Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Breastfeeding Diaries: nursing a nearly two-and-a-half year old

One thing I haven't talked about much on this blog is the fact that I'm breastfeeding my toddler. Part of me has reservations about posting about this, as I know breastfeeding can be an emotive and divisive issue - and 'extended' breastfeeding even more so! But it feels strange to gloss over it, as it is a pretty significant part of my relationship with my daughter. After all, it's something we do surprisingly regularly on a daily basis!

A few weeks ago I saw that Zena's Suitcase was starting a Breastfeeding Diaries link up and I started to wonder whether I should join in. It is such a great opportunity to share stories about nursing, and perhaps a voice from the 'extended' breastfeeding camp would add something to the mix. Also, by talking about my experience, perhaps I could go some way towards demystifying the slightly thorny issue of breastfeeding a toddler, by showing that it isn't the preserve of hippy earth mothers* - all sorts of mums breastfeed beyond infancy!

At the time of writing Eleanor is just eight days shy of being two and a half. So what is it like breastfeeding a two and a half year old? Well, it's fidgety - if she's in a restless mood she will twist and contort to alarming degrees during a feed. She also likes to have things to hold onto and play with while feeding, so I will regularly have to breastfeed her while being hit in the face with a book or while a toy car navigates its way round my chest.

But it can also be calm and snuggly - nowadays, the most sustained cuddles we have are during feeds, especially when she's a bit tired or has just woken up. Yesterday she wanted 'mummy milk in Mummy and Daddy's bed' after she'd woken from her nap so we snuggled up together for about quarter of an hour. I could practically feel the oxytocin flooding my brain as I held my still-slightly-snoozy little girl in my arms and told her how much I love her.

It's draining at times - if she's teething, or something developmental is going on, she can feed on an hourly basis during the day. Fortunately she only has one or two night feeds, but the demands of regularly producing milk throughout the waking hours can be tiring. On the flip side, if I wasn't breastfeeding I'd have to find some other way of comforting and reassuring her - at least this way I get to have regular sit-downs!

And, most importantly, it's her call. Some people say that breastfeeding beyond infancy is just about the mother's needs. It's not. Seriously. Have you tried getting a toddler to do something they don't want to? Do you really think a toddler could be persuaded to latch on and feed against their wishes? I only ever offer 'mummy milk' at nap time (to get her to sleep, because I'm too lazy to battle her to sleep through other means) and before we start the bedtime routine. The rest of the time, she asks for it - nay, INSISTS on it! The time will come when she decides to stop, and that's fine, but it's her call. I'm not forcing her to breastfeed, I'm just not forcing her to stop either.

I hope that joining in with the Breastfeeding Diaries means that more people will get to hear about 'extended' breastfeeding in a positive, down-to-earth, normal way. Because really, I'm not much different to any other mum. And Eleanor is not much different to any other toddler. We just happen to do something that, in this society, is seen as different. But it's the most ordinary thing in the world to us.

* P.S. Sorry if you're a hippy earth mother, you're great too! In fact, I'd love to be more like you but I'm a rubbish hippy. Honestly, I've tried.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for linking up with #BFingDiaires. I really enjoyed reading your post and it makes me sad I don't BF my toddler. She was BF until she ws 14 mnths, but I had to give up as it was stopping me conceiving. I can see it would have really helped with our relationship if I could have continued and maybe with bringing her little sister home too. I do wonder if people who comment on 'extended' breastfeeding have ever had children or BF, and is it really extended when the WHO organisation suggest children should get mother's milk for 2 years. Thanks for linking up and I hope you'll join in again Zx

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, although I'm sorry it made you sad! It sounds like you stopped at the right time for your family though and that's the important thing, it's got to be right for everyone.

      That's exactly why I put 'extended' in inverted commas, it's only extended if you assume that only babies should be breastfed, but in so many cultures it's completely normal to keep going for years! I'm looking forward to joining in again with the link up next week.

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  2. A great post at showing the normal sides to b/f a toddler #BFingdiaries

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