Breastfeeding a toddler

Odds are, if you aren’t a more “crunchy” minded mama, the title of this post probably sounds crazy, unheard of, maybe even gross in the way of If they’re old enough to ask for it, they’re too old to have it. What many people don’t know is that the American academy of pediatrics, as well as the world health organization recommend a minimum of two years of breastfeeding.

I think the picture above says it all. Breast milk continues to be very important source of nutrition into the toddler years. Although I never planned to wean my daughter at a year (I believe children should choose to wean for themselves when they feel ready) I do remember asking my pediatrician if I should additionally provide her with a little goats milk or almond milk after a year. She just stared at me for a minute and then said, What are these different milks? You have breast milk! Give her that until she’s two, that’s all she needs.

It’s very sad to me that many mothers are unaware of the benefits and normality of breastfeeding beyond one year. In my opinion we are still recovering from the years of Formula is better than Breast milk because it’s science and we can put more nutrients into it . Yeah right formula makers. Breast milk is a living organism, and it’s nutrients can’t be replicated.

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This is the thing, most mothers give their toddlers cows milk or some type of formula. They are acknowledging that toddlers still need some sort of milk after the one year mark. So why not give them human milk suited for their needs? Most toddlers drink the cows milk or formula out of a bottle. A bottle is an imitation of the breast, so why not just give them the breast? It’s what nature designed!

So what does breastfeeding a toddler look like? Before I had a child and I heard about extended breastfeeding I imagined that scene out of the Back up plan. The one where Jennifer Lopez attends the crunchy mom home birth
and there is a four year old boy very awkwardly nursing and and his mother refers to him as being “forty eight months”. That’s definitely a dramatization of what really happens.

Nursing sessions will decrease as a child eats more. Laila is currently eighteen months and she nurses twice a day. Once at nap time and once at bed time. Although she isn’t talking in complete sentences, she does ask for “chi chi” and it’s not weird at all! It’s cute to see her pull the blanket over herself and nestle up against me and ask for chi chi. She’s really still a baby, and for us nursing is a bonding time.

Bed time feedings are shortening. I suspect she’ll wean on her own when her sister arrives, which will be right before her second birthday, and that’s perfectly fine. Ill know that she’s gotten the nutrients she needed and that I haven’t prematurely weaned her. And then of course the cycle of breastfeeding will begin anew with Sabrina.

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Breastfeeding a Newborn

It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that in just a few short months I will be curled up in bed breastfeeding a sweet little new born girl. I’m so excited to see how things turn out this time because I have so much more knowledge and and over a year of experience under my belt.

There is so much info on breastfeeding out there. For women attempting to breastfeed for the first time, it can be really difficult to sort through the good advice, and the totally unrealistic, where do people come up with this stuff advice.

I remember reading some pamphlets on breastfeeding a few weeks before my daughter arrived that had me feeling really confident. The very first sentence said that when a woman is nursing correctly, it should be painless. “Alright! All those women complaining about the pain of breastfeeding in the first few weeks just didn’t know what they were doing!” Of course I would be a natural from the start. Not quite.

When you nurse your child for the first time it’s all rainbows and butterflies and oxytocin right? Well kinda. While it was probably one of the most beautiful and bonding moments of my life when I nursed Laila for the first time, it was also a little uncomfortable. My thoughts went like this, “oh she’s beautiful! She has my green eyes! Oh she’s hungry, she wants to nurse! *insert boob* wow! She took it perfect, look at our instincts! *begins nursing* THIS. BABY. HAS. TEETH!”

The nurse said that Laila had a perfect latch and I had her correctly positioned, so why was it uncomfortable that first time? While bleeding and cracked nipples aren’t the norm, nursing for the first few weeks is always going to be a little uncomfortable. Babies have an incredibly strong sucking reflex, it takes time for your milk to come in (usually a few days) and you have to be patient with yourself and baby. While the baby getting a correct latch is important, positioning the baby correctly and putting your breast in their mouth at the right time is equally important. Additionally, you’re going to have uterine contractions in the beginning to bring your uterus back to size. Not painful- just uncomfortable.

Most hospitals offer lactation consultants. Mine didn’t come to see me for three days. By that time I was a bloody, hysterical mess, determined to breastfeed but hating every second of it, and hating myself for hating it. Poor Eder, he really had a crazy woman on his hands those first few weeks. Lucky me, I have an incredibly supportive husband. When we realized the hospital staff just wasn’t going to be of any help, he looked up YouTube video after YouTube video and basically taught me how to breastfeed. So my advice is, if your caretakers can help, awesome! If not, let your partner step in because not only can they sometimes do a better job, it’s a great bonding experience between the mother and father. There’s nothing like help from your partner when you need it the most!

I’ve heard some mothers worry that when they breastfeed their babies, dad will feel left out. It definitely doesn’t have to be that way. Co sleeping, changing diapers, dressing the baby, holding the baby are all things that create a strong bond. In our family Laila is a huge daddy’s girl, but because of breastfeeding she and I have a very deep bond and it’s different from her relationship with anyone else. It’s something that can’t be described, it just has to be experienced, but it’s beautiful.

When I got home from the hospital with Laila I was in so much pain- I HATED breastfeeding. So I gave up. I have her one of those formula samples, crying my eyes out because I had wanted to breastfeed so badly. Supplementing is a very bad idea I think, but in my case it actually saved breastfeeding for Laila and I. Against the advice of my hospital nurses I started pumping. I pumped all of my milk and supplemented with one bottle of formula each night until my nipples were healed enough for me to transition into full time breastfeeding.

Pumping worked so great for me, I really would recommend it to any mother having issues with breastfeeding. It gives baby Breastmilk and allows moms boobs to rest and heal. But there are risks with pumping. First of all it’s work, seriously hard work. When I pumped I had nothing but the cheapo manual pump and a hungry baby. I’m assuming an electric or hospital grade pump gets way more milk, so if I have to pump this time around I’ll be getting an electric pump. With my manual pump I pumped about 45 minutes between every feeding session. Over three months I was able to get less and less milk out. A breast pump will never get out as much milk as your baby will. Lots of moms think they have a low supply because they aren’t pumping that much milk. A pump can never indicate your true supply. Not only that, but because Breastmilk is considered a living organism it reacts with the baby’s saliva and changes from feeding to feeding. While your baby will still get great nutrition from expressed milk, it’s not quite the same. ( http://nativemothering.com/2012/04/are-there-differences-between-breastfeeding-directly-and-bottle-feeding-expressed-milk/ )it’s also very difficult to get all of the nutrient rich hind milk while pumping.
Another downfall of exclusive pumping is it can easily force a feeding schedule, simply because it can be really difficult to pump enough milk when baby is feeding more frequently. Babies should not be on feeding schedules! Ever! They need to cluster feed.

Cluster feeding is really important for building up the milk supply. When a mother puts her child on a strict feeding schedule it can reduce the supply, as well as the milks fat content, causing the baby to want to feed even more frequently because they aren’t satisfied. ( https://www.llli.org/faq/frequency.html )

Ignoring scheduled feeding doesn’t just apply to daytime, it’s very important that babies feed at night as well. I hear parents getting excited that their tiny little babies are sleeping through the night. This is not a good thing! I repeat, not a good thing no matter how tired you are! Babies need to nurse throughout the nigh. Night waking is completely normal and not something that needs to be fixed. ( http://youtu.be/5Ae4K7l2W1I) Because Breastmilk changes in composition, at night it releases melatonin to help baby sleep. There are even studies that show babies who nurse at night have higher IQs because night time milk has so many more nutrients. Your baby needs that milk!

The best thing is that nursing at night is so easy! If you co sleep you will not lose much sleep at all! Studies consistently show that nursing co sleeping mothers get the most rest. Seriously, it goes like this, boob in mouth close your eyes and mom and baby are asleep again. That simple. Nature has everything perfectly designed, and life is a lot easier when we follow nature.

Breastfeeding isn’t just about about feeding though. Like I said earlier, breastfeeding is a huge bonding experience. There are times Laila falls down or gets her feelings hurt and the first thing she wants to do is nurse while mommy holds her close and rubs her back.

There are just so many amazing things about breastfeeding, I could literally talk about it all day- but I think this about covers the basics for now. We’ll see how things turn out when baby Sabrina gets here!