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“Mommy, can I have some num-num?” These unexpected overtures can happen weeks or months after the child weaned; classic triggers are the return of milk in late pregnancy or the birth of the baby-but requests can come months down the line. This renewed interest can mean many things: perhaps a breastfeeding problem has been resolved and so the nursing strike is over, perhaps the child is having second thoughts about weaning, or perhaps the child is just curious (“What does it taste like?” or “Will mama say yes?”). Mothers wonder whether giving a positive response will result in just a taste – or un-weaning.
Sometimes children forget how to latch on and actually get milk. The longer it’s been since the child nursed, the more likely this is, but be aware that some children can go several months without nursing and get it right the first time, and others rediscover how to suck after several practice sessions.
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Sometimes a child not only gets milk, but enjoys the experience, and prepares to move right back in. Sometimes even after a happy nursing hiatus of weeks or months, if you refuse your child’s requests to nurse, you may be surprised to find that your child reacts as if you are initiating weaning cold turkey. Now what? Of course, requests to renew nursing tend to come as a surprise; so you may have to scramble to come up with any response at all. When possible, it’s worth considering how you feel about the prospect of renewed nursing in advance. Some mothers are happy for the return to breastfeeding the older child.
One day, Oscar was about three months old and the light went on! Bonnie latched on, to my surprise, and nursed away. Let go with a milky grin and said, “Yummy.” I was so thrilled!
Then I wondered how in the world I was going to do it! But my wonderful husband reminded me that just like everything else, it would just work out. At this point in time I wouldn’t change a thing. I did feel guilty from Bonnie’s early weaning. I felt I had lost something very dear to us both. When she started nursing again, it seemed strange to my family members and some friends but it was right for my children and I. I was given back something I thought was lost forever, something very precious.
— Lisa, North Carolina
Some mothers already know they aren’t up for tandem nursing. If you decide that offering the breast is not your best option, you will do well to figure out why your child wants to nurse again, and address that specific need as actively as you can in other ways. Sometimes your child will tell you how.
Tom and I had decided that if Joey (then 26 months) seemed absolutely inconsolable, I would try to nurse both children. Cecilia and I were still getting our routine together when Joey’s nursing request came, so I said “Not right now,” to which he cried, “Read book!” So in the early months of Cecilia’s life, that’s how we often nursed, she at my breast and Joey in the crook of my other arm to listen to a book.
That was essentially the last time he asked, aside from a few kidding around sessions, when I could tell that he was simply wondering what the answer would be. My answer was to offer some expressed milk in a cup. He sipped it, then left it on the table.
— Sara, Maine
… from Chapter 10: Changes in Breastfeeding
Excerpted with permission from