I finally have to admit to myself that Cricket is a toddler. She’s walking, starting to talk, getting more and more active, and starting to lose her baby rolls and chub. I’ve been mourning this quite a bit. She is my last baby, and while it’s amazing to see her grow, I have a lot of nostalgia for the cuddly baby stage.
These days, cuddles are short and to the point. So is nursing for that matter. Sometimes. And then sometimes nursing takes hours and hours.
That’s right. We’ve entered the land of…
Anyone who has practiced full-term breastfeeding (also known as extended breastfeeding) is going to be able to empathize with me on this.
Toddler nursing can be exasperating. Now is when the acrobatics start. They nurse standing up, upside down, standing on one foot while balance on your leg (Cricket’s
personal favorite). They latch on and off as people walk past and daily activity happens around them. Can you blame them? The world is interesting!
They’ve learned to verbally (or with sign language) ask to nurse* and, like any new exciting skill, they like to practice. A lot. This means that they seem to constantly ask to nurse.
They are also learning to control their environments, which means that some babies (Cricket) may take to trying to open the shirt themselves. Often in public. Or in front of your male boss.
It is absolutely okay to teach nursing manners. In fact, it is critical to do so at this time. Teaching baby to show respect and kindness to Mama helps them to learn respect and kindness for themselves and others. For shirt opening, I immediately either put her down or pass her to her dad. Consistency is key. She is gradually getting better.
Between the ages of 15 and 20 months, they seem to nurse like newborns! Round the clock! This is because they are in the middle of growth spurts, teething, and learning that they are independant people. Is it any wonder they need to come back to Mama so much for reassurance?
“I want to run and play, but I need to make sure you will still be here Mommy. You’re still here, right? That was a fun slide! Wait! Where’s Mommy? Oh, thank goodness. There you are! I still need you, Mommy. Don’t leave without me.”
Toddler nursing is just as wonderful as it is wild. Finally, they can thank us and show appreciation for our hard work. A kiss on the cheek, clapping, words of thanks, and hugs are just a few of the ways toddlers show us that they love us. Those bedtime nursings are still the soft quiet times that they were in the beginning. We still get to watch those big eyes slowly close in sleep. The magic is still there.
Like everything else, toddler nursing is a stage. The hard parts and easy parts and parts that you want to remember forever.
We are in the autumn of our breastfeeding relationship now, and every cuddle and every nursing is precious and fleeting.
*Let me be very clear for the “When they can ask for it, it’s time to stop” crowd: Babies ask to nurse from the moment they are born. We just don’t always understand their language. Believing that they should stop nursing when they finally learn our language is like telling an adult that he can’t have sushi anymore because he learned Japanese.