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Breastfeeding my Toddler – Me! Eat! Your boobies!

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Ramona is two now and our breastfeeding relationship is still going strong. There is something incredibly special about having a nursing toddler who can vocalise their feelings about it- the first time she looked up at me with those wide dewy eyes, took a pause from nursing to exclaim “YUMMY!” was a bit heart melting, and I remember thinking every mummy should nurse long enough to get some verbal feedback on the quality of their milk!

This morning I was a little more difficult to rouse for Ramona’s first nurse of the day and her usual snuggling and murmurs of “Mummy. Milk. Please” weren’t getting much response. She began pulling at my PJ’s saying “Me! Eat! Your Boobies!”

Ooh, waking up with a (slightly nervous) chuckle is a good way to wake up.

(Another benefit of cosleeping I guess- waking up with laughter happens quite often as Ramona’s early morning chats are quite hilarious, ranging from random musing about her favourite things to giggling at her own first fart of the day.)

I am 5 months pregnant now and my milk seems to be changing week by week – as early as 12 weeks it seemed I just had colostrum. And Ramona has taken her grown-up food eating to another level, putting away whole bananas, plates of spaghetti and gingerbread in a way she hasn’t done before, so she is obviously getting much less full on my milk. I am entering the fairly well documented stage of, um, finding it a bit hard. She only nurses 4-5 times a day, and most of those are completely fine, joyous for us both even. But the lengthy ones just before nap time and sleep can provide a bit of teeth grinding and cross eyed-ness for me. It is not dissimilar to those first ever new-born feeds where you just had to grin and bear it.

If we can, I am keen to plough through it, hoping that for us, like many other mammas, it is just a short stage of pregnancy. I can just see so many benefits for us still. Breastfeeding such a simple way to fill up her cup – keeping the emotional energy of a wild and rambunctious toddler steady.

Nursing toddler

We had a tricky period early on in pregnancy, when she really cut down her nursing, and I failed to recognise the debt this left, emotionally. I guess people who don’t breastfeed (like her Daddy, who tends not to) really quickly identify other ways of topping up their kid’s well being- knowing the right balance of hugs, games and other “connecting” activities.  Having been reliant on nursing – and her being completely in control of this- there were a few weeks when my milk was changing and she was nursing much less, where we had a bit of disconnect; she was volatile and fractious.

The relationship side of breastfeeding really hit home, I had kind of taken it for granted. For so long Ramona’s nursing sessions had been providing these perfect moments of connection throughout our day, moments that both of us needed. It actually restored us, healed any little snags in our relationship.

We had to find a new rhythm, fresh ways of connecting. In a way it was like beginning another lesson in parenthood. My husband Tim was much more advanced in these activities, having identified the need a year ago, once I left them together half the week as I went to work.

But we had to find our own ways – I couldn’t just steal Tim’s and think they would work for us. (Gah, exclaims my lazy old self.)

Some of the best ways I have found to connect with Ramona, as she weans off nursing a bit include:

  • Taking more hot baths together (such a cool way of spending cold winter afternoons) – we can spend an hour, blowing bubbles, painting the sides, singing
  • Two person dance parties – we put the music up loud and throw down our shapes, impressing each other
  • Kissing Game – you take it turns to kiss funny parts of each other
  • Pulling faces- we try and out do each other with our weird and wonderful facial expressions
  • Hide and Seek – together, so not so much seeking but hiding from imaginary people, usually snuggling under blankets and duvets

I think the key is in activities that involve loads of eye contact, and have the potential to end up in squeals of giggles. Laughter is a healer, no?

Ramona has somehow figured out that sleeping between 11pm and 7 am is a good plan, and doesn’t nurse anymore. (There was a while when I thought she might do this forever) – which just gives me full confidence that these kids know exactly what they need.

Breastfeeding is so much about trust. Trusting ourselves and trusting our children. I am so glad I was able to discount the voices that suggested Ramona’s night nursing would continue forever. And I am so glad I am able now, to distrust the ones that say nursing toddlers will never quit.

They do. And for now, it is still just perfect for us. With a smattering of dancing, playing and splashing, we are connecting more than ever.

What is your breastfeeding story? Have you found the same thing? How have you found ways to connect with your kids?

Feel free to check out my other posts on breastfeeding, including “Nursing a Micromachine” and the letter I had to write to my rubbish, myth-making Doctor.

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A sibling on the scene

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Every morning when my daughter Ramona opens her eyes, she snuggles up to my face and whispers “Hello, mummy”. These days, this tiny tradition is followed up by her scuffling down and pulling apart my pyjama top and murmuring “Hello, baby” into my tummy. With no bump to reveal my 4 month pregnancy just yet my belly button is getting all the attention.

Ramona is two and loves babies. She loves babies, imaginary babies and Things that Will Do.

Ramona Babywearing

Ramona constantly has to be either pushing a buggy or wearing a baby in the sling, and I normally have to accompany her, with a Cabbage Patch Kid tied to my front.

As I cooked dinner yesterday I could hear her singing sweet nothings “Oh, baby. Good? Baby? Oooh. Baby” and looked over my shoulder to see what she was caressing with her soft words and hands.

It was a bulb of garlic.

Obviously.

Minutes later, I had to help her undo the zip on her jumper because the garlic wanted “milkies.”

(Mind you, a few months ago it was me that had to nurse the obscure objects she chose so I’m quite happy she has taken on that responsibility herself. My days of breastfeeding toy cars and lego are over for a while, thanks.)

When my mum first heard our new baby news, she exclaimed “Crumbs, Ramona will have her nose put out, won’t she?!” I guess it was in reference to the intense attachment we have, and the practices that, for us, are a big part in it. When the baby comes along Ramona will have to deal with not lying starfish like along our bed between us, she’ll learn to share Mummy’s milkies (with a human and not a bit of plastic) and she’ll have to adapt to another little mite being limpet-like in the sling.

And of course, while I feel blissfully relaxed in this pregnancy and perhaps naively optimistic about a second baby, I can’t help but feel a leeetle bit intreipidly curious about what tandem nursing will be like, and keeping them both happy during the night times.

I am fairly confident that all those juicy hormones will smother everything in glazey eyed love for a while, making it all okay for me.

And hopefully Ramona’s love for babies (and I hope she loves the new one a little bit more than the ones she frequently sits on/ covers in Marmite) will help her ride out the changes. We just have 5 months to get her used to the idea that the new kid on the block will be a bit noisier than the garlic and a bit more demanding than my belly button!

Shakeaway: breast milk to go

Once when Ramona was around 2 months I was walking along our road carrying her in the sling.  Some boys spotted me from their perch up in a block of flats and started hurling down meanness, although all I could really make out was the word “BREASTFEEDING!!!” screamed in a kind of offensive way. (The fact that this is a diss is worth a whole politics-of breastfeeding-rant in itself.) I was utterly mortified! “They must think I am breastfeeding her while I am walking along!” I put my head down and blushed to match my hair, feeling like my little freckly 9 year old self who got bullied in the playground. Then when I got to the end of the road I almost stopped in my tracks; what a bloody good idea. Of course I could breastfeed her in the sling!

The next time I was walking along and Ramona began her hungry headbutting I unhooked my bra and shuffled her around a bit;  she latched on immediately. That day a whole new sphere of stress free parenting opened up.

No more panick stations as I try and find a suitable place to feed her- with her nursing in the sling we can be wandering around the supermarket, a Parisian flea market or an  art gallery and no one is none the wiser. Well. Apart from the growling.

No more missing the train because I had to get a feed in before leaving the house. She just snacks on the walk up.

I feel it has helped build her security as she knows the instant she has a need it will be met, wherever we are – no crying involved. I love that science shows that meeting baby’s need quickly is vital to their development and nurtures things like their empathy cells. (Read more about that in my fave parenting book- it is the shizzle.)

If I ever want her to start a nap quickly (say because I have a meeting that it would be handy for her to sleep through) I just feed her off to sleep in the sling on the way. It often sends her to sleep within moments.

Around the three  month mark Ramona got way too distracted by goings on to breastfeed in public.Then she’d get all hungry and mad. However feeding in the sling helps her feel still involved somehow, avoiding what felt like miniture nursing strikes.

Perhaps best for those early days though was for the occasions when Ramona was incolsolable. They didn’t happen much but sometimes she wouldn’t feed or sleep even though I knew she was hungry and tired. As soon as I learnt to double them up she would settle really quickly. It was as if she needed movement to feed, or perhaps she wanted to feed upright.

I only wish I could have discovered it sooner.

So to those lads on the estate I will be forever indebted, for Ramona’s food on the hoof has made my life as a mother a lot easier. So much easier I would rank it in my top five mothering activities (I know, I’m a total expert after nine whole months.) I should really make those badasses some breast milk ice cream as a grateful treat.

In case your baby wants shakeaways…TIPS:

Feeding in a mei tai, ring sling or wrap is simple. Just tie it so their mouth is about level, although you may have to use your hand to hold either their head or your breast in place as they feed.

Where easy clothes, a low sccop or v-neck so you aren’t trying to yank up your top between your tummies.

Practice at home so you can get the hang of it.

Flick the end of the wrap over the top if you feel you have too much on show.

Beware of strangers coming in for a peek of your baby’s smile only to get that smile, dripping with milk, AND an eyeful of squirting nipple.