Yeah. I can barely believe it myself. While I was pregnant with Gabby I had no hope for our breastfeeding journey. I didn’t think we would make it to 6 weeks, never mind 6 months…or 34 for that matter. I remember going to La Leche League meetings in the very early days, before Gabby was born and being in awe of all the breastfeeding mothers. Watching them succeed at something I had failed at before. When people would start talking about breastfeeding their toddlers, I never envisioned becoming one of them. Honestly it made me a little uncomfortable. I had preconceived notions about breastfeeding and somehow had also been indoctrinated to believe that 6 months was the limit. At the time my LLL leader, Kim, was already breastfeeding her daughter who was well into toddlerhood, yet I did not think that I ever would. Kim would often say in meetings that nobody plans on breastfeeding a toddler, it just kind of happens. Ain’t that the truth! The saying “They grow up so fast” doesn’t come out of nowhere. One moment you’re still struggling through the early weeks of breastfeeding, worrying about your supply and before you know it you’re planning the first birthday party.
I often hear people saying that breastfeeding is more for the mother than the child when they get older. This is honestly one of the most ignorant things I have ever heard. Breastfeeding mothers of toddlers know that it is at most times difficult and quite often inconvenient. Currently I’m struggling with Gabby and her lazy latch. She is often squirming and moving around, or latches badly and this results in very sore nipples that often take a full week to heal if not further agitated. I have started correcting her position and telling her to latch with a “big mouth” and it seems to be going a bit better at the moment. I continue to breastfeed for my own selfish reasons though, right? Right. She also still often demands to nurse and with Rudi working very long hours it is not easy to lay down with her and feed her when I have a zillion other things that need to be done. It is especially challenging in the evenings when I get home from work. Most night Gabby would like to have a reunion feed after being separated all day, when I would really like to start gaining momentum with making supper, cleaning the house and getting the children bathed and ready for bed. Sometimes it breaks my heart. I know she just wants the closeness and comfort, but I have so much to do I really don’t have the time. Wouldn’t it be blissful to just lay down and nurse her? Yes it would, but supper is not going to make itself.
Something adorable that I’ve noticed lately is that if Gabby and I get upset with each other for whatever reason, she will DEMAND to nurse. She will whine and work herself up to the point that it is the only thing that would calm her anyway. Sometimes even if only I am upset she would start to demand to nurse. It took me a while to catch on, but I realized that she was doing this because she was under the impression that nursing would make me feel better. So she would see mommy is upset and want to comfort me, the only logical way to do so for her was to nurse because to her that is the ultimate source of comfort. Once I had understood this I realized that she is far more clever than I give her credit for. Even though I might be angry/irritable when she does this, nursing her does calm me. If you didn’t already know when you breastfeed a hormone called oxytocin is released, which makes you happy and feel in love. It is the hormone responsible for bonding and is not necessarily exclusive to breastfeeding. Men have oxytocin too 😉 Being so close to her often also gives me the opportunity to pick up things I might otherwise have missed. Just the other day she was playing, bouncing around and happy. She asked to nurse and I obliged. While we were cuddled together I noticed she was warm. She had a mild fever. I never would have noticed if we hadn’t been skin to skin since her behaviour showed no indication that anything was wrong, but I knew to monitor her in case.
As it stands I still don’t know how long we are going to continue breastfeeding. Although at times when I have the very sore nipples I have many thoughts of weaning just because of the pain, once that is gone so are the thoughts. I thought my personal cut off might be 3, but I’m not 100% sure that it will be. Gabby’s 3rd birthday is creeping up very quickly and I don’t think she is nearly ready to wean. I can’t imagine actually trying to refuse her. She still asks often, so the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” weaning process would not work now at all. I guess we’ll just have to keep going.
I must admit that I am a lot more discreet about breastfeeding now that she is so much older. It is so frowned upon by our society nowadays that it can be embarrassing. If someone asks I am honest about the fact that we are still breastfeeding, but I do not breastfeed in public unless it is absolutely necessary. For instance if we are out and about and Gabby gets hurt, sometimes the only way to comfort her is to nurse. If we are close to home (at the park across the road for instance) I will take her home to do so or I will seek a private area if we are out in public. I am all for the #normalizebreastfeeding movement, I believe in doing so myself. Right now though our society cannot even deal with infants breastfeeding in public, I think someone might just burst a vein if they saw a small child do so!
I don’t even have breastfeeding goals anymore, I’ve surpassed them all and have surprised myself. Now I guess our goal is for the strength to hold on through the sore nipples and allow her to gently wean herself if I am not ready before then.