Toddler Breastfeeding: The Rainbow After the Rain

Kendra's daughter sleeping on her chestKendra Atkins-Boyce, Portland, Oregon

Breastfeeding my toddlers has been one of the best experiences of my life. It’s the rainbow after the rain; all the sore nipples, positioning challenges, and tired arms of early breastfeeding faded away when my babies turned into toddlers.  Here’s a list of my favorite things about breastfeeding a toddler.

  1. The acrobatics. I don’t know about you, but my 16-month-old has some impressive moves when she is nursing. Some of her classic nursing poses include: standing on one leg while swinging her baby doll through the air, upside down while hanging over my shoulder, and what I like to call pit-stop nursing where she latches on for two seconds before racing back to whatever else she is doing.
  2. The latching. Gone are the days when we had to sit in just the right position with pillows supporting my arms and her body. These days, Saryn hardly even needs me to do anything to get her started nursing. She even makes a “sandwich” out of my breast the way I used to.
  3. The comfort. Now that breast milk isn’t her primary source of nutrition, nursing has primarily turned into a source of comfort for Saryn. When she gets hurt or frustrated, she turns to me to help her calm down, and when my older daughter, Karys, developed pneumonia at 14 months old, I was so glad that Karys could nurse for comfort during the scary medical tests and IVs.
  4. Kendra's daughter dressed herself with socks and glovesThe immune system. My girls hardly ever get sick. Even though I was never able to exclusively breastfeed my older daughter (see The Last “Susu”: The Story of Our Weaning), she still stays well when it seems like the rest of the world is sick. My younger daughter hasn’t had anything more serious than a couple of sniffles so far.
  5. The connection. In the midst of the whirlwind of learning and exploring, Saryn asks to “ish,” crawls up in my lap, latches on, and looks up at me like I’m the only thing in the world. Our breathing synchronizes, and we let the rest of the world spin on without us. I know from loving her older sister that we will find other ways to connect when she is grown up, but I’m trying to savor these moments for as long as they last.

It’s not all rainbows, and there are definitely some less pleasant aspects of nursing a little person who has opinions and scratchy fingernails. For now, though, the benefits—like being able to comfort my baby girl in the midst of life’s chaos—definitely outweigh the minor annoyances.

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