Confident Toddler Breastfeeding

 
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Before I had my daughter I had heard about the mum guilt, but boy oh boy I didn't realise how bad it can get.  When she was really little I suffered with terrible post natal anxiety but now I try to reassure myself that I am a 'good enough' mother, as we all are, and try to trust that all is unfolding as it should when it comes to bringing up my baby girl.

But that doesn't stop me from worrying at times whether I am doing something wrong by her or perhaps if I could be doing something better by her, making a better choice somehow.

I am sure all mother's can relate!!!!

Specifically, in recent weeks, I have wondered if it is normal that a two year old should be so persistent about breastfeeding.  I know it feels and seems natural to me but I can't help taking people's queries about 'when we are going to stop' and 'surely she should be weaned by now' to heart.

I discussed it with my husband, who is so supportive, and he said he would love it if she stopped and so would I to be honest.  It can be really difficult to be the only one to put her to bed without protest or be the one to comfort her through the night. To be the one to stop eating my dinner for a breast-feeding break if she decides she is full of solids and wants 'milk time' now.  To be the one that can't sit watching the television the right way because Sophia wants to watch too from the comfort of the breast which means me sitting sideways so she can see!

Mixed with immense feelings of gratitude and pride at us both for committing to and working for the beautiful bond and privilege of the sacred relationship of breastfeeding. It certainly takes patience and sitting for many hours whilst sometimes I would like to be 'getting on' with things.  It has taught me to be present and enjoy being in the moment and for that I am hugely grateful.

And I want Sophia to stop on her own terms, when she is ready, when we are both ready.  For I have a feeling it will kind of taper off and we will sort of know more or less when the last feed is, which despite me wanting also kind of breaks me a little bit too, for to date it's all I've known with her, there hasn't been a day gone by we haven't sat together and fed!  Even I am amazed at this truth.

I really want to believe that Sophia will naturally self wean without any emotional distress.  But at two it feels like will she never will.

So to reassure myself, which is all I can do when I am considering not changing anything whilst also being scared in case in any way I am doing her a disservice allowing her to remain firmly on my breast, I took to doing some research.

Firstly I came across the WHO - World Health Organisation website, through a quick google of 'how long should a child breastfeed for' search. They were the first to pop up stating it was indeed normal for children to breastfeed and recommended until 2 and beyond.  Phew

So ok she just turned two so everything is seemingly fine for now.  But what is this beyond about, I needed to know more. I needed to be prepared mentally for how long this could go on for and also have an offering to placate nosy well-wishers, if not for me but for my daughter.  So that I could feel protective of her in my argument in her defence of why she needed to continue this long term attachment to my boobs.

Many people know about the importance of feeding until 6 months when solids are introduced but not so many know of the longer term benefits and I include myself in here. I am educating myself too. Before I had my daughter I would have found it unreal to think of breastfeeding for this long.  I had to not think about it and take one day at a time.

But now we are here.... and I am thinking about it, these facts have helped me continue past the two year mark and to keep going.

Sourced from the Laleche book - 'The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding'.

After extensive research was done through carrying out biological markers on apes regarding immune system, molar eruption, adult size and gestation and comparing them to the same events that occurred in humans it was found that:

"The expected weaning range for humans was between two and a half and seven years.  This fits with what we see in many breastfeeding cultures and with families in which children wean on their own".

Add to this whether it is important to nurse past 18 months and I learnt that

  • Continued breastfeeding promotes natural jaw development and palate expansion - making space for teeth coming through.

  • The toddler brain is going through a tough time of rapid growth and human milk helps to stimulate and regulate brain growth.

  • There is more touch initiated because of breastfeeding which many children need for emotional development and regulation.

  • Increased immune factor especially designed for toddlers putting rocks in their mouth!

  • Apparently nursing makes bedtime easier although I am not sure about this one!

And so reading all of these lovely things that I am continuing to give to my daughter helps me know that regardless of what other's think or feel about my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter I can't find any reason to stop or wean her early.

One personal reason would be because it seems to be acting as a contraception for me in a time that I would like to conceive.  To date I have decided that my body knows when is the right time for me to have another baby and although the journey with it hasn't been this straight forward I am taking this time to truly enjoy just being with Sophia because I know too well from my friends with 2 or more that it is truly a precious time and one that I will miss when another does come along.

So for now 'booby' time is continuing in this household without worrying that I am doing something wrong by my baby.

Amen to that.