I’ve been breastfeeding my daughter for over 20 months now. That was never my plan and it was not something I ever imagined that I would be saying. Before I got pregnant with my daughter, I had only seen two other people breastfeed… in my entire life. In the area that I grew up, it didn’t seem like many people breastfed their babies so I grew up thinking that babies were born and drank out of a bottle. The end. No alternatives.
It wasn’t until we got pregnant and I started to make YouTube vlogs that I really started seeing that there were other choices besides bottle feeding. The women that I met, who also made pregnancy vlogs and vlogs of their babies growing up, all breastfed. There were very few women on YouTube, that I met, who bottle fed. It began opening my eyes to this option and it made me start researching the difference between breast milk and formula and the benefits that each option had.
Through this journey, I then decided that I would at least breastfeed until six months. It was my personal goal and I thought that at six months, I would introduce solids and switch our daughter to a bottle. Before we had my daughter we hired a doula, who was also a lactation consultant, to come to our house to give us a private “lesson” on breastfeeding and inform us of all of the options and the ups and downs that lay ahead of us.
After my daughter was born, I felt strongly about breastfeeding her as soon as I could. I was nervous as, aside from the lesson and watching countless videos on latch on YouTube, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had never seen anyone breastfeed in person in an up close and personal way. However, Willow latched on immediately and breastfed amazingly. I remember looking up at my husband and saying, “She’s doing it! She’s really, really doing it!” I feel in love with my daughter and with nursing all in that single moment.
The next few months were hard. Really, really hard. Between “rusty pipe syndrome”, cracked nipples, nipple shields and engorgement, I suffered through the process of feeding my child. I remember one night, my husband came down the stairs at 2am and I was sitting on the couch on my laptop, crying my eyes out. He asked me what was wrong and I said, “This is just so hard… I can’t do it… I just want to give up but if I think about that, I feel guilty because I really, really want this to work.” He looked at me and said, “Whatever you want to do, I support you.” I knew then that even though it was challenging and even though those first few weeks were horrible, I had his support and that was all I needed.
After that, it got really easy. Aside from one bout of thrush (which Willow got, I was lucky enough to escape it!) and the random sore nipples, nursing Willow was enjoyable. I pushed my original goal of six months out to one year and then one year got pushed to two and now that we’re at 20 months, I don’t know what the next goal is. To be truthful, there really isn’t one.
In terms of an update, now that we’re at 20 months, things are very different.
Nursing her has become a bit more challenging in its own way. No longer does she just cuddle up and nurse, she now does toddler Olympics as she nurses. Feet, arms and body all twisting and contorting and my nipple getting pulled along for the ride.
She is also getting a bit of a lazy latch. Instead of opening up wide and taking in a lot of the nipple and surrounding area, she now just sort of … slurps it in which causes massive chafing around the areola. It sucks. I’m slathering Jack Newman’s All Purpose Nipple Ointment on at least twice per day (thanks Anne!). In any case, I’m thinking of going to a breastfeeding drop-in soon just so they can re-assess her latch to see if they have any suggestions about how I can fix what’s happening right now. My nipples are taking a BEATING again! Feels like when she was a newborn.
The other thing that might be happening with my nipples is that she likes to umm… tweak my other nipple while she nurses. It’s a comfort thing but she always is trying to stick her hand into my nursing bra on the opposite side and she likes to grab onto my other nipple. It’s ANNOYING! I’m constantly pulling her hand out and saying no but it just doesn’t stop. Ever.
We’re also trying to introduce new things to her to help her cope through the times when she’d normally turn to me to nurse. Things like a skinned knee or a belly ache or if she gets grumpy. It’s not that I want to completely wean her right now but we’ve agreed that we need to at least get her down to just a couple of nursing sessions per day instead of feeding her all the time and allowing her to use me as an external coping mechanism for whatever she is going through. We’ve decided that she needs to learn some of these skills on her own now too.
I’ve also noticed that I’m not feeling my milk come in any longer. I used to feel it numerous times every day — it would feel like a letdown — but that hasn’t happened in the last little while. I’ve also got my cycles back so it’s possible the two are related?
The important thing is that she and I both still enjoy the overall nursing relationship. Some days she only nurses before bed and before her nap but other days, she requests it multiple times throughout the day. She’ll come up to me and say, “More mommy” or “Nummie” or she’ll simply pull my shirt open or stick her hand down into my shirt. Either way, I know when she wants to nurse and I try not to decline her request when and where possible.
Where we’re headed next I have no idea… we’re taking it one day at a time. I’ll know we’re ready to wean when she starts taking less of an interest or if my own feelings and outlook on nursing changes. In the meantime, I’ll just continue to enjoy and relish the cuddles because I know that will eventually come to an end too.
If you’re breastfeeding, where are you at in the process? What questions do you have, if any, about breastfeeding a toddler? Leave them in the comments below.
This is an awesome post, and I want to take the time to thank you Erin as you were my breastfeeding inspiration after I found out I was pregnant. I was so lucky to also have a newborn with an amazing latch right off the bat, this made things "easier". I also have the support of an amazing group of mommy friends who I've been able to rely on as things got rough. We are now at 4 months and my next goal is 5 months. One month at a time in my world.
lilmrsd thank you so so so much for saying that I was an inspiration to you because I felt the exact same way about certain women in my life too! To know that I inspired someone else to try it is really exciting. :) HUGE congrats to getting to 4 months :) You'll definitely be able to make it as far as you wish now -- I found after 3 months, things were golden (not always easy but definitely less challenging) :) xoxo Erin