The Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy #25
Today I am happy to host a guest post by Lisa. Lisa is a stay at home mom of three who loves to learn new crafty things. She has a fairly crunchy, homeschooling family, and she’s also involved with the lobbyists right now to have Tennessee’s breastfeeding law changed. Here is her breastfeeding guest post:
Breastfeeding an infant can fashion a multitude of feelings in any mother ranging from exhaustion to elation. Breastfeeding a toddler isn’t much different, except for those giggly moments from making silly nursing faces (your nursling’s silly faces, of course)! Tandem nursing two toddlers, a one year old and a three year old, however, can be quite the task at times. Add a pregnancy in the mix and it’s a full on party.
You see, I wasn’t one of those mothers who “knew” she would breastfeed. In fact, I had never seen breastfeeding until a few months before becoming pregnant with our first daughter. Every woman I knew as a child took a “shot to dry up (her) milk” before even attempting to breastfeed.
I began this journey with only the goal of six months — max. I was a young mother. Our first child was born only a few months after my nineteenth birthday. We fell into a groove, after the initial shock of spraying an entire room with such a forceful letdown that I resembled the Fontana di Nettuno, that worked. Six months came and left without much thought to weaning. Before I knew it we were celebrating her first birthday. She was no longer a baby, but a toddler.
Although her toddler-dom was celebrated, she still seemed to be the same child who needed to nurse, to cuddle, as the day before. She really loved to nurse, and to cuddle. I couldn’t bear to take away something that meant so much to her and was beneficial at the same time. So, we decided to allow her to wean on her own. I’m not sure how or when we decided this, but we both knew in our heart that it was right.
One month into her toddlerhood, she began to act as though my milk tasted weird. I couldn’t figure out why, because I hadn’t changed my diet at all. Soon I began to experience piercing nipple pain with every latch. I’d read about that somewhere, but I could not remember where. The next few days I noticed her breath reeked after nursing. Still, I couldn’t figure out why. A week later, when a certain visitor completely skipped out, I knew the cause. We were expecting again.
At first we were worried that continuing to nurse while pregnant could harm the baby. I researched as much as I could, and in the end we decided to not forcibly wean her. Near the end of my pregnancy, I found the pain to be too much. As much as it broke my heart, I had to implement a system of “ten”. If things got to be too much for her, I would tell her it was time for “ten” and would begin to count while she nursed. It took time, but after a few days, she understood what ten meant. In those last few weeks before our second daughter was born, Smarmy would come to me several times in a day, clap her hands, and ask for “ten”. Still, at nearly two years old, she needed it just as much as she did at a year old.
Tandem nursing a toddler and newborn can be a bit of a challenge. Once we found a way that worked for us, the moments of just us girls are some of my favorite mommy moments. Seeing Smarmy as a toddler nurse and help her sister to nurse, the bond that formed between the two is just amazing.
When Bean was 8 months old things were about to get real interesting. We were pregnant, again. Without hesitation we knew that as long as I could, I would continue to nurse both the girls. Nursing two toddlers and pregnant, I could barely wrap my mind around it. As my lap became less, they became more. We had to become inventive with nursing positions. When a rest was needed, I could easily lay on my side on the couch and nurse both girls. There were times when the girls would ask to nurse that way because for some reason they would be overcome with giggles. They would both latch on, take a few sips, and then simultaneously turn to each other, and you could feel the mischievousness in the air. Almost instantly the giggles would begin. No matter how tired I was, or how much it hurt, seeing the silent exchange between the two would undoubtedly allow a few giggles from myself.
I was timidly prepared to nurse all three if the time came and no one had weaned. Less than a month before our son’s arrival, Smarmy gradually stopped asking to nurse at age 3.5 years. I admit that while a small part of me was happy that she did it on her own, it was still sad to let go. Bean, her sister, was in such a hurry to be like Smarmy that she only nursed for one more year, almost exactly, and she weaned at 2.5 years old. Monster, our son, is now almost 3 and is still nursing.
I began this journey with only “trying” to nurse six weeks. Six weeks easily turned into six months and faded into one year. The year passed by and blossomed into two years. Flowing over into year three and four, six weeks was yet a mere thought. After year five, the mom who was only going to “try” transformed into someone who was very different, in a good way. At the beginning of year six, I realized that the end is imminent, probably sooner than I think. We are at 6 years 2 months now with no visible end in sight, though I’m sure it will sneak up on me just the same. For a gift to myself for 6 years of devotion, I got a tattoo. It says “Wean Me Gently” from one of my favorite breastfeeding poems. I get teary eyed every time I read it because the breastfeeding relationship isn’t just beneficial and important to a child. It’s important to a mom as well.
Over the course of all three of their toddlerdoms, we have experienced a variety of good and bad times. Through clogged ducts and bites that blistered to milk ecstasy eyes and uncontrollable giggles, nursing a toddler is as rewarding and unforgettable as those first few months on nursing a tiny baby. The only difference? They don’t always fit so well on your lap.
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 #25"
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