Nursing etiquette – breastfeeding your child past infancy

Let’s face it, anyone who is breastfeeding a toddler knows that it is a totally different ball game to nursing a tiny, squishy newborn. Gone are the days where there’s no need for nursing boundaries. Forgotten memories linger of quiet, still, cozy breastfeeding sessions. No longer can you scroll through Facebook, or watch Netflix whilst your sleepy baby guzzles milk. No, nursing a toddler is not a quiet, calm and still exercise. More often than not, it involves a toddler-bottom in your face, some Super Stretch Armstrong nipples and lots of wiggling around.

newborn holding hands, Boundaries for nursing toddlers: How to maintain a harmonious nursing relationship
Nursing used to be so calm

Boundaries for nursing toddlers: How to maintain a harmonious nursing relationship


We all know that toddlers are active little things. They are never still for more than a couple of seconds before charging off to explore. In some ways, breastfeeding has never been more integral and important to your child as in their toddler years. A quick breastfeed and mama cuddle can calm the most difficult of emotions, as well as scare away the monsters from under the bed. And those benefits are let alone any of the other many perks that breastfeeding brings.

Toddler breastfeeding standing up. Nursing boundaries
Just cannot keep still!

Ground Rules

But the thing is, whilst breastfeeding is wonderful, and for our family, it’s a huge part of how we raise our child, it can still be hard going at times. Toddlers, who are so fiercely independent with most things, still need regular breastfeeds in order to feel secure. At times, this can feel relentless, and there are days when I nurse my almost-2 year old more now than he nursed as a new born!

Toddler having milk and cat sitting on toddler. Nursing boundaries
Super-stretch nipples!

This is why, for us, it was so vital to introduce some ‘nursing manners’ in order for us to maintain harmony in our breastfeeding relationship. I suffer quite badly with nursing aversion (LINK TO NURSING AVERSION BLOG POST WHEN IT’S PUBLISHED) at times, and so introducing these ‘rules’ helps me to maintain control when I’m struggling. I truly believe that having this nursing etiquette is enabling us to prolong our nursing relationship, and to reach our goal of weaning at natural term.

Toddler pretending to breastfeed a toy duck. Nursing boundaries
I don’t just breastfeed my toddler…

When is the right time to introduce the concept of nursing boundaries?

Toddler nursing with toy cake wearing sunglasses. Nursing boundaries
Cake, sunglasses and milk!

Of course, each child is different, but at around 10 months, I knew that Squid had a level of understanding which meant that I could begin setting some small boundaries. I’m a believer in breastfeeding responsively, and so he is allowed to have milk whenever he wants it *

We started with the rule that ‘mama gets the milk out’. This came about because Squid was insistent on ‘helping himself’ – literally removing my boob from my top and latching on. Now, we are huge advocates of teaching bodily autonomy and so this was something I needed to address. ‘Mama gets the milk out, because they are mama’s boobies’ – every time Squid tried to help himself, I gently held his hand and said this phrase. Yes, it’s Squid’s milk, but they are MY breasts. It didn’t take long before Squid picked this up – and soon he was saying ‘Mama’s boobies!’ Loudly. In the supermarket… but never mind.

Toddler looking down top. Nursing boundaries
MY milk, mama!

*Now Squid is approaching 2, occasionally if it’s not convenient to breastfeed, I will offer water or a snack as an alternative to nursing.

Keep it simple

When setting your boundaries, keep them simple. Explain your boundary, and the reason for it, and be consistent. Say the same phrase every time your toddler needs reminding. Soon it becomes ingrained!

As well as the above rule, my other boundaries are:

  • ‘Kind hands’. No pinching or scratching. (I also find that a fiddle necklace is great for helping to curb this habit!)
  • ‘Be still’. Squid had a habit of twisting and turning and seemingly trying to take a porta-boob off with him to play! So now he knows that if he wants milk, he has to sit nicely and have it.
  • ‘Unlatch please’ and ‘other milk’.  This one I have had to introduce more recently, and for my own sanity. As mentioned above, nursing aversion really bites my bum at times. Being able to quickly unlatch Squid when it gets too much is really important to me. He’s excellent at unlatching straight away when I need him to. He knows he can have the ‘other milk’ if he unlatches, which is enough of an incentive when you’re nearly 2!

I am sure these boundaries will evolve as we continue, and they really help to keep our nursing relationship a positive one. These rules mean that we can go on nursing knowing that we are both happy. Squid has a developing respect of other people’s bodies and personal space, as well as knowing that his body is his own too.

Do you have any ground rules between you and your nursing toddler? How have they changed over time? I’d love to know!

Toddler nursing on a tumble dryer. Nursing boundaries
Milk is love, warmth and security. Milk is mama.


Emily Lipscombe

Emily Lipscombe

Emily is a 20-something year old mama and teacher, living on the south coast of the UK with her husband and their toddler, balancing motherhood, family life and work (with varying degrees of success!) She writes about breastfeeding and parenting and everything else in between - check out her blog!
Emily Lipscombe

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