Laura reflects on how she came to be breastfeeding a toddler
I never planned to feed a toddler. Like many mothers to be, I wasn’t prepared on what it meant to breastfeed my baby. We wait later to have our children, we grow up, and move away from home. Many professional friends choose not to have children and extended families stretch over thousands of miles. Many of us don’t have any experience of watching other women with their babies. Shortly after our son was born, when my mother told me she nursed my sister until she was two, I was horrified and thought then that it wasn’t for me.
When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I wasn’t sure why or what it meant. We touched on it in my antenatal class and my vague impression was it was instinctive and would just happen. However, in my head, I assumed I would do it for six months and be done. I suppose I accepted the advertising that suggested that six months was the time period and you would ’move on’ although I didn’t really know what that meant either. As far as I knew, he would start solids at six months and breastfeeding would be finished.
We made it through the early days. I was lucky to have a midwife come and tell me at my first home visit that my job was just to feed the baby and let everything else wait. It freed me to put my baby first, and not worry about maintaining an immaculate home when learning about my newborn baby.
At five months, I realised my baby wouldn’t be ready to stop in a month’s time. 12 months came, so did 18, 24, and 30. I couldn’t pinpoint a single day over that time period when I could see my baby needed me any less and I should cut him off.
Nursing is our safe harbour through the storms of toddlerhood. We snuggle in together and it takes us back to that first moment when we met. I see an outline of a cheek and a sweep of an eyelash that reminds me of that tiny baby who would once fit completely in the crook of my arm. I liken it to the matryoshka or Russian dolls, you start off with the smallest one and then a bigger one envelops the little one and they keep growing fitting inside each other. One day, you realise the poppers can’t fasten on the onesie anymore, the little shoe doesn’t fit that foot which is still so small. But we nurse, the love flows between us and I see that little baby again and the daily struggles melt away.
I surrender to his need for me, push through the exhaustion that comes from years of broken sleep, and rejoice in the exquisite beauty of the smallness of him. The day will come when the crook of my arm will be outgrown as the resting place for a weary little head. So if he can choose the day when he doesn’t need milk anymore, I will let him. I hope I will see him grow to become a man, and I will grow grey, and look back at these tough tender years, as the best ones of my life.
Laura Ford, LLL Norwich
This story was originally published in issue 204 of Breastfeeding Matters (Nov/ Dec 2014)