Extended breastfeeding was not something I gave much thought to before having my daughter. I knew I wanted to breastfeed but didn’t give much thought to how long so I read about it, talked to friends and family about it, and met with a lactation consultant for breastfeeding classes. I remember after the first couple weeks of exhausting and seemingly never-ending breastfeeding, I told people my goal was six months. People had told me it was hard, but I had no idea what hard was until I was in the trenches.
Over two years later, I am still breastfeeding. After I reached the six-month mark, along with pain issues and clogged ducts right around that time, I basically just kept going. My daughter and I had this amazing bond, and I couldn’t give it up. While some days I don’t think twice about it, other days I am completely shocked and amazed. I am also incredibly grateful.
What I want other moms to know is that breastfeeding a toddler or older baby is completely different than nursing an infant and that it is completely normal. If you were ever anything like me, I didn’t “get” it when people continued to breastfeed into toddlerhood. I would always think, “Why?” But I get it now. It all becomes so natural, and even on the days when you want to throw your child off your body, you still don’t want to give it up. It is the craziest, most beautiful ride I have ever been on.
Breastfeeding an Infant
Breastfeeding an infant can be a full-time job. I guess this is something I did not fully understand and a lot of tears were shed as I worked through it. My daughter was never on a schedule– she nursed on-demand 24/7. She nursed for food, comfort, and to sleep. Really, there was nothing that could not be solved by nursing. It became a way of life, and I just kept doing it.
I started to take it one day at a time. Especially on extremely tough days. I decided to push through any hurdles or obstacles and see if I could do it one more day. People said it would get easier, and it did eventually!
Breastfeeding a Toddler
Breastfeeding a toddler has been completely different. Shortly after my daughter turned one I felt like nursing was no longer a full-time job. Can I get a hallelujah? Of course, every child is different, but it’s nice to know nursing does become less demanding at some point. All those days of wanting to have your body to yourself, even for just a little bit, and you’re finally there!
We started to face a new challenge at this point — my daughter grabbing at me in public, demanding “boo-boos,” or just pulling down my shirt. But we worked through it. I realize toddlers aren’t well known for their reasoning skills, but if you don’t want to have them grabbing at you in public, it is possible to talk them through this until they understand.
I talked to my local La Leche League leader about this, and she gave me the confidence to keep working with my daughter on nursing manners so that we could continue our journey. Plus, most toddlers start to get interested in other things and distracted easily. So you can find ways to get them involved in something else if you need a break from nursing. I also started using the term “gym-nurstics” around this time, to describe all the crazy positions my daughter could get into while nursing. Adding humor into the situation always helps!
Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding
Even though my daughter took to solid foods easily and quickly, I knew breastfeeding still had its benefits.
- Provides nutrients like protein, calcium, fat, Vitamin A, and others
- Boots the immune system
- Soothing to toddlers just like it is for babies
- Calming for moms- reminds you to sit down, take a break, and enjoy the time with your child
So while each stage brings its challenges, just like everything else in motherhood, allow all of these wonderful benefits to help motivate you if this is a journey you choose!