The Goose is 17 months and we still breastfeed very frequently. It is the WHO recommendation that children continue breastfeeding until they are 2 and beyond.
I don’t know how much this recommendation would have encouraged me to continue breastfeeding if my life were different than it is – does this recommendation make an impact on you?As it is, this recommendation means a lot to me, because it is the same as the recommendation that my professional college makes to the families they (and soon, I) care for.
I have a lot of reasons to breastfeed my toddler (extreme breastfeeding, as we call it), and my professional obligations are only part of it.
Here are some others . . .
- Getting the public used to it. I have had only a very few negative experiences breastfeeding in public. In the early early days I used a cover. Then, I found it awkward and very sad (I missed seeing her) to cover up. By the time she was a month old, I could not use a cover because she would come off and on so much that it was ridiculous to do it blind. Most people are happy to see breastfeeding, and I think that the few who are not happy about it are simply succumbing to the age-old truism – you fear what you don’t understand. So we breastfeed bare in public and hopefully one or two people who see us will feel just a bit more comfortable with the idea.
- Comfort. I don’t know if I can say that my child is the most headstrong toddler in the world, but she must be close. It is a constant battle of wills, with BK and I bolstering each other’s confidence – “She’s less than 1/3 of our size!” -“We out number her 2 to 1!” – “We’re smarter than her – she still tries to eat dirt!” It’s nice to know that even at the end of a long conflict over whether a diaper will be changed or not, she can recharge her energy stores for the next fight and I can hug a peaceful babe – even if it’s only for a moment.
- Nourishment. We have always resisted the urge to regulate and chart The Goose’s eating habits. She was born big and she kept gaining. She is rarely offered anything short of the healthiest options, and she is usually interested in food. That’s good enough for us. If there had ever been a concern, we would have taken a more active approach, but as things are, it seemed unnecessarily stressful to worry without cause. Of course, this philosophy gets challenged whenever she goes through a funny phase of not wanting to eat much – usually when a new tooth is making an appearance. During these 2-3 day bouts, The Goose lives on “Go-Go’s and Boob” and it’s the breastmilk that keeps us comforted that she’s at least meeting her basic needs until her usual appetite kicks back in. (BTW – “Go-Go’s” are yogurt that’s been frozen)
- Antibodies. As long as The Goose and I are exposed to the same viruses, she gets double protection – both my immune system and her own work to keep her healthy. We have had very few sleepless nights over an ill baby, and although there are a lot of things that play into keeping it that way, breastmilk is one of them.
- Hedonism. It seems that many of the things that we are told not to do for our children are the things that they love the most. The Goose loves “mama-milk” – and she should be a king where it counts too.
**Afterthought** At 2 years old, we’re still going strong with the breastfeeding and the benefits have not changed. One thing I would add is that there are very few downsides to nursing a toddler (as long as you’re in to it, of course – the mother not wanting to nurse or not feeling comfortable, would be a very legit downside!). Any of the early-day troubles are long gone, she’s very self sufficient and I can go about doing other things like reading a book or even working at the computer. Aside from a couple of biting phases that were short lived, although very unpleasant, there hasn’t been much to complain about.
**Another Afterthought** At 2 1/2 the Goose is still nursing but we have some new challenges. She has a set of twin brothers on the way and that has meant some adjustment. After going away for a weekend to visit grandma, the Goose came back to find that mama milk had been replaced with mama-colostrum. The first time she nursed she pulled off and said “Was-sat?” It’s definitely shortened our sessions and reduced her frequency of wanting to nurse, but she hasn’t given it up altogether. For a while I struggled with some pain and thought I may be about to give it up – but by focusing on her latch (something we had become very very lazy on) and reminding her to open wide before pulling back we’ve overcome that too. I can’t say it’ll last forever, but I do hope that it’ll keep working for us at least until her baby brother’s are arrived and established nursers. I’d love to hear about your questions or experiences nursing while pregnant.
**Yet another afterthought: I came on to update about my experience breastfeeding while pregnant, without realizing that I had already done so earlier in the pregnancy. Now that I’m over 8 months (with twins that must count as at least 12!) things are getting a bit awkward to manouver, but its still going well. The discomfort is all gone (I’d completely forgotten about it until rereading this post!) and I’m reassured that when my two little gummy bears arrive there will be a strong supply of colostrum waiting.
** I should probably start a new post for all of these afterthoughts. The Goose is 3 (WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN!!!!) and she nurses at least twice a day. Her sessions are short, but still very important in her life. I teared up reading about her saying “good job” to me when she was a year and a half. But I have another proud mama moment to add – one day when the Brothers were only a few weeks old I was sitting nursing them both together. The Goose came up to tell me something vitally important in her world. While she was talking one of the brothers popped off and started to wail, not missing a beat she grabbed his little head in one hand and my breast in the other and relatched that baby like a pro.