Posted on | March 19, 2012 | 16 Comments
Online, I know a lot of other moms who are breastfeeding their toddlers. A lot of them have nurslings much older than Sebastian. Offline though, I only know TWO other moms who nursed their kids past one year old, and one of those is my mom. I’ve been asked a few times how long I plan to breastfeed Sebastian. The short answer is, as long as he wants. My initial goal was to breastfeed for at least one year. (Sebastian is currently 18 months old.) The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least one year and the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years or more (with solid foods added to supplement breastfeeding after six months). At this point, I cannot imagine Sebastian weaning before two years, which (most of the time) is just fine with me.
Breastfeeding a toddler might be weird if a walking, talking kid just started sucking milk from your breast one day. But that isn’t how it happens. Kids grow day by day! You start off nursing a sweet newborn, and it’s a learning process. For me, the first six weeks were very hard, but it was smooth sailing after that and suddenly we were halfway to my goal of a year. He breastfed less as we started introducing solids, and less when he started walking. In the past few months though, his nursing has really skyrocketed. At 18 months, I would say he is now nursing more often than he did at six months.
At this stage, Sebastian nurses in bed upon waking, then again on the couch about an hour later. He nurses several times a day, sometimes before and after meals. He breastfeeds down for his daily nap and at bedtime. Sometimes he nurses once or twice during the night, other times he wants it every 2-3 hours or more.
The Bad – Feeling touched out
For the most part, it’s the daytime nursing that gets under my skin. If I sit down to eat and he wants to nurse, he will attempt to knock the food out of my hand. If I’m on the computer, he slams my laptop shut and signs “all done” before tugging at my shirt. I’ve been (gently!) making it clear that his bossy behavior doesn’t fly with me. I know that he doesn’t realize that what he’s doing is rude. He is just now learning (genuinely) that the world doesn’t revolve around him – That must be a hard revelation!
All nursing mothers feel touched out at some point, and I definitely have moments where I want to cry and crawl into a hole where no one can touch me! Donny does his best to support me but my complaining gets to him sometimes, and things tend to escalate at that point. I’m really working on keeping the bulk of my complaints to myself (or venting on Twitter instead). It’s hard to stay positive when your boobs hurt and your kid wakes from a DEAD SLEEP the second you try to slip your nipple from his mouth. But even on the very worst days, the thought of actually weaning right now makes me choke up.
The lovey-dovey good stuff
- Magic sleepy-calm juice. Lounging at a friend’s house recently, she marveled at how content Sebastian was just to lie on the bed with me, nursing lazily. Breastfeeding is an easy, instant tool that we can use anywhere. I can get Sebastian to sleep anywhere. At 1.5 years old, there is yet to be a meltdown that nursing won’t stop in its tracks. Aside from the routine, the composition of breast milk itself is conducive to sleep. During nighttime feedings, melatonin is released into breast milk. There is a reason that even adults still crave warm milk at bedtime!
- Sleep-aid for mamas. Your body produces the feel-good hormone oxytocin during breastfeeding. Not only does oxytocin provide what feels like a mild buzz, it also makes you sleepy. I try not to nap when Sebastian naps because I fiercely covet that free time, but occasionally we’ll have a nursing nap together and it is the best, most refreshing thing ever. Last week we slept for three straight hours in the early afternoon and it felt like being born again.
- The bonding. While having a kid who wants only you can be very frustrating, there is nothing sweeter than when Sebastian wakes up, pats his chest (“want”) and then signs for milk. Except for maybe the little giggle and relaxed sigh he lets out as I lie down next to him.
- Nursing through sickness. Breastfed kids get sick less but when they do, you’ll be happy that it’s just breast milk being spewed all over you. Honestly, it’s no worse than newborn spit-up.
- Hilarious nursing positions. Sebastian rarely just settles in my arms to nurse. Instead, he pushes his butt into the air, claps his hands and gives his daddy fist-bumps while he eats. Sometimes he kicks his feet up on the back of the couch, nursing completely upside-down in what we’ve dubbed “the keg stand”. The rare times when he does just relax & cuddle up to nurse in my arms, he feels like my baby again and it’s extra special.
- Tig ol’ bitties. I love my breastfeeding boobs — Hello, two new cup sizes! It almost makes up for breastfeeding totally not making the baby weight drop off the way I’d hoped.
Nursing in public
I posted a few times recently about not breastfeeding Sebastian in public anymore — and of course I Twitter-jinxed it! He has been asking to nurse while we are out lately and I’m happy to oblige. I prefer eating one-handed to chasing my toddler around a restaurant any day!
I really like breastfeeding in public. I like to think that I’m helping more people view breastfeeding as normal, and that I’m encouraging other mamas and future-mamas to do the same. I feel like being young and having a certain style, I might influence a set of people that wouldn’t pay much attention to breastfeeding otherwise. I never use a cover and don’t go out of my way to be especially discreet. Most of the time though, I think people assume I’m just snuggling my kiddo.
As I have written here before, there was a time when I found the idea of breastfeeding toddlers off-putting. I’m not proud of it, but I do get it when people have that initial reaction. You can see that post here – Breastfeeding a child who can chew steak. I am happy to be older and wiser, and my husband is equally on board if Sebastian wants to nurse for a couple more years.
Past breastfeeding posts that you may also find helpful:
How-to: Comfy Mama Style An easy guide to breastfeeding-friendly fashion
Breastfeed Lying Down Tips & information about my favorite breastfeeding position
My breastfeeding product reviews:
Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra review Hands-down the best bra I’ve ever owned
Glamourmom Nursing Tank review (The striped tank I’m wearing in the third pic in this post)
Danish Wool Breast Pads review I don’t need breast pads anymore but these are the best
My New Mom Must-Haves Includes my favorite certified non-toxic breastfeeding pillow
Quick links to my favorite breastfeeding products:
Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra My all-time favorite bra
Bravado Sublime Nursing Bra A sexier nursing bra with a great fit (Review coming soon!)
Gilligan & O’Malley nursing tanks Comfortable and affordable for everyday wear
Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter I still need this from time to time, and am still on my first jar – This stuff really goes a long way! Unlike many other nipple creams, EMAB Natural Nipple Butter is safe for baby to ingest so you don’t have to wipe off your nipples before the next feeding. I use any excess on my fingertips to massage into my cuticles or even as lip balm.
I’d love to hear about your breastfeeding experiences, and am happy to answer any questions in the comments!