Breastfeeding a baby is so different to breastfeeding a wild, active toddler. There is so much written about breastfeeding babies, yet there is very limited information for mums as to the realities of breastfeeding to natural term (beyond babyhood). The breastfeeding relationship between a mum and older child is a really special bond. Yet, as with everything there are ups and downs! It can be a bit of a rollercoaster!
As newborns, they latch on and quietly breastfeed until they are tired and then fall asleep. Fast forward twelve months and the “gymnurstics” start! The grabbing, squirming, nipple twidling, thrashing around, on and off the boob, butt lifted up in the air, hair pulling and many other interesting activites during a breastfeed. Sometimes Mini The Milk has me in hysterics as I watch him roll around all while staying attached! Yes, at times it is quite entertaining. The first time I saw a breastfeeding toddler I felt as though I was watching a TV show from National Geographic about baby monkeys…
Are you currently breastfeeding a newborn or baby under the age of one? Here is what to expect as your baby gets to be a bit older. The following is a list of normal breastfed toddler behaviour and what you can look forward to (because it is really a wonderful thing to be able to breastfeed to natural term)…
1. Beware of walking around topless. The moment your toddler sees your breasts their eyes will light up like they are seeing a puppy for the first time and there will be no chance of escape! They will require an immediate breastfeed!
2.Your toddler will have times where they breastfeed like a newborn! Some days your toddler will breastfeed every two hours (or more!) and although exhausting for the mum, it is totally normal. If they are coming down with a cold, extra tired, overwhelmed or just needing extra cuddles. It is really awesome to be able to give them all the amazing breastmilk goodies beyond babyhood. They will continue to need all of the important components of your milk, which is constantly changing to meet their needs at the time and what they, or you have been exposed to.
3. Night-time breastfeeding can be FULL ON some nights and as they get bigger it can get harder on the adults in the bed! There are different options you can try to make this easier and/or encourage them to breastfeed less or night wean: get a bigger bed (we upgraded to a king size), put a couple of mattresses together and make one BIG bed on the floor, tell them “no boobie until the sun comes up”, or have your partner see if they can put them to bed at night to give you a bit of a break at bed time. These transitions take time but it does happen eventually!
4. They can communicate which is great! Although this means they might be yelling “boobie!!!!” in the middle of the shops, it also means they can fully understand you when you say, “no boobie until we get home” which makes it nice when we need a break! Breastfeeding is a relationship and as they get older you can negotiate a bit with them. Cookies and crackers help in these negotiating situations… 😆
5. Sometimes you will not enjoy it! Sometimes you will feel “touched out” and exhausted. Seomtimes you will think that they are more like a little parasite rather than a child! Sometimes you will feel an aversion to it. This is normal. Thankfully most of the time you will love it!
6. Breasted toddlers continue to get the great things from your breastmilk including: beneficial probiotics and bacteria, immunity building components which continue to strengthen and build their immune systems, vitamins and minerals and MANY other important components to support them physically and emotionally. The normal age of weaning in humans is estimated to be between 2-7 years old (please have a look at this link for more information on this). Breastmilk literally changes in composition depending on the age of your child and if you have been exposed to any illnesses. It is not just for babies!
7. The breastfeeding toddler will LOVE to breastfeed whenever you are sitting down. Whether that is in the chair, on the floor, in the bed or lying on the slide as in the picture to the right of my toddler and I. THEY WILL FIND YOU! THEY WILL PULL YOUR SHIRT UP! THEY WILL YELL, “BOOBIE”! And they will demand to be fed…and because they still look so little and cute you will feed them and smile.
8. Many women in the world breastfeed their children past babyhood. It is just not seen as frequently because toddlers get busy when they are out and about and tend to breastfeed less often when in public. Therefor, we do not see it out in public and so we think that it is not happening. But believe me…there are many of us women behind closed doors with a little monkey breastfeeder attached! Myself being one of them…
9. Everyone else will start to comment, “when will stop feeding?”, “your baby is eating solids now right?” Your toddler will still look small to you though, they will still need you and you will still enjoy breastfeeding them…except when you don’t. Then it’s all about negotiating with them! Try: “You can breastfeed until I count to ten!” or “You can breastfeed when you go down for your nap.” Or “No boobie until bed-time” etc. It really does work at an age appropriate time! Once they near the 18 month mark many toddlers are able to understand these statements. They can also be offered a snack instead of a breastfeed if you need a bit of a break during the day.
10. Enjoy these toddler breastfeeding weeks, months or year. There is not much out there as special as the relationship between you and your breastfeeding toddler.
11. Keep on boobin’ for as long as you and your child are happy! There is no magical age when it has to stop. That is up to you and your child to decide.
And if you are currently feeling “touched out” from your frequent breastfeeding toddler, have a look at Davina and her triplets!
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