Breastfeeding strike…. not the end
When my daughter was 11 months old she had horrendous teething pain, the pain led her to bite, and the biting made Mama scream, which made baba scared… and led to a breastfeeding strike.
This was our biggest challenge so far on our breastfeeding journey. I was gutted at the prospect that I might not make it to a year. I got as much support as I could, read as much as I could. A few people suggested that she was weaning, but I knew that was not the case, and I wasn’t ready to stop either.
So I fed her my expressed milk over the next week, trying each time to offer her the breast first. I wonder if I would have gotten through it if she hadn’t already been eating solids.
Eventually one day in a room full of breastfeeding dyads, she latched and I almost cried for joy. We were back on track!
I’m sure that some people would wonder why I bothered. Should I have taken the opportunity to wean?! Well I am so grateful we continued and these are the reasons why.
Now my little girl was not a massive fan of food at first, most offerings would end up nibbled and rejected. But at least I knew that breastmilk was providing her with one decent food.
Sometimes you hear the myth that “breastmilk has no value over the age of one”. This is false and science has proved that breastmilk provides many essential nutrients in the second year (and beyond).
Sometimes it seems like every time I think “that’s it I’m weaning!” my toddler gets ill. Suddenly I’m grateful because when she is off her food and drink, breastmilk is all she will eat! But mostly because I know that as soon as she gets ill my body starts to make antibodies that help her to recover quicker. Breastmilk is sometimes the only medicine she will take.
Over Christmas we all got a nasty virus, and my daughter was particularly poorly, refusing to eat or drink and her breathing was becoming difficult. I was getting worried and was close to getting medical help for her. She hadn’t breastfed for a couple of days. But I knew if I could get her to take some milk she would feel better. That night she fell asleep and I was sneaky, I latched her on in her sleep and she had a dream feed (like she did as a baby). When she awoke she was smiley and sparky and over the worst.
Another time she had croup, which again I nearly called for help. This time I cuddled her upright, sang to her, comforted her, and breastfed her. We both fell asleep together and when she woke up the croup had gone!
Reassurance and Comfort
When my daughter was 20 months old her little brother arrived. By continuing to breastfeed her alongside him, she has the reassurance that she hasn’t been replaced. This has done a lot to limit sibling rivalry and help them to bond.
Breastfeeding helps us to reconnect when she comes home from a day at preschool.
Toddlers all have their little tantrums and upsets, and I find that I can easily distract her by offering a boob. It’s amazing how it can completely change her mood sometimes.
Breastmilk contains melatonin at higher levels in the evening, which is believed to help children get off to sleep and sleep for longer stretches. I find that the bedtime breastfeed helps my daughter calm down and get ready for sleep. She generally sleeps through the night and has done for many months. But if she does wake up, I quickly let her breastfeed for a minute or so, and this moment of comfort generally helps her quickly drift off back to sleep.
So all this sounds very nice. But what about those times when I haven’t wanted to breastfeed? There have been many. With my children now both over a year old, feeding two toddlers can be demanding and exhausting. I have had to set some gentle boundaries to limit my oldest to 3 long feed per day, and as many quick (10 second) feeds as she wants. This has worked very well. I also no longer tandem feed them in the day, as they are too big to squash onto my lap without me getting very claustrophobic and a fair amount of bickering as they fight for space. I only tandem feed at bedtime before their story, which works well for everyone.
We have talked a lot lately about weaning, and she tells me she wants to stop when she is three. Which is very soon…. we shall see. I’m looking forward to finding new ways to nurture her. I am sure there will be lots of extra cuddles!