While I am an enthusiastic supporter of nursing little ones past their first birthday, I’d be crazy to say that there aren’t some interesting challenges that go along with it. I sincerely believe that working through and with the challenges it totally worth it; and in many cases, these challenges don’t need to equate weaning. But the challenges are real, and I think it is helpful to be real about them, deal with them, and laugh about them when possible.
Biting the breast that feeds them
My babies have all bitten me while nursing once they started teething. For our children, this has always been around three months of age. However, babies biting with gums is one thing; toddlers biting with teeth is another! Many times, a toddler will be prone to bite while nursing when going through a period of teething or sickness.
None of our four children bit on purpose or to hurt when they were nursing, and I found it helpful to keep that in mind when it did happen. Rather than get upset or rashly decide to wean, teaching the little one that biting hurts Mommy allows the benefits of extended nursing to continue without sacrificing Mom’s body in the process. When I’ve been bitten by one of our nursing toddlers, my knee-jerk reaction is often a gasp, an “Oww!”, followed with removing them from the breast. They generally get the idea. Many other moms have found similar solutions that teach the little one that biting means no nursing.
Toddlers are comical little people, and they often come up with very curious nursing positions. Standing up, kneeling, feet in the face, and more can be expected. For me, I don’t really find this a big challenge. I’ve found that simply moving them to a more comfortable position for me works fine. If they continue their acrobatic feats and it is uncomfortable for me, I close shop. The only time that their propensity for gymnastic nursing is problematic has been when they would want to nurse in a public place. If I am certain that they will behave and perhaps go to sleep, I can sometimes make it work. If I think they’ll be silly and do tricks, I’ve tried to stick with distracting them. Most often at home, I just roll with it and laugh. They outgrow those silly antics far too quickly.
Sometimes while out in public, a little person will become fixated on nursing. I’ve had this happen most often while out running errands all day. Toddlers and preschoolers can only handle so much activity in one day, and nursing often helps to calm them down when they feel overwhelmed. I’ve had little ones try to pull up my shirt or reach their hands down the neck of my top. Just like teaching our little ones not to bite and not to do handstands while nursing, we can also teach them (or at least try to teach them) public nursing manners.
It’s not always easy, of course. Keeping a sippy cup of water and toddler-safe snacks on hand while out has been one of the easiest solutions for our family. General distractions, like toys, peekaboo games, or silly songs might work. Finding a quiet place like a fitting room may be the best solution when nothing else will do.
Nursing while pregnant
Nursing through pregnancy is very common and can be done in a way that allows the growing baby, the nursing toddler, and the busy mom to stay healthy and well-nourished. Getting adequate rest, drinking plenty of water, and eating a nutrient-dense diet can allow a woman to nurse while pregnant for as long as she’d like. Learning about the normalcy and safety of being both a pregnant and nursing mother can also boost confidence and help a mom decide if that’s something she’d like to do.
I’ve nursed through all of my pregnancies, except the first one, of course. I found with my second pregnancy that I was exhausted while also nursing. I now credit this to the low-fat, high-carb diet I ate at the time. I had no problems nursing through part of our third pregnancy, but nursing through part of the fourth pregnancy was incredibly painful. Weaning was a great challenge (more on that in the next post!), and after much answered prayer, I was finally able to wean seven months into the pregnancy.
Comments and criticism
For many people, nursing a baby much past one year seems odd and unnecessary. Dealing with comments and criticism from others can at times be discouraging for the nursing mom. I’ve found it helpful to just accept the fact that others may choose to make comments, and these may not always be said out of a critical heart. Sometimes things may be said simply out of surprise, ignorance, or curiosity.
I loved the tips that La Leche League shares on their website for dealing with this criticism. I’ve used many of these suggestions, like choosing to nurse toddlers in more private locations, adding some humor into the conversation, and including some factual information when questioned about nursing a toddler. No one likes to feel criticized, but learning how to deal with it certainly beats resenting it.
A request to wean from Daddy
Some husbands want to see their little one weaned around a year. They don’t want to “share” their wife anymore, and they think that one year is enough when it comes to breastfeeding. This can be a challenging situation, and one that could potentially cause some real marital tension if the wife is very committed to and sincere about continuing to nurse.
I’m not a marriage expert, nor am I an expert on breastfeeding or parenting, but I can share my personal thoughts. Husbands have real and genuine needs for their wives, and those needs should be valued, respected, and met with love. Toddlers clearly benefit from extended nursing. Ask your husband if you can share with him why you want to continue and what you’ve learned about the benefits of nursing past one year. See if you can work together to come to an agreement on how you will both approach weaning. Value his opinions and ideas, rather than casting them off, and perhaps through these discussions you can both come to a place of better understanding one another.
Have you run into challenges while nursing past a year? How did you work with them?