Nursing at 14 months (Mommy Monday)

As I head into each weekend, I start to think about possible topics for Mommy Monday. What will inspire me? What will my readers be interested in? What do I feel comfortable writing about? I debated a couple of topics this weekend, but I think I've settled on an update on breast-feeding a toddler. This post is inspired by ScienceMama's bittersweet post as she approaches the one year mark of breast-feeding Bean.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast-feeding for at least one year in healthy infants where there is no contra-indication. ("Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.") Minnow and I met that mark just over two months ago. When I was pregnant I told people that I was committed to doing it for one year, but in my head I told myself that it would probably be more like two years. I know that lots and lots of people breast-feed for two years or longer, but Minnow is the only one in her age group that is still nursing and more and more people make comments assuming that Minnow is weaned or will be weaned shortly. Minnow and I are doing great with the nursing and I'm thinking that it will probably continue for at least 6 more months, maybe longer.

But nursing a toddler is nothing like nursing an infant:

A major difference is that the frequency of nursing went way down shortly after her first birthday. Minnow transitioned to the toddler room, where bottles were not allowed and cow's milk was served with meals. Around that time I also cut down, and then cut out, pumping. While the transition was rough on Minnow (she still won't drink cow's milk at home), it was incredibly liberating for me. Suddenly I was literally tied to the pump for 90 minutes a day and I didn't have to worry about scrubbing bottles and pump parts at home each night. Recently I've found myself wondering why I wasn't more productive last semester, and then I realize how time-consuming that pumping business was. (I also got more done than I give myself credit for.)

On a typical day evening/night, Minnow greedily empties one breast as soon as I arrive at daycare to pick her up. Then we go home and have dinner. Since she won't drink milk, I usually give her some diluted juice or water with dinner. Two hours after daycare pick-up, she'll empty the other breast. Just before bedtime, she'll nurse again from one or both breasts, only rarely falling asleep nursing. She sleeps for 2.5 to 4.5 hours before waking up hungry. I usually bring her to bed with me at this point and nurse her back to sleep. She usually wakes up one more time during the night to nurse right back to sleep and then around 6:30 am, she'll nurse from both sides in succession and then fall into a deep sleep for another hour. Usually that's the only morning nursing. (This weekend she's been under the weather, so the daytime frequency has intensified.)

I'm still wearing nursing bras to facilitate the after daycare refueling, and sometimes I'll throw in breast pads if the day will be particularly long or leakage would be particularly visible. Spontaneous let-down is a real possibility during the afternoons. I'm not sure how long I'll keep wearing nursing bras...but at least until I buy myself some regular ones in my current size.

Lately, Fish has succeeded in putting Minnow down to sleep for the evening on a few occasions, which has been a tremendously freeing experience. This evening, for example, I went to Starbucks to grade papers while Minnow had her bath and bedtime, and Friday I was able to have a brief post-daycare visitation with Minnow before going to dinner with a visiting speaker. I love our evenings together (I'm home alone Monday-Thursday evenings), but it's nice to know that she can go to sleep without me (and without too much fuss). It also gives me hope that if work requires it, I could go away overnight by some point in the summer. When she was tiny, I loved being able to comfort any distress with the breast. Now, I love that we can usually comfort her without it.

Toddlers are much larger (though Minnow is still quite small for her age) and much more agile than infants, introducing new challenges and creativity in feeding positions. Minnow is constantly finding new ways to pull up, or pull down, my shirt and access my boobs. She's sucked on them from all sorts of funny contorted positions. But, whatever, she's obviously getting what she needs in terms of comfort and nutrition. She's also taken to grabbing my nipples and pinching or pulling (ow!), so we've been working on stopping that behavior. It's hard for me not to cry out in pain, but I'm trying to remove her hand and say "gentle" and then limit access to the offended area. She's mostly gotten the gentle concept with the we've just got apply it to my mammary areas. Fortunately, biting has been a very infrequent problem.

All in all, I love the time I spend nursing Minnow and it's obvious that it still an important part of her life. I'm so glad we've been able to have this wonderful experience.

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Aren't the positions a toddler gets into to nurse just amazing. My daughter's (at 22 months) favorite one is to sit, either next to me on the couch and turn her head, or straight on, or, occansionally, to stand between my legs while I'm sitting. They definitely get more creative as they get older.

My son finally started nursing comfortably when he was about nine months. (Before that, I had to walk with him in the sling until he fell asleep, and then nurse him when he woke up - which was the minute I sat down.) So I wasn't ready to stop when he was a year old. I mean, it had only just become the warm, cuddly bonding experience it was supposed to be. We nursed at night and when he was sick until about eighteen months. The weaning happened gradually, as he began to sleep more and more hours at a stretch.

Does she have a word for nursing yet? I made the mistake of teaching him "boobs," I think, before realizing that he would ask for them. Loudly. In public.

I made the mistake of teaching him "boobs," I think, before realizing that he would ask for them. Loudly. In public.

That's fucking hilarious!

Kim - I'm so impressed that you stuck with it for nine months before it got comfortable. She doesn't have a word for nursing yet, mostly she just pulls at my shirt. I haven't consistently called it one thing, because I haven't found a word that describes it quite right, yet is easy for a toddler to say.

Your story makes me feel a little wistful. I nursed my daughter, pumping during the day, until 1 year. Around then, she transitioned to whole milk at daycare, which she absolutely loves. At around 13 months, she just stopped wanting to nurse. I was able to nurse her only when she woke up during the night - she'd fight me or even bite at any other time, even though she used to love to nurse as soon as I got her from daycare and again when going to sleep. I finally decided that she was trying to tell me something, and stopped after about a week of only nursing which she was asleep. I love that I have a strong minded daughter with opinions, but I do miss the cuddle time and emotional bonding we had. We connect in other ways now, but part of me misses nursing my toddler.

My son is 7 months and just starting to get into odd positions. Now he wakes up in the middle of the night and crawls around half asleep until I can get him to stay still long enough to take a boob--sometimes I end up letting him craw on top of me to get it. In the evenings he keeps stopping and starting (which he has done from the very beginning, but in the evenings it is really ridiculous) unless I let him grab my skin. I have little scratch marks but so far it's easier than trying to keep his hands busy another way (even having him hold my finger sometimes makes him stop nursing).
I hope I'll be doing exactly what you're doing in another few months! I am tired of pumping and had to go home today and waste an hour because I forgot my pump!

My daughter-in-law taught her daughter (somewhere around 9 months, I think) a sign that she used to indicate she wanted to nurse. I can't remember the sign, but that worked very well.

Not quite as embarrassing as Kim's experience, but now that my granddaughter is talking, she pats on a breast and calls "Out!" (Still nursing several times a day at age 22 months.)

Thanks for the informative and supportive post, Science Woman!

Today is my first day at work without the pump, and I'm feeling okay about it. Happy and sad. But I hope that Bean and I will have as much success with nursing in the coming year as you and Minnow are having!

SW, I successfully nursed both my babies for 2+ years. Until *I* had had enough (I know, I never thought I'd feel that way, but there was a point when I wanted my body to myself). Good for you!

I say nurse longer than shorter. . . you won't regret it. I wished I had not cut the kid off at one year because of the family pressure here in Texas. They felt it was way to long to nurse. I hate that I let into that pressure. I should have listened to my mother instead.

I am deeply envious of you, SW. I had also planned on bf'ing for a year, but now I am finding that my supply is almost nil, and as Máire grows she needs more and more supplementing, which in turn further decreases my supply. It took an inexplicable dive about a month and a half ago, and I have not been able to get it back up. I nursed exclusively the entire week of spring break, which was really tough because she was always hungry and very unhappy. As proof that she wasn't getting enough to eat, she wasn't producing enough wet diapers every day and at her last dr. appt she was only in the 30th percentile for weight. I've tried pumping frequently, increasing my fluids, and taking fenugreek, but nothing seems to help. I don't know what caused my milk to decrease so drastically and suddenly, but it's really got me down. Máire is almost five months old and I don't think she'll be getting milk from me for much longer. It's heartbreaking.

What is especially upsetting is that we didn't get "good" at nursing until she was three months old. Before that it was a painful, horrible experience. It figures that as soon as the pain stopped and my nipples healed and she perfected her latch that my milk would suddenly diminish. :(

I had planned to nurse Bun through the summer ( to 18 months or so ), but she lost interest in it at about 13. It was sad in a way, but also ok with me.

I'm so impressed you stuck with the pumping for so long. Nina is still hanging on at 26 months and has slowed down, but is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. I like that we can continue to connect in that way. As my MiL said the other day, "When they get this old, the nursing becomes mostly about relationship." I must admit though I have gotten a little antsy to have my body back after over 5 years of either being pregnant or breastfeeding.

By Writer Chica (not verified) on 01 Apr 2008 #permalink

My second child called it "muk-muk" and that worked fine. The first child was not very verbal and got to the shirt opening stage. Between the kids and me, we weaned the first at 18 months and the second at 25 months for the other. I loved the after school Mommy-baby time.

By grannyprof (not verified) on 02 Apr 2008 #permalink

When you finally get around to buying a non-nursing bra, my best advice is to get a really good one (like Chantelle), and get measured for it. As one of my friends told me, after is nothing like before. I had a colleague who wore her nursing bras long after she was nursing and it was not a pretty sight.

As someone who stuck with nursing for only 3 months with both of my children I think just feeding a baby/toddler is a wonderful experience in general.

I loved that my 88 year old grandma was able to help feed my son (with a bottle) the summer he was an infant. She had a stillborn son some 60 years ago, and it was very special for her to hold and feed the little guy. She would say, "Give me my little man!" and shoo me away to go play with my two-year-old daughter.

I loved being able to look into my children's eyes once we switched to bottles. Ironically, I felt much more connected to them then.

And now that we're able to all sit at the dinner table, I love that there's time when we all sit down together and connect as a family. It's my favorite part of the day.

By Female Enginee… (not verified) on 02 Apr 2008 #permalink

I'm always impressed when women nurse longer than a few months. I went for 18 mos. with younger son, but I had to give up when he started bungee jumping from my lap and using my breast as an anchor. He also didn't sleep for more than 2 hours at a time until he was weaned. I tried to wean him slowly, but I finally gave up and went on a 5 day vacation without him. As soon as I got back, he did his "nursing grunt", but didn't get upset when things didn't happen.

I'm glad I held on as long as I did. I think it's helped him to be a happy, calm kid...more than anything else I did.

I nursed my two for more than 36 months between them. The older one weaned herself after discovering she had a deep findness for white grape juice.

The little one, on the other hand, weaned last August at the age of 19 months when I had to go out of town for a week. She kind of forgot how to latch in that week and got very confused. ("I used to love this... now how did it work again?" look on her face.) She still puts small round objects under her shirt and walks around signing "milk" in ASL, and every so often she pulls up my shirt and loooooks at my chest with that same confused look as seven months ago. Once or twice she's even put her lips down there, then pulled back. I'm sure if I had another kid, she'd remember and I'd end up tandem nursing!

Neither of them were fond of weird positions so much as they were suddenly looking away while latched... Argh! But the snuggles are totally worth it.

An old post but I had to comment. When my now-preschooler moved from the infant room to the toddler room, he switched from mama's milk (in a bottle) to water. His choice. The teachers would offer him the bottle I sent but he wanted nothing to do with it. I think I continued to pump for a month thereafter "just in case" but then it appeared that he wasn't going back to milk in a bottle. At that time, I had at least 2 gallons of milk in the upright freezer that I held onto for another few months, again "just in case". I forgot about it for a while and then we had a ceremonial dumping of the thawed, spoiled milk afternoon

He is still nursing at 3.5 yrs - bedtime, during the night, and first thing in the morning. When he does nap on the weekend, he still has to nurse to nap. I'm still trying to figure out how he can magically sleep well for nap 5 days of the week without nursing and is absolutely insistent on nursing for naps on the other 2. It is still the best way to calm a frustrated toddler (and preschooler). The other advantage is that he rarely gets sick even though he is now in a room with 20 other germy kids; when he does get sick, his recovery time is rapid.

We're dairy-free because of my allergy/intolerance, but, regardless, he has no interest in milk from any other animal, grain, nut, or drupe. Just mama's milk.