Breastfeeding a toddler

Breastfeeding a toddler is something I never thought I would do. Long before I decided to have children, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed my children for one year. I am not sure how I came to this decision, but when I was around 9 years old, I learned that babies were not supposed to have cow’s milk until they were a year old. Using my kid logic, I decided that, if that were the case, then babies should be breastfed until they were a year old. At 9 years old, I decided that any babies I would have would be breastfed for one year.

I do not remember being exposed to breastfeeding at any point until I became a breastfeeding mother myself. I think I must have been pretty lucky to know at such a young age that breastfeeding was even a thing. I honestly can’t recall how I learned about it. I filed away my breastfeeding knowledge for later.

Fast forward nearly 20 years, and I had my first baby. We breastfed through mastitis, blebs, clogged milk ducts, engorgement, and many tears. I took my first doula training when she was 11 months old. I still managed to pump a ton of milk throughout that training. This was before I realized that I had a bit of an oversupply problem- which reoccurred with each baby.

One of my first doula clients hired me for her second birth, and she told me that she breastfed her first child for 2 years. I thought that was amazing. And completely unimaginable. I did not plan to do that, and 2 years seemed so far away. Needless to say, we were still going strong at my first child’s second birthday. I couldn’t believe it. I did not plan it. I wanted to wean her gently, but it happened more abruptly than I was hoping. It also happened way later than I expected. We breastfed for a little over 2 years. I weaned her shortly after I became pregnant with my second baby. It began to hurt too much after the first trimester was coming to a close.

I planned to breastfeed my second baby for 2 years- just to be fair. Our journey together was delightfully uneventful as far as the mechanics were concerned. However, this child was a ruthless twiddler. There was nothing I could do to dissuade her from twiddling the other nipple. Like my first child, I weaned her when I became pregnant again. This little girl loved breastfeeding, and I bet she would still be breastfeeding if I let her.

Again, I decided to breastfeed my third baby for 2 years. I wanted him to have the same treatment as the other two. This being my last baby, I tried to hang onto this breastfeeding relationship for dear life. I wanted to cherish every moment- like they say. I cherished many moments, but this was my most challenging experience yet. I was supposed to be an expert by now, but apparently, I gave birth to a piranha. I never breastfed comfortably. His latch never felt great. He had such a strong suction that I never breastfed without a tiny bit of discomfort. I breastfed through oversupply, 3 bouts of mastitis, clogged milk ducts, engorgement, mangled nipples, gymnurstics more violent than the other two combined, more garlic “pills” than I could stomach, and even a round of antibiotics when I suffered such bad mastitis at 18 months in that half of my breast turned red. It was a bittersweet relationship. It hurt, but I hung on. I kept thinking, “He’s my last baby. This is the last time I get to do this.”

His 2nd birthday came and went with no sign of stopping. A part of me was ready to close this chapter of my life, but another part just wasn’t ready to let go. I nursed him through people asking, “When are you going to wean him?” I nursed him even after people stopped asking. I knew I needed some sort of closure. Some event.

So I signed up to take photos with the amazing Joanna Booth. We took family photos, but I asked if we could take a few breastfeeding photos to mark the end of an era. I’ve been either pregnant or breastfeeding for the past 8 years, so I needed to make it special. I wanted to have something to help me remember this time.

My wiggling, active breastfeeding toddler

I wish I could say that I knew the exact day that my last baby weaned. We had our photo session on March 24th, and it has been at least a month now that he hasn’t asked for “ninnie.” I wanted to breastfeed until he finally asked for “ninnie,” which was only about a month or two before we took those photos. Before that he called it “bite.” (Because he wanted a “bite” of milk like he takes a bite of food)

I used to tell myself when my first was a baby that I wanted to enjoy it so much that I wouldn’t need to look back and miss that time. I tried to do that with each baby. As I am typing this post, I am thinking back about all of my time breastfeeding my children. I think I did a pretty good job “enjoying every moment”- even though, let’s be real, there were so many moments that I did NOT enjoy. But I enjoyed enough moments that I am content that I can close this chapter of my life and look forward to all the great moments yet to come.

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