breastfeeding a two year old

Breastfeeding a two year old

It’s recommended that mothers breastfeed up until their child is two years of age, but some continue to nurse beyond that. Mother of one Tracey Quinn discusses her own personal experience of breastfeeding.

I suppose you could call me an ‘extended breastfeeder’. I don’t like labels or the idea of attention being drawn to me, but that is the correct term. Extended breastfeeding is the term people tend to use when speaking about a women breastfeeding beyond the point that is considered the norm around them.

The world health organisation advises that a baby is exclusively breastfed until six months and is combination fed a mixture of solids and breast milk until the age of two and beyond. This might lead people to believe that it is only after my child turned two that I was considered to be breastfeeding beyond the norm around me. The reality is that I had been extended breastfeeding well before that.

Still breastfeeding?

From the time my son was six months old, I have experienced a lot of surprised reactions when people asked me if I was still breastfeeding. It would be said in a tone of disbelief, as though breastfeeding was somehow this sentence that I should have escaped by now. I do not blame those people for reacting this way. Unfortunately, it is just a reflection of the society that we live in. A society that I am proud to be part of, greatly respect, but that has a long way to go before breastfeeding is truly normalised.

I write this as a person who never wanted to breastfeed. I was always very maternal. Having babies was a priority to me – an ambition almost. I never considered breastfeeding as being part of that though. To me, breastfeeding was one of two ways that I could feed my baby. A choice I had to make and no big deal. If only I knew back then that not only would breastfeeding become a big deal to me – it would become one of the best parts of my parenting journey, something which brought a lot of happiness to our little family and something which made me feel immensely proud.

Appreciating the moment

I suffer with anxiety. It’s been an on-going thing but has worsened in my adult years. I understand it more now but it’s more present too. Breastfeeding has helped me discover the joy in appreciating the present moment. It had afforded me the opportunity to really live in the now. I might be rushing and racing throughout the day – trying to strive for the balance that so many of us mothers look for. Giving the housework, cooking and my relationships the very most that I can. Thinly spreading myself and ultimately feeling stressed a lot of the time.

And then my son would look for a feed. I would have no choice but to sit down, relax and feed him. It is these moments that helped me gain perspective. It became my designated time to really look at my beautiful child. To appreciate every freckle, every breath and every cheeky smile he offered. It helped me to live in the moment.

breastfeeding a two year old

Support is key

I don’t feel guilty about admitting that I never wanted to breastfeed. If anything I hope that it will show how normal breastfeeding really is. My mother encouraged me and I continued to resist. Then came a time that it ‘clicked’ and I found myself wondering how different things might have been otherwise. I never imagined that so much joy could come from feeding my child.

It makes a huge difference to have women in your life who can support you and answer any questions that you might have. Women to reassure you that it is normal that your baby is feeding for hours in the evening time. Women to reassure you that the sleep pattern (or lack thereof) is to be expected. To help you stop comparing your life and routine to that of a bottle fed baby’s.

It just happened

At first, my goal was six weeks. I could never imagine feeding beyond that. By this stage it had gotten easy. I watched my friends sterilising bottles, weighing and measuring and I decided to not fix something that is unbroken. I fed my son when he was hungry. I fed him on demand. Then it was the next day. And the next. And the next. Never did it occur to me to stop it. Why would I make life difficult for myself and for my baby? Why would I take away something which offered him so many positives. Something that nourished him while at the same time offered security and comfort. It felt like a magical power.

The chance to reconnect

As time went on, the feeds dropped. Food became exciting and everything in the world was an adventure my son wanted to embark on. He recently turned two and we now just have that one feed. It sends him off to sleep at night. The night feeds are gone, the day feeds are gone and we have our special moment in the evenings. To this day it helps me sit down and breathe and reboot after a long day. It is our chance to reconnect. Just him and I in his dimly lit room while his lullabies play.

Feeding my baby to sleep feels natural. It feels normal. He is only ever one day older than he was yesterday. It never occurs to me that this is anything other than normal. A far cry from the pregnant girl who would not even consider it. This feeding won’t be around forever – but I will welcome and cherish it for as long as it sticks around.

This article first appeared in a past issue of Easy Parenting magazine.

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Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.



Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.