The other day, I talked with a lovely couple as they walked around my neighborhood with their 11 month old twins in a tandem stroller. I congratulated the mom for breastfeeding twins. She told me that she wanted to continue breastfeeding for a year, but was considering going longer.
I told her that when her babies turned a year old, they wouldn’t know it.
Also, they wouldn’t be the least bit interested in weaning either. Why would they want to give up something so wonderful?
She smiled and agreed. “They love it“, she said. “And so do I.”
Nursing an older baby has many benefits, but like any age, it can also have a few challenges.
Here are a few tips on breastfeeding the older baby:
Night Nursing – aka “Making Up For Lost Time”
I was reminded of something I had forgotten the other day. We had a super busy day and were on the go a lot. Baby had lots of things to see and do, and enjoyed plenty of solid food. But because she (and I) was so distracted, we “forgot” to take nursing breaks.
That night she nursed all night long, and I woke up feeling totally exhausted.
Babies who are busy crawling and walking and discovering sometimes get so involved with other things that they simply forget to nurse. But their bodies will make up the calories at the Dairy Queen, which is open all night long!
You can help prevent this from happening by remembering to slow down and take time to nurse the baby, even when s/he isn’t “asking” to.
It’s helpful to go into another room, a quiet place where there is less action and noise, otherwise baby will take a quick sip and jump back out of your lap. A soft cloth sling like the Maya Wrap can also be useful, since you can pull the top ring of it up over baby’s head to provide a little dark cocoon.
When your baby is younger, it’s totally cute and endearing when they knead your breast like it’s a lump of bread dough. When they’re older and stronger and more willful? Eh…. not so much. Baby can really hurt you at this age if they aren’t taught some nursing manners. Nursing necklaces, buttons on your clothing, and other distractions may prove to be helpful if your baby is a twiddler.
Don’t be afraid to set limits with nursing “gymnastics” either. What starts off as cute (“Oh look, baby can nurse upside down balanced on one leg!“) can get old real quick when baby loses balance and hurts you. You may have to end the feeding every once in awhile if baby refuses to nurse nicely. Don’t feel guilty about this. You’re gently teaching baby that breastfeeding, like all relationships, require give and take and compromise. That’s a great lesson to learn.
Modesty is closely related to nursing manners. Keep in mind that whatever you allow in the comfort of home will be what you get everywhere else. It may be ok for baby to push your shirt up to your chin when you’re on your couch, but it’s not fun at the Museum or the in-law’s house. Modest breastfeeding in public may go out the window if you don’t teach baby how to keep you covered up. Discipline starts at the breast!
It’s also a good idea to start teaching baby a code word for breastfeeding. That is, unless you’re cool with your 2 year old screaming “I wanna nuuuuurse!” in the grocery store checkout line.
Let’s Talk Teeth
Many mothers who plan on breastfeeding when they’re pregnant plan on quitting as soon as baby sprouts teeth. That’s understandable, because teeth and breast tissue really don’t mix! But many babies never bite at all, and some newborn infants can hurt you with just their gums (which are surprisingly sharp!).
The appearance of teeth doesn’t have to mean the end of breastfeeding. Here are some more tips on what to do if your breastfed baby bites.
One more thing: Nursing strikes usually happen with the older baby. In fact, 9 months is a surprisingly common age for this phenomenon. It doesn’t mean baby wants to wean!
What tips do you have for breastfeeding the older baby?