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Allow me to say one thing, so that it's clear: FED IS BEST. This is not meant to tell anyone how they should feed (or not feed) their baby or toddler. But what I found was that there really wasn't a ton of information available to moms like me, so I wanted to share my own experience, and this post is simply that: my experience.
When I brought my daughter home, my goal was to make it ten months with breastfeeding. In some of my darker breastfeeding moments, I would say, "I just want to make it to ten months." The reason behind that was simple--it was when I self weaned as a baby. Let's face it, the beginning is hard. Breastfeeding in the beginning is hard. But once we had the hang of it, well, it was a breeze!
I wrote about my experience breastfeeding past 1 year, which you can read here. Breastfeeding a nearly two year old has it's own special circumstances and challenges. Here's what I have found so far....
The questions/judgments never stop
"When will you stop breastfeeding?" It's the most frequently asked question I get with regard to my breastfeeding. The simple answer is I don't know. On the heels of this I have also gotten some judgment about how she's "too attached" (which is just a facet of her personality, not breastfeeding), and yet others who will say that "if they can ask for it, they are too old." People speak from their own experiences, what can I say?
There was a brief period where I felt less comfortable breastfeeding in public, and at this point, I do generally like to wait until we get home. No one likes to feel judged, not even bossy old me! But I also decided to buck up, and not let anyone make me feel odd for doing what comes quite naturally. I'll say it again: the worldwide average for weaning is 4 years old. So everyone can just get over it.
We are learning our manners
At a year old, I was willing to deal with a little bit of nipple twiddling, but at almost two, that shizz has got to stop. Along with anything else I don't like, including if I am "not in the mood" to breastfeed. I will admit, this takes practice and a steel resolve because my kid is about as stubborn as they come. But it's MY body and I am sharing MY milk, so she's got to have respect and understanding.
I have found that being persistent helps. But I also offer alternatives. For example, she can "pat mommy nice" instead of twisting the hell out of my nipple. She can hold my hand. Or, if she doesn't want to follow my rules, she can be put down and try again when she's ready to play by the rules. Not that this always works out. But I'm trying my best!
I do get "touched out."
Some days I just need space. When you are nursing a newborn, it's kind of the same, but they NEED the milk to survive, so.... not so with a toddler. When I'm "touched out" it's great to use distraction such as activities, a snack, or Daddy who can take her on a ride or outing to help me get a break. She's beginning to understand more and more, but she does love her "milks" so it's game of give and take on both our parts.
I find that I go through periods where I am more touched out than other times. Sometimes it's very challenging to hang in there when you experience a couple of weeks where you are at the end of the your touched out rope. But those periods seem to always resolve and we get back in the groove. I have learned it is normal to feel this way.
Still the best for boo boos and sickness
One week my poor Ruby had a fever so high I was a little scared. I was so happy I was able to nurse her. Through teething, some pretty crazy falls, and other colds and bumps, nursing is the perfect way to soothe my child.
Also, last week when we went camping, she unexpectedly got sick. She didn't want to eat ANYTHING (which is very unlike her), so my mind was eased knowing that she could have breastmilk and gain the nourishment she needed. Breastfeeding is handy like that--even at two years old!
She still nurses to sleep nearly every time it's nap time or bedtime. The downside? I am STILL doing every bedtime and nap. I tell myself that this is temporary and I actually enjoy that time to connect with her and see her fall asleep. Someday in the all too soon future, she won't need me quite as much, and I know I'll miss that. (Even though it is somewhat overwhelming at times.)
Support is KEY
I have an incredible village around me. Both my mom and my mother-in-law support my extended breastfeeding, and our community is also very pro-breastfeeding. I even have a couple of friends who are breastfeeding their two year olds, so I am able to reach out to them with questions. When I do reach out, it REALLY helps. I also joined La Leche league on Facebook, and I get good support there as well. I can't stress enough how important it is to know you are not alone in your journey.
I was recently sobbing over the sink after a particularly trying few days. I exclaimed to my husband, "If I have to breastfeed one more day I am going to lose it!" He gave me a hug and assured me that it was going to be okay. And it was...just because I have been at this for two years doesn't mean that I don't have hard moments still. Learning to set limits and boundaries is what parenting is all about, and this is a facet of it.
Have you entered a stage of extended breastfeeding? What has it been like for you? Share your experience in the comments section below!!