Well, here we are. 18 months into our breastfeeding relationship. How on earth did that happen?! When Gabby was still a tiny baby my La Leche League Leader would say in meetings ‘You don’t plan to breastfeed a toddler. It just kind of happens’. That right there is the truth. Think about how quickly your children grow up. You blink and they’re crawling/walking/talking/in school. So while you’re making plans for the first birthday party, it doesn’t occur to you that, quite suddenly, you are breastfeeding a toddler.
I know this is weird for some of you. I know I seem strange. I once thought the same thing. I could in no way understand why some of the women who work with me breastfed their children beyond “6 months”. They breastfed children with teeth. They breastfed children that could speak. I could not wrap my head around it. I thought they were weird. Now I am weird and luckily I am at an age and stage in my life where peer pressure and what other people think of me do not matter that much. Thanks to the wonderful support I’ve received during my breastfeeding journey I am confident in my decision not only to breastfeed, but to breastfeed for an extended period of time.
Are there still things that frustrate me about breastfeeding? Sure. Specifically breastfeeding and sleeping. From a very tender age I tried to master the side lying breastfeeding position. I knew this would stand us in good stead for night feeds, but as my baby grows it has become increasingly difficult to stay comfortable while feeding her in our bed. Or falling asleep in a comfortable position while she is still latched on. Sometimes this means I wake up with a stiff neck or a sore back, however, it means that I haven’t been awake half the night getting up for feeds and putting her back to sleep. To me, the pay off is worth it. Of course, there are times when she wakes up at 2 in the morning and wants to play silly buggers for an hour or two. That is draining, but is no different from what Elijah used to do.
Gabby is suffering from separation anxiety at the moment, specifically from me. I don’t think this is breastfeeding related. I think it has more to do with a child’s personality than whether or not they are breastfed. Elijah never had it quite as bad and has always favoured his father. While it is nice to be the favoured parent, it is sometimes difficult when I need to do something or be somewhere. As an example, if Gabby is awake when I get up in the morning she cries for me to come back to bed (oh and how I wish I could comply) and unless I pick her up and carry her around while I am trying to get ready for work she will continue to cry until she upsets herself to the point of throwing up. Even if Rudi gets up and holds her at that point it is not enough. It is not all about the boobs though. She doesn’t ask to feed (usually by groping my shirt) , she is perfectly happy to sit in my arms while I try to go about whatever I need to do. Eventually she will find something else to do, or be okay with being put down and she’ll toddle off to do something more interesting than sitting in my lap.
The other day we were all laying in bed, settling down for the night and Gabby insisted on having a sippy cup with her with milk in it. Cow’s milk, mind you. I had given her the sippy cup in an attempt to keep her busy till bedtime and to use the tiny bit of milk we had left. When the little bit of milk was finished, she gestured that she wanted more. In the sippy cup. Even after we climbed into bed, she kept the sippy cup and wouldn’t let me take it away. I lay down next to her, she continued to drink from the cup. I offered her the breast, she kept drinking from the cup. I felt rejected. It was the first time that she had chosen a plastic teat over my warm, comforting breast. Then, she bit that teat and pulled at the sippy cup with the teat firmly between her teeth and I was really grateful that she had just rejected me not long before. Sheesh! When she does bite, it hurts!
She is too young to wean and I am dreading the when she does. I am saddened by the thought. I can’t imagine myself breastfeeding a child of Elijah’s age and maybe she will wean before then. Maybe she won’t. Will I want to wean her before then? It is hard for me to say. Right now I am enjoying our special time together, the way she looks up into my face with those big blue eyes when we reunite with a feed at the end of a long day apart. It is also amazing to me how quickly she is comforted after getting hurt/upset by just latching on. I never had such a convenient and effective tool with Elijah. It really has been so much easier.
I am eternally grateful for this journey and the close bond it has created between me and my daughter. I will forever be a breastfeeding advocate and encourage my friends and eventually my daughter to breastfeed their babies for as long as they can. Having been on both sides of the feeding fence, I know that there are challenges and that it is hard, but I am living proof that there is hope. My La Leche League Leader wrote an article about helping us in the early days for Breastfeeding Today, an online magazine. If you would like to read it, click here. The article is on page 14.