It’s funny. If you’d told me at around the five-week mark, when we were having a really bad time owing to a severe but undiagnosed tongue-tie and I had not so much cracked nipples, rather nothing but cracks where my nipples should have been; if you’d told me then, when I was counting down the days to the end of the sixth week because everybody knows that if you stick it out for six weeks you’ve done your maternal duty and your baby will be completely made of antibodies and you never have to attach him or her to your boobs again, that we would still be breastfeeding at 21 months I would have shaken my head at you in frank disbelief. But here we are and that’s exactly what we’re doing. (“Well done!” says the Health Visitor in slight surprise. Yup, IKR?)
Let’s start this post with a little terminological whatnot; there are people in the world who call breastfeeding past the first birthday “extended breastfeeding” as if we’re all supposed to stop at twelve months on the dot and anything beyond that date is eyeroll-inducingly weird. Then there are people (mostly involved with breastfeeding advocacy groups) who are militantly opposed to calling breastfeeding anyone aged under three extended anything, because of how it’s normal and common in many parts of the world and plus how the WHO recommends breastfeeding until 24 months anyway. I’m not going to come down hard in either camp; I think we can just call it “boob” and get on with our lives.
Within our own group of similarly-aged baby friends we’re actually the last breastfeeding combo standing, and a couple of friends have questions about what it’s like to still be nursing a walking, talking child who can use their dozen teeth to gnaw an entire corn cob clean. Well, here are my FAQs on breastfeeding into the second year and beyond.
1. You can forget about nursing positions
Cradle, cross-cradle, football – you can forget all of these once your child is fully mobile. Scarlett nurses in an exciting variety of positions, including the downward dog, the tripod balance, the shoulder invert (that’s one for all my b-boys reading this), the puddle-jump, the Exorcist head-rotation, the full-twisting double back somersault and many nuanced combinations and variations on the above. Put away the baby books and the online breastfeeding guides: once your child can move, you’re in unchartered positional territory.
2. You can forget about feeding intervals too
Twenty minutes every four hours? Hahaha, that’s a distant memory. Once your toddler has solid foods to eat and a whole wide world to explore, you can expect vastly irregular nursing intervals: no interest at all for six to eight hours while they’re playing on the slides and building enormous avant-garde towers out of blocks and your best china, then it’ll be thirty seconds at a time every ten minutes for the next hour between snatches of Peppa Pig. And the next day it will be completely different again; not so much cluster feeding as fluster feeding hahaha amirite. On a serious note, wildly irregular feeding patterns can cause your milk production to go a bit awry in a similar way to when you start out, so keep an eye on any lumps and do all the hot compresses and kneading you need to in order to avoid a lactic whoopsie.
3. Feeding cues? Let me tell you about feeding cues
You know all about your newborn’s feeding cues, right? Mouth open, tongue out, rooting, finger in mouth, a funny oinking sound or a kind of “ah ah ah” if you still don’t have your shirt open? Yup, those are all replaced by a single clear and straightforward feeding cue: your toddler will yank your top down. Or, if they feel like preserving your modesty slightly that day, up. Mostly down. In the park? On the phone? At the shops? Toddlers care slightly less than babies about where you are and what you’re doing when they want a suckle, and let’s be honest, babies don’t care very much at all. Involuntary naturism ahoy.
4. Just because your little treasure is on solids will not prevent them from attacking your boobs like an entire pack of starved pumas
I mean, they’re supposed to be getting adequate – nay, excellent – nutrition from a varied and healthy solids diet at this point in time, but there are times I feel I know exactly what the last gazelle in the herd feels like when the big cats arrive on the savannah. Steady on, little one. Those are attached.
5. Yeah, the having teeth thing can be an issue
So normally toddler teeth + boobs = no problem. If your child is latched on in the approved manner, her tongue will be over her lower teeth and the upper teeth won’t be doing anything in particular, just resting away on your delicate lady bumps. The problem arises when one or more of the following happens:
- your child is distracted by something exciting happening elsewhere in the room, like an episode of Peppa Pig she hasn’t seen thirty thousand times already or the existence of a wall
- your child gets bored and abruptly leaves off nursing without bothering to detach
- your child found the noise you made last time that happened amusing and wishes you to repeat it
- you are nursing around naptime and your honey dozes off and loses control of one or more jaws and inadvertently chomps on your tender parts
These things have all happened to me. In fact, these things have all happened to me in the last week. Teeth are mostly not a problem, but I have to figure out how to do a speed unlatch before I start missing actual chunks of flesh (again).
6. Haters gonna hate
and tutters and gonna tut and other people’s toddlers are going to look mystified and ask “what’s that?” (this actually happened recently) and magazine editors are going to run stupid divisive cover stories about “being mom enough” and close friends might start having visions of that David Walliams character off Little England but you’re not going to let any of that bother you, are you? No, thought not. Feed your child the way you want for as long as you want; well, you know, don’t feed them McDonalds but do what you want with your boobs. And if you know have any good style tips for a still-nursing not-very-new mother, please do leave them in the comments below.