KBBF: Breastfeeding a Toddler
When I first set out on my breastfeeding journey with Bunny, I had no idea how long I would continue for or indeed if I’d want to. In fact, there were many, many times that I didn’t, but the support of my partner encouraged me to keep going, and gradually things got easier. I would never say it was particularly enjoyable as I don’t think we ever got the latch right, but it was ok. We kept going for 13 months and both of us were fine with stopping at that point having wound down gently over some months.
With Bear, I knew so much more, and was also determined to get things right from the start before bad habits began that couldn’t be changed. So when I got sore, I saw someone and got it seen to. And once it was established, I started to actually, dare I say it, enjoy it! The closeness of being with this little person, and the lack of discomfort this time round have made for a much better experience. This has meant I’m happy to keep going until she decides she’s ready to stop.
When I discussed becoming a peer supporter, I was told that I had to be committed to breastfeeding for at least 6 months. At the time I was pretty certain we would be, but there was always a little doubt in my mind. Yet here we are, a week off 23 months and still going strong!
I’ll be honest though, there are times when I could scream and almost wish it over: when she feeds 4 times overnight and twice from each side at each feed; when she mucks about and pulls on my nipples until they’re cracked and sore; when she has a tantrum because I’ve offered her the ‘wrong’ side; how she is completely unable to feed without pulling and twisting at my hair which is beyond ruined and needs cutting really short to look half decent again; when she insists on being fed when we’re outside on a cold day and I’m not dressed appropriately. There are negatives you see.
But then there are the times when it is easily the most wonderful thing I’ve ever done: when she pulls off after a feed and pumps the air with her little hands and cries “Hooray!”; when she recently had an eye infection and high fever and I could not only feed her knowing it contained the antibodies she would need to fight the infection, but also used the milk directly on her eye to clear it quicker; when she falls over, is upset or just super-tired and needs to check-in with me and have that comfort that is so unique.
Choosing to continue wasn’t really a choice, it just kind of happened. I can’t imagine stopping, both knowing this will be my last time and from the fear of how on earth I’d do it in the first place. I look forward to stopping sometime in the not too distant future, mainly for selfish reasons like being able to dress however I want day and night or for being free to be away from my children for extended periods (a two night trip away for my sister’s hen was AGONY!). Yet at the same time I know I want to continue for other selfish reasons. I like that my little girl needs me to provide her with comfort, I like that we have such a special bond and that I am able to help her through illnesses.
And breastfeeding a toddler is easier as she gets older. Generally she’ll feed when she wakes up in the morning and then is quite content to go until just before bed and maybe once or twice overnight. Occasionally, if she needs to check-in when we’ve been apart for a while, or if she’s a bit bored, she might ask for “ilky” around lunchtime or mid-afternoon. If it’s inconvenient (I’m in the middle of cooking or shopping, for example) she can be put off fairly easily and yesterday she even accepted that I had to go out and she would have to wait until I got back. And she went to sleep without it! Earlier this week, she slept until nearly 5am before waking for a feed which is unheard of! My boobs weren’t overly happy at that one, but I was!
I can see we’re nearing the end of our breastfeeding relationship and I am sad, but also very proud we made it this far. And at the end of the day, there are plenty more emotional hurdles ahead for us to get over. Having just sat through Bunny’s “starting school parent’s evening”, I can say this with certainty!
This post is part of the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt.
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