The Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy #20

August 27th, 2010 by Dionna | 41 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 happy to host a guest post by Heather. Heather (aka Mommypotamus) is a SAHM that will be welcoming her second child via home waterbirth any day now. She loves to nurture her family through delicious local, organic meals and practices natural parenting methods like full-term breastfeeding, cloth diapering and elimination communication. One of her favorite pastimes is combating extended breastfeeding myths via her blog. Here is her breastfeeding guest post:
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Mommy’s Ewetuhwus!

Of all the concepts I have tried to teach my toddler, one required no instruction at all. With a few storyline adjustments to “What To Expect When Mommy’s Having a Baby” (like having the mommy rush home from the grocery store to have her baby instead of going to the hospital) Katie was well on her way to understanding all about the little life growing in my tummy. Uterus, pronounced “ewe-tuh-wus,” became her favorite word, and before long she began whispering sweet nothings to my belly at bedtime. That was when I heard this:

I love you, baby. When you come out I will hold you and mommy will nurse you. You will drink this side and I will drink this side!”

I Love This Girl!

It was then that I realized that despite my inattention to this particular detail, she had reached her own conclusions on tandem nursing. I suppose it is a good thing that I was already planning on it, since she obviously expected nothing less.

Nursing while pregnant has not been particularly easy for me. There are some perks, to be sure. In my house eating is a rich, sensual experience and the privilege of eating for three without expanding in every direction (not referring to the baby bump, of course) is simply delightful.

Also, breastfeeding has helped her cope with some of the changes that came with my pregnancy. Physical closeness has always been one of the defining characteristics of our relationship, but because of a small diastasis I am not supposed to pick her up anymore. Since I have carried her in a sling (or in my arms), slept with her and nursed her for her entire life, she seemed hurt and confused by the change. However, my ability to continue breastfeeding made it easier to soothe her feelings of rejection. But that’s not my favorite reason . . .

The “Talk”

No, I’m not referring to that talk. Most children are weaned before they can articulate their feelings about breastfeeding. But those that aren’t sure do have a lot to say! One of my greatest joys in breastfeeding is the affection my daughter expresses toward the subject. Our nursing sessions are full of amusing conversations like the one in which she gave baby the “tandem nursing” talk. Here’s another one I will always remember:

One day she nursed briefly on one side and quickly requested the other.
Me: “No. Finish this side.”
Katie: “Why mommy”
Me: “Because I don’t want you to get all the sugary foremilk and no creamy hindmilk.”
Katie: “Ohhhh!”

Later that day she walked up to me and said, “Mommy, I want some cream and sugar.” I had no idea what she was talking about, but then it hit me. I couldn’t stop smiling!

Already Worth the Trouble

Like I said earlier, though, nursing while pregnant hasn’t all been rainbows and butterflies. Both soreness and the awkwardness of getting her over my baby bump to my breasts have presented some real challenges, but now that I’m 35+ weeks along I can already say it has all been worth it. Here’s why: Babies and toddlers are in hyperdrive when it comes to growth and development. So many things change in them and around them. Every day holds something new, challenging, exciting . . . even scary.

Although I wouldn’t put the arrival of a new sibling into the scary category, I imagine it can be quite unsettling for many firstborns. Especially during this time of transition I hope that breastfeeding will remain an open door to comfort, safety and reassurance for my toddler.

Do I think breastfeeding is the only way to comfort a toddler? Of course not. But because of its deeply ingrained connection with comfort, I believe it is one of the best tools a mom can have. My own experience tells me that where other techniques fail, breastfeeding is able to penetrate a child’s experience and bring peace.

Free to Explore Yet Close to Home Base

I have fewer ideals about life with #2 (I think). I’m not sure what I’ll require her to share with her sibling (gender TBD) and what I’ll let her keep sacred, but one thing is sure: I don’t expect her to be a “big kid” and stand by as I give her beloved “Cream & Sugar” to our new baby. I can only imagine that experience would become the source of all kinds of competition, jealousy, and rivalry. I’m sure this isn’t true for every family. Some toddlers self-wean when their moms are pregnant or for some other reason. Some moms choose to wean when they find out they’re pregnant, which gives the older child time to adjust before the baby arrives. But since I didn’t wean Katie (and she certainly did not wean herself!), I am more than happy to let her keep her place at the breast while welcoming another latcher-on’er.

Rather than feel replaced, I hope she sees herself as a gentle guide to this new little one. One day she will probably give her baby toys to her sibling. “Because I’m a big girl now,” she will say. One day she will give up nursing. Because despite what people say, she will outgrow that, too. One day.

Whenever she’s ready.
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Breastfeeding past infancy 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 child who is older than one year, 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. (This series was formerly called “The Joys of Breastfeeding a Toddler.” I changed the name to reflect the fact that we are celebrating women who breastfeed past infancy, regardless of the age of the nursling.)

41 Responses to:
"The Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy #20"

  1. aw. i got a little teary.

  2. Rachael   RachaelNevins

    Thank you for this post! We are TTC, and I have no plans to stop breastfeeding our nearly 2-yo Critter. Others have been less optimistic about my keeping on with it, most often because of the toll they imagine it will take on my health (I plan to keep myself well hydrated and well nourished with good food). My husband worries that the Critter will be unwilling to share. I’ll be having him read this post tonight! Best wishes to you as you prepare to welcome your newest little one!

    • Mommypotamus   Mommypotamus

      Rachael – Katie was exactly two when we got pregnant again, and I have to say I think the spacing is perfect. I was able to set limits with her when I was really sore or tired, which allowed our nursing relationship to be something we both still enjoy instead of something that felt like a hardship. Best wishes to you in your efforts for #2!

  3. Lissa Metzler   metzillblog

    I enjoyed reading your post. My son is 9 months old and I will often hear from friends, “You’re still nursing?” I don’t have a planned end date, my guess is the two of us will figure out when is right. Reading your post reminds me I’m making the right decision.

    • Mommypotamus   Mommypotamus

      Lissa – Thanks so much for your comment! I completely agree that both you and your baby will know when the time is right. Although my daughter would prefer to nurse more than I allow her to, it has been a great tool for teaching her how to compromise. She is making a gradual journey toward independence while maintaining a strong sense of connectedness with me. I wouldn’t want it any other way!

  4. Natalie   babywearingitup

    Beautiful! I am in the process of gently weaning my 28 month old, but he and his sister have enjoyed 16 months of tandeming, and I am SO glad that they did. I have really enjoyed it as well (minus some discomfort during pregnancy).

    (And yes, they’re 12 months apart… a big part of why I even considered tandeming to start with! But I hope to do it again now that I know how wonderful it is.)

    • Mommypotamus   Mommypotamus

      Hi Natalie! It’s always good to hear encouraging feedback from a momma that has already “been there, done that.” So far my tandem nursing journey has only been a theoretical one, but I’m excited that it will be real life soon!

  5. Jenny

    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful post! My first weaned himself when I got pregnant with our second. It made me so sad! Now my second is 15 months and still nursing strong. I’m looking forward to a long nursing relationship and loved your story about nursing your toddler!

    • Mommypotamus   Mommypotamus

      So glad you enjoyed our story, Jenny! Now that I know how quickly time passes with little ones I’m hoping to relish everything even more with our Babypotamus. Sounds like you are doing the same!

  6. Leyla   xtrememousey

    simply amazing momma!!!! i’m nursing a toddler as well and i wouldn’t change the time i spend with my almost 20 month old son for the world. your last paragraph explains it all…..it mimics my own reasons for nursing. what i have found is the egocentric attitude in the US of “it’s my body” as the reason to push our children away and to a secondary form of nurturing so early and rarely being so giving of ourselves to be our baby’s all. if we guide them and love them and pay attention, they will eventually grow up and be sharing, giving and loving little people…..whenever they are ready.

    thank you for your story

    • Mommypotamus   Mommypotamus

      That’s a great point, Leyla. I used to embrace the “it’s my body” mentality. Sometimes it made me feel powerful, but it never made me feel connected.

  7. Amber

    This is one of the sweetest things I have read. I love it. My little guy just turned one and we are just now experiencing all the new joys of nursing at this stage- i.e moving all around the living room and having ‘drive by’ nursing sessions, him doing the down dog yoga position while nursing,pulling on my shirt to tell me he wants to nurse, etc. It is new and a joy. While I would like to (but don’t expect to due to fertility issues)get pregnant and nurse right through to another one- we aren’t there. We are just trying to stay in the moment and know that with each new skill he learns there will be delights and demands. Thank you for sharing some of your delights. Your daughter seems to be a very compassionate, understanding, and kind soul- good job, Mama!

    • Mommypotamus   Mommypotamus

      Thank you for your sweet words, Amber! You’re right, nursing a toddler is a whole new experience. Kudos to you for continuing on with your son. If we are blessed with a son I plan to do the same. Not only will it give me joy to meet his needs, but I hope that because of his experience he will grow up to encourage and support his wife when it comes to breastfeeding my grandkids!

  8. Hannah   HaRae

    Thank you for this post! I always assumed that I would want my kids about 2 years apart, and now as my little guy approaches 14 months I’m not sure I’m ready to TTC yet. One reason is that I don’t want to risk him weaning too early, and I struggle with keeping my weight up in a healthy range while eating for 2 (pregnant or nursing), and I’m not sure how I could eat for 3, honestly. It is good for me to read about people who have nursed through pregnancy so I can see that it is possible and normal.

    • Mommypotamus   Mommypotamus

      Hi Hannah! It is possible, but only with large amounts of healthy fats and protein. Fortunately, I LOVE to eat so it is a trial I’m willing to endure ; – )

      I have a naturally high metabolism and have sometimes fallen beneath a healthy weight because I got too busy and skipped meals. That’s easy to do with little ones, which is why I just kicked of a series on “Real Food for Busy Moms.” Each week I am going to review and recommend three quick, nourishing meals that TASTE DELICIOUS!!! Come join us if you can!

  9. Melodie   bfmom

    I love your writing Heather. Such a treat to find and read you here at Dionna’s most awesome site. One thing that I was really surprised by, since my daughter was very attached to me to the point of being possessive up to when her sister was born, was her generosity when it came to sharing me at breastfeeding time. She wanted her sister to have all the same goodness, love and milk she got from me. It was beautiful to see. That part of me that was so worried about sibling jealousy never had a leg to stand on.

  10. ashley k. smith

    I love this. I have decided not to wean my boys for a lot of the same reasons. When I found out I was pregnant (once the shock passed) I knew most of it I could be okay with or handle. The one thing that I stressed and lost sleep over was weaning the boys. I just didn’t feel they were ready and I wasn’t particularly ready. We have had our ups and downs like sore nipples, using pregnant mommy as a jungle gym and mama not getting a lot of sleep this go around. But in the end I think it is worth it. The talk to baby brother, ask him when he will come home, and watch my belly move. Even when others try to convince me that they are ready, in the end mama knows best and if they are ready then they will stop.

    • Mommypotamus   Mommypotamus

      Great comment, Ashley. I felt exactly the same way. Dealing with sore nipples and a few accidental knees in my belly was preferable to ending a relationship I knew we both still wanted.

  11. Amber

    This is such a nice post! I just found out that I am very surprisingly pregnant with my 4th baby, when my 3rd in only 5 1/2 months old! Eeek! I have no plans to stop nursing her, and was originally planning on nursing her until she weaned herself. This will be my first time tandem nursing and I’m a little nervous. Am already bombarded with worries: Will I be able to provide enough milk for my baby while pregnant, will I be able to provide enough for both after the baby is born? I also work, so that’s at least 2 years of pumping, and pumping while very pregnant, how ackward is that? :-) I’m excited but nervous for the very unexpected future! thanks for the encouraging post!

    • Mommypotamus   Mommypotamus

      Hi Amber! Congratulations on your new little one! Please don’t be mad but your “very suprisingly pregnant” phrase really made me laugh. A good friend of mine told me on April Fools day that she was pregnant. She had a 2 yr old and a six month old and I was sure she was kidding, but nope! In my opinion there are too few surprises in life so I’m a little jealous.

      Although I’m sure there will be times where it is not easy, you CAN do it. Your body was made to handle it perfectly. I hope you enjoy eating for three as much as I have!

  12. MajKitab

    I know tandem nursing has had everything to do with the harmonius transition to two, and the incredible bond between my boys… amidst their 3 year gap!

  13. Charlotte

    tihs was so lovely! i have always been unsure how long i will nurse my little girl for (she 7 months right now!) but this just hit the nail on the head… it’ll be so interesting to hear what SHE has to say about it (enough other people have told me their opinionns!)! i had never thought of that before!! i love nursing and was worried that when i get pregnant with #2, #1 will self wean, but this has made me think otherwise!
    this was such a nice thing to read, thank you so much!! it was lovely! good luck with the rest of your pregnancy!! :-D

    • Mommypotamus   Mommypotamus

      Thank you, Charlotte! It is so amazing to watch our children unfold as they grow and can express their opinions more clearly. Be sure that even if she doesn’t always like everything you do, your daughter will always have good things to say about “mommy’s sweet milk!”

  14. Amy K

    Lovely post! I’m 24 weeks along with #2 and my son is almost 3. He and I both loved our nursing experience and I was a bit sad when he self-weaned at 15 months. So, it was with just a bit of surprise when we were reading a book about the new baby (actually, it doesn’t have words, but shows the baby nursing on page 1) and he started bobbing his head on my breast.

    When I asked him gently what he was doing, he said “Milk à Mommy!” He’s continued this behavior for the past 3 months and I’m not quite sure where he is going to go with it when the baby gets here.

    He knows that the baby will bring my milk, and I’m not sure I’m ready to “unwean” him, but we’ll see what happens then. It’s a bit odd, since he’s been weaned for well over a year, but maybe he will want to nurse? Maybe he just wants the security of knowing he is still welcome?

    In any case, it will be an adventure — as has the entire parenting experience! — and I am glad as always, that will have breastfeeding as another mothering “tool” in my arsenal should my child want and need it. I know from experience that I will have plenty of milk to go around. It’s been great reading about tandem nursing these days just to get ready!

    • Mommypotamus   Mommypotamus

      Amy – How amazing that your son is able to express so vividly his memory of nursing! I just read about a mom who had the same experience and did end up tandem nursing . . . wish I could remember where!

  15. Julie

    So sweet! Congratulations! I am nursing my 13 month old and hope that she will continue nursing when I get pregnant and am very open to the idea of tandem nursing. With as many problems as she has had nursing, I really hope she continues since we’re finally now getting to a point where it’s more enjoyable and less just worrying about her getting enough. Thanks for sharing your sweet story.

    • Mommypotamus   Mommypotamus

      Thank you, Julie! Your daughter is at one of my favorite ages. It’s so sweet to watch a child become more adventurous and then run back to mama for some milk!

  16. mstmompj

    Some people are wont to say, “how can you nurse them when they are old enough to ask to nurse?” Many years ago, I realized my take on the matter was, “how can you wean them when they aren’t old enough to ask to nurse?” Because, let’s face it, our little nursing persons are very opinionated about the subject, and weaning a little one before he or she can tell you how he or she feels about nursing just seems wrong.

    When my oldest son (now 17 years old) was 3, I lost the baby I had been pregnant with. At that point, my milk supply dried up completely, but my little guy continued to nurse. One day I asked him what num-nums tasted like. His answer was “sweet!” And since I knew I had no milk, I knew that what was sweet was the act of nursing, the closeness, the relationship. He continued to nurse until he was just shy of his fourth birthday and I was 2 months pregnant with a new baby. So he didn’t tandem nurse, nor did any of his siblings, as they have been spaced far enough apart that it didn’t become an issue (I have nursed during three pregnancies, though). I would have tandem nursed had it come it, but I was always kind of glad that it didn’t. As I am currently 43, we aren’t planning for my current nursling (33 mo.) to be followed up by any younger sibs!

    • Mommypotamus   Mommypotamus

      I loved this part:

      “Some people are wont to say, ‘how can you nurse them when they are old enough to ask to nurse?’ Many years ago, I realized my take on the matter was, ‘how can you wean them when they aren’t old enough to ask to nurse?'”

      That is how I feel regarding my nursing relationship with my children but had never quite found the words to articulate it. Thank you!

  17. Sandra C

    I breastfed my youngest until she was a little over 2 1/2. I took a bit of flack from it from my friend, sister in law, and mom. “Its no longer beneficial. She’s over 2 there’s no need for it. She uses it for your attention.” But I tried not to listen as it felt right for me and my daughter. The best part is that we still have that closeness that nobody else will ever be able to share between us. Its funny because before we were through my youngest started calling my breasts “drink a waters”. She still calls them that to this day (she’s 3).

    • Mommypotamus   Mommypotamus

      I have heard the same thing, but I disagree that it is not beneficial in more ways than just the emotional aspect. First, there are continued nutritional and immunological benefits. Also, though, I think of it as a safety mechanism for illness. My daughter is very rarely sick, but the few times she has been she would not eat or drink ANYTHING at all. I am certain that if she had not been nursing at the time that we would have ended up taking her to the ER for an IV. How scary for a little one! Trying to reason with a puking two-year old about hydration is simply not effective, but I believe that by the time she weans we will be able to reason with her if/when she is ill.

  18. What a lovely post. It is so nice to read things from other mothers that have the joy of nursing their toddler as I do (almost 2). It is such a trip when they start talking about nursing. My favorite at this particular moment is,”Mommy, I need two milks right now” (while she holds her two fingers up in the air). I can’t help but laugh and hug her (and, of course, nurse her). It’s such a blessing. I can’t believe so many people choose not to have this experience! Best of luck on your upcoming birth!

  19. Amanda L

    What a nice post. It heartens me to know there are other mamas out there so passionate about extended breastfeeding. I have been tandem nursing one of my sons and my daughter for almost 10 months and it has been a joyous experience. My son is 2 1/2 and nursed through most of my pregnancy. He actually stopped nursing in the last couple of weeks and he told me the milk was “dirty” which I assume means he didn’t like the colostrum. I was rather heartbroken b/c I wanted to tandem nurse. About a week after my daughter was born my son asked to nurse again and he was happy to find out his milk was back. Looking back I am glad we had that little break. It allowed me some time to rest before the birth and it gave me a few days to have my daughter to myself. Now we all 3 like to cuddle up for nursing sessions and my oldest son snuggles up with us and reads. I love it!

  20. Melissa

    Awwwwwww…..this made me wish we had been able to continue nursing when she was old enough to say sweet things like “cream & sugar”. Sadly, she weaned herself. She still asks from time to time and I let her try. The silly little thing can’t remember how to do it though. She lays there with her little bird mouth wide and waits for it to drip out….which is not what happens.

    It’s wonderful to hear your story!

  21. greenmama

    I love the “cream and sugar,” what a cute memory that will make as your Katie gets older! It sounds like we lead very similar lifestyles (cloth diapers, local organic foods, etc) My first son was born over 5 years ago, and I have been nursing ever since. He weaned at 3 1/2, but at that point, his little brother was 1 1/2 and we had been tandem nursing all that time. Now little brother is 3 1/4 and baby sister is 13 months, and both are still nursing. I’m curious to see when they choose to wean. It’s been an interesting trip, with lots of highs (watching them hold hands and giggle while nursing together) and lows (thrush, nursing agitation, more nursing agitation…). I wouldn’t trade it for anything. What a precious experience to share with our little ones. Best wishes for your birth and tandem nursing experience!!

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