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Monday, April 18, 2011

The Highs and Lows of Nursing a Toddler

I haven't joined the carnival of breastfeeding for sometime now but I couldn't let this month pass without joining for the topic was quite near to my heart and current situation - extended breastfeeding.   I had previously written about the challenges of weaning and to date, we still have not completely and successfully weaned.  
I purchased Maggie's Weaning in hopes of getting N to understand what weaning is.  I think she does understand what I'm asking for her and every time we get to part when Maggie has her weaning party, she gets teary-eyed and says that she doesn't like the book. So it's safe to say that at 39 months, N is still breastfeeding and doesn't look like she's going to wean anytime soon. 
Let me start with the challenges with nursing a toddler.  My biggest challenge actually results from my environment - dealing the comments from people around me, particularly from colleagues at work.   It's no big secret that I'm a breastfeeding/pumping mom since along with my colleague Claire, we spearheaded the establishment of a breastfeeding awareness festival and lactation rooms in our organization.   And most of my colleagues are amazed that N is still breastfeeding until today.  What I dislike most is the comment "She's still nursing until now?!" with raised eyebrows and an incredulous voice.  
I know I shouldn't feel defensive but I really feel irritated by the need to justify that I'm not harming my daughter by allowing extended nursing.  But sometimes the comments do get to me and I wonder if nursing has already become a habit for my daughter and whether we both will have difficulty breaking this habit later on.  
As a toddler, N is the little acrobat when nursing - standing, sitting, in the bathtub, while reading a book (her favorite nursing position).  Plus she never learned not to grope! She also has this weird habit of wiping my breasts before latching on.  
Nursing is also no longer a cure-all for her troubles.  There was one instance when she got upset because her nanny threw away a tissue paper she saved and she sobbed, howled, ran out of breath and no amount of nursing could sooth or distract her.  But it is still a cure for some things.  Just recently, she got some itchy issues with her privates and to prevent her from scratching, I just let her nurse - still works perfectly!
Why do I still allow her to nurse as a toddler?  I'm holding off actively weaning her because of our vacation which started last week.  We are thousands of miles away from home and she will be sleeping in new places and meeting new faces.  I want her to have a comfort zone and nursing is currently her favorite comfort zone.  Also, as a working mom, I really treasure our nursing moments - the bonding moments.  She is really quite busy and active and nursing is our quiet time.  Plus, when I'm tired from the day, nothing comforts her faster during the night than popping my breast in her mouth!
Nursing a toddler definitely has its plus and minuses.   N promises that she will stop when she goes to big school this June so I will most likely start actively weaning her when we get home from our vacation this May.  Wishful thinking?


Callista said...

How do you deal with the comments in public? Do you ignore them or do you say something back? Do you educate or do you just say mind your business? I'm curious.

Diana said...

Thank you for sharing and for your advocacy, Jenny. I wish you well in your weaning journey ... your little Naima may surprise you by making things easier than you expect. Hopefully, your story is opening the door for future mothers to embrace the normality of breastfeeding into and beyond toddlerhood. :)

Elisa | blissfulE said...

My oldest (4 years) is a very determined nursling! She is now very gradually weaning... only nursing once or twice a week at this point. I have had to set limits with her since I'm nursing two other children (3 years and 19 months old). The limits seem to only make her more determined, so recently I have kept silent and let her naturally nurse less and less.

Alvina Edwards said...

Enjoy every moment because it seems as though N just may be stopping soon when she goes to big school. :)

Littledot78 said...

i can relate with your post. Although i enjoy nursing, I sometimes feel pressured to wean because of public opinion. I even recall someone tellng me that its "kadiri" kasi malaki na ang kid. (it wasnt directed at me.. it was directed at someone else' kid. i think the person forgot i had a kid too) Especially now that my kid is old enough to grab my boob and pop it out in public! I do hope that in the future, nursing toddlers become the norm instead of the exception.

Cris said...

hi jenny! i was a buyer of your saya sling..found your blog :D i'm using it as a guide since i'm breastfeeding too and about to go back to work in a month's time. thank you for all the articles and links you have here. keep up the good work! :D

Catherine said...

Re. wiping of the boobs before latching = OC si N? :)

Yen said...

I thought I was the only one with a problem with groping. I felt like I let her develop a "bad habit". She used to grope and grab the boobs of whoever was carrying her. Thank God Marion's outgrown that. But when she nurses, she still HAS to hold on to my other nipple (pinching, pulling). If I try to "hide" and cover my other boob she'll wail and cry. So every so often I'd pull her hand away and tell her "Mama owwie." I also tried to get her to just hold on to a teddy bear or play with her own hair... not much success there. :-)

Julie said...

Thanx for an interesting post! My baby girl is just 8 months and a real expert :) But I think I will keep going as long as I can.. The benefits are just ... awesome... Like Gods little plan or something. Keep up the good nursing! :)

Julie (Spain)

Zoie @ TouchstoneZ said...

This is a great post for the breastfeeding carnival. I too am nursing a couple of older nurslings (along with my baby) I couldn't stand the groping (or twiddling as I call it) It absolutely drives me out of my mind. So, I can't let them do it, even when they would get really mad at me. I would calmly explain, again, and again, and again, and again... That's the only thing that drove me insane about it. It is hard establishing your boundaries and I like how you are searching for a way to meet your needs while still tending to what she needs. It sounds like you'll find your way to a happy weaning and/or continued nursing relationship.

All those comments are tough. I wish people wouldn't be so judgmental. I mean really, what do they care?

Belle said...

No need for you to worry.  You're not alone. I'm a nutritionist, am 52 and still breastfeeding my 4 year old girl!  Never mind what other people say.  My pediatrician is even challenging me to go all the way to 5 years old.  Apparently the trend in the US is to breastfeed this long bec. of the recognized benefits of breastfeeding.  I never thought I would go this far - I breastfed my eldest for 1 and 1/2 yrs, my 2nd for 2 years and now my 3rd, for 4 years and 7 months!  She's promised to stop at 5 years old, which is Dec. 1.  Our situation is actually very comfortable bec. she drinks milk from a glass during the day (she never went through bottles)  and only breastfeeds before her afternoon nap and at night before going to sleep.  The breastfeeding comforts her, calms both her and me down and puts her to sleep.  So we don't worry about what others say or think.

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