle we’ve had to get here. The connection it builds, the nutrition it gives, there’s nothing else like it. And I would not change a single thing about it.
Okay, back to the issue of the month – err, months – twiddling.
Why do our littles insist on twiddles?
Not a lot of research has been done about this, but according to this article from The Guardian, twiddling encourages the “release of the hormone oxytocin, which increases milk supply.”
My humble opinion beyond the science is that boobs are soft and squishy and fun to feel, and once our babes figure that out, they can’t get enough of them. (Although I’m sure it does add a greater sense of connection, comfort and closeness and I’m sure it does help your milk let down faster.)
How do I deal with my little twiddler?
Honestly, it depends on the way I’m feeling and the way my toddler is feeling, but I’ll do one of three things:
Most of the time, if we’re at home I just let him be and ignore the twiddling as long as he’s being gentle – and at this point in the breastfeeding game, my nipples are pretty numb, so it doesn’t really bother me. Also, ignoring the twiddling can be helpful at bedtime since my little one does it for comfort and relaxation, because it helps him fall asleep faster and more easily.
I know this isn’t always the best option for everyone, especially if you’re touched out or if it makes you uncomfortable. Definitely don’t ignore you’re own needs and comfort level, though. Then, you’ll be left feeling more stressed about breastfeeding and twiddling, and more frustrated with your little one – which will most likely make your little one more stressed and frustrated, and more likely to twiddle.
Obviously, there are times that twiddling can’t be ignored, and it’s definitely okay to set limits and teach our toddlers/babies how to have good manners breastfeeding. If I’m in public, feeling touched out, or if my little one is getting too rough the first thing I try is to distract those little hands.
This can mean:
- Holding hands – this worked sometimes when my little first started the twiddling, but now that he’s older this does make him a little frustrated
- Hand Kissing/Blowing Raspberries – this sometimes still works as a toddler because he thinks raspberry noises are hilarious
- Giving them another object to hold – some moms swear by nursing necklaces or jewelry (which is jewelry that moms wear specifically for their baby or toddler to play with). This one here is the perfect length for their hands to manipulate and play with as they feed, it’s also super cute.
- Songs/Words – never underestimate the power of your voice. Our babies love hearing our voices, and singing their favorite songs can help the agitation they feel about us keeping their hands away from our other boob.
Another option is to be more direct and discourage the twiddling. I have found this to be a more challenging option at this age because my little one This can be done by:
- Making access to the other boob more difficult– this can be done with clothing and keeping your other boob concealed (although truthfully, my toddler is a ninja and can claw his way through any clothing to get that other nipple), or you can use your free arm/hand to block access (but while this might work great for some moms, again this has not worked great for me. It usually results in tears and frustration for my toddler.)
- Words/Talk it out– gently say something like, “I don’t like this, please hold X [my hand, this toy, that blankie] instead.” Or when my little one is being to rough, I simply remind him, “soft hands,” and I’ll gently hold his hand in mine and demonstrate how to be soft.
- Time limit – this seems to be our most effective form of discouraging right now. If my little is being to rough, I let him know, “Two more minutes of nursing and then we’re going to do X [get a drink from a cup, or a snack, or do this other activity].” I think this works well for us right now because he has a good understanding of next and after, and if I choose an activity he enjoys he’s usually eager to move on to that next thing.
Also, remember this is just another phase and they’re only little for a little while.
I hope you found this useful and relatable. Do you have a little twiddler on your hands, too? What are your best ways of coping? Feel free to let me know in the comments! It’s always nice to hear others ideas and thoughts.
And onward we go in our breastfeeding journey. I hope you have a beautiful day!