The truth about breastfeeding a toddler.
Now, I know I’m a little outside the norm by breastfeeding my 18 month old daughter. Aussie breastfeeding rates show that I am part of only 9% of mothers who are still breastfeeding at this age. And while the World Health Organisation recommend continued breastfeeding until 2 years old, just 5% of babies in Australia are still boobing away at 2.
I have said to most of my family and friends that not only will I still likely be feeding my boob monster at 2 but I have serious doubts she will ever wean! “Booey” as she loves to call it is life for my girl.
A BLESSING AND A CURSE
Some days I don’t know what I would do without breastfeeding. It is the answer to every problem. She is tired, boob. She hurts herself, boob. She is overwhelmed and struggling to cope with a situation, boob. Plane flights, immunisations, middle of the night resettling, hungry, sick, thirsty…..BOOB! I feel like half my mothering skills come from being able to whip out a boob. I love how quickly and easily she is comforted by breastfeeding. I am her home base, her safe place. The warm cuddle, the familiar smell, skin-to-skin contact and of course that sweet deliciousness!
Then there are the other days where I am oh so done. I’m all touched out. I am tired and sick of being sucked on. Afraid she’s never going to stop doing this. There is no light at the end of this feeding tunnel. Why do I have to be the ONLY one who can get her to sleep and resettle her overnight? Will she ever stop feeding or will I be breastfeeding her after a job interview?! (Of course not, but it feels that way sometimes). I’ve lost count of the number of times I have pumped so that someone else can try and feed her from a bottle, a sippy cup, an open cup, a teaspoon…all without success. She knows where booby milk comes from and she won’t have a bar of it. She’s enjoyed her fair share of milk baths so that the precious liquid gold didn’t go to waste. But as much as I LOVE breastfeeding, there are days I’d really rather not do it. Particularly because we’re trying to have another baby. I don’t know how much continuing to breastfeed is affecting my fertility but there are plenty of mums out there who still fell pregnant, continued to feed and still tandem feed. What will be, will be. I can’t bring myself to wean her simply to fall pregnant.
Breastfeeding a toddler isn’t like the sweet, dreamy pictures you see of women feeding their babies. I have those photos. Me feeding my precious babe of only a few month, settled into my rocking chair, glass of water on the coffee table….mmm yes. But alas, the cradle hold is a thing of the past! Now we’ve come into the phase of Boob-tastics where world class gymnasts would be envious of the positions my daughter is able to get into while feeding. My poor nipple tries to accommodate the 360 degree spins she is able to perform. A feeding session with her now consists of me saying things like “Please get your toe out of my ear.”, “Darling don’t look that way.”, “Please just sit still and feed.”, “My nipple doesn’t stretch that far, Bubba.” Oh and the twiddling!!!! I can’t stand when she wants to play with my other nipple when feeding. I spend so many feeds with my forearm clamped down like a vault over my other breast to stop her little wandering hand from flipping the other one out. One thing I have kind of loved about Boob-tastics though is finding new and interesting ways to feed her. Lying down positions, sitting on my lap, straddling me, feeding in a carrier. But when she’s really tired, she’ll still curl up on my lap in that sweet cradle hold and I am able to stare down at her long, dark eyelashes, her button nose and breathe in her sweet milky breath as she drifts off in blissful peace cradled in my arms.
BECOMING THE 5%
I was never ashamed to breastfeed in public but now that I’m moving into the 5% territory, 95% of other mums out there aren’t breastfeeding anymore and I’m starting to feel more self conscious. And while “What other people think of me is none of my business” should be what I tell myself, I have always been a follower. I don’t think of myself as a trailblazer, leading the way into the unknown. I am careful and considered, looking at many approaches and following one that feels right for my heart. But I have always wanted to fit in. Don’t get me wrong, I am still breastfeeding in public. And actually, the only time I have ever had anyone come up to me while I was feeding in public happened just last month and it was a pregnant mum of an older boy that said “How lovely, I hope I’m still feeding when this one (pointing to her beautiful round belly) is that age. Good on you!”. It took me by surprise and I was both embarrassed and glowing on the inside. I won’t shy away from full term breastfeeding and waiting until my daughter is ready to stop and neither will I stop feeding in public. A 2 year old is still a baby. While they’re not an infant, but a toddler, they are still little people with very immature brains who need comfort and nurturing. They have plenty of time to grow up so if she wants to feed for that little bit longer then I will support her.
Understandably, many people worry about feeding a baby with chompers. My daughter has particularly large pearly whites (maybe she get’s it from her mumma). And while I’m sure she’ll grow up to have a gorgeous smile, rest easy knowing they very occasionally cause an issue. If she goes in for one of her mammoth feeding sessions where she just won’t let go then I end up with little indents on my breast where her top teeth have rested. Thankfully she wasn’t a biter during teething and I’ve been nipped only a handful of times. The only times I have issues is if she gets a blocked nose. Then she struggles to feed and breathe so she comes off the take big breathes before slurping my nipple back in to continue feeding. Because she’s slurping rather than nice open mouth attaching I can feel my nipple scrape against her teeth every time. OUCH. But thankfully she’s rarely sick, so 99% of the time teeth haven’t been an issue for us.
NOT ALWAYS EASY
Breastfeeding for us had a rocky start. She was born into light and love at home (totally planned) in a glorious water birth. (Read my birth story). But some bad attachments right then when she came out left me with a bruises and sore nipples just hours after the birth. Throw in a lip tie and a very shallow latch from a sub-mucosal tongue tie and every breastfeed was incredibly painful. Toe curling agony as she latched, holding my husband’s hand as a deep breathed my way through each and every feed.
At 2 weeks we had the tie revised by a GP who did it with scissors in his rooms but this did nothing to improve her latch. I persevered my way through until about 8 or 9 weeks when finally feeding became a comfortable experience. I think she had just grown to a size that the tiny mouthful she took was big enough not to hurt me. But to this day she has a very shallow latch. We’ve just been to a Speech Therapist who confirmed she still has a restriction which explains her difficulty eating solid foods. But more to come on that later.
AM I ALONE?!
Are you feeding a toddler? Please comment or shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’d love to hear your experience of breastfeeding a walking/running/talking/independent little human.
Live Gentle, Raise Gentle