Breastfeeding a newborn looks a lot different from breastfeeding a toddler. Honestly, I never thought I would breastfeed my toddler. I had made the arbitrary decision, before having children, that I would stop breastfeeding at age one. Instead, my son weaned only when I was pregnant with his sister and too nauseated and exhausted to continue nursing; he was just shy of two-and-a-half years old, and I plan to nurse his sister until she’s at least that age. I thought breastfeeding was something I would do because I knew it was good for my baby. I had no idea how much I would enjoy the breastfeeding bond!
While looking for pictures to use for this post, I found one that perfectly exemplifies those first few weeks breastfeeding a newborn. (Cub must have taken it when I wasn’t paying attention … it’s about as candid as you can get!)
The first month postpartum is likely the foggiest and most confusing period of motherhood, and it’s also the time when you need to keep track of the most information. How many wet diapers per day? How long is she nursing? How often is she nursing? How much does she weigh? When was your last shower? Luckily your smartphone can help with all but the last, thanks to the award-winning MyMedela app.
I long abandoned tracking much of anything with Little Miss and have begun answering the “How old is she?” question with “She turned one in July.” Heck, I have to do some quick mental math to tell people my own age! That’s one of the big differences between breastfeeding a toddler and a newborn: YOU are your newborn’s only food. You need to pay a great deal of attention to how much and how often and how well she’s nursing. But for your toddler, breastfeeding becomes something else. No longer their only source of nutrition, breastfeeding becomes a source of much more!
The 5 Cs of Breastfeeding a Toddler
When my babies are sick, scared or hurt, I always offer them milkies. I love the instant comfort nursing provides. My son was much more of a “comfort nurser” than his sister: if he got hurt, the surest way to settle him was to let him nurse. Little Miss is easily comforted during the day by a hug, but she seeks the comfort of nursing in the middle of the night. Even at—excuse me while I do some mental math—15 months old, she still nurses at least twice a night. (She sleeps next to me so it’s not a problem.)
The first message both my children were able to effectively communicate was: “I want to nurse!” Well, not in a complete sentence, or even with words; no, it was their first baby sign! I got so frustrated with Cub yanking on my shirt to signal that he wanted to nurse that I gave in and started teaching him to sign for milk. I quickly regretted not starting signs sooner! Little Miss started signing for milk about two months ago. Being fed is one of the most important parts of a toddler’s day, so it’s no surprise that signs associated with eating are the ones they pick up soonest.
I have one (made up) word for you: gymnurstics. It’s just downright hysterical the positions toddlers get themselves into when nursing. Little Miss likes to nurse from a standing position, perpendicular to my breast while I’m lying down. I’ve seen kids who wind up upside down with their feet on their mama’s head, kids with limbs in the air or random objects clutched in their hands … not to mention every mother’s nightmare: niplash. (That’s when your tot is nursing and then abruptly turns her head without unlatching.)
Once babies become mobile, it seems like they’re always on the go. Potentially my favourite thing about nursing my children as toddlers is that it slows them down enough to climb into my lap for a few moments. When I would pick my son up from daycare in the summer, a lot of times I’d pick him up from the neighbourhood park where they always spent the latter half of the day. I’d show up to see him running around and screeching with the other children, but as soon as he saw me, he’d want to sit down and nurse. Now, when his sister nurses during the day, it’s the perfect moment to read him a story without her yanking at the pages and clambering all over him.
By the time their babies reach toddlerhood—and oftentimes much earlier—many mothers are back at work. Their babies can still benefit from their breastmilk, provided mom can pump at work (which she is legally entitled to do). Being able to pump easily, discreetly and conveniently on the job is a must. I cannot imagine using anything but the Medela Freestyle if I were pumping my milk every day in the workplace. The Freestyle comes with a cooler bag and contoured icepack to help you safely store your pumped milk, plus a sleek tote bag to carry your pump to and from work. It’s cordless, and it’s the quietest breast pump I’ve heard so far. Now that Little Miss is nursing less during the day, when I have a letdown and she’s not interested, I pump so I can donate to the NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank. (Cub loves watching them pasteurize the milk when we drop off a donation!)
For mothers that do a blend of bottle feeding and breastfeeding, Medela’s Calma feeding system is a one-size-fits-all bottle system that allows you to bottle feed expressed milk (or formula) in a way that perfectly mimics the way baby feeds at the breast. Knowing your baby can easily and contentedly accept your milk from another caregiver gives you great peace of mind when you’re away! This system is designed specifically to facilitate combined breast and bottle feeding.
Whether it’s from a bottle or the breast, there are many benefits to feeding your toddler breastmilk. Medela helps you with the collection so you can enjoy the comfort, cuddles, comedy and communication!
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Disclosure: I am part of the PTPA Brand Ambassador Program with Medela Canada and I received compensation as part of y affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.
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