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TLB Comics- Six Reasons Moms Continue Breastfeeding For Themselves

by Jennie Bernstein and Jessica Martin-Weber

Breastfeeding toddlers for mom's benefit reality check

 

It probably seems obvious to anyone that has breastfed a toddler that doing so is clearly all about the mom’s desires.* What a mom gets out of breastfeeding her toddler is nothing more than a relaxing, pleasurable experience that makes her feel just like she did when she was breastfeeding her child as a newborn. In fact, it’s almost exactly the same. Breastfeeding beyond 6 weeks/6 months/12 months/18 months/6 years really is all about keeping their “baby” truly an actual baby.*

Still, some people just don’t understand. This list of 5 reasons moms continue to breastfeed their babies after the arbitrary acceptable cut-off date enforced by random strangers or other individuals such as family members and friends who aren’t actually whipping their boob out for their 3 year old “infant” to suckle may shed some clarity on the matter.

  1. To hold on to those baby months years. By continuing to breastfeed, her child won’t grow up and will stay an infant forever. This one is obvious. She just loves changing diapers, waking multiple times a night, and screams for communication that she is using her magic milk coming from her magic boobs to keep her child an infant. It’s just so fulfilling. After all, with no baby to baby, what would she do anyway?
  2. She is preparing to enter American Gladiator. Or Wipe Out. Breastfeeding her toddler/preschooler is the perfect training. With all this preparation, there is no doubt she’ll be winning that cash prize.
  3. She’s lazy. Can’t be bothered to teach that kid to eat real food or clean up after the inevitable mess it will make eating real food. So naturally she’d rather wrestle an octopus with her boob. Oh, and the octopus still wants food to throw.
  4. Lack of discipline. Too much of a softy to tell her kid no, she pulls out her boob for the little tyrant any time it is demanded. There’s probably nothing she says no to, like candy, knives, or running in the street…
  5. Looking for attention. Because everyone knows how fun it is to have everyone you know commenting on how they think you suck at parenting and finding just one more way for others to disagree with your parenting choices is just the most. fun. ever!
  6. Her pleasure. That’s right, this is really what it’s all about- her own personal pleasure. Round house kicks to the head, nipple twists during gymnurstics, niplash, you name it, they’re all for her pleasure. She’s just using her child for her own selfish desires and satisfaction which is why she agrees to breastfeed a truck from time to time and has perfected controlling her reactions to getting a finger jabbed into her eye.

 

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What would you add to your list as to reasons why moms may continue to breastfeed their toddler or preschooler?

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*This piece uses sarcasm and satire in an attempt to make a humorous point. It is possible it fails entirely and the reader may assume the author is serious. This note is to clarify that the author is, in fact, seriously not serious and just a bit of a smart a**.

5 Breastfeeding Changes That Happen After Baby’s 1st Birthday

by Jessica Martin-Weber and artist Jennie Bernstein

breastfeeding a 1 year old

 

There is something about that 1st birthday, everything just seems to change. In an instant, instead of seeing diapers stretching endlessly before you, you’re thinking cap and gown and you begin to fret about that college application. Kids really do grow up fast, how you’ve been idle for the last 12 months  when it comes to planning little Johnny’s future, you’ll never know. What were you thinking? The kids is going to bust out in Pomp and Circumstance any second now!*

Everthing changes from that point on, and, as at least half the internet and maybe most of your friends will tell you, that includes breastfeeding. If you haven’t heard already, if you’re still breastfeeding your child at 1 year and 1 day, you better start preparing for how to wean your teenager and cross your fingers that you’ll be able to find a nursing dress for graduation and an open spot in the college dorms for both of you. Now, since there are all kinds of recommendations to continue breastfeeding after the first birthday and since 1st birthdays have a way of sneaking up on parents, more and more moms find themselves following, often unintentionally, in the age old tradition of breastfeeding their kiddo through college.

At 1 year and a day, everything about your kid changes, everything about breastfeeding changes. Everything. You’re practically breastfeeding an adult. Here’s what you need to know about the changes to your breastfeeding kiddo past their first year if you don’t wean your child off the boob by 1 year and 1 day.

  1. The number. The go from 11 months to 12 months. That’s huge. That number increase in the one’s position means you can officially start counting their age in years rather than months because everyone knows a 12 month old 1 year old is the same developmentally as a 22 month 1 year old. They’re also so much closer to filing their own taxes.
  2. They’ve had cake. Their palate has totally changed. In our family we take the recommendations for only whole, unprocessed foods for our baby’s first foods and no refined sugar (or honey) for the first year. From day 1- 11 months and 30 days, we vigilantly keep refined sugar out of our baby’s diet. Naturally, we celebrate those health efforts with a cake entirely of their own and cheer when they smash it, diving in head first to instantly become addicted to the very thing we’ve avoided the 12 months prior.
  3. They can ask for it. The day before? Not so much. You always had to wildly guess when your baby wanted to breastfeed, randomly whipping your boob out for them if you thought maybe it was time because up until their 1st birthday they had no way of letting you know they wanted to nurse. But at 1 year and 1 day, they may just start asking for it.
  4. They are bigger. Boom, over night, transition from baby to toddler, even if they aren’t actually toddling, is complete. They may not walk yet and they only have about 3 words, but it’s clear they are big kids now. Now you’re not breastfeeding a baby, you’ve got a full-fledged almost toddler, AKA teenager, on your hands.
  5. They love it. With how grown up they practically are you’d think they’d be over breastfeeding. Instead it tends to become an obsession. It is as if they realize that you’re also getting old and they want to hold on to you forever and keep you from growing away from them. They’re trying to keep you their mommy forever. And you thought the newborn nursing around the clock stage was over.

Brace yourself, breastfeeding a 1 year and 1 day old child is completely different from breastfeeding an 11 month and 30 day old baby. If you find you need help weaning before graduation, we have some suggestions here.

*This piece uses sarcasm and satire in an attempt to make a humorous point. It is possible it fails entirely and the reader may assume the author is serious. This note is to clarify that the author is, in fact, seriously not serious and just a bit of a smart a**.

When your older, weaned child asks to breastfeed

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Today my 4 year old Smunchie who hasn’t breastfed in quite some time, asked for bobbies.  She hadn’t been feeling well all day and though it had been a while since she had breastfed, it was obvious that she found even the idea comforting.  Her eyes wide and a seriousness about her, she implored for some mama milk.  I offered to try to express some into a cup for her and the tiny bit of hope in her face dropped as she said ok but she really wanted to try to get the milk herself.  Without missing a beat, her two year old little sister rushed over, hands out, and screamed “my bobbies!”

Yes, my children were fighting over my boobs.

I gently reminded 2 year old Sugarbaby that they were my bobbies but that I share them and decided to invite both girls to cuddle up to nurse.

IMG_8849

I expect this post will make some people uncomfortable but we need to talk about it anyway.

Sometimes, older, weaned children will ask to breastfeed.  Whether it be a new baby added to the family or just what seems a random interest, it’s not unusual for a child to see breastfeeding and want to give it a try.  They may be quite insistent or perhaps shy and act embarrassed.  It may come when you’re sitting there feeding their younger sibling or when they get a moment alone with you.  There is a possibility that they are more than a little curious and will want to re-establish a breastfeeding relationship.

Before you freak out (probably too late), keep in mind that children don’t have a developed sense of sexuality or even what makes something sexual.  Unless the child is more like a teenager, the interest in breastfeeding has more to do with curiosity than sexual confusion.  Even though adults in much of westernized society place a heavy emphasis on the sexual function of the female breasts over the nutritional and nurturing functions, children just don’t see it that way so you can take a deep breath and know that there is nothing wrong with your child, they’re just a normal child with normal curiosity.  Breasts are another body part made intriguing by the fact that children have yet to develop breasts themselves and if a child encounters breastfeeding and had it explained to them without shame, they are going to understand breasts as a food source rather than identifying breasts for sexual pleasure.  Please note: gender identity, the differences between the sexes, perceived gender roles, attachment, emotional bonds, body autonomy, and understanding appropriate touching is developing from infancy.

And no, feeding children well past infancy into early childhood is not messing them up.  You don’t have to worry about psychological damage from breastfeeding past one or two years old.  That myth has totally been debunked both through scientific research and anecdotally by many older children and adults that remember breastfeeding at such an age.  Read one such account from an outspoken 12 year old who breastfed until she was 4.

If their sexual awareness has yet to develop, they don’t yet buy into society’s emphasis on female breasts primarily as sex objects, and it’s not messing kids up to breastfeed well beyond the 1st year of life, how should we respond?

With patience.  With love.  With acceptance.  With gentleness.  Without shame.  Without fear.  Without judgment.

As is often the case, the manner with which we respond to our children is more important than what we actually do.  If your older, weaned child asks to breastfeed, saying yes or no is less important than how you say it.  Before you respond, ask yourself what your reaction could be communicating to your child.  Is it loving?  Does it communicate acceptance? Or is it expressing shock and disgust?  Could they confuse your response as a rejection of them?  That they did something wrong?  That breastfeeding is shameful?

What should you do if your older, weaned child asks to breastfeed?  I have no idea.  Whatever is right for you.  I would just encourage you not to rush your decision, take a moment and reflect on why or why not you may be comfortable with that.  With older children, a conversation is usually possible and a reasonable place to start.  Involving them in a conversation as part of your decision making could be a bonding experience for you both.

Your decision is completely up to you and your personal boundaries.  If you’re not comfortable letting your older, weaned child breastfeed then don’t.  If you think you may be ok with it, then let them.  Your boundaries and modeling bodily autonomy is important too and an older child is capable of understanding such boundaries.  If you decide you’re comfortable with it and even want to encourage them to relearn how to properly latch (yes, that is an option) and that works for both of you, that can be significant journey as well.  Whatever you decide, just do so gently and you’ll both be fine.

My two eldest children never expressed an interest in breastfeeding once they weaned, not even when siblings were born.  Curiosity and copying with their own babies (dolls), absolutely, but they were never interested in trying to breastfeed for themselves.  Since then though I’ve had each of my 4 younger ones ask to try.  It weirded me out at first and I refused but that particular child began to ask repeatedly every time I sat to feed her younger sister and eventually I decided I didn’t actually have a good reason not to.  Having such a large child at my breast (she was 4) seemed strange to me but it only took one try and then a polite thank you with a hug to make me realize that was about my issues and what I considered normal than it was about somehow being wrong.  She did enjoy having my milk in a cup for months afterward though and that was something that meant a lot to her.  The most common reaction my children have is to have no idea what to do at the breast, attempt a couple of sucks, giggle, pull away, and inform me they aren’t babies any more and “bobbies are for babies.”  Sometimes they do get milk and don’t like the taste.  Even if they are interested in trying again, once their curiosity was satisfied they were happy to move on and leave breastfeeding to babies.

But that’s not what has happened with my current 4 year old.  She returns every so often to the breast, has even figured out that if she can get her little sister to start on one breast and then switch after let down, it’s easier for her and she’ll get more milk.  It doesn’t happen often, increasingly less and less, but she does still ask from time to time.  This time, after latching and not getting any milk, she decided she was good with just a cuddle.

“I like your milk, mommy, but I like your cuddles best.”

For us, it was worth letting her try.

breastfeeding the weaned child

 

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What do you think you would do if your previously weaned child asked to breastfeed again?

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What does it look like to breastfeed a 2 year old?

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Child with birthday balloon

What does it look like to breastfeed a 2 year old?  Is it gross?  Creepy?  Or is it just a continuation of the sweet and simple nurturing experience the mother and child already have together?  I can’t keep her safe and protected from everything but while she still wants to be in my arms and finds comfort at my breast, I’ll continue to do what I can.

What does it look like?  This:

This past weekend we celebrated Sugarbaby’s 2nd birthday.  The day was fun, special, and she understood it was all about her.  And cake.  With 6 big girls in the family, it was a loud and energetic, ushering in her next year of life with enthusiasm.

And without much notice, I now am breastfeeding a 2 year old.  This doesn’t feel significant to Sugarbaby, nor to my family.  The only reason this is noteworthy is because breastfeeding beyond the first 12 months is hardly normal in our society, let alone breastfeeding beyond the first 24.  Many myths surround breastfeeding in general and they just increase after the deadline some have assigned (see Six myths about breastfeeding toddlers and preschoolers).  For many, breastfeeding this long is strange, extreme, extended, and questionable, at best.  Abusive, pedophilia, and psychologically damaging at worst.  A view point I don’t understand and research doesn’t support and when I asked a 12 year old that breastfed until she was 4 to share, she didn’t see what the issue could be either.

Breastfeeding beyond the first year makes many, many people uncomfortable.  Breastfeeding a child that walks and talks and plays, going well beyond the 2nd year makes most people uncomfortable.  It’s understandable too.  In our culture the majority of babies aren’t breastfed past 6 weeks and of those that are they usually are weaned off the breast by 12 months.  It’s rare in the majority of western culture to see a child over the age of 1 breastfeed, let alone 2.

But imagine you were in a different culture.  A culture where the average age of weaning was between 2-5 years old.  It would be common place to see a young child breastfeeding and nobody would think it’s odd.  In fact, if those people were to come here they would probably wonder why our children don’t continue breastfeeding at that age and perhaps find it unsettling and concerning.

What it boils down to in many ways is what we’re conditioned to.  The WHO and the AAP both recommend breastfeeding until it is mutually agreeable to the mother and child.  Which, for a good number of families would be well beyond that 24 month mark.  But we rarely get to see it.  For that to become an acceptable reality in the States it needs to be seen and not just as something to be laughed at in movies.  In other words, we need to start conditioning our culture to accept a new normal and we need to start doing it ourselves.  Which is totally possible.  Just look at standards of dress.  What was once considered inappropriate attire is now every day wear.  Adjusting our standards to accept a new normal is something that happens in culture on a daily basis.  Over time, we’ll get there and it may not ever be common place (though I sure do hope so) but it will seem less odd.  So while I don’t breastfeed to make any kind of point or in pursuit of any particular agenda, I do share the breastfeeding images and videos to help bring about that change.

breastfeeding 2 year old

This isn’t to say that women have to breastfeed beyond any point at all.  In fact, women don’t have to do anything and manipulating, shaming, or attempting to force someone to do something they really don’t want to do only serves to make the issue a controversial one and doesn’t help society to accept it as normal.  How could they when a portion of the population would resent it.  The messaging isn’t that it’s better to breastfeed longer or that those that don’t aren’t loving parents willing to sacrifice for their children.  The message is simply that there are reasons to and every family has to weigh those along with their personal reasons to make the right decision for their situation.

For our family it is simple.  Breastfeeding beyond societal accepted norms isn’t about anything but the simple, sweet, loving continuation of what we already have.  As I shared on Facebook, the decision to continue wasn’t about or for anyone else but us, and at 2 years old now she’s quite happy with our arrangement and blissfully unaware that others may look down on her continuing to find nourishment and comfort at my breast. A strong and confident little girl, I know that when Sugarbaby is ready to move on, she will have no problem doing so. For now though, I won’t be cutting her off even though some don’t understand. No arbitrary deadline can dictate how I care for my daughter and continue to meet her needs as she experiences them. Your breastfeeding goals, whatever they may be, are about you and your child, reach for them and don’t worry about what others think or say. Two weeks or two years (or more or less!), we support you.

For more on natural duration breastfeeding or breastfeeding beyond infancy, see what a toddler has to say here.