They never stop nursing to sleep, do they? They have to be taught to go to sleep, do they? We're making a rod for our own back, do we?
Phhhtttt! A child's need when met goes away. A child's need ignored, will raise its ugly head later on Enough said!
FACT: All children, if allowed to move from the breast in their own time will stop nursing according to their individual timetable and when they are developmentally ready to do so.
This doesn’t only go for breastfeeding. The same is true for sleeping through the night, starting solids and potty training to name but a few. I always say I train my dogs. I do not need to train my children. Guide them of course I do, encourage them onto the next step, when I sense they are capable of it, yes, but never train.
Though the whole issue of why as a society we trust children so little to make the right decisions for themselves is a whole other blog post.
So, back to breastfeeding older children. I will freely admit I never thought I would be nursing school age children. I vividly recall the first time, I saw a mother nursing her three year old. I was rather taken aback, a natural reaction to something we are not familiar with.
What I cannot for the life of me understand is the entrenched belief that those of us making an informed decision to nurse our children until they choose to wean, are damaging them somehow and the distaste towards it. No one would argue that children physically need milk. Why not the milk of their own species, tailor made for them, full of antibodies and cancer fighting cells to name but a few, rather than the milk of another?
I can only concur that the abhorrence of seeing an older child nurse is the sexualisation of the female breast and adults bringing their own issues to the table. Breasts are of course sexual, but they are also a source of food and comfort for our young and before the invention of artificial milk the survival of the human species relied on the lactating breast. Be that the mother’s own or a wet nurse. Let’s not forget that human are mammals!
It may surprise you to know that the world wide weaning age for human children is anywhere between 2.5 years and 8 years of age. How long a baby is allowed access to the breast seems more determined by cultural norms than actual needs. It is surely no co-incidence that in cultures who do not view the female breasts as sexual, breastfeeding continues for years and years.
I should add here that those of us who do nurse our children long term have no issues with our breasts as sexual organs, though plenty of other people seem to. I think the mere fact that I am nursing through pregnancy for the third time now is a clear indication that my husband and I certainly do not have any issues ;-)
And certainly no breastfed child would ever see nursing as a sexual experience. To suggest so is ludicrous to the extreme.
Neither do we set out to break some sort of breastfeeding record. I certainly never thought I would be breastfeeding a five year old, yet alone tandem nurse twice, yet it happened. The thing is to you as the mother, you simply carry on nursing your baby like you have always done. From new-born to toddler to child, until eventually they stop the need to nurse having been met.
What could be simpler or indeed more rewarding? As a very inspiring LLL leader I know always says.
“Never judge a mother, until you have walked a mile in her nursing bra.”
Mothers chose to breastfeed or not to breastfeed for all sorts of individual reasons and as long as their choice is an informed one, then whose business is it really?
Personally I would never judge a mother by long she breastfeeds her child or indeed whether she does it all. I am not her, I do not know what pressures she is under, what her motivations are or how many obstacles she has to overcome. This is not a formula versus breastfeeding issue.
I myself did not manage to breastfeed my first five children for very long at all, mainly due to lack of support. I have been there, done that, got the t-shirt, lived to tell the tale and yes sure my older children are doing well, turned out all right etc. etc. etc. and any other myriad of things you will hear as arguments for not breastfeeding, or only breastfeeding for xyz amount. Thankfully human babies are very resilient and will thrive in all sorts of less than ideal circumstances.
But the fact remains that full term breastfeeding is what *every* baby expects as their birth right. They are born with the reflexes to seek out their mothers breasts, to self-attach and to breastfeed for years. It is the lucky baby who gets to exercise that right.
So thank you for your concern for the well-being of those older breastfed children but you know what – they are just fine and with that I hand over to my two full term nurslings and their weaning stories which can make the point so much better than me.
This is Molly's story who is now almost nine and written on the eve of her birthday a few years ago now.
I have been meaning to write this for a while, but something that happened today has prompted me to do so finally.
This is the story of Molly's and mine breastfeeding relationship. Molly is now 5.5 years old and she was breastfed until she self weaned at 4years 11 months. She had not asked to nurse again until earlier today when we had this conversation:
"Can I have mm mmms Mummy?"
"Can I have mmm mms please Mummy? Please, please, please, I really would like some!"
Gabs comes off boob. "You can have this one Molly!" Pats my other side.
So there is me sitting there with the both of them! I thought she had forgotten what to do, but nope!
"Are you ok now Molly?"
"Yes thank you mummy!"
I am not sure that she will ask again, but it has made me remember how far we have come, so perhaps I should start at the beginning.
Molly is my sixth child and whilst I was still pregnant I found LLL as I was desperate to be able to breastfeed this baby I was carrying. I had tried and 'failed' with my previous five children, who for various reasons were not breastfed past the early weeks. Mainly lack of support and mis information by health professionals, a story that is familiar to most I am sure.
Whilst pregnant with her I absorbed everything I could lay my hands on that involved breastfeeding and I more or less read myself through my local LLL group library LOL! It helped that we now had access to the internet and the more I read the more determined I became to breastfeed this baby.
Molly was born at home on 16th May 2002 in the middle of Breastfeeding Awareness week! and she latched on even before I had delivered the placenta. Molly was simply born to breastfeed and it was by far her most favourite past time ever. She was a *very* frequent nurser. I used to chuckle to myself when mothers complained that their babies fed *all* the time and that was 2 hourly. Heck that would have been bliss. Every ten minutes some days(!) and certainly hourly was more like it with Molly. In addition to nursing that frequently she also had an intense need to just *be* with me. She was the original Velcro baby and would only sleep if she was touching me. We co-slept by choice, but really there was no choice anyway, If I needed the bath room in the middle of the night she would be awake by the time I opened my bedroom door and hysterical by the time I got back! Fortunately we had discovered slings by then, so it wasn't a huge problem. We just muddled through and I was so happy that breastfeeding worked this time round I really did not care how often she nursed or how much she needed me.
My original plan had been to breastfeed until she was one and then I would switch her to cow's milk. I was certainly not going to be one of those 'strange' mothers who fed their children until they were 2 or 3 or older. Goodness me why on earth would you need to do that ;-)
There was one big flaw in this grand plan of mine! Back then I looked on breastfeeding simply as the method to transfer milk into baby. What I hadn?t accounted for was the magic that is mothering through breastfeeding! It was obvious that Molly loved it, but what's more I loved nursing her. No matter what was wrong with her, she could be calmed at the breast. As long as she had me and my boobs she was happy.
And it was so easy too. With a large family it can be really difficult to ensure everyone's needs are met, but with Molly I knew that by sticking her under my jumper her needs, whatever they may have been, were met through nursing her.
It was around that time that I adopted my catch phrase: If in doubt get the boob out!
The older she got the easier breastfeeding got, it was as simple as that. When we introduced solids at seven months, she had shown no interest before then it very quickly became apparent that she was milk and Soya intolerant. As is typical with allergic babies she did not really eat anything substantial until she was about 18 months old and even then she still relied very heavily on me for nutrition as well as comfort.
I had by then been exposed to many a nursing toddler through LLL and surprise, surprise the women that I met weren?t lentil weaving hippies, but simply normal mums who had come to realise that continuing to nurse their little people was the *right* thing to do. And those nursing toddlers weren't little tyrants but well adjusted, polite, delightful children who were secure in themselves as they had been allowed to set their own pace in weaning. I used to love to hear self weaning stories and I still do as each and everyone is unique and special in its own way. So I had more or less decided to let Molly self wean, especially as I learnt more of the continued benefits that nursing past one brings with it.
Of course the fact that she was milk and Soya intolerant gave me the perfect ammunition to say that I couldn't possibly wean her as she was so reliant on my milk and was the perfect response to any critics!
Like many mothers I was still nervous about nursing with teeth, but in fact I didn't even notice her cutting her first tooth! It was by chance that I noticed a bit of white in her mouth and I remember how excited I was. I even posted on a breastfeeding forum saying that she had her first tooth!!! Things got a bit uncomfortable when she cut her top teeth but she only ever bit me once and once she had learnt to readjust her latch we were fine. Teething meant she nursed even more then usual, if that was physically possible, especially at night time. She was permanently attached all night, every night and had it not been for co sleeping and my ability to sleep through feeds we would have been in trouble really. As it happens I woke up rested every morning and life was rosy.
So the all important one year mark went by and we carried on nursing. What else were we to do? Nursing had become extremely important to both of us. It wasn't simply nutrition either. I couldn't even begin to imagine how to mother my little girl without nursing her. Once she started to toddle and explore the world around her her nursing frequency increased even more. Feeds were very quick now, 5 minutes was a long feed, unless she was nursing to sleep, which took a bit longer, but she had what seemed like a gazillion feeds a day. And having mothered toddlers without the benefit of nursing I appreciated nursing her even more. She nursed for hunger, thirst, security , tiredness, a quick pick me up, Touch base with mummy, boredom, excitement, when she hurt herself, was unwell, and a thousand more reasons in-between. Whatever was bothering her, nursing grounded her like nothing else could and she would be my happy little sausage again after a quick cuddle at mummy's breast.
It was round this time she started to call nursing mm mms. It evolved from her making a general mmm mmming sound when she was still quite small every time she wanted to nurse. It was a very handy code word as she got older as no one really knew what she was asking for.
My periods returned with a vengeance when she was 14 months old and my thoughts turned to having another baby. I was very torn, as she still relied very heavily on me for nutrition and I was determined to let her self wean, so I looked into all things tandem nursing. Hilary Flower's book Adventures in tandem nursing became my bible for while and we started ttc in earnest.
It wasn't long before I fell pregnant and whilst nursing through pregnancy was very painful at times and my feelings about continuing to nurse Molly changed all the time( I vacillated between loving and hating it) it was obvious that Molly still *needed* to nurse so we carried on. She night weaned herself during my pregnancy when my milk supply was virtually nonexistent for a while and cut right back on her nursing. At times she went for up to 2 weeks without asking but every time came back to nursing with renewed interest and vigour. She was ecstatic when my colostrum came in, bless her and we had many a conversation about which side she would have and which side the baby would have once born. She was very excited about the new baby and when Gabs was born also at home she fell in love with her straight away.
She did not want to nurse at all at first, which quite surprised me. My milk came in very quickly after Gabs on day two and I got very engorged. Gabs was a very big girl weighing in at 11lbs 12 oz and she had literally nursed non stop for the first two days. Of course once there was plenty of milk, she'd feed and then zonk out for up to four hours! Leaving me with painfully engorged boobs. I kept offering them to Molly (after all one of the benefits of tandem nursing is that the toddler can relieve your engorgement right!) but she was having none of it. Then she fell over and hurt herself and I literally pounced on her. She reluctantly latched on and then sat up straight and said:" Mummy there's milk!! Your mm mms are working again!" She was so excited bless her and took to nursing with an alarming vigour. For ages she nursed more then Gabs did and completely went off solids for a while. She also resumed night nursing.
Eventually she calmed down a bit, but nursing remained very important to her. I had previously said that once she turned three, I would be encouraging her to wean, but her third birthday came and went and we were still nursing. We followed 'don't offer, don't refuse' which is a weaning technique, but as Molly still asked several times a day, weaning never happened LOL!
There were so many times when I was grateful to still be nursing Molly. When she was 3 she once again stopped eating completely and kept having really high temps. She was very poorly and we got referred to the paediatric team at our local hospital for tests. Incidentally one of the things they tested for was anaemia; first thing they did, when it transpired that Molly was breastfed. She is also very fair and naturally pale, so it was an automatic assumption to make. However her iron levels came back at the higher spectrum of normal which secretly pleased me no end. There went another myth then.
We never did find out what was wrong with Molly, it was blamed on an unidentified, particularly nasty virus and she recovered soon after that hospital visit. We were told that she would have ended up in a drip in hospital, had she not been breastfed, as she had also been refusing all fluids but breast milk, so thank God for her still breastfeeding!
So we carried on as we were. However all those months of months of night nursing two were starting to take its toll. I had stopped being able to sleep through feeds with both of the being attached and as Gabs was teething big time something had to give. It was my husband in the end who put his foot down and said enough is enough and Molly was not to have mm mms at night anymore. She was by then happily sleeping in her own bed and would climb in with me and Gabs sometime during the course of the night and then just be attached! Incidentally Molly had stopped nursing to sleep around the 18 months mark and had progressed to simply being tucked up in bed and going off to sleep by herself with no further input from me. Like wise she decided when she wanted to leave the family bed and moved to her own very easily.
Anyhow we decided that she would night wean and she took to it very easily. I had made a pact with myself that I would nurse her if she got *really* upset but it never came to that at all. The first night she woke up twice and had a little cry with daddy and then went back off to sleep after a cuddle with him. The second night she woke up once and she has been sleeping through ever since.
For a while after night weaning she stepped up her day time nursing again and she needed a lot of reassurance that she could still have her beloved mm mms during the day.
Eventually however she settled back down again and once she had I made a mew rule that we only had mm mms at home. She very rarely asked when we out at this stage anyway, but I had become uncomfortable nursing her in public. She has always been tall for her age and I wanted to protect her from overhearing any nasty comments really. She accepted this quite readily and on we went.
Suddenly her fourth birthday loomed large and with it the prospect of her starting school in September. I had always joked that Molly was such a boob monster that I would end up sticking my boobs through the school fence, never once believing that she would actually still be nursing once she was in school!!!
I must admit that I did have a few secret wobblies at the thought of nursing a school age child, but they always disappeared when I just looked at her on my lap curling round me like she had always done and somehow my big confident 4 year old turned back into a baby and nursing her was just the right thing to do. I did chuckle at myself that I had turned into one of *those* women and I also marvelled at how anyone could suggest that those of us nursing older children were doing it for ourselves, Trust me at times I dearly wished Molly would wean, as between her and Gabs I was nursing lots and lots every day!
Anyhow the dreaded day arrived and she started school. She went in without a back ward glance, so happy and excited and confident and I was left bawling. It took me a long, long time to get used to her being gone all day and I did miss her dreadfully as did Gabs it has to be said!
I will never forget her first parent evening. She got a glowing report from her teachers. Her teachers comments were:" She is a very happy, secure little girl and *very* independent! It is astonishing how independent she is in comparison to her peers and she is very bright!" I was secretly thinking to myself that will be because she is 'still' breastfeeding. So much for extended breastfeeding making children clingy eh! And bang goes another myth. J
And on we went nursing away. We had a very telling conversation a few weeks into her starting school.
"Mummy, none of my friends and teachers know that I still have mm mms!"
"Well they don't need to know do they!"
" NO, because if they did they would call me baby, because only babies breastfeed! But I am not a baby, I am big little girl!"
The Christmas after Molly started school I found myself pregnant again. We had been trying for quite some time and were delighted to have one last baby. So not only was I tandem nursing, I was tandem nursing through pregnancy!
Molly had cut right down on her nursing, only asking sporadically and on average three/four times a week. As my pregnancy progressed this got less and less, until one morning, when she was 4 years 11 months exactly she announced:" Mummy, I am a big girl now and I do not need mm mms anymore!"
I was a bit taken aback and thought to myself. Well we'll see, but true to her word that was it. She asked a couple of times following this but didn't even latch on, just climbed on my lap and giggled and jumped off again!
We had lots of conversations on how she could not have mm mms anymore as Gabs would have one side and baby would have the other and as I didn't have three boobies she couldn't have any and besides she was a big girl!
She never did ask again after Tj arrived, though she would sit and watch with great interest, especially when I was tandem nursing Gabs and Tj, which happens every morning without fail.
A few days ago we had the following conversation:
" Mummy I used to love your milk!"
" Yes you did Molly."
" Your milk is very yummy and Gabs and Tj love it very much!"
Cue me thinking, I wonder whether she is going to ask to have some?!?
"I can't have any though, because you haven't got another boobie in the middle! That would make it three boobies and I could join in!"
And now here we are a few days later and she actually asked to nurse. And she still knew what to do, which quite surprised me. We shall see whether she asks again.. I don?t for one minute believe that this will become a regular thing, or maybe it will for a while until she doesn?t need to anymore. I am just glad that I can still provide her with the familiar comfort of mothering at the breast.
Molly laid a lot of ghosts to rest for me. I have found fulfilment as a woman and mother that I never even knew was missing until I started this amazing breastfeeding journey with my very special little girl and I shall be forever grateful to her for showing me the way and ensuring that I listened to her and my own instincts. I would have missed out on so much and I couldn?t imagine mothering without breastfeeding now. Gabs and Tj are reaping the benefits now and I am looking forward to seeing where this journey will take me with the both of them.
So thank you Molly for bringing healing and wonder and joy to my life!
And this is Gabrielle's story, now aged 6.5, who still talks about when she used to have mm mmms with a wistful smile on her face
I am not tandem nursing anymore!
After 5 years and 4 months I am not tandem nursing anymore, and I may never do so again, which I am not sure whether I am relieved or sad about.
Three days ago, Gabrielle, my spirited, independent , beautiful, cheeky 5 year old daughter, who has never missed a day of nursing, unless I was away overnight and I had the following conversation:
I said to Gabs as she was asking for mmm mmms:" You know you really do not need mmm mmms anymore do you, because you are such a big girl now."
"Yes I am, you're right, this will be my last mmm mmms then and I will not ask again!"
I had actually forgotten about this convo and she didn’t ask the next day at all, despite having a nasty tummy bug, which would normally mean that she would ask lots.
Tj, her two year old brother was having mm mms and she was watching, getting herself dressed for bed and she said:" I remember mummy I said yesterday that I would not be having mm mms anymore!"
"Yes you did, didn't you!"
"Yes, so I am not going to have anymore, because when you get to 3 or 4 you do not need mm mmms anymore do you"
"But Gabs you are 5 already"
Sheepish look and a giggle.
"Oh, well I am def a big girl then. I am going to bed now!"
My jaw hit the floor, it really did. Only a few weeks before when we had a similar conversation she had said that she would never stop having my milk, as she loved it so much and it was so yummy and she wouldn’t stop until she was really , really old, you know like 10, or maybe even 11!!!!
I laughed it off, but at the same time there was a small part of me that did wonder as she still seemed to need her beloved mm mmms so much.
Gabs has never been the sort of nursling you could put off with any distraction. She was also never the sort of nursling that you could encourage to nurse unless *she* wanted to.
Refusal to nurse would be met with one almighty tantrum and ear piercing screams, she has a good pair of lungs I tell you! Nursing was also the only thing that would calm her down when life just got too intense and Gabs being Gabs there have been lots of those moments over the last 5 years. Sometimes even nursing wouldn’t calm her. Gone was my smugness that I had acquired through nursing her older sister Molly through the toddler years with never a tantrum. It wasn’t nursing that stopped Molls having tantrums, it was just her personality.
Gabs threw tantrums galore. I recall being regularly reduced to tears when she was two and I was pregnant with Tj.
But perhaps I should start at the beginning!
Gabs is my seventh child, born at home with no pain relief whatsoever, as typically when she did decide to make an appearance she was here within 50 minutes, the midwifes only just arriving in time (the gas and air never made it till 5 minutes after she was born!).
She was born in the caul a whopping 11lbs 12 oz and due to her size her shoulders got stuck on the way out so it took some manouevering to push her out, but out she did come, if a little bit shocked and worse for wear. She had several bruises on her head bless her!
She took to nursing well enough, in so far that she stayed attached non stop or so it seemed the first 24 hours and she cried lots.
Despite knowing that colostrum is all that newborn babies need, I found myself wondering whether it was enough for my huge lump, who looked like a 3 months old with a newborn face.
However my body of course knew just what to do. Within 24 hours my milk started to come in in earnest and oh my goodness did it come in. I have never known engorgement pain like it and what did my blessed baby do. Gorged on all that milk and then zonked out for 4 hours. I swear I could see my boobs grow in front of my eyes and I was on the verge of mastitis so many times. Thankfully big sister Molly was still nursing and more then happy to gobble up all that milk (oh the relief) and we began to tandem nurse in earnest.
Positioning was a bit of an issue, as I became very, very sore. Lansinoh was my friend, I went trough lots and had to wear breast shells in my bra to help with the soreness. Try as I might I could not get Gabs to open her mouth wide enough. For such a big baby she had a tiny mouth and I was often reduced to tears. Night times were the worst as positioning went completely, due to me being knackered and having to lie down to nurse her and Molls, who had taken up night nursing with a vengeance again, following Gabsy’s birth despite having night weaned herself through my pregnancy with Gabs.
It was Molls who kept me going funnily enough as nursing her never hurt. I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel as it were and eventually I would be able to nurse Gabs without pain. That and the thought that I was leader, darn it, I believed in breastfeeding and I could not NOT nurse my newborn that was just ridiculous!!!
However it wasn’t easy and there were dark days, her six week growth spurt was the worst. She had literally fed non stop for 10 hours and I actually looked at the formula aisle at toysrus longingly I tell you.
I was there to buy a breast pump, so that dh and I could go out for a spell as I was at my wits end with her.
Not only did nursing her hurt like hell most of the time, she wasn’t very happy when she wasn’t nursing either. She never, ever nursed off to sleep peacefully like Molls had always done, she cried so, so much and was such an unhappy baby generally that it broke my heart.
The day of the toysrus incident we had been at a local toddlers group and I had actually snapped, picked her up and shook her, shouting: ”What the hell do you want from me!”
The family worker took her off me and we went for a walk for me to calm down, whilst I was in tears. Hence the giving me a night off and dh and I some time to ourselves.
We only went to a local carvery, literally 10minutes drive away and I was on edge the whole time (she may have driven me crazy but I still had an intense need to just *be* with her and I didn’t like leaving her at all!)
A trusted family friend looked after her and I had managed to express two 3 oz bottles of milk for her, which true to form she never touched. She went to sleep in my friend’s arms the minute we left for our meal and didn’t wake up until we got back and then started screaming again the minute she saw me *sigh*
I did wonder at times whether she just didn’t like *me*………………..
We experimented with so many things to just stop her from crying so much. She lived in the sling, barring a short while when she actually preferred the buggy. It was very cold at the time and she loved being snuggled up in her snowsuit and used to go straight off, bliss! Of course this didn’t last long and the seemingly endless struggle to get her off to sleep started.
We tried a dummy (spat across the room), we tried rocking, swaddling, swing etc etc etc. some of it would work for a short spell, but nothing would really stop her from crying and if I offered the boob when she didn’t want it she just cried louder!
Part of the problem without doubt was my huge oversupply. She regularly gagged on the breast, choked and spluttered and came up for air. 5 minutes of furious glugging meant she was done and then screamed due to wanting to suck without getting tons of milk, yet refusing to suck on fingers or dummy etc *sigh*.
She gained weight slowly and steadily and fell down the centiles, which really was good mind you, as she hovered at least an inch above the highest centile at birth! Lol!
What calmed down things somewhat was assigning one boob each to the girls, even if it meant that I became very lopsided as Molly’s side was huge!
So we soldiered on as you do and by the time she was four months old, nursing her had finally stopped hurting. I cannot pinpoint looking back when it improved, it was a gradual process until one day I realised that I did not have to use Lansinoh in ages J
She was also happier by then, mainly because at the age of 4 months she could sit up entirely unsupported. By the time she was 5 months old she had perfected her pincer grip and used to love eating any sort of card board, and when I say eating, I do mean eating! I used to find bits in her nappy!
This presented us with a new problem. Big sis Molls had been dairy intolerant and not really interested in any solids until she was 18 months old. I had previously decided to keep Gabs off solids until she was one, to avoid these issues, but I should have known that Gabs would have other ideas really!
Eating anything in front of her was next to impossible. She would cry and scream and try to reach it.
I try to pacify her by her giving her a cup and bowl and spoon to make her feel involved, but nothing was working. When she was 5 months and 1 week exactly she nicked a chip off my plate when I wasn’t paying attention and devoured it, crying for more so we started baby led weaning.
I cried, she rejoiced and ate everything put in front of her. I recall her sitting on a picnic blanket when she was just 6 months old and eating half of MY sandwich!!! To this day she loves her food!
She still nursed of course and the older she got the more she nursed, always on her terms of course. Whilst I had thought previously that acrobatic nursing toddlers were simply the mothers not enforcing nursing manners, I quickly came to realise that nothing was going to stop Gabsy’s nursing acrobatics.
Nursing upside down was a particular favourite, over my shoulder, standing up, across Molls, you name it, she did it! I chose to see the funny side in the end and I eventually managed to persuade her to at least save her acrobatics for nursing at home, and not in public.
Throughout it all we tandem nursed lots! Molls was never jealous of Gabs, but the same couldn’t be said the other way round. If Molls just came near me Gabs *needed* to nurse and I was never allowed to nurse Molls without Gabs being attached too.
However some of my fondest memories are of nursing the two of them together, with the girls holding hands, giggling at each other whilst milk was going everywhere *rolls eyes* playing peekaboo with my boobs and blowing raspberries on each other and me until we were all in fits of giggles.
Gabs even started to nurse to sleep eventually as my supply finally settled down and there is nothing sweeter then nursing two little girls off to sleep and then being stuck on the settee until they wake up again!
I was tandem nursing when I fell pregnant with Tj and whilst Molls weaned some time into the pregnancy Gabs kept going.
My previous experience of nursing through pregnancy had been mainly positive. This time round it was hell!
The pain was back with a vengeance and unlike Molls had done when I was pregnant with Gabs, this time round Gabs did not cut down on nursing. If anything she increased her frequency, bewildered as to why her mmm mms weren’t working. Both of us were regularly in tears during nursing sessions. If the pain wasn’t enough, the irritation I felt was even worse. I had previously heard mothers describe the feeling as ants crawling under your skin and that was exactly what it was like. Hundreds of ants crawling all over you. I shudder remembering it now!
I had to force myself to not throw her half way across the room. Night times were worst, but thankfully she night weaned herself half way through my pregnancy and I got some reprieve.
I remember literally hiding from her and begging my husband to take her away as I simply couldn’t nurse her again!
But we got through it of course. I loved her and I knew it would get better when the baby was here and besides I was committed to child self weaning and nursing was far too important to her.
Things did improve when Tj arrived. Gabs was delighted with her baby brother, if not to say besotted and vice versa and I was tandem nursing again. Once again I had oversupply, but Tj coped better with it then Gabs had. He piled on the weight and simply used to throw up the excess milk, so it was more of laundry problem this time round then anything else.
Gabs used to nurse lots and lots., much more then Tj and did right up until she decided to wean.
She still had at least 2 feeds a day and used to ask lots more times during the day. Even at night I had to make her stop nursing. It was a struggle for a week with lots of tears on both of our sides, but I simply could not nurse two of them at night time anymore. Gabs was 3.5 years by then and Tj was in the midst of teething and it was simply put wean her at night or wean her completely.
So we night weaned and whilst she used to wake up and scream and hit me because she was so angry that I would not nurse her, I *knew* that she did not really need to nurse at night time by this point and it was the best course of action for us as family and thankfully by the end of that very long week, she had accepted the new rules of “We only have mm mms when it is light outside!”
We then started to work on gradually reducing feeds during the day. I used to say things like in a minute and put her off for a bit or try and cut feeds short, not always successfully it has to be said. Gabs is Gabs after all and she has a very strong mind of her own as well as that very real need to breastfeed!
So I found myself on occasion still nursing my great big 5 year old in public, but she knew to be very discreet by now so I doubt anyone really ever noticed. I certainly never had any comments about it.
For the most part though we nursed on coming home from school and before bed and sometimes more then that at weekends and school holidays.
Then she lost her first tooth very unexpectedly. I didn’t even know she had a wobbly tooth and she was doing some washing up and it fell out and disappeared down the sink. Oh the trauma of that! Would the tooth fairy come or not? We had to write her an IOU and the excitement when she had been the next day!
That night she tried to nurse and couldn’t. She said it made her tongue hurt as it went in the gap and she went to bed with a cup of cows milk instead, a bit bewilderd but ok.
I was shocked and a bit upset, as I didn’t want this to be the end of our nursing relationship. I felt that it had been taken away from her, had she stopped then.
I knew her suckling skills had been failing for some time. She would often come off, complaining that there wasn’t any milk when I knew there was lots, so I knew the end was coming and I was on one level more then ready for to wean. The feelings of irritation had returned when she nursed, not all the time, but when they were there they were strong and I had to distract myself. Sometimes her latch was so wrong that it really hurt and I would make her relatch and relatch and still she couldn’t get it right.
Over the next couple of days she gamely tried to get milk and eventually managed and things returned to normal.
Until a few days ago, she lost another tooth. I noticed her suckling had changed again, but still I so was not prepared for her to stop.
Which brings us to that conversation we had and her announcement to wean. Her sister did similar, announced one day that she was done and never nursed again, but she had been missing days, sometime weeks of nursing before that announcement. Gabs had never missed a day if she could help it, so it was a bit of a shock.
The very next day we had this conversation:
“Mummy when Tj is finished can I have some mmm mmms?”
"But Gabs I thought you were a big girl and didn't need it anymore."
"Oh yes, I forgot I said that!"
And off she went and asked for a yoghurt drink instead.
She has not asked again, so I can only assume that she has indeed weaned. I know my girl, when her mind is made up that’s it.
So I will not be tandem nursing again and those days of her snuggling up to my boobs are over. I am relieved in a way, but also sad, that we will never share this closeness again. I looked at her today, playing all day out the front with her siblings and fiends and I know that a new chapter has begun. My baby girl is all grown up and spreading her wings.
Fly well little Gabsy and don’t forget your mum in your adventures. You have taught me much and I am better person for having you in my life and having had the priviledge of mothering you at the breast.