Let’s be straight from the start. A breastfeeding toddler was never part of my mummy plan.
In fact, with the way things started out (hellooo bleeding nips, cans the size of rockmelons and a supply that made Daisy the cow look lacking), making it to 12 weeks seemed near impossible.
After a rocky start with my first baby and a breastfeeding journey that ended sooner than I’d hoped, I was determined with my second to try and stick it out. Finally things clicked and I became a bonafide member of the boobin’ club.
We hit the six month mark, then before I knew it, we were at 12. Suddenly I had a breastfeeding toddler and the ‘sooo are you thinking of weaning her soon?’ questions started. But in a way, it felt like we’d only just begun (plus my daughter would have clawed my eyes out if I’d attempted a bottle, she was #allabouttheboob.)
I learnt a HELL of a lot, breastfeeding my daughter for two-and-a-half years. These are my top takeaways.
6 things I learnt with a breastfeeding toddler
1. It’s about SO much more than just ‘the milk’
Yes, breastfeeding is primarily about filling up your kids tummy (253 times a day in the first weeks), but as time went on, it became so much more. Boob o’ clock became our special time to hang out together, a pause in an otherwise super busy schedule. As my daughter got older and less reliant on me, it allowed us to re-connect after a busy day or when she was needing some mummy time, away from the clutches of her big brother. Also, super useful on a long haul flight when even a Freddo Frog just doesn’t cut it.
2. If you can’t pop a boob out of it, it doesn’t belong in your wardrobe
When you’ve been on the boobin’ frontline for more than two years, your wardrobe slowly morphs into a collection of ‘clothes that you can pop a boob out of’. Apart from that one time I didn’t think my outfit choice through and ended up half naked in a toilet stall, you learn very quickly to dress for breast-success.’Can I breastfeed in it?’ becomes your morning mantra (there’s even a Facebook group dedicated to this very question). Bonds (and Kmart) maternity singlets are life and you’ll soon learn how to manipulate your boob in ways you never dreamed possible.
3. Random people suddenly become very interested in your parenting choices
Most people have seen a newborn baby guzzling down a boob-a-cino. Older babies and toddlers? Not so much. While the World Health Organisation encourages continuing breastfeeding up to two years of age and beyond, only 28% of Aussie children are still breastfed at 12 months. That rate drops down to 9% at 18 months and a measly 5% by the age of two. That makes a breastfeeding toddler somewhat of an anomaly on our fair shores. While I never received any direct remarks or criticism (I have a pretty damn fine ‘don’t mess with me, resting bitch face’), I was asked ALL THE TIME, when I thought I’d be stopping. ‘Not your baby, not your business’ is my general school of thought on those questions.
4. The human body is AMAZING
Not only do we grow our babies for nine months, we also feed them FROM OUR BODIES. Breastfeeding for two years plus meant that I observed the way my milk adapted, from colostrum in the very early days to the milkshake-like consistency that filled up my newborn to supplemental milk for my toddler. One of the most amazing things I learnt was how my own contact with germs would translate to the creation of IgA antibodies in my milk to help protect my child against sickness. Being that my child enjoyed eating food off the playground floor and was caught (multiple times) chewing on one of my shoes while I tried to have a wee, this was a killer bonus indeed. At four, she has the most amazing immune system and while we can’t know for sure that it was all that milk, it definitely didn’t hurt!
5. Despite what people think, you CAN have a life (and your kid DOES eat other food)
There’s a common misconception that breastfeeding past babyhood means that; a) you’re some kind of hippie who has your child attached to your boob 24/7 and b) your kid exists only on your milk. No and no. As my daughter got older, life returned to normal (as normal as it can with kids) but with the added addition of milk breaks. I was still able to work, go to the gym, heck, even go to the movies and have a wine while still breastfeeding. Know why? Because my kid also ate actual, real life food (and gasp, drank cows milk, almond milk, water, smoothies). For most people, breastfeeding supplements family foods, especially after the age of one. No, I couldn’t go away for a full night but my daughter was able to survive happily without me for a good few hours.
6. It’s worth the long days and longer nights
Breastfeeding long term is not always an easy path. Breastfed babies often expect the milk bar to be open 24/7 which translates to less shut eye than you’d like. There’s also the fact that you’re the only one who can feed your child and therefore need to hang around. This means girls’ weekends away can be problematic, at least for awhile.
I chose to look at it this way; these days, despite how long they might seem at the time, are fleeting and once they’re done, they’re done for good. I knew, especially as we reached the two year mark, that our breastfeeding days were slowly starting to wind up. Our last feeds were approaching and it was the end of something I’d shared with my daughter every single day since she was born. In the big scheme of things, two and a half years was such a small window of time. My daughter is now almost four and those days seem like a dream, one that I’m so glad I got to experience.
I’m currently breastfeeding baby #3. She is seven months old. I’m asked ALL THE TIME whether I’ll feed her as long as I fed her sister. Will I have another breastfeeding toddler? Honestly, I’ve got no idea. If it happens, it happens but one thing is for sure; you cannot breastfeed a baby who doesn’t want to be breastfed #fact. I’ll let her do her thing and we’ll see where we end up.
Just started breastfeeding? Check out our rundown of the 5 unexpected surprises that may come your way!