The theme for this week’s Keep Britain Breastfeeding is ‘Feeding after the first month’. That’s great and I’m sure you’ll find a wealth of information by reading through some of the other blog posts, but I want to skip a few months – around 24, to be precise, – and talk about breastfeeding an older child, a toddler.
When I think about breastfeeding my toddler, at the moment, the word ‘challenging’ comes to mind. My circumstances are different to yours, perhaps, and I know that breastfeeding her through pregnancy was tough, but not challenging. I know that breastfeeding her up to the point of pregnancy was not hard either. But suddenly with a newborn attached to my nipple all the time – and not as much as many other newborns – my feelings towards extended nursing have changed. I find it challenging. Not impossible, not hard enough to force wean my beautiful girl, but challenging.
See, for me, right now, the big thing is feeling utterly and entirely ‘touched out’. And having a toddler who has decided to nurse four to six times a night again, when even my baby doesn’t nurse as much, is… you guessed it… challenging. But those are my cirumstances, now, and we’re working back to a place of sleepy-time breastfeeding, or waking up breastfeeding. I am happy with nursing my almost three year old three times a day. That’s my personal level of comfort.
There are a few things to prepare yourself for the day you realise you’re officially an extended breastfeeder:
- People will criticise you. They will say you’re doing it for your own gratification. They clearly have not breastfed a gymnastic toddler.
- People will say you’re being too soft on your child, holding on to tight, or making them too dependent on you. There are plenty reasons to breastfeed into toddlerhood, so I’d say don’t worry about it. If you feel you need to, know the facts about breastmilk through the ages. It makes for a better argument.
- You will have days or nights where you are so ‘over it’ and ready to give up. Your child may not be, however, and even if it is purely for comfort, who doesn’t want to comfort their baby?
- There will be times when you want to end a nursing session and your nursling refuses and wants you to carry on. There will be times when your body feels imposed on or intruded on or overwhelmed by the constant need. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to draw boundaries. If you want to nurse in public, and your toddler insists on lifting your shirt and you’re not comfortable, it’s happy to set limits, to refuse them and to insist that you, your body and your boundaries are respected. How can you teach them that they have a right to say no and that no is to be respected if you can’t say it yourself?
- It’s okay to have a night out and leave daddy or someone else to deal with the bed time routine. My daughter will get very distraught if I’m home and say she can’t have sleepy time milkies. If I’m not home and my husband puts her to bed, she rarely even asks for it. I go to a monthly committee meeting for a local charity I volunteer for and when I go, and take the baby with me, I tell Ameli that I am going out and will give her milk when she wakes up through the night, or the next morning or whenever she asks for it again. She has an uncanny way of waking up 20 minutes after I walk through the door. I comfort feed her then. (We don’t tend to have alcohol at these meetings.And the most important thing to know about feeding a walking, talking, eating child is that it removes a whole big burden of stress of your shoulders:
- A fussy eater still gets vital nutrients and nourishment, especially when you’re tandem feeding with a baby.
- A fever, a sickness, or anything else that prevents your child from eating or drinking normally can be fixed by a helping of the good stuff.
- A scrape, a fall, a finger caught – all can be healed by a sip of magic milk. Generally it’s probably more about the closeness, but still, the milk does no harm.
- Ear infections, gloopy eyes and blocked noses – a squirt or two of milk brings about incredibly quick healing.
- Time apart just melts away as you sink into a reconnecting nursing session. Anyone remember the story of Habiba last year? The woman who was separated from her baby by the Spanish government? After about a week apart (I think) when she was allowed to see her daughter again, the first thing the little girl wanted was to nurse. I’m sure it wasn’t because she was being starved, but rather because she wanted that close contact and personal reconnection with the mama she knew and loved.
Some days are hard. I won’t lie to you. But when I was a project manager for a living, there were hard days, despite how much I loved it. While I love teaching baby massage, there are days I don’t want to do it. Some days, doing what we set out to do is simply… challenging. Parenting, motherhood and breastfeeding are no exceptions.
The rewards, however, are worth every moment of determined perseverance.
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My, what a fab find on the Keep Britain Breastfeeding archives; I’m off to include it in my BritMums breastfeeding roundup (probably for October’s). Thanks for sharing your experience; I relate so much of it. I wonder if you have an update on your tandem nursing experience, I would love to read it. 🙂
Hiya! Thanks for getting in touch on Twitter – I hope you found the rest of the tandem posts on the blog 🙂
I love this post, it is completely honest and I can relate to every single point made. Nice to know I’m not the only one who mostly enjoys feeding my toddler but can have off moments where I would prefer not to be.
My goal is to feed as long as we both want to.
Wow Thank you so much for writing this. My first breastfeeding goal was six months of exclusive breastfeeding we began weaning & I decided to make a goal of a further 3 months once I reached that goal I realised I may as well keep going to a year and then try my son on cows milk. The cows milk did not go down well and my son continues to be a voracious breastfeeder at almost 25 months. I’m not sure I want to let him self-wean I would like an end in sight – like you say breastfeeding is challenging. It’s challenging whatever age your child is and its tiring & time consuming & I do feel touched out but again, as you say, if your child is deriving comfort from the breast as a mother why would you take that away from someone you love so very much xx
I’m currently hoping to continue breastfeeding when I go back to work in 3 months time. I suspect it’s going to involve a lot of feeds at night
My goals have been to take one day at a time and follow my instincts
I find the point you’re at in your breastfeeding journey so interesting, mainly because we don’t hear enough about breastfeeding beyond the age of two or tandem breastfeeding. Thanks for being so honest. My personal aim is to go until she’s ready to wean but I know that I want to get pregnant at some point and am not sure how I’ll feel about breastfeeding while pregnant if it really hurts or is uncomfortable. So I’m just allowing myself to take things one step at a time. Even if I end up leading the way, it will be gently and gradually.
I orginally intended to breast feed for 6 months, but after reading some fabulous blog posts lately, I’m more inclined to let baby decide when enough is enough
My goal with my next child will be to try and make it to the 1 year, previously I have only done it for the first 6 months then stopped when weening started.
Thank you for a great post! I can relate to most of the points you make about extended breastfeeding. I’m currently nursing through pregnancy and some days are really hard, especially when I get the feeling of being all ‘touched out’ at you say. I’m lucky that I haven;t faced too much criticism. I love the fact that I can calm him down when he’s upset or grumpy.
My original goal was to get to 6 months, but when we got there I decided we’d carry on til he self-weaned. Then I got pregnant, and although we’re still going, I’m not sure I will be able to tandem nurse due to my hypoplasia, so we’re currently taking each day at a time and seeing what happens!
Loved reading your post my little girl decided to stop at 23 months. She is almost three now and i am expecting another little girl and will be letting her self wean once again when ever that may be. My goals are to take each day as it comes and relax and enjoy the special time together.
my goal is to hit 2 and try and self wean, I can relate to feeling touched out cant imagine feeling that way with 2 babies.
Thanks for this! My 22 month old definitely leaves me feeling touched out at times, but I try to remember why I’m doing it.
When he falls and scrapes his knee (or just injures his ego), mama milk is the instant cure.
When he’s fighting a nap, the nap always wins when mama milk is involved.
When he refuses to eat anything except grapes and strawberries for days at a time, I know that he’s getting extra nutrition from my milk.
My goal is to breast feed for as long as my baby needs and wants it. Great post and I love your honesty!
Thank you for such an honest blog post!
My breastfeeding goal is to continue to feed for as many months/years as my baby wishes!
Lovely post. I’m currently nursing my 10 month old and my 4 year old, yes sometimes it’s hard to deal with and it’s nice to see you acknowledging that it isn’t all wonderful all the time…but the benefits are worth it. I hope both my boys self wean when they are ready!
So good to hear someone else reflect things I feel nursing my 3yo and 3mo girls.
Really enjoyed this description of what to expect : ) It’s all so true!! Finding nursing sore during early pregnancy & have cut down to one feed a day at night which he’s (surprisingly) happy to do. 3 would be more comfort level too.
my son is currently 5 months old and i adore the closeness breastfeeding brings. Whilst pregnant, i thought i’d aim for 6 mobths as i assumed that was when you were ‘meant’ to stop. Now however, i cant imagine stopping until ge is ready and would dearly love to carry on feeding until he is ready to self wean
I like when people imply that I only nurse for me (to burn calories ) like i Could make my 2.5 year old nurse if she didn’t want to. I like nursing and though I am only nursing one kid, I still get touched out. She doesn’t nurse during the night, but she may nurse 2 or 3 times between 7 and 9 pm. You know, the time of day I want to relax by myself. Oh well. How much longer will the cuddly closeness really last? I love the sleepy nursey face. So sweet.
Great post, hun. I love feeding Lara still, but do find it difficult some days, and have to set my own limits on her, but it is still so worth it for the connection, the cure-all benefits, and for keeping her happy. I just don’t get why people find it ‘weird’!