In my naive pre-baby days, I thought toddler-nursing was for hippie weirdos. “If they can ask for it, they’re too old for it!” I would exclaim in my most judgmental tone. This was back in the day when I also thought breastfeeding was simple and came naturally to all moms. Ha!
I blame it on my pre-natal class, really. Our instructor (who herself had never breastfed her own daughter) showed us an incredible video of brand-new babies who, when placed on their mama’s belly, inched their way up to the breast and latched on. “Great,” I thought, “breastfeeding will be totally easy” and I never gave the subject another thought.
Until Charlotte was born. We couldn’t get her to latch during our brief stay in the hospital. The next day, my midwife came over and sat in bed with me for hours, trying to get Charlotte to latch. When she finally gave up, we called in a lactation consultant who — given that Charlotte hadn’t eaten since birth — rushed right over. Barb (aka wonder woman) put us on a ridiculously regimented program. And when we finally did get Charlotte to latch, we discovered that the poor darling couldn’t suck. So we proceeded to painstakingly teach her to suck while feeding her (pumped breast milk) through a tube stuck to one of our fingers.
Once she got the hang of that, the latch problems came back. We developed a round-the-clock routine that went like this: alarm clock goes off, wake Charlotte up and try to get her to latch, keep trying until both of us are in frustrated tears, give up and give her a bottle and watch her hungrily suckle it back while feeling like the most incompetent mom ever, put her in the wrap and jiggle her around the apartment until she falls asleep, pump milk for Charlotte’s next feeding, store milk, wash bottle and pump, relax for a too-short while before beginning again.
Sometimes we’d have days-long stretches where I could get her to latch at almost every feed. And then we’d regress and go back to mostly bottle-feeding. And then, when Charlotte was seven weeks old, we got thrush. And then I got mastitis. One morning, after a ridiculously hard night, I found myself in the bathtub painfully massaging a rock-hard plugged milk duct while bawling my eyes out. I had had enough. Six hours of crying later, my partner J. convinced me to give it one last try. And wouldn’t ya know it, Charlotte latched on like a pro and never looked back.
And that’s when I decided: after all we’d been through, Charlotte could nurse through college if she wanted to!
Charlotte will be two years old next month, and she is still breastfeeding. She only nurses twice a day now — before bed and in the early morning — but she still loves it as much as ever, and shows no desire to give it up. So we continue.
And sure, I may get strange looks the odd time I breastfeed in public (these days, it’s mainly just on overnight airplane flights), and yes I do look forward to the day when my body is my own once again. But Charlotte is also still getting the full health benefits associated with breast milk; we are doing as UNICEF, the WHO, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend, and as women in many other cultures do; we still get to have some close cuddling time that’s just for the two of us; and I still get a daily reminder of my personal strength, and my commitment to my daughter.