Today, let’s talk about continuing to breastfeed into toddlerhood!
There are going to be plenty of times when it will be inconvenient or uncomfortable to nurse your baby. People will ask how does it feel. Your baby might start tugging on the collar of your shirt while you’re talking. There will be days when you want to drink more coffee or too much wine. There will be days when you need to take medication. There will be days of extreme hunger and thirst because your baby is cluster feeding.
People will ask if it hurts to nurse your baby now that they have teeth. Your baby might pull off your nursing cover while you’re in public. And whether it’s said out loud or through body language, people will wonder why you continue to nurse your baby now that they are over 6-months-old. And, you will ask yourself when is the right time to start weaning your baby off of breast milk.
The bond between mother and child, re-enforced by breastfeeding, is different from one family to the next. I’m sharing my own experiences and thoughts. —Azaaa
My daughter was breastfeed within minutes of being born.
My midwife left us alone to bond. My baby laid on my chest. Skin to skin contact. My daughter nursed and dozed off. It hurt a little, but I was on a natural high from giving birth and so it didn’t faze me. I got to hold her, smell her and marvel in the beauty of my newborn child. My husband, who actively helped me manage my pain during my un-medicated water birth, was resting next to me.
For the first two days of my daughter’s life, she mainly nursed and slept. Diaper changes were frequent, but there was no loud crying or playing yet. At first, I was breastfeeding her every 90 minutes! Some times it was once an hour and some times it was two hours later.
Does breastfeeding hurt?
Breastfeeding can hurt at times, especially in the beginning as you are building up your skill. However, when done right, it doesn’t hurt at all. In fact, it can be just as soothing for mom as it is for baby. It was painful for me at first because my baby was learning how to latch, I was learning how to breastfeed and my nipples were sore for constant use.
The love I felt for my newborn child was greater than my momentary discomfort and I kept nursing her each time she indicated she wanted to nurse. Please don’t let the initial discomfort dissuade you! Babies learn how to nurse fast. Sore nipples heal—especially with breast milk rubbed onto them (or a healing ointment that’s safe for babies to ingest). And, you can and will become accustom to the (sometimes odd) sensations that accompany breastfeeding. After two days, it didn’t hurt any more. And, after two weeks, my baby and I felt like experts at breastfeeding/nursing.
She nursed for nutrients, hydration, warmth, comfort, healing and growth.
She nurse around the clock, meaning I was often tending to my baby girl at 11pm, 1am, 3am and/or 5am. And each time I held her, cuddled with her or nursed her, my bond with her grew tremendously. I was the mother of this amazing bundle of joy and she needed me.
Did you use a breast pump?
Yes, I did pump. But, I didn’t like pumping breast milk. It was a lot of work to store breast milk correctly, kept the pump (and all its parts) clean, and simply doesn’t feel as nature or soothing as actually nursing your baby. It’s impersonal. It can be slightly uncomfortable, especially if you are worried about how many ounces you need to pump. And, it can be down right stressful if you don’t have a private place to pump (either at work or when you’re away from your child for more than three hours). When I was home, I did not pump often. When I worked, I pumped both at home to leave milk for baby and while at work to keep my milk supply regulated.
I knew that I wanted to breastfeed my daughter for at least six moths.
For the first three months of her life, the changes in her weight, growth, awareness and abilities grew incredibly. I was constantly amazed at the new sound she made, look she gave me or milestone she reached. Wrapping their hand around your finger. Smiling. Cooing. Looking around. I think that breasting had a slot to do with her steady growth, strong immune system, and blossoming intellect.
I promised myself I would recommit to breastfeeding her every six month and that’s what I did. For me, six months at a time was a lot more manageable than swearing I will breastfeed for two years no matter what. Luckily, I had no health issues that interfered with breastfeeding and neither did my baby. No allergies. No supply issues. No latching issues. No clogging issues.
Aren’t you afraid of being bitten?
Yes, I was afraid of nipple bites but I continued to breastfeed. Now, she has several teeth. And, yes, I was bitten more that once! It was a quick flash of pain and shock. If I flinched or said ouch, my baby would stop because of my sudden movement or raised voice. I would simply say, “No biting,” and then let her continue nursing. She has never bitten me on purpose or with the intent to harm me. Our trust in each other remains intact.
I played in safe during the first year of breastfeeding by continuing to follow all of the strict rules I adhered to when pregnant. No alcohol. Minimal coffee/caffeine intake. No medication. Lots of nutritious food and plenty of water. Daily multivitamins when my prenatal vitamins ran out. I tried to sleep when my baby slept to stay healthy and energized. And when the weather permitted, I went on walks with my baby for fresh air, sunshine, exercise and relaxation.
Since my daughter’s first birthday, I have started weaning her off breast milk.
For us, it’s a gentle, gradual process with no real deadline or pressure. She went from nursing every hour to every two hours to every three hours. Then, it stretched to nursing every four hours. A game changer! That was when I truly stared to feel like I was gaining my body back and had more freedom in how I dressed. I was no longer restricted to nursing bras and only shirts that provided easy access to my breasts.
Some days we take two steps back. Maybe she’s teething. Maybe she’s having growth spurt. Maybe she simply misses me because my husband has been caring for her more. While I might have a minute of frustration here or there, I know that she still needs her mom and I am there to comfort her. While I hope to be finished with breastfeeding by her second birthday, I will continue to parent peacefully and naturally.
After 16 months of breastfeeding, I’ve learned that it is a continuous act of love.
Did you breastfeed as well? What was a lesson about breastfeeding that you learned from experience?
[ This article was also published on Medium.]
I hope you found something useful, encouraging or interesting from my experience with breastfeeding.