Posts Tagged ‘full term breastfeeding’

Why Nursing a Toddler Isn’t Selfish

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

It’s a comment I see anytime the debate on full-term nursing is brought up: That mom is just being selfish.

Full-term nursing shouldn’t be a debate—the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both agree that nursing until 12 months is a minimum recommendation. By 12 months of age, most babies are now toddlers.

There’s no magical age at which breast milk quits having nutritional benefits. It has the same amazing nutritional content all along. As babies grow, it is replaced by solid foods more easily. But it’s the baby that changes, not the milk.

Here are a few things you need to know about nursing toddlers:

  1. It’s uncomfortable. When you nurse an infant, you are meeting their needs and all you have to do is sit there and relax. You can even take a nap if you want! Toddlers pinch, they scratch, they turn their heads and look around. They stand up, they sit down. They’re on, they’re off. Sometimes they bite, both intentionally and not. There is nothing fun about this for mom. No one likes being treated like a bounce house.
  2. They grow up gradually. You don’t come home from the hospital with a 25-pound toddler and start nursing. You bring home a tiny baby that becomes this 25-pound toddler. You make little adjustments to your nursing relationship all along the way to make it work for you both. You still know what they look like when they are sleeping, how they act when they’re tired, and when they need you. To outsiders, your baby might seem big, but when you see those eyelids flutter as they nurse off to sleep, it takes you back to your first nights as their new mom.
  3. You can’t make them do it. Nursing requires engagement by both parties. Latching is not an easy task, which is why so many moms and newborns struggle with getting it right at first. So to say that someone is “making” their child continue to nurse is just absurd. Just like you can’t physically make your child chew and swallow a food they don’t like, you can’t make a child nurse. The power to do so or not is theirs and theirs alone.
  4. They really do need it. (Really.) You hear people say that once a baby has teeth or can eat solid food, they don’t need to nurse. The benefits of nursing go well beyond food, even though breast milk is always nutritionally beneficial. Nursing helps babies and toddlers transition, it provides them comfort, and it helps them calm down when their developing emotions are more than they can handle.
  5. It’s a sacrifice but we do it anyway. Moms who nurse toddlers are sacrificing their personal space, their sleep, their comfort, and at times their dignity. When you see a mom nursing a toddler on a bench at the mall, in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, on a plane or bus, rest assured that she is trying her best to enjoy these last fleeting moments. It’s not easy. It’s not about flaunting anything or showing off. We are just caring for our toddler, who not very long ago, used to be a tiny baby.

People might misunderstand the things they hear nursing moms say, like “I will be so sad when she’s done nursing,” or “I don’t want him to wean yet!” or simply, “She’s growing up too fast!” But just like any other stage of life, we find the good, the blissful, even, in things we once found difficult.

Nursing is so hard. You won’t find a mom anywhere who hasn’t groaned, “Already?” at a crying baby in the midst of a growth spurt. But just like any other life stage, you find a way to get through it, and even find parts you love, and when it’s over, it’s bittersweet, even when it was the hardest thing you ever did.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three who struggled to nurse her oldest and is enjoying every last session with her youngest. She lives in Queensbury, New York.


Nursing While Pregnant

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Nursing While PregnantI’m sleeping! Baby has a schedule! Breastfeeding is natural and seamless! And BAM–I’m pregnant.

This is a situation many moms find themselves in. When celebrating this exciting news, so many questions about our current nursling arise. How we choose to modify our breastfeeding relationship once pregnant is a deeply personal decision. For me, I was committed to extended breastfeeding and baby-led weaning. I treasured my nursing relationship with my then 18-month-old, and I had no plans of making him adjust because I got pregnant. I knew that it isn’t always possible to nurse through pregnancy, but I was going to give it my best shot. That’s all we can do as mothers.

In the beginning breastfeeding didn’t feel any different, but it wasn’t too long before nursing was uncomfortable. The second trimester was by far the most challenging. During this trimester, my milk production was severely low, if not absent. Dry nursing–nursing with very little supply–and the lovely pregnancy hormones that make our nipples tender, was challenging for me. The third trimester, while better, still had its challenges. I would feel touched-out, and nursing made my skin crawl. I had to make some changes to our nursing relationship if I was going to continue through pregnancy and beyond, so here is what we did.

Limit frequency

The first change was frequency. We had already gradually reduced our nursing sessions, but now that I was experiencing the painful side of nursing while pregnant I needed a schedule. We settled on morning, nap, and bedtime. This helped me mentally prepare, but I would be lying if I said that we had a positive breastfeeding relationship at this time. It hurt; it felt like he was biting. Sometimes I would holler out “You’re biting,” or “OK, if you are biting we are done.” My poor son would get upset and cry. It took me a while to realize he wasn’t biting. It wasn’t about what he was doing, but the fact that my body was undergoing massive changes.

No Blaming

I had to stop blaming him for any pain I had. This was hard. Sometimes I would nurse with my teeth clenched tight, unable to look at him and enjoy this time together that I used to treasure. I had to consciously make an effort to lock eyes with him, smile, and stroke his hair, everything I used to do so naturally. Instead of crying out and blaming him when the pain seemed unbearable, I started a count down. “5…4…3…2…1, OK, no more Milkies!” This way he knew it was almost time to “put the milkies away.”

Time Limit

As time went on, more changes were necessary to preserve any sort of nursing relationship. In conjunction with my countdown, I also put a 5-minute time limit on our nursing sessions. This helped me make sure I was giving him enough time to touch base and get his cuddles in before ending the nursing session. Nursing wasn’t about food at this point; it was about the physical bond and connection we shared. At the end of each 5-minute period I would count down and make sure he knew we could snuggle.

These three changes, a long with my own determination, were integral in helping me continue nursing while pregnant. At first, all of these changes were hard for my son. But I was consistent with all of them, and he learned quickly that this was our new routine. Every time I thought about just weaning him, we would have a wonderful nursing session, he would stroke my cheek, or sign and say, “Milkies, please.”

Some nursing sessions were easier than others, but we did what was best for us. No matter what everyone is telling you as a mom, you have to do what is best for you and your family. No two people experience nursing the same. There is no right or wrong when determining something like when to wean or when to carry on. The important thing is to do what works and supports a happy mom and a happy baby.

Casey Mix-McNulty, RN, BSN is a full-time mom to an imaginative little boy and a feisty little girl.   She is also a pediatric nurse aspiring towards becoming an IBCLC.