Breastfeeding a toddler


I never thought I would be breastfeeding a toddler, my first breastfeeding goal that I set when I was pregnant, was to feed for 9months. I thought this was ambitious but attainable. When my baby was born those goal post shifted to “just get to the end of the month”. When I got to the end of the month, I went to the end of the next. That was the only way I got through those first few months. They are so difficult and no amount of preparing can fully prepare you for them. My best advice for that time is suck it up and get on with it. It is hard but you can do it, your body can do it. Trust yourself to provide.

When we got to six months I figured I may as well go to my original goal of 9 months and when I got to 9 months I figured a year isn’t too far off so may as well push on. By the time we go to a year we decided that stopping was way too much of a mission and that we would just carry on.

So now I find myself breastfeeding an almost two year old. This has been a learning experience!

Toddlers have teeth!

Firstly, toddlers have a full set of bright shiny chompers. When Lily's first tooth sprouted I was terrified, visions of bleeding open wounds flew through my mind and I dreaded every feed, waiting for the bite (it was inevitable after all) when it finally came, it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be. Sure it stung, and I may have sworn and once or twice and I may have cried a bit, but it only hurts for a second or two. What I found was that, if I was paying attention, she didn’t bite me. If I was reading or tweeting I often got caught unaware.

Babies can’t bite and suck at the same time, so if they are actively drinking you shouldn’t get a nasty surprise, just remain vigilant. If it does happen, try avoiding screaming and crying and resist the urge to throw something at the toddler. Try avoiding saying NO as this can result in a nursing strike. Instead, pull the babies face into your breast and they will release. This doesn’t always work, but is worth a try. DON’T try and pull away, it hurts. Explain to your toddler that this is very sore, and that if they do it really hurts mommy. Try refrain from swearing.

The dreaded sleeping clamp

Toddlers often nurse to sleep, and once they have drifted off to dream land, they clamp their little jaws down. You will then find yourself lying next to a fast asleep toddler and unable to move (I find this often happens when I am bursting for the loo). The books all say to simply wedge your pinkie finger in the corner of the sleeping baby’s mouth and release. This rarely works. If it does, the baby inevitably wakes up and you have to start again.

Toddlers talk, loudly.

My little girl says “doo doo” when she wants milk. This is ok, because it is pretty discreet and people usually think it is her asking for a nap, but toddlers have been known to yell for “boob” or something along those lines, in places such as the line at Woollies or church. These things happen. Smile and wave, and depending on your stance on nursing in public, get on with it!

I am currently breastfeeding my toddler while 18 weeks pregnant and this is a totally new experience. Sensitive boobs and a severe drop in milk supply are two major hurdles to get over, not to mention baby kicking from the inside while my little girl kicks from the outside! Gentle weaning and possible tandem feeding will follow; we are all learning on our feet how to cope!

Nursing a toddler has its challenges, this is true. However the pros outweigh the cons big time. The fact that you have an instant soother for the many bumps and scrapes that toddlers receive, relatively easy bedtimes, and a snack on hand are all big plusses in my book. Not to mention the bond you will have with your little one for years to come.

Did you breastfeed your toddler?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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