The Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy #20
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:
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 . . .
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.”
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.
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.)
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"The Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy #20"
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