I reckon that nobody sits down and reckons that they’ll breastfeed a toddler.
I mean a teeny, tiny baby is one thing and seems natural, but a hulking big, climbing, wriggling, talking child?
And then the possibility of teeth.
The bald fact that you are planning on putting something very sensitive (because even though you’ve been through the equivalent of cheese grating your nipples during the early weeks, they are still rather on the sensitive end of the scale when it comes to body parts) into somewhere populated by brand new shiny and more importantly sharp teeth.
Are you utterly crazy?
I mean that has got to be a recipe for a disaster. Or incredible pain.
But you see, you don’t set out to breastfeed a toddler.
You start off nursing a perfect, tiny baby and then they grow. And they are thriving on your milk. And let’s be honest, if you can make it through the intense hard work of the early weeks, if you make it to the place where suddenly you wake up and its easy, its natural and all it requires is for you to whip out a boob then it does seem a lot easier than the thought of swapping over to bottles and sterilising and the confusion over how to make up formula properly as the guidelines chop and change all over the place.
And so you carry on.
And you find yourself at six months and ready to start your growing child on solid food and you discover that they don’t just stop needing milk at 6 months, that they will have some solids and some milk.
And so you carry on.
And then your little darling starts teething.
Because you now have the interesting combination of a baby who loves their breastmilk and milky cuddles but also appears to have taken on the persona of Jaws.
The good news is that generally the bottom teeth come first and nature is a wonderful thing and in order to breastfeed your baby will need to stick their tongue out over those sharp nashers and so avoid biting you.
But then they grow top teeth. And then they may try and bite.
Now there are two schools of thought, although I’m not sure that the second has actually been bitten, just saying.
The first school of thought is that its entirely natural to shriek and nearly throw your child across the room the first time they bite you and that 9 times out of 10 the shock will persuade them not to try again in a hurry. At least this was the case with Bigger. One loud yelp and nearly landing in the fireplace and she was very much on message about the teeth vs nipple debate.
The second school of thought says you must not make a fuss (uh huh) in case you upset the baby (upset the baby? I have a new hole in my nipple and milk coming out of the side!) and they start a nursing strike. I say show me the person who does not react in some way if their nipple is bitten.
We found ourselves in the position that Littler would be nursing until she decided to wean and that we’d just have to get on with it.
And she was a slow learner. When I say a slow learner I mean I have lost count of the number of nights when she’d sleepily have a chew rather than a suck. But we carried on. And we got through a nursing strike when she had a pretty epic sulk after I had yelped too loudly one night when she’d clamped down rather harder than usual. And we got through there bit where she went through a phase of pulling off and stretching my nipple between her new teeth.
But we persisted and we are now in a place where despite her having 7 teeth she knows how to nurse with biting and I know that when she’s teething I need to keep my little finger by the side of her mouth to pop in if she starts looking as if she might have forgotten the difference between Mummy and a sippy cup…
I won’t pretend that there haven’t been times when I haven’t wanted to give up.
I won’t pretend that there are times when I look down and it seems a bit strange to be nursing a big child that can totter up to me, delve into my layers and clearly sign that actually she would like some milk.
But you know what, despite having not intended to nurse past age one, here we are, still doing it and she’s thriving on it.
Here are a couple of links you might find interesting around ways to prevent a baby biting and ways to help if your baby goes on a nursing strike.
If you’d be interested in guest posting about your breastfeeding journey, drop me a message either through this site or Twitter.