Saturday, June 30, 2012

Nursing Gymnastics

Photo credit: Happiness Redefined

Hello, my name is Shawna, and I am nursing my toddler. (This is your cue to say "Hello, Shawna")

Even in the United States where breastfeeding rates are significantly higher than in the UK, it is still considered strange and unusual to breastfeed past 12 months. Sadly, a lot of babies are weaned once solids are introduced or teeth start popping up. Neither of these things should signal the end of your breastfeeding relationship though. In fact, breastfeeding can be the best soother for transitional times in your baby's life such as new foods and painful teeth.

Yes, there are some downsides to nursing a toddler, the biting (usually a swat, or a firm no and being set away from mum or a yelled "ouch" or "No, that hurts mummy" will solve this problem), the pinching, the feeling that you are a jungle gym, being undressed in the store by a hungry one and a half year old...

Photo Credit: My Breastfeeding Cartoons

But there are some really great things about nursing a toddler too. Some of my favorites are:

Photo Credit: Motherhood Denied

The connection. Yes, you have a connection with your infant while you're nursing, but it's different when your little is older. The way they look at you is different. The way they interact with you is different. For example, When Danger Baby is nursing, she stops occasionally to pat my breast and say "Mama", or she will kiss my breast and pat it nicely (always preferred over pinching). Sometimes she pulls my shirt over her eyes and says "Peek boo", and still other times she blows raspberries on my breast a few times, then goes right back to nursing as if nothing has happened.

It's a little easier to multitask. At least for me it is. Danger Baby often will sit in my lap and nurse, so I have two hands free to type. I haven't quite worked out how to knit and nurse her yet though. She is really fascinated by the yarn, and tries to pull it off my needles.

They can help themselves. This can also be a down side, it's a little awkward to have your 19 month old pull up your shirt and yell, "Boobies! Peese peese." In the middle of Target, but at home, it's great. She comes over when she needs a little snack, climbs in my lap, and after a few clothing shifts, she's on and I'm back to work.

Photo Credit: The Unperfect Mummy

Instant owie fixer. As your littles become more mobile, the ouchies start to add up. A scrape here, bumped noggin there. A less than steady gait means lots of bumps and bruises. So far in my 8 years of being a mum, I have found nothing that works as well as a boob in the mouth to fix a hurt child. Admittedly, at some point you will stop nursing, and then you'll have to come up with something as soothing and wonderful as a boob. So far I haven't found it. This is very distressing for my 8 year old.

Down time. The excuse to just sit, even for just a moment, and snuggle with your little ball of energy. The opportunity to hold your toddler close between block tower construction, car racing, coloring, and baby doll rocking. When you nurse your baby into a toddler, you are able to remain that safe harbor for your child in the midst of all the craziness and excitement of growing and learning at a lighting pace. You become their touchstone of stability and calm. Your nursing relationship becomes a safe haven for you both where you can each just focus on the other, even if it's just long enough for three or four swallows. It allows you to come to terms with your baby growing up.

I'm sure there are many other benefits to nursing a toddler, but at the moment my sleep deprived brain can't come up with any. If you have a more rested brain, and know some benefits of nursing a toddler, I encourage you to share them in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Mud Spice

If you would like to read about other mums experiences with nursing a toddler, nursing while pregnant, or tandem nursing. Or if you'd like to pick up a few tips on weaning, you should check out these blogs:

The lovely folks over at Boobie Milk are giving away a £50 voucher to a lucky reader. Check out what they have to offer a nursing mum here

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