Practicing Extended Breastfeeding, Even When It Hurts

12 Comments 02 December 2011

My daughter and I practice extended breastfeeding.

For her entire life, I have confidently nursed her in various places under various circumstances.

I have nursed her when she’s hungry, sick, hurt, scared or when she just felt like being close to me.

I haven’t had many uncomfortable or rude NIP (nursing in public) episode, and for the most part, we have felt a lot of support from family members and friends during our journey together.

I have loved providing nourishment and energy to my daughter by nursing her.

We’re warding off disease and cancer by doing what has come naturally for us! Hooray!

But with all this happy, loving talk, there is a dark side of extended breastfeeding. Oh maybe that’s too dramatic. Let me explain.

Five months ago my second child was born.

I tandem nurse. 

It honestly hasn’t been as tough as I imagined it would on me.

Sure, it takes of a lot of my time and energy, but I’ve really enjoyed those moments when nursing both of my children at the same time. They look into each other’s eyes, laugh together and touch each other’s faces and hands. Adorable!

One thing I immediately noticed when breastfeeding the two of them was how much stronger of a latch Ella had than little newborn Lucan.

Like, wow. Big difference.

All of a sudden – this literally happened in a single moment – I felt annoyed by Ella’s nursing. It almost hurt. And maybe this is a very primal instinctive sort of feeling, but if I had to choose between which child to nurse first, I wanted to go straight for Lucan. It seemed like he needed me more. Ella could go eat food. Right?

Wrong. Big, fat wrong!

As much as I’d like to think that Ella could be sustained on food alone, she doesn’t want to stop nursing any time soon. And I found, as well as read, mom continuously going to new baby first can cause resentment.

While half of me is annoyed, the other part of me wants to continue nursing her until she wants to stop (this is called child-lead weaning).

I’m feeling very conflicted.

So I think the best thing to do is change very little, by teeny tiny  increments. Ways that are invisible to the eye, but make me feel a bit better.

A few things I’ve done to ease my mind so Ella can continue nursing.

I’ve shortened the length of time we nurse.

Ella could nurse and nurse. But I’ve spoken with  her about my milk coming out, her drinking it, and when the milk stops, we’re all done. This works about 75% of the time!

Lucan and Ella take turns nursing, rather than at the same time.

This keeps me from noticing the difference between the way they nurse. And I can focus on one child at a time.

When Ella gets hurt, we hug or cuddle instead of nursing.

I completely understand the longing to nurse for comfort when in pain. But she falls down/stubs her toe/gets hair pulled by little brother too often to nurse every time! So we hug. I hold her close and stroke her hair. This works about…50% of the time (maybe a little less!). We’re getting there.

Finding & creating special alone time with Ella to nurse.

Although I haven’t had any embarrassing ”incidents” nursing publicly, it’s no secret that most people are not very comfortable seeing a toddler nursing. I try to pick and choose the times when I do NIP, and honestly, there are just some places, even at the homes of relatives, when I feel better waiting or taking Ella into another room. This creates a more enjoyable, peaceful environment for both of us, and a great way to reconnect.

At the end of the day, I try to remember that this time is fleeting.

There are more benefits to extended nursing than nutrition and physical health – breastfeeding is good for our souls!

The day will come when Ella no longer wants to nurse, and my heart will break over it. So I’m going to give it my all, and the best to my daughter while I still can. If I can, I will.

And my will is strong!

Your Comments

12 Comments so far

  1. Sarah says:

    YES!! I can totally relate! I have tandem nursed 3 times over the past 8 years (child 1&2, 2&3, and currently 4&5 {#3 weaned himself when I was pregnant with #4}) I agree with everything you wrote. Very good tips. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Leigh says:

    Thanks so much for this! Also tandem nursing – a 5 month old and an almost three year old. I also have those moments where the thought of nursing the toddler annoyed me, but I also want to keep going until she wants to stop. I was thinking today ‘Please could somebody remind me why I’m doing this!” – Thanks you for reminding me!

  3. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for this post…it’s very timely for me, as my two year old’s nursing is getting to be annoying to me at times, while at other times I still relish the sweetness of it. I’m also conflicted. Your post puts it right into perspective for me.

  4. amelia says:

    I wanted to nurse longer and she seemed to wean herself, but when I was pregnant with my 2nd, it hurt so badly to nurse. My oldest was almost 2 when she stopped. We got back from an overseas trip, nursed once and never again. I had supply issues with #2, but I still offered it to my oldest. Mad at my mom for telling her she was a big girl and didn’t need it. She is almost 3 and she can stillnurse if she wants. but she doesn’t (sniff)

  5. Callie says:

    I wanted to do this so bad, every month that I was able to breast feed I was so excited and then my milk slowed way down. I had no clue about some of the stuff I know now so hopefully for my second and third child I will be able to do this. I got to 9 months and that was it.

  6. Trish says:

    Great message and I completely agree. I’m tandem nursing my 5 month old and my 3 year old. I’ve had to cut my 3 year old down quite a bit. She’d still nurse all day long if I let her. Nursing for boo-boos was a big one. She’d barely bump her elbow and need to nurse every 5 minutes! Now I give her hugs and cuddles, but it definitely wasn’t easy. My 3 year old now crawls in bed with me every morning before the baby wakes and we cuddle and she nurses. It’s a really nice moment that she and I can share, just the two of us. That’s pretty much all she needs now for the day. But believe me…if by some odd circumstance she misses that morning nursing….she is one unhappy little girl!! She really looks forward to that special time with Mama, and so do I.

  7. Annie says:

    yes and yes! I also almost always nurse one at a time for this same reason (I hadn’t put it into words, but yes I feel annoyed at the older one in comparison). We too are having shorter sessions at my “suggestion”, but I continually gauge what is upsetting vs. just fine. Sometimes I do the “one more minute” warning and he stops right away on his own and is bouncing off to do something else, other times if there are tears or a struggle I don’t “enforce” the time limit. One day at a time, always! I think I will be ready when he’s ready to be done, but I don’t want to look back and feel like I pushed him into stopping and made the end of our nursing relationship a negative thing out of his control.

  8. Jayden's mom Mel :) says:

    Sweet article! My son Jayden is 16 weeks and we plan to nurse until he wants to stop. This gives me great insite and I thank you:)

  9. Meagan says:

    LOVE this piece .. thank you! Sometimes we can get so wrapped up that we think we are alone in these feelings. I, too, am conflicted often. My son is 20 months and is still going VERY STRONG with the nursing. Sometimes I’m annoyed out of my brain. Most times, I wouldn’t stop it for the world. Really good tips.

    P.S. The photo of you tandem nursing is absolutely precious. The look on Ella’s face is so familiar (reminds me of my son) and the smile on your face is golden .. lol!

  10. Michelle says:

    Thank-you! I’m nursing through my second pregnancy and am wondering if it’s worth it. Came across your post and realized it is. Thanks!

    • bringbirthhome says:

      Glad you stopped by, read and commented, Michelle! It’s worth it for sure. Not always easy, but worth it nonetheless! Best of luck to you.


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