Last week, I talked about nursing in public and how distracted Owen gets while nursing, which leads me to this post. As with most of my posts about breast feeding, I’m not going to get into the benefits involved in nursing a child past infancy. This post is for moms who have made the decision to nurse their child past 1 and for moms who are curious about the details of nursing past 1. If you feel negatively towards nursing a child after the age of 1, then this post is not for you. …or maybe it is. When I began breast feeding Owen, I constantly heard the timeline of “6 months”. I initially thought that my goal should be in line with what seemed to be the norm, 6 months. At 6 months, I couldn’t imagine how completely changing our routine and feeding method would be appropriate for anyone, so I continued as we had already done. 6 months turned into 10 months, which blossomed into 12 months, and has now morphed into 16 months! (Side note: did I mention the time warp phenomenon that is parenting?! Don’t blink!) At 16 months, Owen is obviously eating food. A ton of food, by the way. Like, so much food that I sometimes wonder if I will wake up to a grown man in his crib! (How creepy would THAT be?!)
The thing is, nursing a toddler is different than nursing a newborn. As they consume more food, they naturally start nursing less often and will sometimes nurse for shorter periods of time. Nursing becomes less about nutrition and more about comfort/bonding. (Please note that I said “…LESS about nutrition”, but breast milk is still a highly nutritious substance for humans of all ages. The focus just shifts a bit from survival to bonding.) Nursing a toddler may not happen every 2 hours anymore, it may happen every booboo instead. For us, Owen started to nurse less and less throughout the day until it got down to nursing before naps, nursing before bedtime, nursing at night, and nursing when he’s upset or hurt (which usually JUST SO HAPPENS to coincide with being tired, kids have great timing). There may be times that nursing a toddler happens more often, like when your toddler is teething or when you’re traveling away from home. Nursing a toddler isn’t just different, schedule-wise, it’s also different physically. Obviously, toddlers are larger in size than newborns. For us, the normal cradle hold is still the most comfortable. I’m able to hold him that way while standing, too. Toddlers are also more mobile than newborns AND stronger than newborns (I know I’ve already called my kid a hulk and I stand by that statement)! You would think that they would set aside their strong acrobatics while nursing, but you would be thinking wrong. Ringling Bros. should really look into hiring a nursing toddler for their show; they’d have people everywhere just mesmerized by how many ways a nipple can be twisted and stretched without injury. My son is actually really mellow during nursing sessions, thanks to our nursing necklace (click the link or the picture to the right to visit Little Lemon Treasures on Etsy and get a nursing necklace to help your circus freak stay focused while nursing…or follow my blog for the chance to WIN one in a few weeks!) and the fact that he mostly nurses when he’s ready to go to sleep. When Owen is super active while trying to nurse, I usually take it as a hint that he isn’t in need of nursing at that moment. If he seems upset when I set him down to play, then we will try to nurse again. He usually gets the hint when I set him down and is more mellow the second time around.
After you’ve figured out how to hold your acrobatic baby hulk, they may thank you with a nice little bite. While it may seem like a side effect of the hulk emerging from inside of them, you can help teach them that biting (among other things) is not acceptable while nursing. (Isn’t nursing a toddler SO much fun?!) It took one single bite for me to stop nursing Owen proactively. Instead of trying to feed him before he was hungry like I would when he was a newborn, I learned to wait for his cues. Personally, I have only had a couple run ins with teeth and I know I’m very lucky for that.
Our biggest struggle with nursing a toddler has been how distracted he is, which I talked about in my last post. Like I said, nursing necklaces have really helped with that. You can see, in the picture above, that he sometimes plays with my normal necklaces, but I get really nervous that he’ll break them! The other thing that has come up, for me, is breastfeeding aversion. I’ve realized that nursing a toddler is far above the expectation I initially set for breastfeeding and I am quite anxious to stop nursing at this point, so the sensation of nursing can sometimes become so overwhelming that I feel like I’m locked in a box of rats or something equally terrible. I’ve enjoyed nursing Owen, even as he gets bigger. Something inside of me just started to react differently to the physical requirements of nursing a toddler. From minimal sleep to the endless pit of MESS that is supposed to be our home, us new parents are being maxed out in the patience department. Being physically needed is just another demand on a parent, which can lead to stress and negative feelings towards nursing. I haven’t heard many moms discuss any negative feelings during nursing, so let me go ahead and say that it is frustrating. After being “touched out”, frustrated, and feeling crazy, you’ll feel sincerely guilty for feeling that way while nursing. Don’t. Do not feel guilty. It is a chemical reaction in your brain that you have done nothing to initiate. Find ways to positively refocus those feelings during nursing. I usually only feel that way when I’m overly tired and Owen is using me as a pacifier. We’ve started to go to bed earlier (for MANY reasons, not just this one) and my husband knows to offer to take Owen when he’s done nursing, so I can avoid being a human pacifier (although that is completely normal and I am usually comfortable with it). As with any frustrating time, find ways to help calm yourself and try to get as much assistance as you can. I LOVE this list of ways you can try to relax when feeling stressed out about nursing a toddler (or just a clingy day, in general).
Nursing a toddler is different than nursing a newborn. In ways, it is easier. In other ways, it is harder. I heard a great piece of new mommy advice that also applies to nursing a toddler:
I’ve posted about all of the different aspects of breast feeding that I could think of, from the knowledge you need in the very beginning to breast feeding in the NICU and nursing in public. There is one topic that I really wanted to share, but didn’t have the knowledge to share: breast feeding twins! I’m SO excited to announce that I will have a guest blogger next week! Natalie Young, from Those Young Twins and Three Little Crowns, will be sharing her experience breast feeding her 9 month old twin boys!