I’m Not Going To Try To Convince You To Breastfeed Your Toddler

Three weeks ago she took her first independent steps.  Tentative and kind of shuffley, she did about 3 before dropping on all fours and crawling.  And that was it.  She wasn’t interested in more.  Between plenty of arms to carry her where she needed to go and lightning fast maneuvers on her hands and knees, she just wasn’t in a hurry to move her 19 pound, 30.5 inch frame around by walking.  Just the occasional effort of 2 or 3 steps, smiling at her audience as she performed her newest trick, Smunchie toyed with the idea of walking just to get a reaction from her family and it totally worked.  I was more than fine with this, it made her seem like my little baby a little longer and after my first 2 girls I learned that late walking was actually a gift and saved me a few months of running.

Then this past Saturday it happened.  I could see the shift.  It wasn’t a game any more, it was a goal.  She didn’t look to see who was watching and smile as she moved a couple of inches.  No, she decided it was time, looked at where she wanted to go and walked.  Within 24 hours crawling was only when she needed to go faster than she could manage walking and within 48 she was walking simply for the fun of it.

With that I’m officially breastfeeding a toddler, a 15 month old toddler.

It’s been a slow transition.  I don’t consider 12 months to be the magic turning point from baby to toddler but rather when a flexible idea of milestones and behaviors emerge.  She’s really a toddler now, gets her feelings hurt, picks her nose, shrieks “baba” when she sees another baby, is figuring out how to annoy her sister for fun and now walks.  Also?  She breastfeeds like a toddler.  Today she shoved a board book down the top of my shirt, grinned and signed milk.  Apparently I breastfeed a toddler AAAAAND board books.

I’m not going to try to convince anyone with this post that they should breastfeed their toddler, not this post, not this day.  Maybe some other time.  To be honest I’m not sure what there is to try to convince anyone about, to me I’m just feeding my baby still.  Sure, she’s changed and she’s bigger but she’s still my baby and I’m still her boobies, er, mommy.  But I will say that I have a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding toddlers.  Smunchie isn’t my first toddler to nurse, 2 of her big sisters did as well.  (The other 2 didn’t because I never planned to go past a year and, silly as it sounds, didn’t even know you could nurse a toddler.  Please, do not ask me what I was thinking, I have no idea.) Breastfeeding a toddler is an adventure but one that I’ve always eased into because our babies don’t just change suddenly.  Growing up doesn’t happen up over night, it’s a progression.  Good thing too because giving birth to a toddler sounds like the worst thing ever.  So while Smunchie did seem to just decide to walk one day everything leading up to this point was gradual, preparing both of us for this next stage.  We’ve already made it past so much that this doesn’t seem weird in the slightest.  Ok, maybe in the slightest because I can’t believe she’s this big already and could swear she was just born a month ago. So weird in that sense.  Like buying size 5 shoes.  Certainly not any more weird that cleaning snot off my boob and I’ve been doing that since her first cold at 3 months.

Some of my love/hate relationship of breastfeeding a toddler:

Love: Easing the transition of my baby growing up.

Hate: Lazy toddler latch.

Love: How comfortable and experienced we both are with breastfeeding by now.

Hate: How demanding or specific she can be about HOW she breastfeeds concerning position and me multitasking.

Love: The laughter and giggles we share when she’s at the breast like we’re telling each other secret jokes.

Hate: Fair weathered nursing- some times other things are way more interesting.

Love: The toddling steps up to me with a huge smile and signing milk.

Hate: That sometimes she’ll do that 4 times in an hour just because she can and it’s a new game.

Love: How she will gently touch my face and gaze up at me with the most wonderful and indescribable look in her eyes.

Hate: How sometimes she smacks me and giggles or tries to snatch my glasses.

Love: How if I’m already holding her and she wants to breastfeed she’ll sign “please” on my chest instead of hers.  I melt.

Hate: How she can climb up and start trying to get the breast on her own if I’m sitting down and the melodrama that ensues if she doesn’t get it right away.

Love: Knowing that the milk that grew her to this point can still keep her growing and strong.

Thinking of Smunchie’s new status as a toddler I asked the Leakies on our Facebook page for some of their observations on breastfeeding toddlers including the fun and not-so-fun.  Here are some of my favorites:

Aimee:  Constant motion and constant distraction.  As in, the baby is in constant motion and constantly distracted. 😉

Melissa:  Fun – able to sooth owies and tantrums; not so fun – drive by nursing sessions.

Carla:  The incessant ‘twiddling’ on the spare boob! Drove me to distraction!

Christi:  The unintentional boob flashes.

Rianne:  Being able to really tell you that they want to nurse. the way they really examine the breast before they nurse.  also not worrying when LO is sick, and not really eating. As long as she nurses, I don’t have to worry at all.

Laura:  I really liked how he knew what he wanted, and would stop everything at the end of his busy day to snuggle down and nurse. I hated how he would cry for “boobie” whenever he was told No or given a time out for something.

Jessica:  I loved that I could fix any owie or any tantrum with a boob.

Kiel:  This morning my 16 month old decided that it would be most comfortable to nurse while laying upside down…belly on my face. Then she proceeded to kick me in the head for a few minutes. That is about as bad as it gets….not so fun, but funny and totally worth it! She looked like she was trying to somersault at one point 🙂

Jennifer:  The 30 second sessions all day because he can’t concentrate on any one thing longer than that! Lol favorite thing, when he looks at me and smiles while he’s nursing.

Claire:  My son used to climb onto the lap and then want to feed standing with his bum stuck up in the air!

Jessica:  My 21-month daughter can do a 360 without unlatching.

Rachel:  Fun: nursing can fix any problem. Not-so-fun: toddler wants to nurse to fix every problem. 🙂
Fun: feeling close to my busy, active toddler. Not-so-fun: feeling overwhelmed by my demanding, needy toddler.
Fun: surprising myself by still breastfeeding at almost 22 months. Not-so-fun: the feeling in my gut when I think about her weaning.
I never planned to nurse this long, but I wouldn’t change it for the world now!

Christy:  DS (17m) often brings toys with him to nurse. It’s fun for me to see what he thinks is that important that he needs it to nurse.

Kim:  Fun: Instant cure-all. Not so fun: Toddler nursing acrobatics. Toes don’t belong in my eye!

Kimberly:  The only cuddle time my on the go kid would give me.

Shalan:  Fun: How he shows that he wants his milk (waves arms and also does a variation of the sign for milk). Not so fun: The acrobatics!!!

Monica:  I wish my son (19 mos.) was one that only had 3-4 times per day that he nurses. Instead, he seems to be pulling at me ALL DAY, sometimes while screaming “Nuss! Nuss!” as he lifts my shirt wherever we are. But I do love how he will be earnestly nursing and pull off to say one or two words, only to go right back to nursing with a crooked smile. It is like he just has to tell me what he is thinking before he forgets!

Alexis: I love that he can respond when I ask “Do you want milk?” (he isn’t able to sign/ask for it yet), and I actually really find the 30 second sessions sweet, I love that he can latch himself on without my help these days, but the accidental boob flashes are maddening.

Lauren:  It’s really great to be able to have breastmilk in her when she goes through any fussy eating stage. I always know no matter how much or how little she is eating that her diet is well-balanced.

Anneke:  plenty boobnastics in here lol!

Amy:  Not so fun…the unsolicited comments from EVERYBODY about whole milk and “are you STILL nursing!?! Yeah…what does it LOOK like I’m doing!?

Carrie:  The best- it knocks her right out at the end of a long, napless day. It gets her back to sleep with little effort from me when she wakes through the night. It resets those toddler tantrums like nothing else will. It calms us both. 27 months.

Jade:  Baby pilates!

Amy:  Breastfeeding gymnastics is not cute, and that’s coming from a gymnastics coach!

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What about you?  What do you love/hate about breastfeeding a toddler?