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Breastfeeding Update: Nursing my toddler (18 months)

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

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.

Breastfeeding on Christmas

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.

Breastfeeding a toddler

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!

Breastfeeding Sebastian at The Local Cow in Gresham

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!

Comments

16 Responses to “Breastfeeding Update: Nursing my toddler (18 months)”

  1. Melissa
    March 19th, 2012 @ 3:56 AM

    This is so stinkin’ sweet. It’s awesome that breastfeeding is still going mostly well for you, aside from the normal feelings mamas have. What an awesome gift to Sebastian, too. I love the photos, too!

  2. Jaime
    March 19th, 2012 @ 4:24 AM

    This is a great post, and I’m thrilled that you linked to your best breastfeeding posts in one spot. I hope to promote this post on my FB page and tweet it and stuff.

    I’m still nursing a toddler, too. Jackson’s (hang on while I do some math) 31 months old now. He is nursing just to sleep at night. I don’t really mind it, although I am starting to feel anxious because I just KNOW people are saying things behind my back. Or at least thinking things. But you know what? It’s my body, my kid, and we’re doing our thing til we’re not anymore. Ya know??

  3. Chani-Claire
    March 19th, 2012 @ 1:13 PM

    Great post! My baby went through a phase (is a phase 4 months?) where he ONLY wanted to nurse laying down but now we can nurse anywhere! I’ve finally stopped leaking too so I feel a lot more freedom and I wouldn’t want to stifle that with any cover ;)

  4. Sofia
    March 21st, 2012 @ 5:16 AM

    You definitely opened my eyes here! I’ve always figured there is something pretty weird about breastfeeding after a year or so, I never knew there were actually benefits to it. My mother breastfed me & my 3 sisters for less than a year, but I’m not sure now about how I will act once I start popping out spawn. I’ll definitely look into this when the time is right, thanks! :)

  5. Tashina
    March 21st, 2012 @ 7:47 AM

    I’m fine with people breastfeeding in public most of the time. The other day I saw some lady breastfeeding her toddler while walking through the mall. Carrying him in a pose similar to what Sebastian is doing in that last picture. It just seemed like that would be awkward and uncomfortable for her! lol I do agree that it’s something people should loosen up about. There’s, of course, times and places where it might not be appropriate but, in general, there’s nothing wrong with it.

  6. Nikia
    March 21st, 2012 @ 9:01 AM

    I really appreciate this post as I’m heading into the second trimester of my pregnancy.

    I’ve always been philosophically supportive of breastfeeding, but I’ve definitely experienced a sort of “culture shock,” if you will, when I’ve seen breastfeeding in public. This is with even knowing, understanding, and advocating for the very practice. I’m glad there is still a tone of understanding in your post as you admit that you haven’t always thought this way, and you realize that for some people who are not used to seeing much breastfeeding in public, let alone breastfeeding of older children in public, we still have a lot of cultural work to do. I believe it is good and necessary to fight hard to help illuminate the benefits of breastfeeding via, at the least, blogging about it and popping your boobie out for your baby on demand, while also recognizing that even those who are supportive are simply not used to seeing it all the time…it’s still fairly unusual. Well-written!

    Oh, and I love when you post frequently; though, I totally get that you have a toddler at home! I teach ten toddlers at Joyful Noise Child Development Center.

  7. Janine @ Alternative Housewife
    March 21st, 2012 @ 10:59 AM

    When would it not be appropriate? Any time where a bottle would be appropriate, breastfeeding is appropriate. Actually, breastfeeding is appropriate in MORE situations because boobs can’t spill! So it’s great for stores etc where food & drinks are discouraged. :)

    I have breastfed Sebastian while he sits in a shopping cart. I don’t try to be discreet but I still show less skin than celebs on the red carpet or the average girl sitting down to eat at Applebee’s.

    Nursing in public never bothered me but I used to be weirded out by the idea of breastfeeding toddlers. I assumed that it led to being a ‘mama’s boy’ later in life! But the research is clear that it’s actually the other way around.

    Breastfeeding actually goes right along with veganism. Human milk for human babies! Most formula is made with cow’s milk, and whole cow’s milk is what toddlers typically drink once they are weaned from the boob or bottle.

  8. Janine @ Alternative Housewife
    March 21st, 2012 @ 11:19 AM

    I didn’t realize you were pregnant — Congratulations!!

    My siblings and I were breastfed and I didn’t even give that part a second thought when I got pregnant. I knew I’d breastfeed my baby. I read a lot that changed my mind about breastfeeding toddlers but it was actually doing it that made me realize it’s totally normal and just comes naturally.

    I swear I just read something about Joyful Noise on a local blog…

  9. Janine @ Alternative Housewife
    March 21st, 2012 @ 11:27 AM

    We had a phase like that here too, where he insisted we lie down to nurse even in the middle of the day. It was really frustrating! Now that he’s running around so much, I love the times I get to lie down!

    I’ve never used a cover and never will. Covers draw so much more attention, and I feel like they are a way of apologizing for what you’re doing.

    Everything feels so much more natural and easy when you stop leaking. It’s a shame that so many women quit before they even get to that point.

  10. Monique
    March 21st, 2012 @ 11:38 AM

    Severus is still nursing at 17 months, with no plans of stopping {even despite TTC in a few months}, as a matter of fact he’s asleep at my breast now. I used to make 3 month goals, with my eldest because I was terrified about what would happen once teeth erupted, or she was easily distracted… I didn’t think I’d even make it to a year, and she nursed for 26 months!
    I have always admired those who stick it out for longer than a year, there are still so many wonderful benefits. And breastfeeding in public? Hooray!

  11. Tashina
    March 21st, 2012 @ 12:37 PM

    I knew I would need to come back here and re-explain the “not appropriate” comment. Lol. I just mean that there are times where it’s going to probably be awkward and physically uncomfortable for the Mom and/or child.

    Like the lady I saw carrying her child through the mall breastfeeding. I didn’t think that was necessarily appropriate because there are benches everywhere and the Nordstrom has a lounge outside the bathroom the size of an apartment (no joke) with comfy chairs. There were much better and easier places for her to breastfeed that would be all about her and/or her child. I just can’t imagine walking around with a kid Sebastians size breastfeeding could be comfortable or easy to do! lol.

    I’m totally fine with people doing it in public, at restaurants, etc. So by appropriate I really just mean easier/more comfortable for the Mom and child.

  12. Nikia
    March 21st, 2012 @ 1:52 PM

    Oh yeah, I’m definitely breastfeeding too. I think it’s just becoming confident enough to do it publicly and as long as is right for my family (because that’s how it should be), so that I can actually relax and not be a basketcase the whole time, because who does that help?

  13. Janine @ Alternative Housewife
    March 21st, 2012 @ 4:34 PM

    That makes more sense! It seemed sort of unlike you, the way I took it originally, so thanks for explaining. In the case of a mom carrying her toddler on the boob, she was probably in a hurry! Sometimes you don’t plan it but having a little monkey hanging off your breast, while awkward, still beats dragging a screaming child. And sometimes you just have to keep moving! I felt ridic the first time I nursed Sebastian in the shopping cart, but it actually made shopping easier as I got to take my time without him getting bored and trying to climb out & run around.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment again. :)

  14. Rachel
    March 25th, 2012 @ 10:13 AM

    Thanks for being so outspoken about this, the world needs a more open dialogue about this. There is nothing weird or wrong about a mother feeding her child the most perfect food in the world as long as she can and wants to.
    The benefits are huge and I like to call it the lazy moms best friend, it makes life so easy :)

  15. Megan
    July 23rd, 2012 @ 4:10 AM

    What an amazing post. I wanted, so badly, to nurse for at least a year. The unfortunate part was that I had to return to work after just 7 weeks. I’m a web designer as well, and don’t have an office, so I would spend 35-40 minutes in the bathroom pumping every few hours. As much as I tried, my milk almost completely dried up at 4 months :-( I even tried relactating to no avail.

    My husband and I are thinking about TTC in a couple of months. I.AM.DETERMINED to do what I can to keep the breastfeeding train rolling for a LONG time with the next one. I only remember good things about nursing my son and I can’t wait to feel those things all over again.

    Thank you so much for sharing! I really enjoy reading about your parenting style =D

  16. Janine @ Alternative Housewife
    July 24th, 2012 @ 12:28 AM

    I can’t imagine having to go back to work and maintain a supply and breastfeeding relationship just by pumping. Will you be doing things differently with your next baby? I really hope that you can meet your goal! I did well with breastfeeding but struggled with getting back to work in the first few months. It’s hard to do it all!

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting. :)

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