Setting Nursing Boundaries with Toddlers

Are you nursing a toddler?

Sadly, our culture still views toddler nursing as ‘taboo’ and calling it ‘extended breastfeeding’. The reality is that nursing a toddler is NORMAL and healthy. However, because we often spend so much time trying to be accepted, we forget we also can set boundaries with our toddlers.

There’s a false dichotomy that it’s either nurse on demand or wean. This is not true! You can limit nursing sessions or cut down some feeds and maintain your breastfeeding relationship. You get to do what works for your family.

So here are some tips to help you set loving boundaries around breastfeeding your toddler. Please note this is for TODDLERS, aka 12 months and up. Babies under 12m should always be fed on demand.

Understand your Why

There’s a lot of reasons you might choose to cut down on feeds. Maybe you’re feeling touched out. Maybe you’re just ready. Maybe you’re getting ready to wean in the future.

Whatever your reason is, it’s valid! But what I don’t want you to do is to cut feeds because your mother in law said so or you feel like all your friends are. There is nothing wrong with breastfeeding your toddler on demand if it works for you all.

Explain Ahead of Time

If you already know when you want to nurse, explain this to your toddler. For example:

Now that you’re getting bigger, we are only going to nurse for bedtime and nap time. During the day, you can have snacks instead.’

Keep it simple! You don’t need to overexplain your reasons. The idea is to give your child a heads up of what’s to come.


Observe when your child asks for milk and what need they are trying to meet. Do they ask when they’re hungry? Do they ask when they are upset and need comfort? Do they need it to fall asleep? Do they ask when you are distracted and they are seeking connection?

Understanding this is key. It allows you to meet their needs before they even come up. For example, if you notice they will be seeking connection you can give them some quality 1:1 time before hopping on your phone.


Label what you think their needs are, even if you aren’t ready to set the boundary yet. For example:

‘You want boobies right now. I think you’re hungry. Does your tummy feel hungry?’

This starts to foster your child’s sense of bodily awareness. It’s so important for them to learn how to identify their own needs.


Knowing what the underlying need might be, you can start to redirect them when they ask for milk. For example:

‘I hear you want to nurse, it seems like you are hungry. Would you like a snack?’

For many toddlers, that simple prompt might be enough to distract them. But depending on their temperament, they might need more of a boundary. For example:

‘I hear you want milky right now. I see you want some bonding time. We can’t do milkies right now but I can cuddle you instead’

Remember, this is your body! You are allowed to set a boundary about what you are and aren’t willing to give. That doesn’t mean they have to like it, though. Your job isn’t to fix their feelings but rather to empathize with them.

Offer a Choice

It also helps to offer a simple choice when you are trying to redirect. This helps your toddler feel empowered and in control. For example:

We aren’t going to nurse right now but I see that you’re hungry. Would you like goldfish or veggies for a snack?’

Remember both choices need to be choices you’re okay with!

Empathize and Hold Space

Again, just because you set a boundary it doesn’t mean your toddler has to like it. They are allowed to be upset! Welcome their feelings and empathize with them. For example:

I hear you, you’re so sad we can’t nurse right now. It’s okay to be sad. I’m here for you.

Remember you’re not ‘fixing’ their feelings. You’re just holding space for them and helping them co-regulate.

Looking to Wean?

If you’re ready to start the night weaning process but don’t want to use cry-it-out or any harsh methods- I got you!

My friend Marissa and I created an amazing Gentle Night Weaning course which has everything you need to know to support your toddler thorough weaning in a slow and responsive way. Marissa is a certified Lactation Counsellor and fellow Baby Sleep Specialist. We both have weaned our toddlers and have helped countless families do the same. Check out the course page here to learn more!

A cheat sheet

Pssst! I made you a little cheat sheet if you wanna screenshot and save:D

If you hold your baby to sleep

If you hold your baby to sleep, he might get used to your comfort⁣

If he gets used to your comfort, he might expect it there all the time⁣

If he expects your comfort, he might cry when it’s not available⁣

If he cries, you’ll have to comfort him some more⁣

If you comfort him when he cries, he might think you are reliable⁣

If he thinks you’re reliable, he might expect you to understand him when he’s upset⁣

If you understand him when he’s upset, he might learn to regulate his emotions⁣

If he regulates his emotions, he might have an easier time forming relationships⁣

If he has an easier time forming relationships, he might become well adjusted⁣

If he becomes well adjusted, he might become self sufficient⁣

And if he becomes self sufficient… Chances are… He won’t want you to hold him to sleep anymore⁣

This was originally posted to my Instagram account. It was inspired by the book ‘If you Give a Mouse a Cookie’

For a free printable version of this poem, click the link below:)

Grounding Ourselves in Difficult Moments

We’re often told as parents to just ‘trust our instincts’. But this can be extremely hard for new parents because we live in a society where we have never been taught to trust our instincts. We’ve instead been taught from a young age to listen to authority, fit the mold, and never question. Add to that going through the immensely transformative process of becoming a parent to a brand new human being and it’s no wonder the first year is so hard!

So, first of all, do not feel guilty if you don’t yet feel those parental instincts. This is not your fault. You can, however, work towards becoming more in touch with it so that you can be the parent you want to be and block out the noise.

Two big things to keep in mind in this process are: reparenting yourself, and mindfulness.

I won’t get into repareting too much in this post because I could be here all day. But the important thing is becoming aware of your triggers and your own stories so that you don’t react to your child from your own wounds. 

Mindfulness is the art of staying present in the moment. We tend to dwell on the past or stress about the future: both of which lead to anxiety and depression. So a mindfulness practice is just that: being in the now. One effective tool to get there is meditation. I highly recommend the free app Insight Timer which comes with many guided meditations. Yoga, exercise, dancing, and nature walks are also great ways to be in the now. Hopefully you are doing some of these in your day to day. 

However, the key is integrating. When you find yourself in those moments where your child is pushing your buttons, what do you do to stay grounded? What do you do to keep your triggers from taking over? Finding a technique that works for you can be incredibly helpful.

What does this have to do with sleep?

We often talk about the effect of sleep deprivation on our mental health. But we rarely discuss the effect of our mental health on our children’s sleep. The reality is that our children are incredibly aware of our moods. When we feel anxious, they know it. And when we’re stressed to get them to sleep, they know it too! They naturally do not want to go to sleep when you are upset because their brain sees it as unsafe. After all, if mommy is worried it means something is wrong. Staying calm during bedtime will help our children stay calm too and therefore allow them to rest.

So I’ve rounded up some quick strategies you can use in the moment to get back to a balanced state. Please note that the important thing is to find what works for you! These are just suggestions.Use a grounding object during your mindfulness practice. For example, if you fidget with a hair elastic on your wrist when you get frustrated, try doing that while you meditate. This way you shift your brain’s association with fidgeting from an anxious state to fidgeting to stay calm. It’s amazing what we can trick our brains to do! Thank you for this suggestion Dr. Laura Froyen.

Try a breathing technique. Focusing on your breath can really bring you back to the moment. For example, take a deep breath in, hold it for 3 seconds, and let it out through your mouth as slowly as you can. You can also try making a ‘shhh’ sound or a hum to release some energy.

Try a mental distraction. Count one thing you can smell, see, touch, taste, hear. Or tell yourself your name, address, and age. Better yet, create a little mantra for yourself to say in these moments. A love and kindness meditation can go a long way to helping you find peace.

Try a physical grounding technique. Maybe it’s a yoga pose you enjoy that you can do in the moment. I find a cat/cow pose to help my anxiety or maybe you can go outside and put your hands and feet to the bare soil

Involve your child! Make it fun. Can you show your child how to breathe out fire like a dragon? (And in the process release some of your energy) or can you play a little chase game and release tension through giggles? Play is the best therapy!

Remember that it’s all about finding what works for you. It’s also not about being perfectly happy and peaceful all the time. You will get triggered. You will feel anxious. It’s simply about bringing ourselves down to a manageable state in those moments so we can be the parent we want to be.

Later, once you’re feeling better examine what happened. What triggered you? Why? What came up for you? How can you shift that for next time?

As always, remember that our children are HAVING a hard time, not GIVING us a hard time.

Struggling with bedtime battles? I can help! Click here to see my one-on-one packages.