If you’re a parent, you know how challenging it can be to navigate the different stages of your child’s development. Breastfeeding is no exception, and when your 4-year-old suddenly wants to nurse again, it can be a confusing and overwhelming experience.
In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind this behavior and provide tips on handling it while maintaining a positive and healthy relationship with your child.
I hope this post will provide you with valuable insights and guidance. So, let’s dive in!
Why would a 4 -year old want to nurse again?
Following are a few reasons why your 4-year-old might want to nurse again. We will discuss some solutions later in this article.
1- You weaned her off late:
Many parents choose to extend breastfeeding. If you have recently stopped breastfeeding your 4-year-old, he may want to start it again. Because toddlers (ages 2-3) will forget about it quickly but a 4-year-old won’t.
2- He needs comfort and safety:
Breastfeeding is a great source of comfort and safety for a child. That is why it is recommended for mothers to breastfeed their children not only for physical well-being but for emotional well-being too.
If your 4-year-old asks you to nurse again, it may be because he seeks the comfort and emotional connection breastfeeding provides.
3- He has seen someone breastfeeding her child:
Typically, 4-year-olds no longer remember breastfeeding especially if you weaned them before they were 3 years old. If he is still demanding you to nurse again then there could be several reasons for it.
There is a possibility that your 4-year-old child has seen someone breastfeeding her child. Sometimes kids watch their siblings or cousins nursing around them, which certainly puts them in an urge to breastfeed again.
Some tv ads or even cartoons show nursing videos and your child might have seen them. To have the same bond with you, your child might be demanding to resume nursing again.
4- He is jealous of his little sibling for being closer to you:
If you have a newborn baby and you are currently nursing him, this could also be a reason why your 4-year-old wants to nurse again. He wants to be as close to you as his new sibling is and sometimes it makes the elder sibling jealous of the newborn for being that close to his mom.
5- He is curious:
Usually a 4-year-old forgets about how he used to breastfeed when he was small but when he sees someone nursing around him, he might get curious and ask you to do the same with him.
6- He is going through a transition:
Your 4-year-old child may seek nursing again during the time of any kind of transition that needs comfort, closeness, and support.
Times like starting a school, moving to a new house, or the arrival of a new sibling can make your child more emotional hence he may demand you to nurse him again.
Should I start nursing again?
Should You start nursing again? Well! not necessarily.
These kinds of demands are common among young kids. They often demand something, throw tantrums over it, and forget about it after some days.
4-year-olds are old enough that they do not need breastmilk for nourishment and they can get bonding and comfort from their mom in so many other ways.
On the other hand, a newborn cannot talk and play with his mom, so he spends quality time with his mommy while breastfeeding.
So if your 4-year-old child is demanding you to nurse him again, you can offer other ways of comfort to him such as talking with him, reading him a story, asking him about his preferences, playing with him, shopping with him, and much more.
Some people may want to acknowledge the request of their little one and start nursing again, it’s their own choice but it’s not necessary. Just like other phases, this phase will also pass.
Also, if you want to resume nursing keep your cultural and societal norms about breastfeeding in your mind as it varies from culture to culture and religion to religion. So consider these factors when you make a decision.
Please note that not restarting breastfeeding doesn’t make you a bad mom. You are just keeping your priorities and boundaries straight towards your child and putting efforts to address his request in other ways.
How to fix the problem?
So, when your 4-year-old says he wants to nurse again, what should you do? Read along.
1- Understand his feelings:
The first step to fixing such a problem is to know why your child is demanding to nurse again. Look around and see if he has seen you or someone else feeding the child and he craves such attachment again. Understand his feelings and address them calmly but tactfully.
Understanding your child’s feelings doesn’t mean that you have to do what he is saying. But you should understand and validate him. Then find ways to solve this problem.
2- Do an honest and open conversation with him:
4-year-olds are old enough to have a conversation with them, so do an honest and open discussion with them and tell them that he/she is now a big kid and breastfeeding is typically for newborns to toddlers of age 2.5 or 3. Tell him that it is not allowed to nurse such a big kid.
3- Provide comfort in other ways:
- Offer comfort and reassurance like hugging, cuddling, or holding the child. Physical touch can help the child to overcome his craving and make them feel safe and secure.
- Spend more quality time with your child so that he knows that his mother is still there for him.
- Read him stories while you breastfeed the other child.
- Talk to him about his favorite cartoon movies, and ask him to tell you the story and how he wanted the movie to end.
- Use calming techniques such as deep breathing, gentle massage, or playing soft music to help your child relax and forget about his demand,
- Create a comfortable routine with your child like giving him proper time before he goes to bed. Spent time with him while he takes a bath and with him while he ate his food.
- Validate his feelings and let him know it’s not wrong to feel that way. Let him express what he feels but make him understand that it’s okay to feel this way and that you are there for him.
4- Keep your 4-year-old close to you while you nurse:
if you are breastfeeding your younger child, keep your 4-year-old along with you. Put an arm around him and read him stories so he doesn’t get jealous of the baby and feels the comfort and knows that mommy loves him too
5- Keep him in your lap while he drinks milk from a bottle:
If your 4-year-old drinks milk from a bottle, ask him to come to lie down in your lap and drink the milk. In this way, he will be able to understand that he can no longer have breastmilk but can have the comfort and closeness he was craving for.
6- Ask for help when you breastfeed:
If your 4-year-old is demanding to breastfeed so intensely then ask for help from the people around you. Another family member may keep the child engaged while you breastfeed.
The 4-year-old will forget this demand in a few days.
7- Give him extra time:
After nursing your younger child, call your 4-year-old and spend some time with him. In this way, he will understand that his mom is giving him some time after breastfeeding his sibling. He will understand and wait for you to finish nursing the younger one.
8- Engage the child in other activities:
When you are heading to nurse your younger child, offer the 4-year child to engage himself in any favorite activity like playing with toys, reading a favorite book, or playing some calming games. This can help shift his focus from nursing.
9- Distract him when he asks for breastfeeding:
Use distraction techniques to redirect your child’s focus from nursing. You can try signing his favorite song, or poem or trying telling him some stories. If he does not take an interest in any of these things, give him some screen time to divert his mind.
10- Provide him with healthy snacks when he demands to nurse:
When your 4-year-old demands nursing, give him a snack. Putting something delicious in his mouth will stop him for some time.
Tasty food is also satisfying. Soon, he will forget about his wish to nurse.
11- Set boundaries:
If you have weaned your child from nursing, communicate this with your child gently and lovingly. let the child know that he is now a grownup and that nursing will not make him grow more.
So he needs to stop nursing and eat and drink healthy food if he wants to be a strong boy.
If he craves closeness and comfort, reassure him that you are there to provide comfort in other ways.
12- Be patient and stay with your decision firmly.
Every transition needs patience. Like every other habit, your child will forget about nursing demands after some time. It is best to be firm with your decision and comfort the child in different ways rather than lose your patience and start nursing again.
Your 4-year-old may want to nurse again if he has seen a baby nursing and he wants the same connection. Or maybe he didn’t forget the nursing phase, especially if you weaned him recently.
It’s not necessary to start nursing again. It’s just a phase that will pass. Give your child comfort and care in other ways.