When Remy Ma revealed that her one-year-old daughter, Reminisce, seemed to be going through a weaning regression, it felt like she was describing my situation word for word. The Bronx rapper began attempting to wean her toddler following her first birthday and all seemed to be going well until we were all forced to quarantine as a result of COVID-19.
“When she turned 1 she was not having it. I was slowly weaning her off. Like, alright, not so much, which is dramatically down,” Remy explained on Instagram Live. “But ever since the quarantine, she’s super duper attached now and I just want my boobs back to myself.”
Similar to Remy, I have a toddler whom I was gradually trying to wean. I felt like we were making amazing progress since she turned one back in February. However, somewhere after the first month of the quarantine, I noticed a significant uptick in nursing sessions, which eventually evolved into straight-up cluster feeding, which she hasn’t done since she was a newborn. The entire ordeal has been frustrating, draining, and painful. And after noticing the stark similarities between Remy’s experience and my own, I began to wonder if there was a connection between the regression and the quarantine.
“There are various reasons why mothers may have difficulty weaning a toddler from breastfeeding during the COVID19 pandemic, board-certified family physician Dr. Gina Charles told MadameNoire. “It is typical for a toddler to breastfeed more often than usual, when there are changes in their daily routine. For example, if the mother is a working mom who is now working from home, the toddler now has greater access and may choose to nurse more.”
According to Dr. Havey Karp, a pediatrician and author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block, predictable routines help to lower stress in toddlers.
“Doing the same thing every day may be boring to grown-ups, but for toddlers predictable routines lower stress, increase confidence, and even make them feel smarter,” Dr. Karp explained in an essay. “Routines give little children a sense of security, a feeling of being smart, and a sense of time. And they’re important for toddlers at every stage.”
While I can only speak for myself with certainty, I imagine that quarantine life has resulted in quite a bit of unpredictability in households across the country, which as research has shown, can have quite an effect on small children. While I’ve been a work-from-home parent since my daughter was about 6 months old, quarantine has our days and weeks looking very different than they did pre-COVID. The schedule that we once stuck to with fidelity has been disrupted. Bedtimes have been sporadic as well as mealtimes. Our weekly music class and storytime sessions have reasonably been canceled indefinitely. My husband is now working from home as well and in some ways, we used his departure and return each day as a time-marker of sorts. As far as schedules and routines are concerned, we’ve been a hot mess.
Since there is a clear correlation between predictable schedules and routines and lowered stress levels in toddlers, I can only imagine that our new normal has my daughter, as well as many other tots, experiencing heightened stress.
“For young children, it matters, even more, to have a routine because they’ve only been alive for so long,” pediatric health psychologist Dr. Corrin Elmore told MadameNoire. “I’m hearing it every day with my families, the disruption is making the parents stressed and so it’s making the children stressed.”
Toddlers respond to stress in a variety of ways that don’t always make sense to adults, some of which include a change in sleeping or eating patterns, increased crying, and an uptick in reliance on habits like thumb-sucking, according to Parents.
Since breastfeeding is about much more than nutrients for babies and toddlers, it would make sense that some are coping with the uncertainty that COVID-19 has dropped at our doorsteps with increased comfort nursing.
“Toddlers breastfeed for comfort, in addition to nutrition,” explained Kelly Bonyata, an international board-certified lactation consultant and founder of Kelly Mom. “Breastfeeding can work wonders when baby is hurt, sad, upset (nursing is a great tantrum-tamer), or sick. Toddlers may also use breastfeeding as a quick way of ‘checking in’ and reconnecting with mom throughout the day.”