Breastfeeding toddlers & beyond: not as weird as you might think – #KBBF2014

The theme for today in the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt is “Breastfeeding Beyond a Year”. I still remember the feeling when Andrew, my eldest son, got to his first birthday and was still breastfeeding. At the time I wrote a blog post on it called the not-so-crazy world of toddler breastfeeding. After all the struggles we’d had in the early weeks and months (as I explained in my last KBBF post, I have IGT – insufficient glandular tissue – so can’t exclusively breastfeed a baby), I could hardly believe that we’d got to 12 weeks let alone 12 months. But he was still keen to feed, or nurse would be a better term as it really wasn’t about the food anymore but about the comfort and routine. And I always said that I wanted him to decide when to wean and it wouldn’t be me who would initiate the weaning process. So we carried on beyond the time that most mums I knew were breastfeeding.

Apart from his lack of interest in weaning, there are other good reasons to have carried on nursing a toddler (and now preschooler). I think that it’s helped in the fact that he’s still hardly ever been ill. Nursing has been fundamental in his daily bedtime routine for a long time, along with a bath and reading books. He likes to have that routine and I think it has helped him know that it’s bedtime before he could understand properly what was going on. Nursing has also helped when he’s been upset or tired over the years, to calm him down, though these days he only really has some milk before bed.

 

When Andrew was around 13 months old, I found I was pregnant again. This brought with it all sorts of thoughts and feelings about breastfeeding, for example: I had bad vomiting and nausea throughout the pregnancy and wondered if I had the energy to carry on and how I should initiative weaning in that case; I wondered if Andrew would self-wean anyway, as many do during the pregnancy of a sibling; I wondered if/how it would work out with tandem nursing if he did want to carry on. I wrote about these thoughts at various times in my weekly pregnancy diary blog posts, such as this one.

Well we both made it with the breastfeeding through pregnancy thing, and when Joel was born, we became a tandem nursing family. I had lots of support from my local LLL group, and one leader in particular had gone out of her way to help put me in contact with another LLL leader from elsewhere in the country who had tandem nursed with IGT. She made the good point that the toddler is an excellent breast pump substitute in terms of giving the breasts extra stimulation after the newborn feeds (of course you can’t get the milk back from the toddler though, like you can from a bottle of pumped milk, and give it to the baby, but I never got much from a pump anyway.)

As Andrew was basically down to just having one feed before bedtime, I made sure that Joel had had good feeds himself up to that point, and then he had time with Daddy whilst Andrew and I had milk time. He probably was getting very little actual milk by that point in the day, but as he’d nursed through pregnancy, when milk supply drops naturally even in mums without IGT, he was used to that. He just liked the time with me, and I think the tandem nursing helped him accept Joel into the family, although he was young enough to not really care that much anyway. Sometimes Andrew would ask for milk while I was sitting feeding Joel in the day – an increased interest in nursing can happen with older siblings, even if already weaned, so he wasn’t unusual in this, and would usually be happy with a few sucks from the other side, just to mark his ground more than anything I think. There weren’t many times that I would actually have one feeding from each side at the same time – tandem nursing refers to breastfeeding 2 (or more) children in the same time period, not necessarily precisely simultaneously.

Joel seemed to get more breast milk than Andrew did at the same age – I could tell partly from the fact that he needed less formula supplementation and partly because his poos looked so much more breastfed than Andrew’s ever did pre-solids! Many mums, with and without IGT, report increased milk supply with subsequent children. So even if Andrew was taking a little of the shared supply when Joel was a baby, I was happy that over the span of their nursing years, they were getting their own fair share.

Before I knew it, we somehow managed to get to a whole year of tandem nursing; it dawned on me that I was tandem nursing 2 toddlers, and nowadays a toddler and a preschooler.  Neither of them nurse for very long these days, but both of them still enjoy Mummy milk before bed. I think Andrew is slowly on the stopping straight because he doesn’t ask for it every day now, but I’ve heard that this is how self-weaning at this age can happen – a slow process that you look back on and can’t pin point an exact time that they stopped, the breastfeeds just go down from once a day to once a week to once a month etc. We often joke that at this rate, Joel will stop before Andrew, because he’s probably less interested in it than Andrew was at this age, but who knows! (Only they know.)

I look back now and can’t quite believe that I’m sitting here writing this, given our shaky start in the world of breastfeeding. But I’m glad that we persevered through the hard times to get to this point. When I think about how much breast milk that my boys have had over their nursing lives, it’s probably similar to how much some babies had who were exclusively breastfed for the 6 months that is seen as the ‘standard’ amount of time to breastfeed for. Some people may think that breastfeeding or nursing toddlers is weird, and pre-schoolers even weirder, but it works for us and I’m happy to carry on for as long as they require, which may turn out to be not much longer.

Others who are writing about breastfeeding beyond a year today include….. (please go and visit their blogs too).

Sorry about the mess

Circus Queen

Hex Mum

My thoughts on things

Baking Betsy

And another WAHM like myself taking part in the hunt is

Cherub Chews

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Competition time! Counting down to National Breastfeeding week

Back in April it was cloth nappies, and next week it’s breastfeeding – two things that I am so glad we do as a family and therefore would like to raise awareness of, particularly during the weeks when they are made prominent nationally. That’s why I’m taking part in the Keep Britain Breastfeeding scavenger hunt next week, along with lots of other bloggers and companies who are interested in breastfeeding, for National Breastfeeding week.

Each day next week there will be lots of posts published on a particular theme of breastfeeding (e.g. what’s so good about breastfeeding?, breastfeeding beyond the first year). The idea is that as people read these posts, they find the hunt logo on the various websites and can then enter competitions, both small ones and the larger main competition to win a big goody bag of all sorts of breastfeeding-related and general baby stuff – I heard recently that the total value of all the prizes for the hunt is now over £1000!

Through all this reading, the aim of the hunt is to raise awareness of breastfeeding, to get accurate information out there based on real people’s experiences of breastfeeding, and to try and dispel some breastfeeding myths. I try not to take it for granted that I was in the right place at the right time to get fantastic support from knowledgeable people when I was struggling to breastfeed Andrew, and I know that had we lived somewhere different, I may well not have been here writing these posts.

Last year I took part in the hunt and had a lot of fun reading others’ posts about their experiences and entering the competitions. You can read the posts I wrote here…

What’s so good about breastfeeding?

Mum-to-mum sharing: at-breast supplementation

Breastfeeding support: accurate info, practical help, listening ears

Small steps add up to a long breastfeeding journey

This year I will be writing again about what’s so good about breastfeeding, the importance of good support, and breastfeeding beyond the first year – I feel these are the closest things to my heart when it comes to breastfeeding. I’ll try not to repeat myself too much for those who have already read these posts. So if you’re interested, watch this space!

To get us in the mood for the upcoming fun, the lovely people at Breastvest have offered both a discount code for this week, the week before the hunt begins, and a prize for me to give away. There aren’t many products that I feel I really need as a breastfeeding mum, though of course it’s sometimes nice to be bought gifts that you wouldn’t otherwise buy yourself if you can make use of them. But one thing I did do for clothing in the early weeks of breastfeeding was wear a vest underneath a flowy top, as I found it worked well to pull the vest down and lift the top up, so not revealing much of me at all (more concern over the post-baby tummy than my chest region actually!) I happened to have some vests that I’d got quite a while before having kids that had extendable straps, but even these were sometimes a squeeze to pull the vest down and not lose its shape after a while. But the Breastvest is a clever design, made with extra long straps that make breastfeeding like I do (or at least did until the weather got warmer and my boys have fed less and less when we’re out) much easier.

Breastvest
A Breastvest in action

Here are a couple of ways that you could get your hands on a Breastvest… If you enter the competition below, you are in with a chance of winning one of these clever vests in your colour and size of choice. Or if you don’t fancy the wait until the end of the competition, why not head over to their website right now, choose a colour and size, and enter BSH25 at the checkout to get a 25% discount on your order. This discount is valid from 12.01am on Monday 17th June 2013 to midnight on Sunday 23rd June 2013. You can keep up to date with their future offers by following them on Facebook and/or Twitter.

You might also be interested to know that for the rest of June, Breastvest are selling limited issue grey breastvests in aid of the Lullaby Trust, which supports grieving parents whose babies have been lost to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and also provides safe sleeping information. All of the profits from the sale of grey breastvests during June will be donated to them.

See you again soon for more breastfeeding reading 🙂

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