After I abruptly weaned Liora, my 13-month old daughter, my pregnancy continued normally. It took a month before Liora finally seemed to give up on asking me to nurse. I felt heartbroken over ending our nursing relationship long before she was ready, but I comforted myself with the knowledge that we had 13 beautiful months. My belly grew and before I knew it, I was ready to meet my third child (another baby girl)!
Zipporah was born when her big sister Noemi was 3 years old and Liora was 20 months. I assumed that after months of not nursing, and not asking to nurse, that Liora would never start again. But when Zipporah was 4 weeks old and we had established our breastfeeding relationship, I decided to offer Liora the opportunity to nurse. Part of me felt strange offering, if I am honest. I had never breastfed a toddler before and my newborn looked so little compared to her. Yet, in my mother’s heart I knew that she was still a “baby” and needed me just as much.
I resolved to offer and if she wanted to nurse, I would allow it. If she wasn’t interested, then I would let it go and be proud of the 13 months we had. To my surprise, Liora was not only interested, but she started nursing again as if she had never stopped! It quickly became a daily ritual for us, and then she began asking multiple times a day to nurse. I was thrilled to have the chance to breastfeed her until she was ready to stop!
I think that having the time to cuddle close with mommy and nurse helped to ease any feelings of jealous between Liora and her new baby sister. I realize that there are other ways to do that, but breastfeeding seemed to be the most natural and helpful way for us. I got over the feeling that Liora was “too big” to breastfeed rather quickly, and I enjoyed stroking her beautiful blond hair and having time where my wild toddler would sit peacefully with me.
Now that isn’t to say that were no problems, because as much as I was grateful to offer my toddler a time of rest and excellent nutrition, I could never nurse both her and the baby at the same time. The difference between a newborn latch and a toddler latch gave me the nursing aversion feelings when I tried to breastfeed them simultaneously. So, I stopped trying to nurse them together and as long as Liora was nursing alone I didn’t get those dreaded feelings.
The biggest issue we had was with nighttime nursing. At this point I was bed sharing with baby Zipporah who was about 3 months old and Liora was also spending at least half the night with us (hubby and I got a king size bed). Zipporah was nursing frequently during the night. I am not sure how often, but basically any time she stirred I gave her my breast and went back to sleep. But now Liora was also wanting to nurse and that caused some serious problems.
It would go like this;
- Liora wakes up and starts nursing back to sleep
- Zipporah starts crying to nurse
- I try to unlatch Liora in order to nurse the screaming baby
- Liora starts crying hysterically “NURSE NURSE NURSE!!!”
- Zipporah is happy to be nursing but is now wide awake from her sister screaming
- I try to unlatch Zipporah in order to calm Liora
- Zipporah starts screaming
- Cycle continues…
Now, why didn’t I just nurse them at the same time? First of all, the nursing aversion. I absolutely could not tolerate the sensation of tandem feeding my newborn and toddler. It just was not an option for me, I tried (really!). Second of all, I did attempt to override my horrific nursing aversion feelings and put my body into a contortionist position to tandem feed, again not working (my back, ouch!).
I made the decision that in order for me to continue breastfeeding Liora, who was by now 2 years old, I would need to night wean her. I realize this is a bit controversial. For some the fact that I choose to nurse a 2-year-old is controversial in and of itself. However, for others it is controversial to night wean a toddler when they aren’t ready. I personally felt that it would harm our nursing relationship if I struggled to resentfully night nurse Liora. I wanted to keep the wonderful daytime nursing sessions that we had, and continue to give her all the great benefits of my milk for as long as she desired. That said, I knew night nursing had to end.
I cannot say it was easy, but we did night wean. Because she was old enough to understand, I told her that from now on we would only nurse when “mr.sun is up”. I would nurse her right before bedtime and tell her “remember this the last time we nurse before mr.sun comes up again”. She seemed to understand what I was saying, and so when she asked to nurse later at night I would tell her “remember, we can nurse when mr.sun comes up but not now because its nighttime”. She cried and protested, and I felt so terrible about it. I almost gave in but I knew that would only confuse her and prolong the process. Eventually, she accepted me cuddling her in close during the night and as soon as she saw light enter the bedroom she would say “we can nurse now mr.sun is up!”
This is the thing, in my opinion, when it comes to breastfeeding a toddler or preschooler both mom and child need to be happy with the arrangements. Some mothers are content with nursing toddlers or preschoolers on demand, day and night. That is wonderful, and I truly wish I had the same feelings! But some mothers really need some space either at night or with limited feeding during the day. I believe that around 18 months old is when it is safe and acceptable to gently cut down or night wean. This is just my experience and opinion!
After night weaning, our nursing relationship continued in a really enjoyable manner. Liora is my wild child, so it was so convenient to have that one thing that would always calm her down. That one thing that turned my rough and tumble girl into a sweet little bundle in my lap. Nursing! It was also a relief whenever she got sick because I knew I could offer her something easy to digest and filled with wholesome nutrients and antibodies! When she went through picky stages, I knew she was getting my milk and therefore didn’t worry about it like I did with her older sister.
I nursed Liora and Zipporah together until just a few months ago, when my milk dried up from my 4th pregnancy. Liora was 3 years and 3 months old, so we had more than a year of a reestablished breastfeeding relationship. I was sad to end it, but I knew that I have limits during pregnancy when it comes to nursing after my milk is gone. She didn’t protest this time. She didn’t cry this time. She had cut down a lot on nursing by herself, and this time I felt she was okay with it. It didn’t feel rushed or forced, nor did I feel guilty or like I was stealing something from her that she deserved.
Liora still asks me every once in a while about nursing. I am currently 6 months pregnant, and I told her that if she wanted to try again after the baby is born, I would be willing to let her try. She will turn 4 right after the baby is born, and I don’t know if she will really want to nurse or if she will be able to latch correctly anymore. That said, I do feel open to allowing her the chance to nurse if she really wants it. I doubt I would be willing to nurse three little ones too often, so I would limit it to about once per day if she really wanted to. Again, those are just my personal limits and feelings. But would I feel comfortable nursing a 4-year-old? Yes, absolutely I would.
I believe that breastfeeding is a gift, in fact the Bible repeatedly refers to lactating breasts as a blessing. Women did not wean their little ones as babies, they weaned closer to age 3 or 4 on average. It is most likely that Messiah Yahushua (Jesus Christ) himself nursed until that age. We are often uncomfortable with this in our society, which I find unfortunate for the health and well-being of moms and children.
I shared this journey with you all because I want you to know that you’re not alone if you choose to breastfeed beyond the baby stage. If you choose to nurse your toddler or preschooler, that’s okay! It is a gift, and you should feel blessed to have given it and to have received that blessing. If you are pregnant, please consider my story and those of many other moms. Follow your heart and your child’s leading. Don’t allow society to scare you away from something you know is right for your family, if you do believe it is.