One Mom’s Honest Account On The Joys & Struggles Of Toddler Breastfeeding

The celebration of World Breastfeeding Week this month reminded me of my early days of breastfeeding. Although I had read up about the various benefits of breastfeeding during my pregnancy, seeing them all in action was a delight. Breastfeeding has so many benefits for both mother and baby and I am living most of these every day. My baby now is almost a toddler (20 months) and yes, we are still breastfeeding.

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Toddler breastfeeding has its own dynamics and every day can still spring surprises. Feeling like you are “feeding a new-born” is common even after the child has turned, say 15 or 18 months.  Toddler Breastfeeding is still about providing valuable nutrition to the child, as much as it is about providing comfort, soothing and helps tide through the necessary ills of development spurts, teething, viral, etc. But breastfeeding is a boon at these times. Nothing can pacify a confused, cranky toddler like the mother’s breast can. Selfish or lazy, you say? Well, no. I call it my superpower.

You may also like: Breastfeeding resources for Indian moms

What I love about toddler breastfeeding is:

1) Breastfeeding sessions are quick: 

Toddlers have by this time, mastered the art of drinking. Their regular nursing sessions are quick.

2) The frequency of feeding greatly reduces:

Toddlers don’t feed as regularly as they did when they were babies. Of course, there are times when they seem to be just feeding all day long. However, these are mere phases and usually occur because they are going through something bigger – new teeth, new environment or a big developmental leap like talking perhaps. Apart from these, the regular nursing frequency reduces to fewer times in the day and at nights.

3) Breast milk is valuable nutrition:

Breast milk is many things. But what it is not is just plain water as many people will have you believe. There have been days when my son is sick or battling teething and cannot bring himself to eat any solid foods. Breast milk it is to the rescue then.

4) Breastfeeding is extremely soothing:

Is there anything that breastfeeding cannot solve? Did you know breast milk can come in handy when your child falls down or suffers an injury? You can try applying breast milk on the cuts and minor bruises. Did the baby wake up all cranky? Here, mommy’s milk will make you feel better. Yes, as I said breastfeeding is my superpower.

But let me not seem like some sublime Goddess who doesn’t have her fair share of challenges with breastfeeding. I am human after all and I cannot remember the last time I slept through one night.

The not so good news:

1) Sleepless nights:

Although I have gotten used to the frequent night nursing by now, I still yearn to sleep uninterrupted for just one night. But hey, does that happen ever, after you are a mother? Even if not breastfeeding and your child is now a teenager, do mothers ever stop thinking about their children? Sleep deprivation is here to stay.

2)  Teething pains:

These can be equally hard on our breasts as toddlers like to chew and gnaw to ease their teething. Being bitten, with teeth and on a sensitive area like the nipple is not a joke.

3) Twiddling:

I don’t know why toddlers do this, but they get into a habit of using their fingers to twiddle the free nipple while breastfeeding. And that can be so annoying. It was something new that my child started doing once he had crossed the 1-year mark. I read somewhere that this sends signals to the mother’s body to up the milk supply and begin let-down, but oh, it is so annoying.

4) Acrobatic feeding: 

Downward dog! Upside down! Dangling from the side of the bed! And some more yoga like positions that are yet to be named are all strange positions that toddlers love to breastfeed in. I find it amusing and make sure I take a picture (Brelfie!) Why not? Treasure these moments. They won’t last forever.

You may also like: Indian Lactation Educator On Extended Breastfeeding

I am happy and rather proud that I have been able to breastfeed this long. I do get asked by a lot of well-meaning people about when I plan to wean him off. I joke and tell them that the 10th standard board exams are so stressful for children these days and so I will breastfeed at least till then. It shuts some people up and others think I am a freak. But hey, my baby - my rules. And honestly, has anyone ever heard of an adult who is still breastfeeding? Breastfeeding is a need for the body in its early years and the body knows when it is done drawing nutrition from it.

I plan to let my child self-wean. Just like I trusted him to choose his own capacity for drinking milk I am going to let him decide when he is done. He is already on 1 feed in the day time and 2 – 3 times at night. Whenever I am away from him for work, he is ok to not have any breast milk at all. Self-weaning may happen soon or another year. But I am content to know that my body was able to sustain life both within the womb and outside of it too.

Are you still breastfeeding your toddlers? What age did you choose to wean or did they self-wean? Or are you a new mother and still looking to see where this relationship takes you? Let us know in the comments below.

Image source: mama natural

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