top of page

Boundaries in Breastfeeding & Beyond!

My son is a twiddler. Oh how he loves to twiddle. He could roll my nipple between his fingers allllllll day long. It didn't use to bother me very much (as long as his nails were trimmed) but as we approached the 2 year mark on our breastfeeding journey it became increasingly irritating.

(Pic of my son breastfeeding while my daughter "does" my hair. Note the sneaky arm reaching for the other side!)

I know that twiddling is a completely normal thing for babies to do (and there are actually important reasons they do it!) and that knowledge helped at first, but eventually I found myself getting tense every time he latched. I would clench my jaw and push him away harshly when it would get too much. This was my huge red flag! RESENTMENT!

If you are feeling resentment, that means you are crossing your own boundary.

Read that again.

If you are feeling resentment you are crossing your own boundary.

Your body is telling you that you have a boundary and you aren't listening to it!

A lot of times we ignore these internal signals because we are uncomfortable with saying "no".

The truth is, "no" isn't actually something our little kids are able to process. They actually CAN'T grasp an action as a negative. (If you say "no running" - they will continue to run. They process the "running" before they process the "no" and it gets all jumbled up for them!) It works much better to tell them what TO do instead. (If you say 'walking feet please', you have given them an actual action that they can process and preform easily).

So, once I noticed that twiddling was no longer okay with me, I figured out what my boundary is: nipples are only for mouths. That's my "yes!" That's what I okay with. Since I know that my son will process the "yes" better than the "no" that's what I started with. When he reaches for my nipple, I remind him "nipples are for mouths, buddy!" and he pulls his hands away. HE GET'S IT! <3

You will often hear "experts" talk about bad habits. It's common to hear that twiddling is something you need to stop right away because it will only be harder to stop the longer it goes.

I want to present to you the idea that habits are actually EASIER to change the more developmentally capable the child is.

My son was not capable of understanding the difference between "mouths" and "hands" at 6 months old. ...but at nearly 2, he definitely could!

Sure, he needs reminded, but he actually ENJOYS the reminders. I am able to say "nipples are for....?" and he unlatches and smiles and shouts "mouths!" and pulls his hand away and continues nursing. Before, when I demand "stop that!" and push him away, he would cry! I felt justified in the moment because I was so irritated! Of course I wanted to yell when someone was clawing at my breast incessantly! But the reality is that twiddling is something that brings him comfort AND he didn't know how to not do it! He always had! The other reality - it wasn't working for me any longer.

Creating a boundary that felt good for me AND empowered him to choose a different action protected our relationship and met BOTH of our needs.

Sometimes he struggles with stopping, so we take a break and find something else to do, or I realize that there is a need underneath that he needs met and I find a way to do that in a way that honours my boundaries too. For example, if he is really tired he might reach down my shirt and struggle to stop. I will pop him in the baby carrier or bring him to bed!

This is just one example of how boundary setting can look. It's a tool I use hourly in my home and it's one you can use too!


1 - Take a moment to find your YES!

2 - Communicate a YES action to your child *before* your body becomes overwhelmed (so you can still approach it with connection and kindness)

3 - Remind your child as often as needed

4 - If they are struggling to listen, pause and check for an unmet need.

This approach to boundary setting isn't one many of us grew up with. But it can be a game changer when we need to set a boundary AND protect our relationship.

Leave a comment of a time you have struggled with boundary setting with your kids!

1 Comment

Unknown member
Dec 19, 2021

Great post, Jenna! This is incredibly helpful in any aspect of parenting that you are struggling with boundaries. I will definitely be using this tool starting immediately 😍

bottom of page