Seven surprises about breastfeeding an older baby

I feel privileged to be breasteeding my ten-month-old. It shouldn’t be a surprise as it was for the health visitor who visited us a couple of weeks ago. After all breastfeeding, particularly if your baby is under a year, is nothing if not normal.

But for me it is a surprise. A delightful one. With a tongue-tie and low milk supply, I was pretty sure our breastfeeding journey was near its end over six months ago. I’m glad we were able to keep going. These are some of the things I would have missed out on otherwise.

1. The distraction
It doesn’t matter how tired or hungry Talitha is. If there’s another sound in the room, that’s more interesting than my breast. Two sucks and she’s off. I’ve become skilled at speedily covering up. As if by reflex, she turns to feed again as soon as the nipple’s out of view. I love seeing how interested she is in the world.

I’m not even embarrassed anymore. It only irks me because I want to make sure she’s not hungry or tired.

It’s got to a point where I either have to go into a separate room to feed her or I just don’t bother to offer when out.

She fights her way out of a sling unless we’re walking. It turns out that’s the only way I can feed her when out – by walking. Bizarre.

All the more reason to cosleep at night. If it’s been a busy day she makes up for her missed feeds in bed. We both wake for moments, latch and drift back to sleep.

2. The gymnastics
I mentioned this in my Six things crawling brought into our lives. Not only has Talitha taken to crawling away from me only to relaunch herself on my nipple but she gets into the strangest positions. She has tried breastfeeding upside down, facing away from me, hanging off my lap, and standing. I have never seen the like.

3. The ettiquette
It completely caught me off guard when Talitha began grabbing my breast like a bottle and thrusting it into her mouth.

At first I let her because it was funny and didn’t hurt but recently I’ve prevented her from latching when she starts to do this. I cover up and explain that she must come close to mummy and be gentle. It doesn’t bother me and she never does it in public but I think it’s only fair that she learn to respect my body.

She’s beginning to understand, I think. This is a healthy early experience for our relationship.

4. The efficiency
Since she is baby led weaned, Talitha does not enough solids to displace most feeds. Some days she’ll feed four times and others, ten.

Other people seem far more concerned about this than I am. I couldn’t work out why at first. After all, breastmilk is the most important food for the first year of life.

Recently I’ve realised that it’s because they think it’s a huge inconvenience. But it really isn’t.

She isn’t breastfeeding for hours like she did as a newborn. Nowadays it’s a 5-15 minute job. I didn’t believe it in the early days when I was told she’d get better at breastfeeding but she really has.

5. The laughter
Breastfeeding an older baby is hilarious. It’s full of communication. During day feeds, she’ll sometimes pause to say something like “duh-dah-dah-dah-duh-dah- duh-dah”. I respond and she laughs. Then she’s on again, looking up at me, pausing momentarily to smile.

When she is across the room and fussing, I lift my shirt and wave my breast at her (I read about this in Breastfeeding in the land of Genghis Khan). It’s the best joke. She cracks up everytime. Squealing with delight she hurriedly crawls toward me, gets into my lap and settles, whatever she was fussing about forgotten.

6. The relief
She’s got a cold at the moment that she’s clearly drained by. It’s taken her appetite. I’m just relieved to know that even though virtually everything I offer her is getting rejected right now, my milk keeps her fed and watered, and is gentle enough to still be wanted.

7. The transition
I got stressed out recently about Talitha’s lost interest in bottles and cups of milk when I’m not around. I’m leaving her to go to blogging conference Cybher (I’m still looking for a sponsor, by the by) next month and wonder how she’ll fare breastless for thirteen hours.

Having spoken to a few mothers and thought it through myself, though, I realise she’ll be fine. Even if she won’t have any milk in that time (and I’m sure she will), she eats food and drinks water and can make up for the rest when I get back.

Getting my head around that has meant coming to terms with the transition we’re making. My daughter is growing up. She’s not solely dependent on my body for nutrition anymore. Her need for me remains strong but is evolving.

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    • Great post! I breastfed my son to six months and my daughter to a year. I reached a natural stopping point with both and feel so proud of myself after having early difficulties with both (much the same as you have had). My daughter especially used to come off the breast, even as a little baby, just to stare up at me for a while, and later to giggle up at me. I’ve never minded the time it takes to stop, sit down, cuddle up and feed… it’s bliss.

  • Lovely post. Makes me (almost) sad to have stopped now. But the time was right for us. I do think it’s extra special to have managed to keep going after early difficulties – I have a feeling those of us who had trouble starting, might keep going longer than some who had no problems. 

  • The thing I most miss about nursing is the ability for my milk to speed up getting rid of bugs and the boost to their immune system – really hit us this winter how fortunate we had been that I had been nursing through all the previous ones

    Breastmilk is wonderful!

  • When I was feeding my daughter who was nearing 2yo, she used to pull off the breast and sing the theme tune to the Miffy TV show. “Miffy, a cute little bunny, Miffy, a sweet little bunny, Miffy, and friends”. It was absolutely hysterical.

  • Wonderful post. I’m still breastfeeding my 2yr old so I know what you mean about the gymnastics and the funny positions they try and get into. I also love how, if she’s being stubborn and won’t come to me for whatever reason, all I have to do is show her my boob and she comes running over. My biggest love is that if she’s hurt herself, I can quickly calm her down and make her feel better just by giving her some breastmilk! 

  • I love this. I can remember when Iyla started getting really distracted whilst feeding, it is a phase though and now I can’t get her off if I try! Although sometimes she does hear a dog and she will come off and say ‘dog’ then go back on and we will both laugh. The laughter is lovely. And I love the bit about lifting up your top! I do that to Iyla, as soon as she sees the chance of milk she will stop anything she is doing! x

  • I bfed my tongue tied babies for about 10 months, I found that by that time they’re just too interested in the rest of the world and they easily transitioned on from my boobs. I have to say though that bfeeding is probably the only thing I miss about having a baby 🙂 There’s just something so special about it. You have definitely done extremely well to get to 10 months 🙂

  • Oh I love hearing about how your getting on as your only a month or so ahead of me! Gives me the faith to carry on! 

  • I love this post.  Has got me all misty-eyed 🙂  I thought it would be strange if we were still feeding when Pooh Bear was old enough to come to me and initiate a feed for himself but I love it.  I love that he comes up and nuzzles me until I get myself out to feed.  It definitely isn’t an inconvenience and I love any excuse to sit down for 5 minutes to feed him.  The absolute best thing is when he’s ill.  As long as he’s getting breastmilk I’m confident he’ll be ok and won’t need a trip to the doctor when he has no appetite for food.

  • I nursed both of my children now 3 & 6 yrs until they were 18 months. It was lovely & wonderful. I love how other cultures will go longer & would have enjoyed it myself but as we live in the US in a hyper sexualized era I wanted to stop before they were old enough to have memories of BFing. Great job on 10 months so far. Loved your article! 

  • Thanks for writing such a great post. I’m breastfeeding a 5 month old and plan to continue until she is at least 1, it will depend on when I go back to work. My health visitor was surprised when I got my 3 month visit that I was still doing it! I love feeding my daughter and very much look forward to sharing the same experiences with her that you discuss in your post. Thanks for inspiring us all to keep going with it!

    • Glad you’re enjoying breastfeeding your daughter! It’s a pity your hv was surprised but then it’s an even bigger pity that the breastfeeding rates in the UK are as low as they are! so many women not being given the support they deserve. I hope your breastfeeding journey continues smoothly. 

  • What a wonderful post! I’m a 25 year old mother to a 10 month old boy, and I often had the same struggles you described above. This post definitely calmed the little negative voices I sometimes get in my head. I often wonder if I’m letting him rely too much on breastmilk because other people tend to speak their (uneducated about the subject) minds. I get so tired of explaining why I will breastfeed until he is ready to stop. 🙂 Thanks for this post.

    • Oh I’m glad it’s helped in some way. Hope you’re able to just continue following your instincts.

  • […] This post was written for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt: read posts, learn about breastfeeding and collect points to win great breastfeeding products. You can enter by following the Rafflecopter instructions below. It will ask you to comment on this post, answering the question: What are your breastfeeding goals? The theme this week has been “Breastfeeding beyond the first month”. I exceeded that because I’ve already written in the past about breastfeeding a baby older than six months. […]

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