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True Life: I Breastfeed my Toddler

toddler-breastfeeding

Like many new mamas who choose to breastfeed their little ones, I began with excitement, a little nervousness, and absolutely no idea what I was actually doing. I remember lying in the hospital bed, minutes after my daughter was born, holding her against my chest and hoping she knew what she was doing…..because I hadn’t a clue. The next two days felt like a blur. Nurses wanted me to fill out a chart each time I fed her, which side and for how long. I remember staring at the clock on the hospital wall, bleary eyed and uncomfortable willing 10 minutes to pass so I could be done. Nothing about it felt like the “magical bonding” I had been promised. Flash forward a few days – now we are in the trenches, cluster feeding for hours, discovering that those breast pads really do serve a purpose, and learning how to attach myself to a machine that makes me feel more like a cow than a human. All in the name of antibodies and bonding. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t know it would be this hard. 

In the weeks and months that followed, I found myself creating benchmarks in my mind – “If you can just make it to six months. Then she’ll be eating solids and it will get easier.” or “Just get her through flu season.” Some days my benchmark was just “make it through today and reassess tomorrow.” But the truth is, it does get easier. The feedings become regular and predictable. What used to feel like a curse – that I was the only one who could feed her in the middle of the night – started to feel like a blessing – I’m so glad that I’m able to nurse her to calm her down while she’s teething. We kept at it, month after month, and each and every month, it got a little easier. I went from fumbling with those bra hooks and trying to get her to latch beneath a cover in public to someone who could breastfeed pretty discreetly behind a carrier while walking through the grocery store. And slowly but surely, that bonding and magic everyone told me about came to fruition. I found that I no longer dreaded nursing, but looked forward to it. It was no longer just something I was doing for my daughter’s sake, but for mine also. 

If you had told that new mom sitting in that hospital bed that she’d still be breastfeeding 20 months later, she would have told you that you were nuts. But that’s where we are. I’m not really sure how we got here, and I’m not really sure where we are going, but I know that today, breastfeeding feels like a blessing and I’m not ready to let go just yet. No, I no longer play the benchmark game, in fact, when people ask me how long I intend to do it, my response is typically “when one or both of us feels ready to be done.” I’m not really sure what that looks like, but I’m sure that I’m not there. 

Now, let’s be real. Breastfeeding a toddler is not sunshine and butterflies. Toddlers are bundles of energy with attention spans of about 3 minutes. That can make a task that requires lying still and focusing difficult. Long gone are the days of cradling her in the crook of my arm and binge watching Gilmore Girls while marathon feeding her. These days, she wants something in her hands while she feeds – any toy will usually do, but books are her favorite. This makes things interesting – even humorous – as she squeezes her arm through my armpit to flip the pages of a book while it’s wedged beneath my chin and rammed into my chest. We went through a biting stage {not my favorite} and through a pinching stage {again, not fun}. Sometimes she grazes – she’ll come by for a 30 second “hit” before she goes back to playing. Sometimes she sticks her hand down my shirt while we’re in the grocery line and tries to give the other shoppers a bit of a show. But every so often, she still lies in the crook of my arm, wraps her not so tiny little body around mine, pats my chest and stares into my eyes. And it’s in those moments where I know that she won’t be little forever. And so we nurse on. 

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