The Joys of Breastfeeding a Toddler #11

June 18th, 2010 by Dionna | 27 Comments
Posted in Breastfeeding/Lactivism, Carnival and Special Series, Compassionate Advocacy, Feed with Love and Respect, Guest Posts, Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, natural parenting

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Today I am honored to host a guest post by Lauren Wayne, who wrote this incredible post on the day her son, Mikko, turned 3 years old. You can usually find Lauren over at HoboMama.com, where she blogs about natural and attachment parenting, breastfeeding, babywearing, cloth diapering, green living, and more. Here is her breastfeeding guest post:
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I am nursing a 3-year-old.

It’s official.

3-year-old breastfeeding on the beach Three years ago today, Sam and I were coming to terms with the new person in our lives. Three years ago today, we were eating hospital food and trying to catch some sleep after two full days in labor. Three years ago today, I was just beginning to breastfeed and was in the midst of receiving terrible advice about it.

Three years ago today, I knew I was open to breastfeeding for a long time, but I didn’t know how long. I didn’t see anything wrong with it, but nursing toddlers did look big to me, compared with my newborn. I imagined I’d probably be nursing still at 2 years old, but 3 seemed a little far out.

But you breastfeed day by day, not a year’s leap at a time. Nursing Mikko today, at 3 years old, is different from breastfeeding him at 2 years old by only one day, one moment. He didn’t become a gangly toddler overnight, so I had plenty of gradual time to adjust my vision of what a nursling looks like, each day.

When Mikko turned 1, we mutually chose to continue, even though that first birthday put us past the magical 12-month mark. Turning 2 wasn’t all that different from turning 1. He still wanted to nurse, and I had no objection.

Will Mikko still be nursing next year, at 4? There is a part of me that still feels a twinge of unease about that, but I know if the time comes, and he is 3 and 364 days, it will not be any different to continue nursing him when he is 4 on the dot. We adjust our expectations, and our prejudices, and those big kids who look so huge suddenly shrink in size when it’s our little baby that has reached that age.

Today at Mikko’s party, there were two women there nursing their newborns. I was proud to be among them still, planting a seed that even though my toddler must look gargantuan to their newborn-attuned eyes right now, maybe as those babies gradually get bigger, the mothers will keep responding to their growing babies’ need to nurse. Maybe they won’t feel bad about responding, or awkward in their social circle, because they know that I’ll understand: Nursing toddlers don’t become nursing toddlers overnight. They start as a baby, and they grow, right under your heart.

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Breastfeeding a toddler (or a preschooler!) is full of laughter, joys, and heartbreaking tenderness. I am publishing a series of posts dedicated to the beauty of nursing toddlers in an effort to normalize this healthy and beneficial nursing relationship.

But this isn’t just about me – I want to hear YOUR joys. If you are nursing a toddler (or have in the past), please contact me and tell me about your favorite moments. I will include them in the series and credit you, your site, or post it anonymously if you so desire.

27 Responses to:
"The Joys of Breastfeeding a Toddler #11"

  1. Thanks for sharing that, hobomama. My son and I are fast approaching the one year mark and there are no signs or plans of weaning any time soon. Before I was pregnant, one year seemed to be a good weaning age but now it doesn’t seem to be long enough. Heck, even two years don’t seem long enough. I’m just letting things unfold as they need to.

  2. I enjoyed reading this post – I appreciate your honesty and openess in your writing and how you talked of changing your expectations.

    My toddler slowly self weaned between the 12 month mark and about 19 months….I was about 5 months pregnant with my second son when he seemed no longer interested in breastfeeding….I felt a twinge of sadness and loss when he stopped though trusted that it seemed the right time to stop.

    I am now breastfeeding my 5 month old and plan to do so until we too get to the point where it naturally seems time to stop. I try not to have expectations of when this will be

    • Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

      I’ve heard that often happens during pregnancy, and it must be the right time, then. I like the idea of a gradual weaning like that, because it seems so respectful of both of you. Best wishes with your 5-month-old, however long you both decide to continue!

      • Thank you! Yes, i am hoping to feed 5 month old until we can have the nice gentle weaning i experienced with my first son.

        I met with a friend yesterday who is tandem feeding her toddler and newborn and she says she has been amazed at how willingly her toddler has been to “share” this experience with her new sibling.

        I think that is just beautiful!

  3. collide

    This is beautifully written and eases my fears about continuing to nurse my baby past the 2 year mark…

    • Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

      That makes me so happy to hear that! I don’t know any other mamas who nurse toddlers around here, so support online has been vital. I’m glad to offer it to someone else!

      • Lauren F

        There are very few who nurse around here past that cute itsy stage, let alone a toddler. It’s so great to hear of other mothers who have followed this path as well! I should come online here more often, makes me feel a little more normal! :)

  4. Danielle

    Thank you. I always thought breastfeeding was weird. Unfortunately I didn’t nurse my 1st child who is now 9. I had no plans of nursing my 2nd. She was born a month early and was struggling with the whole suck/breathe/swallow thing at the same time. She was turning blue whenever she would drink from her bottle.
    I was taking a shower one morning and my breasts started leaking and instead of crying and feeling dirty like I had 9 years earlier I had an epiphany and decided I would try breastfeeding (but I was making no promises!). I have always had issues with my breasts. Having them touched, even in a sexual way, made me gag and feel nauseous. I didn’t want to resent my baby everytime we had to nurse because I felt sick.

    Anyways, I marched my butt down to the NICU and said I wanted to try to breastfeed her. The nurses were unsure of how successful we would be because of her previous 2 days of bottle feeding. My little girl latched on like it was what she was born to do (haha). She made it so easy for me! She was a pro!

    So here were my goals:
    1. No Breastfeeding
    2. Ok I’ll try it
    3. Just until the colostrum (yellow stuff) is gone
    4. 6 weeks
    5. until I go back to work (3 months)
    6. 6 months
    7. 1 year

    My daughter will be 1 on the 4th of July. We have no plans on stopping until SHE decides to stop. If it is on her 1st birthday or on her 4th birthday, I don’t care. She loves it, I love it and her Daddy supports it fully.

    My daughter has had a few minor colds that have lasted just a few days each, compared to my son who had already had 2 sets of tubes by this time for chronic ear infections. He also had diarrhea and diaper rash often. My daughter has had none of those things.

    Thank you for paving the way for those of us who would like to allow our children to self wean, whenever that may be!

    (As a side note- I have basically gotten over the nauseous feeling when we nurse. I do still get a gagging sensation if my daughter uses her fingers to explore or pinch my nipples. I can be hungry for a snack, but when we start nursing, the thought of eating anything makes me queasy.)

    • Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

      That is an incredible story, Danielle! How wonderful that you found out a solution that worked for you both, and what a gift you’re giving your daughter. I know a lot of women who have issues with their breasts being touched; that’s why I don’t like it when my other nipple gets twiddled — there’s just something skin-crawling about it. I’m really impressed that you got through the feelings of nausea and beyond to knowing you’re doing such a great thing for your daughter. You are one powerful mama!

  5. alison

    thank you SO MUCH for this post.
    before i had my baby i knew that i would nurse but i didn’t really think about how long i would nurse for. the thought never crossed my mind, i just took it day by day. i guess i thought i’d nurse till he turned one. “there’s no nutritional value after that” according to my friend and i nodded, not really knowing the difference from a new born and one year old at the time. well, there is a big difference! once my baby got older 10, 11 12 months, i KNEW that he wouldn’t be stopping on his birthday. he wanted to nurse and knew how to ask for it. how am i supposed to deny that? and it’s not like once a baby turns one they are suddenly all grown up. they are still very much a baby in a lot of ways. my baby just turned 2. he is still nursing and really shows no signs of stopping. i can imagine that he could be nursing still at 3. recently at his dr.’s appt. the doctor said “oh, well he doesn’t really NEED that anymore” and i just thought i know you’re the dr. and all but you see him once or twice a year. for 30 mins. how do you KNOW what he NEEDS? bah.

    • Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

      Bah indeed! Good for you for sticking with what you as the mama know is best for your little guy. There’s so much ignorance about the benefits in breastmilk, and in breastfeeding (the closeness, the connections, the snuggling), and it’s a shame it’s perpetuated by doctors of all people.

      Here’s some information on the calories and nutrition in breastmilk you might bring out next time you’re told there’s no benefit past 1 year:
      http://www.hobomama.com/2010/03/no-need-to-count-calories-when.html

  6. Forgotten   TwinsMa

    I am currently nursing my baby girl who will be 15 months in 8 days. I’m proud of myself that we made it this far. I honestly wasn’t expecting it to last this long. I’m glad that is has though. I’ve received a lot of pressure from family and complete strangers to wean her because they think that feeding past one year is wrong. I’ve proven again and again that it isn’t and I won’t let anymore pressure me into weaning her until she is ready to be weaned.

    This series has been a wonderful thing to read and I’m glad you’re posting it. Toddlers are a joy to breastfeed!

    • Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

      It’s so wonderful to meet all these strong mamas! I feel completely alone hereabouts, but fortunately there hasn’t been too much pressure to wean. Just people avoiding the subject completely. ;)

  7. Daisy   TooTooDaisy

    Nice post (and beautiful hair, btw). I was spared any angsting about weaning because my boobs literally gave out on us one night at about the 22 month mark. We were in the bath, he went to nurse, nothing came out, then a bit of blood in fact — and I switched into reassuring mommy mode very quickly, as he was very upset. After that incident he knew nursing wasn’t happening and actually did not seem bothered by it, but he has remained a “fondler” and we are working on boundaries because I do prefer that he not shove his arm down my shirt in some circles.

    • Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

      Thanks about the hair (though I assume you mean his…sigh…jk)! That’s so interesting/weird/disturbing that your weaning was so abrupt. But it’s really cool he was fine with it, which shows maybe he’d been winding down in his mind for awhile.

      I am so WITH YOU on the shoving an arm down my shirt thing! At this age, we’ve been working a lot on boundaries for nursing, too, and finally he’s respecting some of them.

  8. Carina   jet_set

    Both of my children self-weaned around 2.5 years. It was the most wonderful experience for all of us. People don’t get how awesome nursing toddlers are, and how it resolves so many issues (picky diets, immature immune systems, meltdowns.)

  9. sara

    such a great post!
    the expression on sweet mikko’s little face says it all… comfort, security and love.

    thanks for sharing your thoughts…
    i’m nursing my almost one year old and going strong… the mere thought of stopping makes my heart ache! i’m in it for the long haul… as long as he needs and wants it, i’m here… how can you argue when you see those sweet faces and milky little grins?

    xoxo sara

    • Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

      I know it! Thinking of weaning still makes me sad, though let’s hope we’re both ready at the same time. I know there’ll be other good ways to connect, but right now this one is so precious.

  10. awwwwww….

    what a beautiful way to say it, Lauren.

    that really resonates with me

  11. Darcel   mahoganywaymama

    What a beautiful post! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. I was so proud to nurse Kiah until she was 10 months, and very proud to nurse Ava until she weaned at 29 months, and who knows how long I’ll be blessed to nurse Samuel. I’m so thankful that I can be among the awesome women who help others to see breastfeeding as beautiful and healthy.

  12. Andrea

    beautiful post!
    This morning, while nursing my 26 mo. lil boy, he asked his 5 yr. old sister, who was snuggled up next to us if she would like to try some of his milk. lol. it was so cute. my 5 yr. old daughter and I both laughed. its things like that that keep us nursing. love your blog.

  13. Melodie   bfmom

    This is so beautiful. I can totally feel the love and passion that you put into writing it. My nursling is 38 months old and I feel the same way as you do. The only thing that makes it slightly more awkward for me socially, is that she looks like she is 4 (she is so tall!) but I keep on keeping on because it’s still right for us.

  14. Erin Oakes   LittleKidLit

    Thanks for sharing. My little Oona is 19 months old and the nursing is still going strong. I’m confident we’ll make it to at least two, but I hope much longer. I read that the world-wide average age for weaning is four-years-old, it’s so sad that our culture looks upon toddler breast-feeding as strange or,even worse, negative. Your post is a nice reminder that there are more of us out there.

  15. Claire   lactatinggirl

    That seriously brought tears to my eyes. Aww

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