Now that my daughter is back to full health , it is only fitting that my toddler has been struck down with some viral whatsit, which is making him generally grumpy and clingy, wanting to be held at all times, and if he had his way, boobing at all times. I have spent quite a lot of the last few days going “surely you can’t possibly want boob again!” or “No I can’t boob and make you a sandwich at the same time.” I am desperately craving having ten minutes to myself without him. (Currently writing this on my phone, with him asleep, on the boob, on my lap, with my fingers slowly losing sensation)
Now, continuing to breastfeed a very nearly two year old, whilst being completely biologically normal, isn’t all that common in our society. I have no plans to stop until he chooses to self wean. It’s what I did with our daughter and that worked really well. It was totally stress free when she decided to stop, for her and me. She has lots of happy memories of breastfeeding, and is aware that it is the biological norm for people to breastfeed their babies, just like other mammals do. We went through an interesting period where we had regular conversations about which animals did or did not have boobs- cats do, crocodiles don’t, etc. She is also perfectly aware that lots of people feed their babies using milk in bottles and that that’s just fine too, it’s all part of different people making different choices, and part of the wonderful diversity of life- this is another very regular conversation in our house.
I fed our daughter for the first 34 weeks of my second pregnancy, until just after she turned three. She was having a very difficult time at this point, which meant we all were, but boob was one of the few times where she actually seemed quite relaxed and content with the world. Personally I hated feeding in pregnancy. My breasts became horribly tender pretty much from the moment I conceived, to the point that being in the shower with water spraying on them would make me yelp in pain, wearing heavy clothes was really uncomfortable and putting my bra on each morning an ordeal. This meant that feeding a small child with a lazy latch and pinchy fingers was excruciating.
I could have just stopped. Forced her to wean. That was the response pretty much anytime I even thought to moan about my situation. I find that when you’re doing things slightly differently that is always the response when you complain. Had a bad nights sleep cosleeping? You need to sleep train them in their own bed in their own room. Fed up of being a non-stop milk machine to your two year old? Force them to wean, after all they can eat normal food now. People seem to sometimes find it hard to accept that I can be happy with the parenting choice I make, whilst still being allowed to moan that it’s really hard, and not all that enjoyable at times!
I chose not to force her to wean. It seemed unnecessarily cruel when it was one of the few things she liked at that time. I was also thinking of the advantages of tandem feeding when the baby did arrive, helping them to bond as siblings, helping keep my milk supply regulated, helping with let downs if the baby struggled with feeding as much as my daughter had. So I kept going, even though I hated it.
I did decide to night wean. That was a decision made more in desperation than anything else. I just couldn’t bear her pawing me all night, it was just too painful. Lots of people seem to report that once they night wean their child sleeps better. And we’d had two and a half years of terrible sleep so surely we were due a break. But no, night weaning made her sleep infinitely worse. Instead of waking three or four times a night, latching on and shortly falling back to sleep, instead she’d wake for the first feed around eleven, midnight, and then she would be awake and devastated for the next two, three, often five or six solid hours, before eventually falling back to sleep lying on top of me and the bump with me flat on my back. I don’t remember reading that that was the most comfortable sleeping position for a pregnant woman. And then an hour or two later I’d be getting up and going to work. This didn’t last a week or two while she adjusted to the new situation. This literally lasted the whole pregnancy. But that was still better than having her staying latched on to my poor boobs all night long.
Over the next few months she gradually reduced the feeds she took. Her Daddy started doing bedtime every night so I could do my hypnobirthing and birth art, and have some time to myself. It ended up being just the morning feed, her eyes would open, she’d look over at me and say “mumboob?” And that was how every day started. Until one morning she asked, and she went to latch on, and she came straight off, looking at me a little puzzled. She tried again but it was like she had no idea how to latch. The next day she tried again, still no idea how to latch. The next morning she didn’t ask, and she didn’t ask again. Occasionally now when he brother does it she asks, more as a joke than anything else, but she never fed again. And was totally happy with that situation. And after more than 30 weeks of hating it I was totally happy with the situation too. My aim of tandem feeding was happily superceded by a desire to have a few weeks break before the next one came along.
And he has been a superstar pro boober, from his first moments. Never a single problem. What a contrast to the first time!! And now, here I am, with a nearly two year old, who is feeling poorly and wants the comfort and the immune boost of constant boob. And I am happy with my choice to feed him for as long as he likes. I am. But please, can I just have a minute to myself. And I’ll happily make you a sandwich if you’ll just get your hand out of my top!