Much to the chagrin of my mother, I am still nursing my toddler. He, who is all of 18 months old. And it’s a happy relationship that we have there.
It didn’t start out this way. Like many new mothers, I had hoped that breastfeeding would be successful. My expectations were low, however, based on the experiences of others. Initially, I thought I’d try for a month. While our journey was rocky at the start – I was dealing with the usual cracked nipples, poor latch on one side, overactive letdown, and anxiety over whether I had enough for his appetite – it went well after we sorted out the problems. We were definitely lucky when it came to breastfeeding. Once a rhythm was established, I was confident enough to want to nurse until the end of my maternity leave.
When I went back to work, I was worried about the logistics of pumping. I told myself that I would evaluate our breastfeeding arrangements when he turned six months. Thankfully, it all worked out well. I was able to squeeze in two to three pumping sessions per day (I was an expressing nazi!) and produced enough to feed the little man while he was away from me.
And so, I moved my deadline to 12 months. After he turns one, I told myself, I will wean and be free to wear anything I want! Well, 12 months came and went and we were having such fun nursing that I told myself I would continue for as long as this relationship was beneficial to us.
I know, right. Nursing IS ACTUALLY FUN. Back when he was an infant, I didn’t see how breastfeeding was an opportunity for “bonding”. It was mostly a survival thing, wanting my baby to have the best that I could offer. And I would be texting or surfing the net while he nursed (the phone may or may not have fallen onto his face a few times).
But when he became more vocal and aware of his environment, nursing became very enjoyable. He would pop off to babble to me – almost like he’s saying,’HEY MAMA! I HAZ BOOBS!” – and then pop on again. Or he would attempt to do a downward dog move while nursing (do not conjure that image – it will hurt). Or he would kick his legs vigorously in contentment.
Finally, I can see how this is a perfect time for us to “bond”.
This is why, at 18 months, I am still nursing. My mother thinks it’s embarrassing to have a toddler boy still having a go at my boobs but it doesn’t bother me. I’m thinking of completely weaning him off when he turns two but we shall see. I’m not very good at sticking to deadlines thus far, heh. My only dilemma is figuring out how I should wean.
And honestly, nursing is THE BEST TOOL in the bag for any mama with a teething, wakeful, fussy toddler.
Now, if you are a new mum or mum-to-be reading this, here are some survival tips for you.
- Persevere. It really gets a lot worse before it gets better. Know that whatever challenges or difficulties that you face now will not be here forever. The pain will not (and should not) last.
- Don’t panic. Babies tend to lose a tiny amount of their birth weight in the first week. Anything up to 7% is acceptable. As long as there are enough soiled diapers, you are doing fine.
- Develop selective hearing. Filter out naysayers and focus on the positive: your baby. There will be many doubtful critics, there will be many cooks who will tell you how to cook that broth (even if they have never breastfed before, true story). Tune them out.
- Befriend the lactation consultants. They will be your best mentors in your first few days and weeks of breastfeeding. I rang up the LCs at my hospital a few times after being discharged and received solid advice from them.
- Be guilt-free. Sometimes, breastfeeding is not meant to be. Some of my mummy friends had problems at the start and could not continue. Or their babies developed jaundice and they turned to formula to flush out the bilirubin. And that’s okay. Formula is not evil. You do what is best for your baby and THAT – not breast milk – makes you an awesome mum.