I didn’t plan on extended breastfeeding, but here I am now tandem feeding a newborn and a toddler. If you’re wondering what to expect, here are my extended breastfeeding tips and advice, from avoiding the dreaded ‘nip whip’ to dealing with teething toddlers!
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I can wholeheartedly admit I am an ‘accidental’ extended breastfeeding mum. I’ve had my struggles in the past when it comes to breastfeeding, but yet here I am three years later and I am “still” feeding her.
In fact, I despise that saying, “are you still feeding her” – I hear it at least once a week and it really grinds my gears. I totally get that some people are curious, but for others their expressions tell it all. My three-year-old daughter is not ready for our breastfeeding journey to be over and I am completely okay with that. So what is the issue?
We also added a newborn to the madhouse recently, so I have a fresh little squish to feed who is now almost three months old.
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What is Extended Breastfeeding?
Extended breastfeeding is miles away from breastfeeding a new baby – there is no engorgement, no leaking and no spit up at silly o’clock. I have read a million posts over the years about extended breastfeeding, but they are rarely written by a mum who has fed past one, so here is my experience, my tips and what you need to know about breastfeeding a toddler.
First and foremost, extended breastfeeding is completely normal. In fact, the World Health Organisation promotes it. Breastfeeding is recommended from birth up to six months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.
My Tips for Breastfeeding a Toddler
Consider your words for nursing
We call it “boobie” – I have no clue why, but it is what it is. And while my daughter never asks for “boobie” outside of the home unless she is sick, it’s not the case for some nursing mothers. Try to pick a code word such as “num nums” or something which is less likely to shock someone when you are out and about.
In reference to shocking someone, I couldn’t give a rat what people think but I am thinking of other mums who are nervous about feeding in public. Breastfeeding in public should never offend but unfortunately, we live in a weird world where some people find breastfeeding, particularly extended breastfeeding, offensive.
Hormones and Milk Changes
If your menstrual cycle has yet to return (it varies for everybody), be aware that your milk may taste different during your period and your let down can be slower than normal. Try to be patient if your toddler wants to feed for longer during these times.
Protecting Their Immune System
While breastmilk for toddlers is no longer their main source of nutrition, even at two, three or four years old it still helps to build their immune system and help to fight infection.
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Teething and Biting
Nursing a toddler can cause sore nipples with teething tots and whatnots. If your toddler has a stuffed up nose or is cutting a tooth, they may clamp down on your nipples faster and harder which may hurt. Talk with your toddler and explain to them why it is important to be gentle. Also, with a mouthful of teeth your usual position may be uncomfortable so try re-positioning your toddler to help prevent any latch issues that may arise.
Watch out for nip-whip, you will know what I mean when it happens! Always be alert when feeding a toddler as they may whip their head back pulling your nipple with them stretching it so far you may yelp which in turn frightens your toddler and most probably hurt you.
Breastfeeding a toddler in public should be the norm, however I rarely see mums out and about feeding past aged one. If you like privacy, use one of the may changing rooms and nursing rooms available around the country.
Cavities and Baby Teeth
If you are worried about cavities, rest assured, research has proven that human milk alone does not cause tooth cavities. So make sure to brush your child’s teeth before bed, so that if they nurse to sleep it will only be your milk in their mouth.
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Extended Breastfeeding While Pregnant
If you are breastfeeding a toddler and have discovered you are pregnant, here is everything you need to know about breastfeeding while pregnant because if you are anything like me, I always wondered if it was safe and how difficult it would be.
Breastfeeding during pregnancy can cause minor uterine contractions. In a normal healthy pregnancy, this is completely fine. However do tell your midwife or obstetrician you are breastfeeding while pregnant. In some circumstances, it may be advised to wean your baby or toddler off the boob. For example, if your pregnancy is high risk, if you are carrying twins, or if you are experiencing any uterine pains or bleeding.
It is highly likely that your milk supply will drop throughout your pregnancy due to hormonal changes. It may be gradual or it could happen overnight – everybody is different.
If it is gradual, your child may not even notice it all. Although verbal toddlers may be able to tell you your milk tastes different. Over time your magic milk will turn into colostrum as your body prepares for the arrival of your new baby.
A small number of pregnancy hormones will pass into your milk to your toddler, but these hormones pose no risk to your child.
Some expectant mothers may experience discomfort breastfeeding while pregnant, especially around the nipple area. Pregnancy alone can cause sensitivity around the breasts, so if you wish to continue feeding I found that focusing on something else alleviated any discomfort.
Invest in your breast. If you are experiencing discomfort, there are products to help. I used Multi-Mam Compresses and picked up some Lanolin cream – both products come highly recommended in the wider breastfeeding community.
Nipple stimulation is linked with preterm or early labour. It does trigger the production of oxytocin, which helps with milk letdown, but that also plays a role in the contractions you have when you are in labour.
You are creating life AND feeding a little one as well – and all while trying to keep your own health in ship-shape, and possibly looking after other children too. That’s incredibly physically demanding, so make sure you allow for some extra calories to allow you to do so without burning yourself out.
Breastfeeding a toddler is mostly for comfort in my experience, and while I have tried to wean my daughter on various occasions, she has never been fully ready. At this point, I am happy to let her wean naturally. Until then we will use this precious time to reconnect for a couple of minutes at a time before she runs off to goo over her baby sister or join in the chaos with the older three.
Many mothers, like me, continue to breastfeed their baby or toddler when the new baby arrives – this is known as tandem feeding and it is completely normal.
If you are expecting a baby and considering breastfeeding within the Dublin region, I highly recommend breastfeeding prep classes with Breastfeedingsupport.ie. Classes are held monthly in The Beacon Hotel in Sandyford, Dublin, currently priced at €80 for both mum and dad. The class includes a booklet, a gift bag, tea/coffee and a bucket load of encouragement.
If you are based anywhere else in the country, get in touch with Friends of Breastfeeding, La Leche League Ireland or Cuidiu.
If you are living outside of Ireland, check online and with local mums for breastfeeding support in your area.
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Are you considering extended breastfeeding? Or do you have any more tips and advice to share with our readers? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!