breastfeeding a two year old
Feeding

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 LUCY

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….

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ASK LUCY

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….