The Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy #23

September 24th, 2010 by Dionna | 9 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 Mary Elizabeth, who is the mother of four small children, 2 boys and 2 girls. She has a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and she taught elementary school for five years before she decided to stay at home full-time. She is passionate about parenting and teaching (and breastfeeding!). You can normally find Mary Elizabeth at one of her two blogs, Ten Thousand Hugs and A Novel Idea. Here is her breastfeeding guest post:
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Undeniably, one of the most delightful blessings I have received in my life has been the ability to breastfeed all three of my eldest children into the early stages of toddlerhood. I am currently relishing in the experience of exclusively breastfeeding the newest addition to our family, little Naomi, born this past January. I am looking forward to nursing her for at least two to three more years!

For me, nursing an older baby or toddler is marked with a deepening, unrepeatable front-row seat to their development. As a mother, I have marveled at watching the gentle suckling of each of my newborn babies blossom into their own, unique nursing styles. Much like each of us exhibits our distinctive personality traits during a conversation, breastfeeding sessions afford the toddler a similar opportunity to display his or her temperament. This particular interaction between mother and child is virtually overflowing with psychological and sociological benefits for both persons involved in this beautiful, natural process!

First, the simple act of gazing into a mother’s eyes while nursing provides enormous security and comfort for the child. As a mother, the feelings of warmth and pure joy I experience during each nursing session are simply incomparable to any other emotion I have had. While nursing, I am able to feel the exquisite, natural beauty of providing sustenance to my young.

As the older baby or toddler moves through the nursing session and physical hunger is satisfied, the social aspect of the mealtime truly begins. Perhaps another voice in the room is heard, and the toddler turns away from the breast to investigate the source of the noise. Nestled safely in his or her mother’s arms, the toddler finds the sound’s origin and returns to the breast, able to feel complete and utter comfort with the event.

Our youngest child is now almost eight months old! We both have been reaping complete enjoyment from our nursing experience ever since the moment she entered this world, was handed to me, and attached herself to my breast for the first time. As with my three older children, I cherish these few years I have to nurture her through nature’s perfect bonding experience. May you find the same joy with your children on your own breastfeeding journey!

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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.)

9 Responses to:
"The Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy #23"

  1. MomAgain@40   karentoittoit

    Great post! Breastfeeding is like “dialogue” between mother and toddler! Saying “you are cherished” and “you are safe” to the little one! :D

  2. fj's_mama_pdx

    I have really enjoyed these posts about breastfeeding beyond infancy – they add yet another bolster to the notion that what works best for a family probably IS best, whether it’s socially sanctioned or not, and they may be part of a cultural dialogue that will shift what society at large feels entitled to comment on/dictate/legislate.

    I’m the breastfeeding mama to a 13-month old; my daughter went from “all breast milk, all the time,” to “lots of breast milk, lots of the time” plus organic, homemade solid foods at 5.5 months. These posts on breastfeeding past infancy have been part of an evolution in my thinking about how long we’ll continue to breastfeed – for now, I am happy to let her guide the process of weaning, as she is ready.

    Mostly I am happy to do that because I am intensely grateful that we have been able to get this far into her life with exclusive breastfeeding (no formula); this despite a shaky start, formula being suggested on day 1 in the hospital, etc. Breastfeeding has never been easy for us, has almost always been uncomfortable to some degree (despite extensive lactation consulting with the best LCs in Portland), and it was only when FJ was 9-10 months that I stopped having nipples so sensitive that the most gentle contact caused me to wince multiple times a day.

    I wanted the best for my baby, both in terms of the health benefits of breastfeeding and the emotional gift that it is to both mama and babe. My nearly-impossible-seeming dream goal was to breastfeed for a year; my more realistic goal was to get to 6 months. Hence, my breastfeeding experience was characterized by feverish quests to learn everything I could to improve her latch (books, internet, LCs, other mamas) and setting goals (“just one more day, just one more week, just one more month til 6 months, 7 months, 9 months…”). It was really day-to-day, sometimes, and there were a lot of tears in those days.

    So, here we are at 13 months, and I feel really blessed; my daughter and I daily share sweet, loving, comical, indelible, incredible moments while we breastfeed. She is healthy, happy, confident and learning so quickly. I’m not sharing my story because I need kudos or props; mine was one woman’s decision, and I would never suggest that anyone undertake this same grueling journey. I fully respect the mamas who try to breastfeed and just can’t succeed; there are lots of mamas for whom that is the case, and many reasons why it sometimes doesn’t work.

    Rather, I’m sharing my story because it’s part of why I wonder, as I read the breastfeeding posts at Code Name: Mama, if there are other threads – or future possibilities – in which Code Name: Mama creates open space for the non-breastfeeding natural mama, the mamas who couldn’t breastfeed – or those who haven’t had the fully-blissful experience that so many posters write about – and who may feel alienated rather than drawn in to this blog that has excellent perspectives, insights and information about natural/gentle parenting. It would be a shame if “natural parenting” were so implicitly defined by a mama’s ability to breastfeed, that it (unintentionally, I’m sure) excluded those “natural” mamas whose circumstances limited their natural parenting to other parts of their parenting practices.

    If it hasn’t already been done, I’d suggest – and would love to see – posts by natural mamas/families who struggled with breastfeeding, but came to an understanding that natural parenting doesn’t start and stop with breastfeeding.

    Many thanks for your thoughtful posts and curating similarly thoughtful pieces from guest writers – I will continue to read, reflect on, share, learn from and enjoy this wonderful resource.

  3. Felicia

    I have really enjoyed reading all these posts by mothers who have successfully nursed into toddler-hood. I really enjoyed nursing my toddler till 15 months.

    Which brings up a question I thought maybe some extended breastfeeding moms could answer.

    A little background. When my first child was 14 months, my husband’s brother and his wife had their 4th child. They were having a difficult time (house fire earlier that year, sister-in-law having health problems) so I traveled up to Indiana with my daughter to help them out. Their children were a 6 year old, 5 year old, 2 year old and 1 month old. I took Abigail (my daughter) over there the first day but found it nearly impossible to take care of 5 children when 2 of them weren’t walking yet and the 2 year old needed constant supervision to keep her from serious harm. (This was before I had discovered baby-wearing.) So I started leaving Abigail with my husband’s parents who lived nearby. I intended to be there for one week, maybe two but ended up staying for three. Fortunately, my husband was able to take the third week off and so we would go to his brother’s place together and take Abigail with us. However, leaving her behind 5-6 days a week for those first two weeks was excruciating. She cried for me every time I left. Looking back, I really wish I had done it differently

    While I was there, my sister in-law had to go on an anti-seizure medication which passes through the breast milk. Consequently, I ended up nursing my infant niece a few times when her mother first took the med and the drug was at its highest concentration. Abigail saw me nursing her cousin at least one of those times. Also, her nursings became less because I was only nursing her in the morning before I left and then once at night when I came back to my parent’s-in-law’s house. Maybe not even then if she was already asleep.

    It was a rough time on all concerned and when those very stressful three weeks were over (she had turned 15 months by now) and we got home, she abruptly stopped nursing. I don’t know if it was that the mother-daughter bond was damaged by me leaving her crying nearly every day for two weeks or that she was upset at seeing another baby being nursed by her Mama. But I couldn’t coax her back for anything so I finally gave up and let the milk dwindle and die.

    Abigail is now 2 years and 4 months. I gave birth about a month ago to my second child. A beautiful (intact) little boy. I would really love to do tandem nursing if Abigail was willing. She has been very interested in watching her brother nurse. A few times she’s laid herself across my lap and wanted to pretend to nurse. I’ve gotten her to open her mouth once or twice and I’ve tried sticking the breast in once but I think she’s forgotten how to latch. I’ve tried squirting into her mouth and she swallows and grins at me but after one or two squirts, she says “done” and gets up. I guess my question is, does anyone have any ideas on how to get an already weaned toddler back on the breast? I don’t want to push her if she just doesn’t want to. I think if she were willing though, it would go a long way toward relieving some of the anxieties about having to share her Mama with her new brother.

    Sorry this is so long and rambling. :-)

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Hi Felicia, thank you so much for reading! Wow – it sounds like that was a really tough time in your life. I have to say, good for you and your sister for being open to cross-nursing. Many mamas would opt instead for formula, how wonderful that the baby was able to keep breastfeeding through the mama’s transition to meds!
      As far as getting your toddler to nurse again. First, I would say that you are probably more worried about it than she is :) If she is content with what you’ve been doing so far, maybe that’s all she needs. But there’s no harm in attempting to show her how to latch again (which is surely the problem). Kellymom has a couple of good resources that I’ve recommended to at least 2 moms in your position.
      http://www.kellymom.com/bf/supply/relactation.html
      http://www.kellymom.com/bf/concerns/baby/back-to-breast.html
      Are you on my Facebook page? I’m going to ask the question on there too (both Code Name: Mama and NursingFreedom.org), hopefully we’ll find someone with experience.
      Let me know how it goes! And congratulations on your new son :)

      • Felicia

        Thanks so much Dionna! I read through the info and from that I’m thinking what I need to do is start by trying to nurse her at naptime when she’s most relaxed.
        I do appreciate the help and concern. It’s so nice to know that there are like-minded women out there and I’m not a complete oddball for even wanting to breastfeed a weaned two-year old.

    • RealMommy   TrueRealMommy

      My baby was born when my oldest was just shy of 2 years. We tandem nursed for 5 months or so when I had to quit, it was just too much for me. But, we went through a hard spell in July/August with moving, and going on a long “vacation” (it was hardly relaxing) without daddy. My oldest, who had always been sweet and gentle, started having violent temper tantrums. So I offered him the one thing I thought he needed to reconnect and find himself: nursing. It had been over 6 months, I figured he would have forgotten, and he had. But he needed it, so we kept at it. I was very vocal about him re-learning to do it right, big mouth, suck slowly. But, he has now unweaned and the tantrums have eased, and our connection is much better.

      Try offering when you have a breakdown with her. Either a tantrum, a difficult day, just a sense that she needs some mommy time. When you feel she needs to reconnect, offer her the breast as a first step.

      Good luck. I know you guys will find what works for you.

      http://trueconfessionsofarealmommy.blogspot.com/2010/08/nursing-un-weaning-and-kind-of-vacation.html

  4. Your motivation and spirit is beautiful! My son is 11.5 months and nursing into the toddler stage is exciting and diffacult for me. Although, everytime it crosses my mind to start to wean, I read a inspiring story like yours that keeps us going. Thank you

  5. vina   mamavina

    Thanks for sharing this! Great post! I love the idea of highlighting the JOYS of breastfeeding (both infancy and beyond) because it seems like I tend to be more apologetic that I am still nursing my 2+ year old Toddler.

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