I could start this with a typical sentence that you hear from the majority of women who are still breastfeeding at a year and a half “When I first had my son/daughter, I never thought I would breastfeed for this long!”.
It would be a lie, though. I always knew. I knew that if it was up to me, I would breastfeed well into toddlerhood. It was an obvious, a given.
But I actually respect the women who say they never thought they’d breastfeed for this long, because that means they adjusted their plans and expectations as they went, and more importantly did what was best for their baby.
But for me, it’s not a strange thing, it’s not being a hero, or a martyr, a weirdo, or selfless, it’s not anything special that we are still breastfeeding. It’s normal. Honestly, it feels so normal and natural that I rarely give it a second thought. We breastfeed like it’s no big deal ( and really, it’s not a big deal) and rarely even think about the fact that to some people it might seem strange.
Only when people ask me “How long are you planning on breastfeeding?” and I tell them “Until she weans herself… “, do I realize that it could go on till she’s 3 or 4. I have no clue when the weaning will come. Alexis is very attached to her boo-boo-boo. She breastfeeds about every 2-3 hours and any time in between for comfort.
It’s very clear to me how important breastfeeding is for a toddler from the emotional standpoint. It’s a place of warmth and comfort. Anyone who’s still breastfeeding at this age knows that the best way to calm an upset toddler is to offer them a cuddle and a breast.
It has proven to be an amazingly helpful in the mothering department:
It’s a convenient “snack”:
When you’re running out of the house and you forget to pack food, you at least know that they can have breastmilk when they are hungry.
Hydration and nutrients in times of sickness:
Our first sickness came a few weeks after Lexi’s first birthday. It was so sad and terrifying to know that there’s not much I could do to help her. It was nerve racking to have her refuse food and water for 3-4 days. And i would honestly probably drive myself nuts over this, had it not been for breastfeeding. She got her hydration and nutrition by nursing which she never refused and while that might not be enough on normal days, it was certainly enough in times of sickness. I felt more at peace knowing that she is taking in fluids and food that way. It would have been absolutely horrible having to watch her not eat anything for days and not have an alternative. At that time I told myself to write on my blog that this reason alone is enough to go through any inconvenience when it comes to breastfeeding.
It’s the best medicine for them:
When they are sick, your milk actually produces antibodies specific to that illness to help them recover.
And for other people:
Funny story: our neighbors are Russian ( coincidence!) and recently they permanently moved to US. Their son had been very sickly for a year prior to that, getting high fevers and runny nose at a moment’s notice. The fever would spike up so fast and they’d have to give him antibiotics, so after so many rounds of that, his immune system was shot. So when he got sick AGAIN this time, his mom asked me if I’d pump some breastmilk to give to him as nose drops. I’d never done it before and I guess it could be considered weird, but if it helps, I am all for it. To make a long story short, this was the first time his illness went away within 3 days and his fever was managed by using breastmilk rather than pills. She had told me ( and I almost didn’t believe her) that every time his fever would get high and she’d give him BM drops (through his nose), it would come down 1 degree within 30 minutes. She tried it several times, each time with the same result. So after 3 days he was all well again.
From that moment on, I’ve been doing the same for Lexi ( and us) and believe it or not, BM clears up your stuffed nose in seconds- it’s truly amazing. When Alexis had a fever, I also noticed her fever dropping shortly after giving her BM drops.
While some may view nursing to sleep as a crutch, I (and many other women and professionals) see it as a helpful tool is avoiding bedtime struggles and peacefully putting your baby to sleep. On days when I know other kiddos might struggle to go to sleep because they are too wound up, I always know that a little nursing and rocking will get her to sleep. And the sweetness of the moment when you’re nursing your toddler to sleep with them snuggling up to you, warm in your arms- those are just the most precious minutes of the day.
There’s probably no stronger bonding moment than when while nursing you look into your toddler’s eyes and they stare back without blinking clearly enjoying their time with you.
I admit, there have been days where I am absolutely exhausted and want nothing else but to sit on the couch with my eyes closed. Usually, those are precisely the days that Alexis is an energizer bunny, running around, needing mommy’s attention and making a massive mess out of all the available rooms. During those trying times, I have really been thankful to have nursing breaks. Few minutes of quiet snuggles on the couch, when I can drop my head back, close my eyes and just enjoy a few minutes of peace. I remember reading about one of the benefits of full term breastfeeding being a few minute break, but I didn’t fully understand it until now.
That’s not to say that our full term breastfeeding doesn’t have its struggles.
The biting began early on around 7-8 months and was very occasional, mostly due to teething or boredom. I didn’t think it was a big deal, to be honest. When she was in the biting stage, I was always very aware of her jaw movements and was ready to “interfere” at any moment. Mostly due to that, she never got a chance to bite hard. I used all the recommended techniques when she was biting and soon enough it stopped being an issue completely. At this point I cannot remember the last time she bit me. It stopped MONTHS ago and we’ve not had an incidence since.
Limbs in face:
Ugh! That’s almost the worst! You can see on all these photos that her favorite nursing position is “foot in mouth”.It’s fine if she keeps it there, but the problem is she kicks it around, moves it to the side, hits me on the jaw. It’s not painful, but OH SO ANNOYING! I guess I could tell her not to do it ( light bulb!), but it has so been a part of our “breastfeeding” that I am not sure I should/want to.
Hair pulling is actually worse than limbs. She loves running her hands (and feet) through my hair. But it doesn’t end there. She will gently wrap my hair around her fingers or toes and start pulling. It’s pretty common and is a form of self-soothing. But maaaan, she’s slowly one by one (accidentally) tearing out my hair. She doesn’t mean to tear it, she just likes wrapping her fingers around it, but the individual hairs do tear under that pressure. I have super short strands of hair in the front and back due to that. To combat this hair playing, I try to give her a nursing necklace to play with, but that still doesn’t occupy her toes. I guess it doesn’t bother me ENOUGH to do something about it, but that’s probably my most hated part of our routine.
I know that a lot of women experience their babies’ pulling down their shirts, but that’s not the case here. What she does is puts her lips on the top part of my chest while saying boo-boo-boo. It’s actually sweet. I’ve only had her pull my shirt down once, when I actually told her “Ok, go ahead, pull it down!“. She looked at me, like “Really?” and carefully started pulling down the top.
Lack of Freedom:
Due to the fact that I don’t pump, since she won’t take BM from a cup, I cannot leave her for more than a few hours at a time. It’s not a matter of sustenance for her. She needs that comfort every few hours, she asks for it, she looks for me. As a result, I have been able to get away to go do fun things ( like hang out with girlfriends or whatever) a total of 2-3 times. Honestly, I am not complaining, since I do not know what it’s like to be able to get away for a bit anymore, but when I do have fun on my own, I miss those times. In the end, it bothers me the least of all the annoyances listed here, because I know it’s temporary and I want to treasure the time that she’s little and still needs me.
I really do love breastfeeding. Always have. Even more than I did at first. There’s just something so precious about a breastfeeding toddler. A rough, active, fast, smart, opinionated, stubborn toddler who turns into an angel for those 5 minutes of nursing. It’s pretty darn cool. And to have all the long term benefits to their health- that is just what seals the deal for me when it comes to full term breastfeeding.
If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, unsure of whether you want to breastfeed, looking to read what to expect, looking for help, check out some of the previous breastfeeding posts I’ve written, as well as BFing posts on Daily Mom.
- BREASTFEEDING JOURNEY (First few months)
- BREASTFEEDING PRODUCTS
- FOLLOW UP TO BREASTFEEDING POST
- BREASTFEEDING AT 8 MONTHS: WHAT IT’S LIKE NOW.
ON DAILY MOM
- RETURNING TO WORK AND PUMPING
- MAKING EXTENDED BREASTFEEDING WORK
- SURPRISING BENEFITS OF EXTENDED BREASTFEEDING
- THE SYMPTOMS AND SOLUTIONS OF MASTITIS
- INCREASE YOUR MILK SUPPLY AT BREAKFAST
BOOB DESIGN (stripped dress, blue dress)
SOCO VINTAGE (pink dress, non nursing but with easy access)
NURSING NECKLACE: Mommy’s Necklaces