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Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Challenges of Nursing a Toddler

Painting by Jonahmar Salvosa of Velvet Escario-Roxas, nursing her eldest daughter J.Hye
Now that Naima is a walking, talkative toddler, I've been hearing a lot of those "up to when will you nurse her" questions and comments. Several oldies had suggested that I wean Naima when she started walking. Others are surprised upon seeing Naima's full set of teeth (she has about 16 now) and ask me if Naima ever bites when she nurses (she doesn't).

When the Milk Code was first enacted, milk companies were required to put this statement on their products: "Breastfeeding is best for babies up to 2 years." However, despite this requirement, members of my generation were most formula-fed babies. Formula milk marketing was so widespread and pervasive. In fact, I can still remember the theme songs of these milk companies when promoting their products! The wording of the required warning was eventually changed to "Breastfeeding is best for babies for 2 years and beyond."

However, despite this 2-year age minimum, several friends, acquaintances, relatives are still amazed that I continue to breastfeed Naima at 21 months. In the early days, I myself did not think that I would be able to sustain breastfeeding beyond 1 year. At her 1st birthday, I wasn’t ready to stop and I didn’t think that she was yet so I extended my goal to 2 years old. Now that Naima’s 2nd birthday is fast approaching, I don’t think that she will be weaning anytime soon. So, I’ve decided to continue breastfeeding Naima when we are together and just wean from the pump by the end of this year.

Breastfeeding trials are not limited during the early days of breastfeeding. Nursing a toddler also presents its own unique challenges. My current pet peeve with Naima is twiddling. Every time she nurses, she loves to twiddle my other nipple, given the chance. Nursing during the day is not so problematic since she is awake and immediately removes her hand when I tell her. But nursing when she is half-awake is beginning to be difficult. I always remove her hand but she struggles and puts her hand back to my other boob. If I cover the other breast, she whines and moves about, disturbing an otherwise peaceful nursing setting.

Naima is also now enjoying solids – very much! She eats frequently and drinks less and less milk. She also has irregular nursing sessions e.g. no more schedules. She nurses whenever she pleases which could be every hour or in intervals of 5 hours! This is why I always take her with me wherever I go during weekends as I never know when the nursing mood strikes her. This leads to another challenge à trying to nurse in public. When Naima was younger, I use a nursing cover when we had to nurse in public. But now that Naima is a wriggly toddler, she refuses to nurse under a cover and wants to see my face when nursing. Happily, I’ve gotten over my issues about nursing in public, although now that she’s a toddler I’ve been more conscious of unwanted comments from other people.

Nursing a toddler certainly has challenges. But every time we cuddle, Naima nurses and touches my face, I can’t bear the thought of weaning her yet. I really look forward to our nursing sessions, especially since I work out of home and am away from her about 10 hours a day. These sessions are our quiet bonding sessions. At this time, I certainly don’t look forward to the day when Naima will simply stop asking for “MIK, MIK, MIK.”

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