Sunday, 19 July 2020

Breastfeeding a toddler


Today's prompt for #setmeplasticfree is "homemade" and it got me thinking I actually want to talk about breastfeeding today - and about breastfeeding a toddler.

Breastfeeding by default has saved us lots of money and lots of waste. We have a couple of reusable bottles for expressed milk and some breast milk bags (when I was really struggling at first she'd sometimes take a bottle.) Other than that, all of her milk has come directly from me, which I'm really happy with - it's the right thing for our family. My milk is low waste, it's vegan, and has magical analgesic properties. We have a healthy diet and lifestyle, so it's important to me that I am passing nutrients on through milk.

However, now to digress from the plastic free aspect of this post - we've always fed on demand and gone with the flow, letting Eden decide what she wants - and I'm learning that breastfeeding a toddler and that's come with its own issues. Eden's having a leap/regression/teething, so for the last few weeks she's gone from being a pretty good sleeper to being up most of the night and feeding like a newborn again.

Breastfeeding a toddler means a much more complex relationship with breastfeeding. She gets plenty of nutrition through food now and is a great eater. What she really comes to me for now is comfort, connection, to check in and be reassured. My milk now either soothes her to sleep or acts like an energy drink - she'll be getting crotchety and running out of batteries then have a feed and either be fast asleep or totally recharged, bright eyed, charging around again.

Eden's always fed on demand - mostly that's looking like 4 or 5 times a day for us, but night time is a different story right now. It's constant, exhausting, draining. I also know it will pass! But I wasn't expecting it, hadn't anticipated her adding so many feeds rather than reducing them. But I know she's using me as comfort - for teething pain, for all the things she's learning right now (so much new, every day, and those first steps are so close now) and it would feel totally wrong to deny her that feeling of relief and safety.

However I feel awkward every time somebody asks me (even in a well meaning way) if I'm "still" breastfeeding as it feels it's insinuating I'm doing something wrong. It's another one of those situations where you feel you can't get it right as a woman: feeling judged if you don't breastfeed, and just as judged if you do but it doesn't fit into others ideas of how you "should" feed. Why does parenting seem to come with so much judgment? I plan to let Eden decide when she's ready to give up milk - and although I assumed it might be sooner, I know every baby is different.

I guess the moral of the story here is that some eco swaps are easier than others. However, in the end,  they are all ultimately rewarding.
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