Breastfeeding an older baby (and visions of toddlerhood)

There has been a quietening of my breastfeeding-related thoughts of late. Oh, don't get me wrong, I have still had days where my knickers have been in one hell of a knot (like the fact that I seem to be one of the people – of course I bloody am – who experiences a very dramatic loss of milk just after ovulation. Sigh. That was stressful.), but on the whole, we are nine months in and going very very strong. Yay us!

Nine months beautiful
I can not ever foresee a time where it will stop, to be honest, and I know that we are nearing a point where so many successfully breastfeeding mothers start to pull back a bit, introducing a bottle and focusing on the concept of actively weaning their babies. I can totally understand that, I totally support that one hundred percent for any mother who wants this, but it just isn't where we are at at all. I still feel very much that we are new to this. We have been feedingsupplement-free for three months now, and I suppose in a way I feel as if we have really only been breastfeeding for this amount of time. I love that it is our go-to in times of pain, discomfort and tiredness. I love that I have a quick-fix for those times where, in other situations, things can get pretty tough. And really, there is no thrill greater for me than seeing a drop of milk roll down my boy's cheek when he distractedly turns his head mid-feed. I am still amazed at what we have achieved, amazed that I have milk to give him at all, and I am revelling in it.

I had never before thought about breastfeeding an older baby. Breastfeeding was something you did with teeny little ones who can focus only as far as the distance from your breast to your face. I even remember saying, once (and there's a high chance this came out of my father's mouth once upon a time; it sounds like him) that once that baby can chew a steak, it is time to stop. The eruption of teeth is a signal from nature, you see. And yet... here I am, eight teeth later. Instead of sleepy feeds in the morning as we wake up, he immediately gets into a crawling position, pulls up on the sides of the bed, starts gnawing away at the wood, then plops down on his bum, crawls over to me for about three sucks at my breast, and then continues. We even reached a point the other morning where his feet were at my head and he was feeding in a crawling position upside down. We are definitely at a new phase now.
The 'lying down' feeding position has become
the 'crawl with a truck in hand' position

It is so rare that you see a mother breastfeeding her toddler. I remember when I was pregnant with my first boy and I was all about being prepared, I attended a local La Leche League meeting. I tried very hard to appear nonchalant when a toddler walked up to her mother on the couch, pulled her shirt up and started breastfeeding, and yet I was absolutely weirded out. This was a child, not a baby. This child could walk and talk and play with her siblings and eat lunch... so what on earth was she breastfeeding for? Surely it wasn't necessary anymore? Surely it was somehow an invasion of the mother's sense of self? Goodness, I remember that so clearly. A part of me fears being that woman, not because I would be breastfeeding a walking-talking-playing-eating toddler, but because of the reactions of people like me. And really, if even I had those reactions, what about the mass populous? I wish whole-heartedly that I was a person who was immune to the reactions of those around me, but I am not.
Such a big boy already! When did that happen?!
The World Health Organisation recommends that chilren are breastfed until two years of age. I worked very hard in the beginning to have no plan and no goal for my breastfeeding, to take it hour by hour, one feed at a time. And that is how I still function. He is still yet to have a bottle besides that one panicked time... I still fear early weaning and still lack confidence in my milk production, and I look forward to his first birthday (for only this reason!) so that I can relax about it a bit and know for sure that my milk is not such a vital part of his nutrition.

But right now, these times are moments where he and I can connect as just us, where I have to shut us away in a room alone and I give him all of me. My first boy had all of me all the time. This is the only chance I get, really, with my little one. I have no idea how long we will breastfeed, but I sure am loving it right now.


2 comments

  1. Great post Joh. There's so much stigma attached to breastfeeding older babies in our culture, we've made the natural seem unnatural. I am totally weirded out myself to see the breastfeeding toddlers at my Breastfeeding Association meetings, and yet Xave is 13 months and shows no sign of stopping, and it feels totally right for us when i don't over think it. I never thought we'd be feeding past age 1. Intellectually I know that babies naturally wean some time between two and seven years yet the weirdness remains. For now I'm focussing on the WHO guidelines to help me get over my silly internalised stigma. I dunno what i will cling to if we feed past two years, but I'm going to take heart from your example and keep trying to do what feels natural instead of what my brain tells me.
    xx Kirsty Lee

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    1. Thanks for such a thoughtful comment, Kirsty! Yes, it certainly helps me too to have those WHO guidelines to fall back on, particularly in my internal monologue of a comeback for whoever would like to comment. The fact that all this is in German and in a culture where I am still uncertain of accepted and normal behaviour sure complicates things... Meanwhile, I am really happy to hear that you are still breastfeeding your boy! Yay for boobies!

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