Breastfeeding a toddler – the half way house

Generally I don’t encounter many mums, let alone working mums who are breastfeeding their toddler, although I know they’re out there. Many people think it’s an, all or nothing approach – but it doesn’t have to be.

Image from Public Health Agency of Canada

Making me feel normal
Earlier this year I went along to my local La Leche league monthly meeting and most of the mums there were nursing toddlers, it was wonderful to see. At last I didn’t feel a freak, and feel like I had to talk about it in hushed tones. I felt part of a group of women that understood not just my BFing issues, but generally my perspective on parenting.

The one thing different was, mostly they were stay at home mums that nursed on demand throughout the day. I was different, obviously by working in the day, milk is not on the menu for babe and she is quite happy that way. I wanted to write about how it works for me, in case there are other mums out there doing this or thinking about whether or not this is a viable option. Because it is and it works well.

Our halfway house approach
I used to be quite strict about when my daughter had her milk and tried to wean it down so she was just having it at bedtime. Then I realized this regimented approach wasn’t necessary, we could be more flexible. If she wants mummy milk when I’m around, I chill out and generally give her some. I try to not stick to regular times though, so when I’m away for a long day, she is not in the habit of having milk at a particular time (except for at bed). I’ve found now that when I’m not around she is quite happy and does not bother about milk – she will have a yogurt or snack of some sort and a drink of water from her sippy cup. She lasted till nearly 9pm by feasting on ice cream before now. It’s the overnight thing that we haven’t done yet, that’s still looming over us like a dark cloud on the horizon – but as she gets older its going to be easier and easier for her to do with out.

Generally chilling out and ignoring the ‘rules’ has been a bit of a theme for me as babe has grown up. I’ve learnt to understand that limitations of baby advisory websites like babycentre and to take some of what health professionals say with a pinch of salt.

I’ve also got a lot more laid back out BFing in public, and gradually so has hubby. My new sling/baby carrier babyhawk also means that she can feed while on the move, and it looks a lot more discrete – if she has her big sun hat on you can hardly tell what she’s up to!

Why do I still BFeed my toddler?
There are many physical and psychological benefits, I’m not going to list them here cause they’re widely available on the net. But for me, as a full-time working mother, its one special thing that I can still do for babe, that gives us that special time and bond. That sounds so corny, but its true. I’m not sure I’d be willing to work full-time if we I wasn’t able to do this for her.

Continuing BFeeding a toddler does take a certain determined, ‘I don’t care what you think attitude’ to stand up to western social norms that generally don’t publicise this kind of thing, but it shouldn’t. For me that’s all the more reason not to hide away when BFeeding – I want to show others that its normal, and that I’m not a sarong wearing, vegan – I’m just an average working mum wanting to do the best for her babe.

In fact I gather that there are a lot more mums out there that do this, but don’t shout about it – the closet toddler breastfeeders.

So mummy’s if you want to continue, don’t let western social norms stop you – people are surprisingly accepting if you just chill out and act relaxed.

Useful links

La Leche Legue UK http://www.laleche.org.uk/
La Leche Legue USA http://www.lllusa.org/
La Leche Legue Canada http://www.lllc.ca/
BFing Advice Site http://www.breastfeeding.com/
Breastfeeding NHS (UK) http://www.breastfeeding.nhs.uk/
The Breastfeeding Network (UK) http://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/

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