What it's REALLY like to Breastfeed a Toddler

If you're reading this, you probably have one of two mindsets about the title of this post:

1) Ew what the heck?! She's still breastfeeding?! I'm gonna read this post and see how weird she is.

2) Preach mama, I'm (secretly) right there with you.

This lovely tasteful portrait of us nursing was taken by T.Marie Photography. I chose the black and white version so it's milder for those of who are still SHOCKED that we're still nursing.

 Here is my disclaimer: It is not my choice to breastfeed, it is my daughter's choice. She is a person who is allowed to make decisions, too. I am supportive of my daughter and her positive choice to continue to nurse.

If you'd like to explain to a 21 month-old about how she should wean because it's "weird" and she's "too old," go for it. Expect a wildly flinging tantrum and perhaps a smack in the leg.

Go ahead though, tell her about how it's not "normal," or how she's using her mama as a "pacifier." Try it. See what happens if you tell her she can't nurse. It's literally her favorite thing in the world.

Phoebe nurses 4-10 times a day. She nurses during her nap, she nurses to go to sleep at night and during the night while we share our big bed together, she wakes up  and nurses and goes back to sleep. She nurses before I leave for work. She nurses when I come home from work. She nurses while we watch Frozen (Let it FLOW, let it floooow!) and she nurses at the zoo while I'm wearing her in our Beco carrier.

She has no qualms about it. She asks in her own special way - signing for milk, or this funny little noise "Hoo-hoo? Poo-hoo-hoo?" or just pulls at my shirt until I oblige. I don't mind. Here's why...

 She rarely gets sick. She's had maybe 6 illnesses in her 21 months of life. Yay! Breastmilk morphs to what your child needs. Get ready to have your mind blown: Her saliva tells my milk what germs she's fighting and my milk changes to include antibodies that fight those germs. What...Yeah. Rad.
(And in case you were wondering: no breastfeeding does not cause tooth decay. Sorry haters.)

 She's starting to be a picky eater, and I want to keep those little baby rolls as long as possible. It's a MYTH, folks, that breastmilk has no nutritional value after a year. Does cows milk still have nutritional value regardless of how old a person is? Yeah. No difference. She will nurse before she will eat new foods most of the time. That's cool. Lots of calories (and antibodies, remember?).

 It's one of the few times she's calm and collected. She settles down into my lap, gets all comfy, pulls my shirt and unhooks(!) my bra, then she starts nursing and hormones release that calm her, and she's soothed. I have literally nursed bumps and bruises away. Tears fall a lot less when she's able to nurse. Her calm-down hormone is important at this stage, too, and her lack of tantrum throwing is a testament to that.

 I believe that she needs to nurse to reconnect with me because I work full time. I spend 40 hours away from her during the week. To me, her nursing says "Mama, I'm still here, I just wanted to you know. I still need you, even when you're gone all day. Are you still mine, even though you've been away? Prove it, Mama, let me nurse." I love those quiet, still moments with her when I'm off and we both need to relax together. It's priceless and I can't replace it.

So those are the sweet and good things...

But breastfeeding a toddler is lonely and nerve wracking. Think you had it bad when you were a newbie-nurser and you had to go in public with your newborn? Guess what - people are usually much more accepting of newborns. Try being in public with a toddler who's saying "Poo-hoo?" and pulling your shirt down. I try to discreetly nurse her, but I still get some looks.

Plus sometimes she kicks me... but usually by accident.

No one has said anything to me about nursing her - neither positive or negative - in public. Maybe I'm just a master and no one can tell, or maybe people are too surprised to say anything. Regardless, the nerves get me sometimes. And the loneliness is so strong. I don't know another mom with a child my age who is still nursing. I don't know another mom with a child my age who nursed past a year, actually.
(If you're reading this and you're hiding your breastfeeding toddler, come out of the woodwork so we can chat!)

I still have to pump. I get some anxiety about it. Past 18 months, I can't donate to the milk bank anymore. I do have a lovely donor who takes my pumped milk for her little, and that makes me feel really good about being able to pump. But it sucks. Seriously. I hate taking my lunch to do it, I hate the parts and the noise and cleaning and storage. It's gotten old. But if I don't pump, I hurt. And if it don't pump, I lose my supply, and I will not do anything to jeopardize our nursing relationship. I'd love to quit (which is why I'm going to see a lactation specialist next week. Even nursing vets need help!).

Mostly I feel like people who don't say anything but know I'm still nursing Phoebe have a few things in their brains, like...
"How strange." or "That's just too much." or "That child is spoiled."

Y'all... please remember, Phoebe is more baby than she is grown up. She's not even two. She knows a few things are certain and true in her life: Mama and Dada love her, and her Mama will nurse her no matter what. I'd like to think it's establishing a relationship that we will cherish for the remainder of our days.

So what's it REALLY like to breastfeed a toddler? It's wild and weird and unexpected and wonderful. Did I expect to nurse this long? Nope. Do I mind? Nope. Do I love it? Sure - I love her, and she loves to nurse, and those two things go together so I shall embrace it.

Will I wean her? No. I won't. But I'll let you know when she's done, as I'm sure that will be another beautiful story to tell.


  1. Jill,I want to let you know I nursed David until 2 months shy of his 4th birthday. A lot of people thought I was crazy,but it was what was right for us. You keep doing whats best for you and your beautiful daughter!


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