Tigerlilly Quinn: thoughts on breastfeeding a toddler

Thursday, 7 March 2013

thoughts on breastfeeding a toddler

When I started this whole breastfeeding journey I didn't think of an 'end date' or when I was going to 'give up'. I didn't imagine breastfeeding a toddler simply because I couldn't really think past breastfeeding a baby. I wrote before about how difficult I found my breastfeeding experience to start with (which you can read here). I found it a little odd reading over that post now, exactly a year later, how things have changed. Breastfeeding now is second nature, I remember my mum telling me that at some point it will be so easy I will simply have to ''lift my shirt as I read the morning paper'' and I remember clearly thinking she was making it up. I couldn't imagine a time not fundling round trying to prop myself up into the right position with a grizzling baby, a pashmina to hide in, Lansinoh to hand and toes curled for impending pain.
I discovered today that breastfeeding over a year is considered 'extended breastfeeding'. I even (when googling the 'breastfeeding over a year') saw it written in article as 'extreme breastfeeding' which sounds like some exciting kind of extreme sport don't you think? I do find it funny in the western world that there are labels like this when the World Health Organisation officially recommends breastfeeding until two years and beyond. Health benefits aside (and there are many for both mother and child) the reason I choose to continue breastfeeding isn't really about any of those, it's simply because we both enjoy it and its easy.
Breastfeeding is something that was once so horrendously hard it is now as natural to me as breathing.
I have a tendency to rush around, fret about never ending jobs and to do lists. Breastfeeding forces us both to slow down. Often when we lie down together for that afternoon nap and Wilf gazes up at me pink cheeked and milk drunk it gives me perspective about whatever was stressing me out five minutes before hand, nothing is as important. 

I could go on about the emotional benefits of breastfeeding, try to write something poetic about it but really when I properly think about it the reason we are still breastfeeding is its the simplest option. Tom and I are both fairly lazy people, there will always be a room in our house that is a mess and we are pretty bad at ticking off things on our chore list. When I think about sterilising bottles or remembering to bring milk or formula with me I feel thankful all over again that we managed to get through those difficult first months,  I just don't think we ever would have been organised enough to remember all that stuff. It's always a reassurance to me when Wilf is ill and off his food that he will be getting all the nutrients he needs and when travelling or stuck somewhere for longer than expected that he will always have breastfeeding to keep him going until we reach our destination. 
The other part of breastfeeding that makes being a parent of a toddler easier is the 'boob fixes all' method. If Wilf falls down, is over tired or feeling unsure of a situation then there is always a quick and easy way to reassure him, I've joked with Tom before that god knows what I'll do when he stops and I have to y'know actually parent ;)

When Wilf was around nine months old I went to Marks and Spencers to get some new nursing bra's. I had (shamefully) been using Mothercare nursing sleep bra's since Wilf was born and had never got my act together to get myself fitted. I advised the assistant that I wanted to get a fitting as I my boobs were a lot larger due to breastfeeding and I had no idea what size I would be. She advised me there was no point getting fitted now as I should just come back when I had finished breastfeeding. After some confusion I managed to explain that no I wanted to get fitted for a breastfeeding bra and not a regular one she said 'oh! so how long are you planning on carrying on with that then??' to which mumbled something about 'not sure really'. She proceeded to tell me about how she was ok with breastfeeding babies but she had watched a programme the other night with 'weirdos' feeding their five year olds...
I don't think the lady in Marks and Spencers was trying to be rude, I simply think she hadn't come across anyone breastfeeding a baby of nine months before. I wonder what she would think of me breastfeeding a fourteen month old, when would I fall into the 'weirdo' category?
I'm not saying I'm planning on breastfeeding until Wilf is five but I'm not saying when I'll carry on until. I am happy for Wilf to self ween whenever that may be. I'm just so very thankful and proud of our journey so far. 

In writing about breastfeeding I am always conscious of not wishing to offend those people to whom breastfeeding was not an option for them. I know personally how hard it can be for some people and without the right support a heartbreaking situation. Whilst I am passionate about breastfeeding I hate the thought of ostracising anyone or making anyone feel they made the wrong decision. Attending the breastfeeding flash mob earlier in the year I only witnessed support for mothers in all situations whether they breast-fed or not and I hope that comes across in my writing. 

29 comments:

Mylittleacorns said...

Fritha, it totally does. Both you and Abigail have encouraged me to go to AT LEAST a year with feeding Llew myself. I felt forced to stop feeding Bug at 6 months, I can't even remember why. But even today someone said 'you're still feeding him?' I wouldn't even dare ask someone that, or even comment on whether they're 'still' having a bottle. None of my business and why would it concern me anyway?
The way our babies have milk, whether breast or bottle, just swallows us up. Wish we could just stick together a bit more.

Kelly Rae said...

Love this post!

I know exactly how you feel I'm at my 8 month mark of breastfeeding and I do not have a plan to wean. My friend asked me the other day when I was planning to wean and I told her I didn't really have a set time. She said as long as I'm not like those weirdos that breastfeed their children till they are 5. I couldn't help with replying with a laugh and a "if our daughter nurses till she's 5 I'm not sure I'd have a problem with it."

haha and I'm totally into the parenting method of nursing to fix things. I'm scared of the day in which I will actually have to parent too.

Rainbow Vintage Home said...

Some people love to judge others - I find it puzzling and annoying, and pretty boring to constantly feel that we have to justify our parenting choices to others! I fed both my boys till they were over 2, I often felt that I had to justify or apologise for it but they loved it and it was a lovely way to slow down and spend time connecting with them.

In the end I surprised myself by deciding I wanted to stop before they had decided to self wean, and then having to negotiate with them about how to settle them at night without a feed - but it was fine. They got a bit upset for a couple of nights but as with most things, they surprised me with their resilience and adaptability. And don't worry about having to parent in other ways - cuddles are magic too!

Mama Smith said...

It is funny that people find it so odd after a year. Maybe you have to experience it to know how natural it feels to continue something that works rather than abruptly cut it off. Good gor you for doing what works for your family.

Wyatt weaned himself gradually from 16 to 18 months when he finally just all out refused. I probably would have gone on forever, but he had other ideas :) I know other mother's whose kid's would never have self weaned, it varies so much by child. At first it was very emotional when he did wean, but about a month later I suddenly felt great and liberated. It's a complicated and beautiful bond.

Gaby said...

I have to say that I'm looking forward to breastfeeding but I'm also a little bit afraid. I just hope I can get through the hard days until it's second nature. Beautiful post x

The Stork & The Beanstalk said...

My supply had dwindled down to nothing by the time Hooper was a year. I was ready to quit anyway. Not sure how long I'll go this time around, but my goal is at least a year and then however long it is still enjoyable for the both of us. Good for you for sticking with it... beginnings are always messy!

Rachel said...

I am new to breastfeeding a toddler too, with my daugher I weaned her before she was a year old because I was pregnant again. I'm still getting used to baby wandering up to me and pulling my top up, haha. I'm also not sure when I'll stop as he's still feeding a lot at the moment and I wouldn't feel right taking it away when he's obviously not ready. Plus I remember how hard it was to find other ways to get his sister to sleep when she was weaned. Also big benefit to me is that thanks to breastfeeding I'm the skinniest I've been in years :p

thegreenwoodpecker said...

Since Josh was 6 months old I've constantly been asked by friends and family when I'm going to stop breastfeeding...why do people care so much. Now he's nearly a year old and I'm still feeding him I think I'm seen as the 'weirdo'...oh well!

Ruby Hoppen said...

Yes this is totally the way I felt about breastfeeding Casper. We went until he was around 20-21 months just because that's the way it went. I weaned him myself because I felt it was the right time, not because I felt pressured to. People can be so candid about their thoughts on your body and your choices, don;t listen to anything you don't want to! Also that photo of the two of you lying down is just scrumptious!

fritha strickland said...

Lucia - wow I feel really honoured that you would say that! I know people who have felt exactly the same and stopped bf at 6 months because they felt pressured too. I think it greatly depends on what your group of friends are doing. I'm fortunate that most of the mothers I know with babies Wilf's age are also still breastfeeding so ive not felt that self conscious! xx

fritha strickland said...

kelly - ha! good for you! I wish I was brave enough to say these things but I often just mumble 'not sure really' when anyone asks me or implies extended breastfeeding is weird.
Seems like we are on the same page ;) xx

fritha strickland said...

Rachel - good for you! I totally get what you mean about the slowing down and connecting.
I may find there comes a point when I feel like I've had enough and I think thats totally valid. I dont think it will anytime soon though! And yes cuddles are great (although Wilf rarely seems to slow down for one!) xx

fritha strickland said...

Lilly - I think you might be right, if I'm honest I think pre- baby I may have felt over a year was a bit odd. I know I used to feel embarrassed when my mum would talk about feeding me or my siblings for a year or two! I can imagine the feeling liberated in getting your body back does feel great actually! And yes it just depends so much on the child doesn't it! x

fritha strickland said...

Gaby - I hope I haven't made you feel nervous in anyway! Lots of people don't have any issues! If you do please don't hesitate to email me, I'm always here for support if you want it :) xx

fritha strickland said...

@thegreenwoodpecker (sorry I couldn't find you name on your blog!) - bonkers isn't it! Ignore, Ignore :) x

fritha strickland said...

Ruby - Thank you, I love it. I'm thankful for modern technology and having my phone near by for these moments I wouldn't have captured otherwise. I totally get that, if it ever gets to a point where either of us is not enjoying it anymore then I will do the same xx

Jenni Clutten said...

Totally feel like I could have written this post. So lovely to read, and the photos are so precious. I can't imagine not breastfeeding, but also know it won't last forever. So thankful that all the pain was worth it. Thanks for articulating it all so well!

Side Street Style said...

Wow all of this is so true and I know just how you feel about so many things - I never had an end date, I just thought it would end on it's own but it didn't. My little man is now 11 days off being two and half and I am planning to do our last ever feed this weekend, which is hugely emotional for me because I am saying goodbye to that special time we have and will never have again, it's great to see him grow up but it's hard to let go at the same time. I never thought I would feed past a year and to be honest I was more worried about feeding in public when he was a baby than now, now I have relaxed and i'm more confident and I don't really care so much what others think, but I feel to physically drained and recently had a blood test that showed my calcium levels are a bit low so for me it really is time to stop.

It totally has been a fix all solution to so many things, it's ingrained in our bedtime routine and I can honestly say for the first time we are really going to struggle to get him to settle as peacefully as he normally does. It's be our saviour when he has been sick, our special bonding time, a way to let him know he is safe.

I have tried to wean him before, at around a year and a few months ago but it wasn't the right time for either of us, this time he is accepting it and it has happened in a more natural way, which I am so pleased about.

Do whatever you feel is right. Both my partner and I were not breastfed and I know my family has thought it's a bit weird, but if your all happy and it's not harming anyone and fits into your life and your offering the best nutrients you can, I don't see why you should be made feel you need to stop before your ready. In non-western countries such as India they often feed their children to 2-3yrs so I just think of that to keep things in perspective :)

Laura x

Kat - Housewife Confidential said...

I've fed each of my three children until they chose to stop (well, still waiting on that choice from #3). All the effort is early on and beyond a year it's so easy going that like you, I see it as the easy option. I hope you continue to enjoy it x

heidi said...

I remember when I had my first (I now have 3 lovelies) & heard one lady in my neighborhood whose kids were older say that she had nursed most of her children up to 2 years. I was so relieved. I felt like this was what I wanted to do but had never known anyone personally that had done it. I breastfed my first 2 girls til age 2/12 and my 3rd til 19 months due to a mastitis infection. With each of them I just felt in my heart when the time was right to stop & followed that feeling.
In regards to respect to all mothers no matter how their kids ate: I wish as mothers, as women, as human beings, we could just respect each others right to know what will work in our own situations -- I think you came across very respectful in your post.

fritha strickland said...

Jenni - Thanks for your lovely comment, I really appreciate you saying that xx

fritha strickland said...

Kat - Thank you! And well done you that's quite an achievement! x

fritha strickland said...

Laura - I totally think its a mutual decision, it's clearly the right time for you and wow what an achievement! I hope Wilf and I carry on that long. Totally agree with everything you said in your comment. It's so odd how the west perceive breastfeeding isn't it! x

fritha strickland said...

Heidi - Thank you I'm glad I came across well. Thats an amazing achievement, so sorry about the Mastitis I know how awful that is! I agree too that knowing at least on other person who is breastfeeding past a year can make such a difference! xx

Mummy Daddy and Me makes Three said...

What a great post. I had no time expectations of when I would stop feeding my little girl. It turned out she pretty much self weaned herself at 11 months which worked out perfectly as I went away on a 3 day trip to Brussels as part of my freelance work. I went through a lot of struggles to feed my first little girl, including getting hospitalised due to mastitis,getting the infection another 3 times, and in the end her only feeding off one side, so I am so proud of our feeding journey.
This time around I was desperate to feed because I had done so with Mads. The first two weeks were hard, with the usual pain and latching issues, but four weeks in we seem to be doing ok!

Paige's Mom said...

my daughter will be 17m in a few days. she still nurses for naps & bed time. i never thought I'd make it a year (only bf 9w with my first), let alone this long. i love the time i get with her!
this post is very reassuring to me. thank you for the beautiful words!

fritha strickland said...

Katie - that is a fantastic achievement! Sounds like you had a pretty rough time with it with Mads, well done for persevering. I've had lots of friends who's girls have self weaned around the same time, I wonder if boys tend to go longer? I have no idea mind you, just thinking aloud! I guess with your second you have the benefit of hindsight and know even if those first few months are rocky it CAN get better! Well done Mama! xx

fritha strickland said...

@paige's mom (sorry I couldn't click through to your blog to find your name!) thats fantastic! It's so lovely having those cuddles isn't it :) x

Astar said...

Fritha thank you for writing this post and for adding the last paragraph about not wishing to offend. As a mum who's breastfeeding journey ended far far more early than I wanted for many reasons that would be too long (and still a little too heart breaking for me to write) I am not offended to read this.

One of the most important things I learnt is that we need to talk about breastfeeding soooo much more. The good stuff, the bad stuff and everything in between. It's not easy but it can be amazing and every family needs to be making informed decisions on how to feed their children, these blogs are helping to do that. So please keep sharing. Thank you.

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