• Nursing Through The Ages 11 February 2015 | View comments

  • We are a week or so into enjoying February, now, and the weather doesn't appear to be warming up any time soon. On these sometime snowy days, cold nights and frosty mornings, there's nothing nicer than snuggling beside your cosy nurselings, eh?

    This month, we thought it would be great just to chat about the highs and lows of breastfeeding children of all ages, night and day, the fabulous and the frenetic, the calm and the storm! We share tips, personal thoughts, and air some agonies - we are not alone! A sort of "breastfeeding cafe"-style blog.

    Breastfeeding, as always, has been in the media quite a bit recently - from questioning the needs of older children, to  breastfeeding and posh nosh in the big city; is it cool to breastfeed in Claridges? Do we feed our six year olds twelve hours a day? - yes, these last two have been actual media questions, which makes one truly wonder about the lack of breastfeeding knowledge that really exists!

    As nursing mothers all know, it's best to simply feed on demand wherever we are, and not have to think twice - whether that's about the people around you or the clothes you are wearing. Me personally, I have never bothered with specific nursing clothing because they tend to be very expensive or not very flattering, as well as not sitting well with me politically. What do I mean? I mean that I don't want people to make money out of my breastfeeding because I feel that I 'must' wear special clothing, and neither do I want to perpetuate the myths that one either needs special clothes in which to successfully breastfeed or items for covering. I simply feel that one ought to require "boob and baby", as has been said, and nothing further.


    But, having said that, there are some very nice nursing styles out there, and common-sense must prevail in that my largest blanket-style scarves have come in useful while feeding on icy park benches to keep warm while weathering chilly little fingers on my torso, and cotton sarongs help to hold off the sun and total upper-body nakedness now that my toddler likes to play twiddling and swapsies, much to my dismay, wherever we happen to be! "Uvva", he approximates with a grin, as he swaps to the other breast; it is very sweet, but a little exposing, even for me - an old hand, now, having nursed my two children for almost seven years so far. Nursing anywhere and everywhere is both a necessity for us, and a political statement in support of every nursing dyad. My feminist self seeks to disseminate positive nursing vibes for the good of everyone, so have boobies will travel!

    A few mamas shared their thoughts with me on nursing around and about; it's great to remember these things, sometimes, because each phase passes so very quickly and is gone.
    I had forgotten about when it came in really handy to be able to feed babe while in a sling, because sometimes they didn't really want to unlatch, or the 'trying to get in another feed before the shop or cafe closed their doors' earned a few hasty stares... Babies have sweet unawareness of closures and clocks - they are so in-the-moment and happy next to mama, easily drifting off into milky reveries with replete cheeks and contented demeanour, so it is very hard to try to curtail milk when you really have to go....
    Learning to feed in a sling is very handy for buses and trains, not to mention for keeping two children entertained. If babe needs to feed to sleep between A to B, then sling nursing is just perfect.
    Babies and children have little idea either about the public or private domain, or societies strange acquired quirks concerning breasts, but they can internalise negativity and pick up on tension and worry. I work hard to express positive feelings to my children about breastfeeding wherever we are and in whoever's company we find ourselves. I feel the pride, joy, and freedom of openly nursing my children as humans have always done.

    So soon, little toddlers get busy and ask much more infrequently, instead too engaged in play to think about milk, but they still do ask, and it is so cute when they ask to be sociable because they see their friends having a quick top-up! I mean -why miss out?
    It can be pretty funny the places that they ask, and the unscheduled stops one is called upon to make!

    And then there's "arriving home" milk. How relaxing it is to sit down, put your feet up, and have a milky snuggle. It's time for both of you. The only conundrum is whether little nurseling gives you time to unpack any shopping, or boil the kettle. Sometimes they are just too absolutely impatient.
    But of course they do need you. They need you lots! Especially when the teeth start coming thick and fast... One can usually tell by the flushed cheeks, the temperature, the clinginess, but most of all by the wont to feed.... And feed.
    And little mouths getting accustomed to teeth often rub and grate and necessitate nipple gel!
    But it passes, thankfully.

    So to dinner, and I have been reminded that there is a period for some children when mealtimes mean milk! This can be very frustrating for the starving mama who has run a dozen circuits around the park, the school run, rushed round the supermarket, and then cooked dinner. Only then to find that it starts to cool by itself at the table while the toddler's mind focuses firmly on milk - and a long session at that.
    Take heart, because it doesn't last, and don't expect it to happen either, because not every child is like that. My youngest chooses meals over milk  when dinner is served, which came as a pleasant surprise; watching your toddler eat is fascinating, too, with their likes, dislikes, quirks and smiles.

    If you've made it to tandem or triandem nursing, then you'll be juggling on a daily basis; comfort is all. Bolsters and cushions at the ready!
    It is hilarious sometimes and horrid at others; mostly your angelic babes will hold hands, touch and stroke softly, but don't be surprised if a youngest wants milk all to himself so pinches, pokes and squabbles. I have it on authority that this is run-of-the-mill usual - so be prepared to adjudicate. Sibling dynamics differ depending upon age gap. The bonding time is so utterly beneficial and calming, if one can get it to work.

    If you reach the giddy heights of feeding a child over five - congratulations!
    The time passes quickly, but it is a long and windy road with serious benefits to both mother and nurseling. Bonding is a great benefit with busy children who still wish to nurse, but you can be thankful too for the immuno-benefits afforded them, the optimal nutrients, and not to mention the mama protection - enjoy a measure of protection against some cancers, and a lesser likelihood of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and diabetes.

    Now to bedtime.....
    Bedtimes are so very different, I have learnt, for different ages and children.
    But one thing is definite - Breastfeeding is a fabulous bedtime parenting tool that I wouldn't be without.
    Some children feed to sleep in minutes, others take an hour, and some hold out try their best not to get to sleep at all!
    And, of course, there's the amazing acrobatics! Recognise that? My youngest likes to throw himself on top of me like a seal and swap from side to side until he's asleep.
    It can be a welcome relaxing pause to rest and enjoy a bedtime snuggle, of course.
    Not every little one settles down for milk before they've heard at least three bedtime stories, though.
    I have had so much enjoyment revisiting Curious George, Winnie-the-Pooh, and Clever Polly - sharing stories, Dr Seuss, songs and rhymes. We all have our own routines that have developed over time, whether it's tucking in two dozen dollies, or drifting off to Bohemian Rhapsody.
    Bedsharing with the little ones is the thing that makes sleep possible in our house; I barely wake when milk is needed in the night - they help themselves.

    Every Breastfeeding Journey is unique, amazing, challenging, ever-changing, and ultimately the  most rewarding and enjoyable thing that you might ever do.


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