Full Term Breastfeeding: the wonders and challenges of breastfeeding a toddler

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby on. Posted in BABY, FOR MOMS, Fun as a Toddler Mom, HEALTH, Life as a Toddler, New Mom Experience, Parenting, TODDLER

This post is about breastfeeding a  toddler in general. Specifics like when, how, how long will be coming next week in the “daily routines” post.

I could start this with a typical sentence that you hear from the majority of women who are still breastfeeding at a year and a half  “When I first had my son/daughter, I never thought I would breastfeed for this long!”.

It would be a lie, though. I always knew. I knew that if it was up to me, I would breastfeed well into toddlerhood. It was an obvious, a given.

But I actually respect the women who say they never thought they’d breastfeed for this long, because that means they  adjusted their plans and expectations as they went, and more importantly did what was best for their baby.

But for me, it’s not a strange thing, it’s not being a hero, or a martyr, a weirdo, or selfless, it’s not anything special that we are still breastfeeding. It’s normal. Honestly, it feels so normal and natural that I rarely give it a second thought. We breastfeed like it’s no big deal ( and really, it’s not a big deal) and rarely even think about the fact that to some people it might seem strange.

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Only when people ask me “How long are you planning on breastfeeding?” and I tell them “Until she weans herself… “, do I realize that it could go on till she’s 3 or 4. I have no clue when the weaning will come. Alexis is very attached to her boo-boo-boo. She breastfeeds about every 2-3 hours and any time in between for comfort.

It’s very clear to me how important breastfeeding is for a toddler from the emotional standpoint. It’s a place of warmth and comfort. Anyone who’s still breastfeeding at this age knows that the best way to calm an upset toddler is to offer them a cuddle and a breast.

It has proven to be an amazingly helpful in the mothering department:

BENEFITS

It’s a convenient “snack”:

When you’re running out of the house and you forget to pack food, you at least know that they can have breastmilk when they are hungry.

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Hydration and nutrients in times of sickness:

Our first sickness came a few weeks after Lexi’s first birthday. It was so sad and terrifying to know that there’s not much I could do to help her. It was nerve racking to have her refuse food and water for 3-4 days. And i would honestly probably drive myself nuts over this, had it not been for breastfeeding. She got her hydration and nutrition by nursing which she never refused and while that might not be enough on normal days, it was certainly enough in times of sickness. I felt more at peace knowing that she is taking in fluids and food that way. It would have been absolutely horrible having to watch her not eat anything for days and not have an alternative. At that time I told myself to write on my blog that this reason alone is enough to go through any inconvenience when it comes to breastfeeding.

It’s the best medicine for them:

When they are sick, your milk actually produces antibodies specific to that illness to help them recover.

And for other people:

Funny story: our neighbors are Russian ( coincidence!) and recently they permanently moved to US. Their son had been very sickly for a year prior to that, getting high fevers and runny nose at a moment’s notice. The fever would spike up so fast and they’d have to give him antibiotics, so after so many rounds of that, his immune system was shot. So when he got sick AGAIN this time, his mom asked me if I’d pump some breastmilk to give to him as nose drops. I’d never done it before and I guess it could be considered weird, but if it helps, I am all for it. To make a long story short, this was the first time his illness went away within 3 days and his fever was managed by using breastmilk rather than pills. She had told me ( and I almost didn’t believe her) that every time his fever would get high and she’d give him BM drops (through his nose), it would come down 1 degree within 30 minutes. She tried it several times, each time with the same result. So after 3 days he was all well again.

From that moment on, I’ve been doing the same for Lexi ( and us) and believe it or not, BM clears up your stuffed nose in seconds- it’s truly amazing. When Alexis had a fever, I also noticed her fever dropping shortly after giving her BM drops.

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Sleep aid:

While some may view nursing to sleep as a crutch, I (and many other women and professionals) see it as a helpful tool is avoiding bedtime struggles and peacefully putting your baby to sleep. On days when I know other kiddos might struggle to go to sleep because they are too wound up, I always know that a little nursing and rocking will get her to sleep. And the sweetness of the moment when you’re nursing your toddler to sleep with them snuggling up to you, warm in your arms- those are just the most precious minutes of the day.

Bonding:

There’s probably no stronger bonding moment than when while nursing you look into your toddler’s eyes and they stare back without blinking clearly enjoying their time with you.

Mommy break:

I admit, there have been days where I am absolutely exhausted and want nothing else but to sit on the couch with my eyes closed. Usually, those are precisely the days that Alexis is an energizer bunny, running around, needing mommy’s attention and making a massive mess out of all the available rooms. During those trying times, I have really been thankful to have nursing breaks. Few minutes of quiet snuggles on the couch, when I can drop my head back, close my eyes and just enjoy a few minutes of peace. I remember reading about one of the benefits of full term breastfeeding being a few minute break, but I didn’t fully understand it until now.

That’s not to say that our full term breastfeeding doesn’t have its struggles.

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ANNOYANCES

Biting:

The biting began early on around 7-8 months and was very occasional, mostly due to teething or boredom. I didn’t think it was a big deal, to be honest. When she was in the biting stage, I was always very aware of her jaw movements and was ready to “interfere” at any moment. Mostly due to that, she never got a chance to bite hard. I used all the recommended techniques when she was biting and soon enough it stopped being an issue completely. At this point I cannot remember the last time she bit me. It stopped MONTHS ago and we’ve not had an incidence since.

Limbs in face:

Ugh! That’s almost the worst! You can see on all these photos that her favorite nursing position is “foot in mouth”.It’s fine if she keeps it there, but the problem is she kicks it around, moves it to the side, hits me on the jaw. It’s not painful, but OH SO ANNOYING! I guess I could tell her not to do it ( light bulb!), but it has so been a part of our “breastfeeding” that I am not sure I should/want to.

Hair playing:

Hair pulling is actually worse than limbs. She loves running her hands (and feet) through my hair. But it doesn’t end there. She will gently wrap my hair around her fingers or toes and start pulling. It’s pretty common and is a form of self-soothing. But maaaan, she’s slowly one by one (accidentally) tearing out my hair. She doesn’t mean to tear it, she just likes wrapping her fingers around it, but the individual hairs do tear under that pressure. I have super short strands of hair in the front and back due to that. To combat this hair playing, I try to give her a nursing necklace to play with, but that still doesn’t occupy her toes. I guess it doesn’t bother me ENOUGH to do something about it, but that’s probably my most hated part of our routine.

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Shirt pulling:

I know that a lot of women experience their babies’ pulling down their shirts, but that’s not the case here. What she does is puts her lips on the top part of my chest while saying boo-boo-boo. It’s actually sweet. I’ve only had her pull my shirt down once, when I actually told her “Ok, go ahead, pull it down!“. She looked at me, like “Really?” and carefully started pulling down the top.

Lack of Freedom:

Due to the fact that I don’t pump, since she won’t take BM from a cup, I cannot leave her for more than a few hours at a time. It’s not a matter of sustenance for her. She needs that comfort every few hours, she asks for it, she looks for me. As a result, I have been able to get away to go do fun things ( like hang out with girlfriends or whatever) a total of 2-3 times. Honestly, I am not complaining, since I do not know what it’s like to be able to get away for a bit anymore, but when I do have fun on my own, I miss those times. In the end, it bothers me the least of all the annoyances listed here, because I know it’s temporary and I want to treasure the time that she’s little and still needs me.

Conclusion:

I really do love breastfeeding. Always have. Even more than I did at first. There’s just something so precious about a breastfeeding toddler. A rough, active, fast, smart, opinionated, stubborn toddler who turns into an angel for those 5 minutes of nursing. It’s pretty darn cool. And to have all the long term benefits to their health- that is just what seals the deal for me when it comes to full term breastfeeding.

If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, unsure of whether you want to breastfeed, looking to read what to expect, looking for help, check out some of the previous breastfeeding posts I’ve written, as well as BFing posts on Daily Mom.

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Comments (126)

  • Verna

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    Avery used to contort herself in the weirdest nursing positions. Haha!

    Reply

  • sarah r.

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    i love this post. :) nursing my 16 month old is THE BEST. I’ve started to get weird looks/comments from people, but I just couldn’t care less. It’s my favorite part of the day, and is such an amazing bonding experience, and I can’t imagine it being done (I tear up thinking about it!). Interesting about BM drops in the nose to clear up stuffiness & fevers- I’ve never heard of that!! Do you just use a dropper?

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      Yup. I just pump and use a dropper. She’s figured out that it helps her nose and won’t even fight me on it anymore.

      Reply

  • ashley

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    I loved this post. Thank you for sharing!!!

    Hair pulling? YES I SO CAN RELATE!!!

    Reply

  • Laura

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    BM can clear up just about anything! Our pediatrician jokes that it’s like the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” where the Dad’s solution to everything is Windex. Have a problem? Squirt some breastmilk on it! haha

    Reply

  • Cilla

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    Great post! I’ve never heard the term “full term” breastfeeding before or did you mean extended breastfeeding?

    Reply

  • Anne

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    Why do you use the phrase “full-term”? I’ve always heard breastfeeding after a year called “extended breastfeeding” because, as you say, the babies no longer need it for sustenance.

    My little girl weaned herself at 14 months and I was sad, especially when she would get sick and I had nothing to comfort her. But I definitely love that her daddy, grandma, and occasionally even a sitter can put her to bed now.

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      That’s the correct term for breastfeeding that extends into toddler years and is naturally stopped when the child weans himself. Human babies are meant to be breastfed for many years hence the full term rather than extended which to me implies that it’s beyond norm.
      Personally I have no problems using either one of the words because I’m not big on labels or picking at words…

      Reply

      • Bridget

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        My son refused to nurse around 13 months. Wasn’t a strike, he just didn’t want to anymore. I had started giving him whole milk in a cup around 12 months, so we weren’t nursing 12 times a day. It is not unheard of for toddlers to wean themselves that early.

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        • Tawny

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          All of mine stopped nursing around 14 months. I would still offer for a bit but it was obvious they were done. Mine never nursed for comfort though after the first few months. Not sure why, I guess our snuggles were comfort enough lol.

          Reply

  • Josey

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    I love this. :) I always hoped to BF for 1 year, and when I ended up having to work full time outside the home when my daughter was 8 weeks old, I suddenly didn’t know how long we’d make it (thanks to the time commitment for pumping). I’m proud to say we made it to nearly 18 months, and the only reason I suddenly weaned her (instead of letting her wean herself) is that I was 8 weeks pregnant, had borderline HG (puking all day every day), and was suddenly really touched out and just needed some “me-space.” I’m so thankful that Stella and I got 18 months of that experience though – truly life changing.

    Reply

  • Julia

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    Great post! I can relate to so many things.

    Have you had to deal with weird looks or comments from family or strangers? I personally haven’t (other than nosy questions) but I follow a natural parenting page that I really love on facebook & every day there is a question from someone asking for advice on how to deal with looks/comments/criticism & worse (being asked to leave a place, threatened with being fired at work for pumping, wth, really??). Also many women seem to quit breastfeeding toddlers because of pressure from family/strangers & later regret it. It would be great if you could include a post in your series on how you’ve dealt with it or if you haven’t, how you mentally prepared yourself or what you prepared to say, how you would answer invasive questions, etc. I think it would give a lot of support to women who feel like they are the only ones “doing something weird or wrong”.

    Reply

    • Kay

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      Julia, what is the name of the natural parenting site that you follow? Thanks! :)

      Reply

      • Julia

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        MotherWise!

        Reply

  • Kay

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    I have been so interested to know what breastfeeding is like after a year and am so excited to get there! Sometimes my 11 month old little girl is very calm but others tries to turn and kneel or get off the chair/ couch WHILE she is breastfeeding and occasionally, she even tries to stand up! Has this happened with Alexis at all, Elena, or any other breastfeeding mothers out there? It really takes the option for a short break out of the picture at times when it sounds the nicest.

    Reply

    • Julia

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      I’ll jump in here & say that this happens to us almost every time. My daughter is almost 18 months & she is always doing some kind of gymnastics while breastfeeding. It’s like she wants to go but she doesn’t want to stop but she can’t take it with her & it just becomes a circus show for anyone watching.

      When she first started walking & exploring she would breastfeed for very little because she was too busy doing other stuff & she would get very distracted, much like babies do around 5 months or whenever they get really curious. But now she will finish breastfeeding; she just wiggles the whole time, then slides off the couch halfway through, then stands & wiggles some more & finally runs away.

      Reply

  • Très bien

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    Loooove this post!! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  • Mona

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    Have never heard of the nose drop thing, but yes, my pediatrician has suggested it for a clogged tear duct. When you use it for nose, etc, do you keep it in the fridge, or the freezer and then thaw it out. I ask because breast milk for drinking should only be in the fridge 48 hrs, I think.

    May I suggest a ponytail holder, for keeping her toes out of your hair?

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      I pump only enough for 2 drop sessions so I put it in the fridge and repump. I want it to be fresh.

      What do you mean about ponytail holder?

      Reply

      • Shan

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        A ponytail holder to put your hair in a ponytail. A very simple way to keep lexi’s hands and feet out of your hair…

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        • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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          Haha! That’s what I thought. You guys sure can’t think I haven’t thought of it :)))) lol
          Her legs are long enough to pull my hair out of the ponytail from the back and bottom of my hair which is worse.

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          • Stef

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            You do realize that you shouldn’t allow that kind of behavior, right? Your hair is so pretty! Put a stop to that right now.

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          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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            What I do realize is that it is completely up to me as a mother to decide what behavior I want to put a stop to and what I can let slide.

            Reply

          • Cristy

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            Yes.

            However, there is nothing wrong or harmful in teaching nursing manners. It is a healthy thing to set limits and is also the first step in teaching a child that they own their own bodies. Which is ESSENTIAL.

            Reply

          • Leah

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            If she can pull your hair out of a ponytail with her feet, what about putting her in socks before nursing? I know that would be a little bit of a hassle sometimes, but it seems like she wouldn’t be able to tug very much with her toes if she was wearing socks. Just a thought. :)

            Reply

          • B

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            put your hair in a high bun! No way she could do it then. But I would really start working with her on not doing it at all, say no very firmly when she does it and push her foot away. If she tries it more than 2-3 times after that, end the nursing session. Treat it like you would biting, it’s a bad habit that needs to be fixed

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          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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            She totally does. She can get to the hair at the top of my neck.
            Not sure I see it as a bad habit. Pulling -yes, but playing with hair is a common self-soothing “ritual”.

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      • Lara

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        I think she means putting your hair back in a ponytail when you’re nursing her like you have it in your one picture. Easy solution! I’d pull mine up for the nursing session and take it back down (because I don’t usually wear my hair up) when she was done.

        Reply

  • lori

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    I’ve only recently found your site and this is my first time commenting. I just had to! I loved this! I’m nursing my first child, 9 months old now, and I love it. I knew I’d nurse past a year all along. Thank you for writing this. Breastfeeding needs to be normalized in the US! My son loves to hold his foot like that too while nursing. So cute.

    Reply

  • Summer

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    I am still breastfeeding my 13 month old and just assumed I would go to a year and he would want to quit. At this point I’ll do it until he refuses. He won’t ever reject it but he doesn’t ask for it either. We just do it before naps and bedtime to relax and if he wakes up during the night. I agree it’s way easier to be up for 10 minutes feeding then trying to sooth him another way for probably longer. Thanks for sharing. It’s nice to see that we are all pretty much going through the same things and it benefits our babies/toddlers in so many ways.

    Reply

  • Mrs Loquacious

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    Love this post, and of course, LOVE full-term/extended BF. I’m surprised you didn’t mention anything about nipple pinching, because that is what I get to deal with daily. Not the hair pull (never happened), only an occasional foot to the shoulder (never the face), but *always* her free hand is on my free breast, and she’s holding or pinching or rolling the nipple. It has gotten to the point where my nipples are desensitized to it, but it’s still highly annoying.

    Another annoyance? Nursing clothes. Still wearing them, and sometimes I’ll see something cute but then I won’t even buy it when I realize that it isn’t BF friendly and I know that by the time she weans, it will be out of style! 😛

    But I love that I can comfort her so easily, and it meets her needs so fully for me to nurse her. She had a bit of a meltdown today at the playground because she was getting tired, and our nanny (who she loves) wasn’t able to calm her down. When she got home she was so upset that her whole little body was shaking with her sobs, so I whisked her into the bedroom right away and nursed her. She calmed down within the minute, and even though it took a while for her breathing to slow down, she was able to laugh and talk through her tears after just a minute or two. She fell asleep nursing, and woke up grinning. :)

    I dread the day that she weans. What secret weapon will I have to calm her down then?!?

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      She doesn’t twist my nipples believe it or not. It always bothered when she would start so I wouldn’t Ever let her do it. So it never began. Hair, on the other hand, is something I allowed.

      And yeah I totally dread the day when I can’t nurse her and calm her down or give her hydration and nutrients when she’s sick and won’t eat anything.

      Reply

  • Me

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    I would suggest pulling your hair into a top knot as an easy solution for keeping her hands and feet out of your hair.

    Reply

  • Corinne

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    I miss breastfeeding. I had to stop when she was about 6 months because being back to work, I really didn’t have time to pump while at work, and the BM was always spoken for when at home. I started producing less and less till it just wasn’t enough.. Very sad :[

    Would keeping a hair tie around your wrist for the times you BF help with the hair pulling/twirling? It obviously won’t help with the whole foot-in-face thing tho!

    Reply

      • Corinne

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        Yeah I saw tha after I posted this. It looks like its out of her foot’s reach in that photo you posted so I thought maybe its something that would work. Oh we’ll.

        Reply

  • Amanda

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    Haha! My baby used to scratch his face like crazy, so I used to dab BM on all the spots and they would heal in a day or so!

    I have that striped dress in cream and caviar — love it!

    I like the idea of continuing our breastfeeding relationship past one year (currently 7 mos old), but lately I have been dealing with biting and teeth resting on my breasts, so it’s hard to imagine just ignoring the discomfort or it getting better somehow. :/

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      I love my boob dresses. Total life savers!

      Re: biting, it will stop. Just get through this stage and it will be all good. Lexi was a frequent biter but we hung in there and now she NEVER bites.
      You’ll def. thank yourself for hanging in there.

      Reply

  • Amanda

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    Sorry, one more thing. I am doing BLW, and so far my son hasn’t dropped any feedings because he’s not really eating too much, mostly playing with food 😉 but I am curious, did Lexi’s feedings naturally drop after she started eating solids? You say she nurses every 2-3 hours, and I am just curious how you work solid foods around that.

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      Not right away. She still goes back and forth: one week lots of food and 2-3 nursing sessions max, Another week little food- tons of nursing. As long as you follow his cues, he’ll never go hungry.

      Reply

  • Lena

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    My son is 18 months and doesn’t BF but he has picked up the habit of holding onto and sometimes tugging on my hair when I hold him. It’s annoying (especially if he pulls) but kind of endearing because I think it might be a comfort thing. Just wanted to let you know it’s not just a BFing toddler thing! :)

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      I read it’s very common. They often use hair pulling touching to comfort or soothe themselves to sleep. I didn’t stop it in the beginning cuz it was so nice.

      Reply

  • pantrygirl (@pantrygirl)

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    Amen and thank you for a lovely article.

    I had so many issues with nursing #1, I knew if I made my milestones, I’d keep going as long as my child wanted it.

    Everything you say I concur and add that it’s great for eye conditions too! A drop in the eye clears any infections safely and without additional medications.

    I’ve also found it soothes sore throats while ill (hence the extra nursing sessions).

    By the way, the last photo made me chuckle.
    #2 actual does the fiddle with the unclaimed nipple. It’s been hard for me to try to get him to stop and in public it’s been tough to control but we find a happy medium most days.

    Hugs and thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  • Kat

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    Was waiting for this post! I hope you’ll do more like it. I really love the photo of you guys in blue – so striking! I’m glad you’re posting these photos and nursing in public, people like you give a better image to breastfeeding. It should be the norm.

    Reply

  • erin

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    Feet and hands in the hair! My baby, too. Though, I have managed to coach her to not jerk my hair about back and forth ripping fistfuls out – it hurts! I don’t actually mind if she plays with my hair, but I have definitely noticed that my ends look terrible now. Oh well.

    Where is the blue dress that you are wearing in one of the photos from? I like it! I haven’t really worn any nursing tops or dresses because it always seems that the opening would look strange on…but it might be getting to be time since she is really curious when we’re nursing in public, on and off the breast every 10 seconds.

    And another question – does Lexi bottlefeed well, for those times that you’re away for a few hours? Does your husband/caregiver feed her with your breastmilk or is she old enough now that water/food is ok if you’re away? We’re trying to get to that point with my daughter who is 12 months now – hoping I’ll be able to slip away for more than 2 hours at a time (she always refused a bottle).

    Anyway, I really liked this post.

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      Oh yikes, fistfuls! Luckily it’s not that bad. She doesn’t even mean to pull it but when she wraps it around her fingers or toes some hairs inadvertently break. I try not to let her get her toes in it.
      Bottle feeding: no way. She just won’t take it. To be completely fair I gave up trying a while ago and have made peace with “no rest for the wicked”. I know that even if she has my BM in a bottle it’s not what she wants me for. She’ll still ask for me. She often picks up my photos and goes running looking for me if I’m not around. It’s a comfort thing. She’s very attached.

      Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      Oh and the dress is linked at the bottom. It’s my favorite brand of nursing wear and I honestly don’t know what id do without it.

      Reply

  • Ann

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    Hair pulling: Can you try to encourage her to twirl her own hair? It would be a great self-soothing tool. I say this because my 2 1/2 year old is a huge twirler and it started with her twirling mine. Se now twirls hers whenever she’s tired. She still asks to play with my hair occasionally, and I really prefer to be in charge of it now.

    Warning though – she’s gotten her finger stuck once or twice. It’s a mad rush to try and get it out at the time, but definitely something to laugh about later.

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      She does that too. Especially, if I am not feeling like being messed with and move her hand away, she moves only playing with her hair. That’s actually how it started.

      Reply

  • Molly W.

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    I love this! I feel like I could have wrote this, it describes me & my 18 month old Son’s bfing relationship perfectly. I love nursing him even when he pulls my hair or puts his foot in my ear. I love nursing him as often as be likes day or night. I plan on only stopping when he’s ready to. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply

  • Ashley

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    Does Alexis drink out of sippy cups? My 12 month old is also nursing, and hasn’t ever taken a bottle. I’ve been trying to get him to drink out of a cup for months now, and he just won’t (or can’t) do it.

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      She never took to sippy cups. She went from breast to straw cup and straws to normal cups. She’s been drinking out of a normal cup since probably 14-15 months, and out of a straw cup since before a year old.

      She never liked the sippies because they are hard to get water out and I think in her mind that was reserved for boob :)

      I’d say try the following cups with her: Straw cup ( super easy to drink out of, Sippy cup (this resembles a nipple a lot) and finally this cup is PERFECT to teach him to drink out of a cup itself (I know it’s really expensive, but the whole set is absolutely AMAZING!)

      Good Luck!

      Reply

  • Hayley

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    Loved this post! Question.. Since you are still full time bf, has your period come back (sorry if too personal)? Do you use any birth control while nursing? I am nursing my 9 month old and am curious when I could get pregnant again.

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    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      Unfortunately ( or fortunately) my period came back 3 months postpartum despite exclusive (and frequent) Bfing. I’ve always had a cycle that was like clockwork and it didn’t let me down ( or did) this time.
      With period come all the unwanted things like acne and PMS- i hate it. I don’t take the pill at this time because i just don’t feel comfortable even with the tiny possibility that some hormones might get through my milk. So we use barrier methods of BC. I am going to get back on the pill though as soon as Lexi slows down with Bfing, because I want my skin, my moods and my life back :) I know certain pills are safe, but I am just being a scarity cat about it since it’s hormones we are talking about.

      As far as getting pregnant, you can still easily get pregnant even if your period isn’t back, so I wouldn’t rely on that without using other forms of BC.

      Hope this helps!

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  • Ori

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    love this post!
    I had to stop nursing my son, when he was about 4 months old because i had to return to work (full-time) and got medicine that wasn’t allowed while breastfeeding… now i’m pregnant again and he will be about 15 months when his little brother will be born. so, if he wants, he can have BM as well 😉
    what is weird about it? nothing! no one thinks it’s weird to drink cow’s milk … but it’s for calfs, BM for babies 😉

    Reply

  • Ashley Sisk

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    I’ve been looking forward to this post and it was even better than I imagined. Just last week I was asked why my child wasn’t drinking milk from a cup yet. I’ve known for some time that I would extend bfing and now it’s time to toughen up to any critism. This was great girl. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  • Andrea Cobert

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    What a beautiful post! I breastfed my first child until she weaned herself at 1 year, I was so sad but it wasn’t up to me. I would have continued as long as she wanted to

    Reply

  • Rachel

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    I weaned my son at 13 months. I was ready for the break and needed to break away. I really enjoyed it while it lasted, and I feel good about nursing for 13 months. If you have another baby will you tandem feed? Good job sticking it out for so long!!

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  • Holly

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    I think extended breast feeding is fantastic! I just want to warn you about nursing to sleep at this age dentally. I cannot tell you how many 2 year olds have come through the dental office needing resins, crowns, and even extractions due to what is called “nursing bottle caries.” This occurs when breast milk sits on the teeth over night when there is no salivation to neutralize the acid. Please brush Alexis’ teeth after nursing and before sleeping, and check her top 4 teeth (central and lateral incisors) front and back for any discoloration (brown, black, or chalky white). These are the first signs of decay.

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    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      I really do appreciate the concern ( and i definitely have soft teeth myself), but studies have not found a correlation between night time nursing and caries. In fact, BM is thought to somewhat protect from it.
      Giving milk from a bottle at night is a different story. Nursing caries is simply a myth brought on by rumors and uneducated guesses.

      http://kellymom.com/health/baby-health/tooth-decay/

      I do think it’s important to watch for any discoloration though. I am pretty paranoid about that.

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      • Holly

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        Nursing caries is not a myth! Bottle or breast, it doesn’t matter. It’s the natural sugars that are present in milk and breast milk combined with the solids that are now washing over the teeth on a daily basis combined. Exclusively breast/bottle fed babies are not at as much risk (if any) for the same decay pattern. Has Alexis seen a dentist yet? I’d be interested to hear what her dentist thinks about nursing her to sleep at this age. You can link as many articles as you like, but I’ve seen it for years. Mind you, I’m in pediatric dentistry, so I exclusively see children. Extended nursing (or bottle feeding) without brushing before sleep can lead to serious tooth decay. Children also primarily get their “tooth genetics” from their mom, so if you are cavity prone they are more likely to be as well.

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          • Samantha

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            Well, my brother and I are proof that this is not always true…we were both breastfed at night well past two and we are both in our mid-twenties now with no cavities still. 😉

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          • Holly

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            It’s not about being nursed at night. It’s about being nursed to sleep and not brushing before the baby goes to sleep. I will once again reiterate that I think extended nursing is fantastic. I wish my body would have let me nurse longer. I also think that the level of naivety happening here is dangerous. I think it’s amazing that one link gets posted and everyone just believes it. But one person says something that you all don’t agree with, and it’s wrong… No questions asked.

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          • Tash

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            As a mum that has breastfed my three boys (and just finished feeling my son – who self weaned at 13 months), I think this advice isn’t something to just throw out. I know everyone has their opinions etc, but I think this is valid. A lot of the damage isn’t always seen until later. My friends 6 year old daughter has already had four fillings and she feeds her kids sooo well, the only thing they can point it back to is feeing to sleep and not brushing after bed.

            Lovely post though, well done on feeding this long!

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  • Ana O

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    Love nursing till babies wean themselves! It is SO important in my opinion. That’s our plan currently. Question, if you happen to get pregnant before she weans herself, do you plan on BFing through pregnancy? How about tandem nursing?

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    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      Good Question! Not that I would ever get pregnant by accident, or plan my pregnancy based on breastfeeding, but in a hypothetical world, I would definitely do my best to continue and tandem feed. I do know that in some cases it’s almost impossible to BF throughout pregnancy as your nipples get super sensitive, or your milk dries up. So as always I would take it one step at a time with a set goal in mind.

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      • Ana O

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        Well seeing as anything could happen, I have a close friend get ‘surprise’ pregnant with their second despite doing four rounds of fertility treatments with their first and multiple types of prevention measures (B.C., Condoms, BFing), baby just wanted to be born I guess! Ha! But she had to quit breast feeding because it was actually causing her uterus to contract slightly at 16wks! Yikes!

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  • Bethany

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    Thank you so much for this post! I have been so anxious to hear your thoughts on “full-term breastfeeding”. Love that, as opposed to extended breastfeeding, although like you said above, I’m not a stickler for wording either. I am currently breastfeeding my 15 month old at least 5 times per day and 3 times at night, so I was happy to hear Alexis is still nursing pretty frequently as well. I treasure our nursing time so much and I can’t bear to think about it ending anytime soon. Some days she is a little monkey, climbing all over me too, but she is so busy during her waking hours that I love those guaranteed snuggle times before naps, bedtime and through the night. So happy to hear you are continuing to enjoy nursing as much as we are!

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  • Sarah

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    My toddler nurses while sitting in my lap, facing me, with her legs around my waist. I’m so glad she chooses to nurse like this, because it eliminates acrobatics and feet in my face, and allows me to have both hands free if needed!

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  • Sarah

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    Love this post!!!! Nursed my first DD for 19 mos and stopped because I was pregnant with DD2 and dr pressured me to stop. :( Nursed DD2 for almost 3 yrs and now feel bad for not going longer with DD1. Everyone around me – including my mother & sister who both bf their children for a year – treated me so disdainfully like I was so weird to not wean at a yr. I am so glad I did it my own way with DD2. You rock on with your bad self, Elena!!! Proud of you!!!

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  • Sarah

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    Forgot to add – DD2 played with my hair to the point that it quite literally became her security. At over 3 yrs old now, she still whines for “mama hair” and likes to just hold it whenever she can! She plays with it to fall asleep and reaches for it through the night… But… I’m planning on cutting it short this week! I’m so scared she is going to be devastated, but after 3 yrs, mama needs a change! Am I cruel?!? Lol

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  • Kaitlyn

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    This is exactly what I needed to hear today. My ds still nurses every 2-3hrs and sometimes I question if it’s “too often” for a 20 month old. It’s refreshing to hear a mom doing this the same as I am.

    Also, my son loves my hair. It’s his comfort item. He holds it when he’s upset or going to sleep. As long as he’s being gentle I think it’s really sweet. It’s cool to see the same connection with you and your daughter.

    One last thing, where are your beautiful dresses from? I love them! :)

    Thanks again for this post.

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  • Holly

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    Interesting you didn’t post my comment. Working in pediatric dentistry, I’ve seen a lot of things. Your followers deserve to hear the facts about extended nursing — pros and cons. You’re doing quite a disservice to those who look to you for advice by not posting my comment or creating a post about what can happen.

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    • Rachel

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      Seeing it in your office is anecdotal at best. Correlation does not imply causation. This is basic science and considering our dental care is supposed to be evidence-based, I would never see a dentist like you.
      Here’s my anectdotal bit…. My brother and I both nursed to sleep and throughout the night. He doesn’t have a single cavity at 31 years and has always practiced poor dental hygiene. I’m an avid flosser, drink water, and carry a brush with me at all times. I had 3 root canals by 25. It is frustrating and degrading when dentists have made me feel like I’m irresponsible or lying. How about the fact that I just have soft teeth?! I finally found a dentist who approaches my problem from that angle and we have gotten my teeth under control.

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  • Holly

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    First of all, I did also mention genetics playing a role. You and your brother can be complete dental opposites based on genetics. Secondly, exactly what does this new dentist do for your “soft teeth?” Lastly, if correlation does not imply causation, what does? What about smoking and lung cancer or emphysema?
    You really think seeing it in the office is a joke? Of course dental care is evidence based. Where do you think the evidence comes from? Where do you think you “soft teeth” were first discovered and diagnosed?

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    • Rachel

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      I use special paste and an extra treatment at night before bed. I also go in for cleanings every 3 months.

      I will not explain fallacy’s to a supposedly educated dentist. Again, it is something you should have learned in Biology 101. Seeing it in the office is not a joke, but it is merely a reason to form a hypothesis and then test it rigorously. So far, there has not been firm evidence to show breast milk causes cavities any more than genetics. Considering this is the internet, I have no idea if you’re pretending to be dentist or not, but the answer to your question is that no, evidence does NOT come from what you see in the office. It comes from a well-thought out study that considers things such as genetic predisposition.

      To say that ONE LINK has made me question night weaning to reduce cavities is ridiculous. My son is 3 and our teeth problems began long before I ever discovered Elena’s blog. Of course many of us have searched high and low to find out what is best for us. Go check out la leche’s page. The other thing to consider is EVEN IF weaning would slightly reduce the chances of cavities, is it worth the psychological impact? How can YOU, as someone who has never nursed as long as some of us, decide that weaning is *best*? We have a relationship and dynamic with our children that you don’t quite understand and the idea of weaning them for the *possible* oral benefit is beyond your realm. I’m sure this is going to come off as me being a total asshole, but it is just as offensive and hurtful when people have told me “why don’t you *just* wean him” when they obviously have no idea what all that entails and how important full-term nursing is to me. The immunological and psychology benefits far outweigh any others. Instead of recommending night weaning, dentists should recommend things like reducing carb intake (anecdotally, this has worked well for both myself and my son) and brushing with fluoride before fasting for 1 hour. Since beginning this regimen, neither of us has had additional cavities.

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      • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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        Rachel, could you please let me know in more detail if you can what measures you’re taking. I have soft teeth too and I’d love to do smth about it beyond the basic recommendations and hopefully help Lexi as well.
        Feel free to email me contact@prebabyblog.com

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      • Corinne

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        To be fair, I don’t think she mentioned weaning her. She said she’s all for extended/full term breast feeding, but merely suggested making sure the child’s teeth are brushed afterward. I know that want quite work if you nurse to sleep.
        In the article I found by Dr Sears, it just suggests to do a thorough brushing first thing in the morning to help with night time feedings without brushing each time.
        This is *not* to say night time nursing does in fact cause soft teeth or encourage cavities to form. I don’t have thoughts one way or the other.

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  • Mrs Loquacious

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    Whoa. I thought this was a post about full-term breastfeeding and its awesomeness! It’s too bad that the comments section has somehow rabbit-trailed, and that one person’s agenda about dental hygiene and their desire to have a debate is overshadowing the purpose of the article.

    My little toddler is going through massive separation anxiety at the moment, and nursing is my saving grace. It helps her “reset” and reconnect with me, and it also gives me some time to check my email and not be in full-on “entertainment” mode.

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  • Rachel

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    I will email you later tonight or tomorrow morning with the specific brands I use. They are prescriptions so I want to give you the correct names! I will also detail my diet. Basically I only eat fruit when I know I can brush very soon and I eat meat which a helps reduce the starches/sugars in my mouth. I followed a very strict diet for 3-4 months to make sure I wast feeding the bacteria and I have since loosened up a bit. I’ll email you a typical day of my strict and current diet to give you an idea. I used to feel a ton of guilt over my dental issues and i hate that others might feel the same.

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    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      Thank you!!!
      Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to eat meat as it’s not my lifestyle at the moment, but I do want to gleam as much insight into what you’ve found works for you in other aspects!

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      • Lindsey

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        Elena, could you share some of what you learn from Rachel? I’m in the same situation.

        I love this post and the pictures crack me up! My 14 month old loves to stick his feet in the air when he nurses. I personally am dreading the day when he weans himself. I still love the feeling of him touching my hair and “kneading” as he nurses.

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  • Holly

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    Your response only shows that you are only reading what you want to read from my posts. (And therefore leads me to believe you only read what you want to read from other posts/articles) I NEVER said to wean your child. NEVER! All I said was to be sure to brush before they went to sleep and not to nurse to sleep. Nurse as long as you want….. 3,4,5,15 whatever! Just brush the teeth before they go to sleep! Interesting also that you and Elena only quoted kellymom and LaLecheLeague. Any thoughts into looking at the AAPD website?

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    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      I am not an expert on this. I only added kellymom because it’s a resource I somewhat trust and knew would support what I was referring to. Either way whether it contributes to caries or not, like Rachel said BFing is more important than that. As long as we take care of our baby’s teeth.
      I liked Dr Sears suggestion of brushing thoroughly in the morning.
      And honestly, I really don’t see it as a nursing caries vs breastfeeding debate.

      The link you sent is great, but it’s simply a policy of the AAP, not a study that proves one way or another, and to be completely honest AAP is pretty behind on adopting new research and conforming to world standards, so I take anything they recommend with a grain of salt until I have researched it on my own.

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    • Rachel

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      Yes, you are suggesting night weaning which is a big deal to a child who nurses to sleep and throughout the night! For many of us, night nursing is the last to stop. My son is 3 and only nurses to sleep and if he wakes up in the middle of the night. I nursed at night until I was 4, but my mom said I stopped day nursing around 2 (unless I was sick of course). Like I said, it is difficult to explain or help others understand what the dynamics of full term nursing. It isn’t “just stop nursing to sleep” or “have them fall asleep another way.” I find crying to sleep completely unnecessary when I can nurse him. It is comforting, nourishing, and familiar. I wouldn’t change it for the world!

      You can do everything right with your kids and still have unexpected things happen. My version of “my best” is making sure that I am providing him a strong psychological background where his opinions and thoughts matter. Other things will happen, but I place my greatest value on his trust in me. It’s a personal, unique experience for all of us, but you better bet I will stand behind and support other moms who don’t want to blindly follow conventional wisdom.

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      • Holly

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        I’m going to say two more things and then move on, because this discussion has gone beyond ridiculous. All I wanted to do with my original post was mention the importance of brushing before sleeping. Adults brush and floss before bed to prevent caries the same way children need to. I still stand firm on the fact that I DID NOT and still DO NOT suggest you stop nursing. I am a strong supporter of breast feeding and feel it is the absolute best thing you can do for your child. I just also know that brushing before bed is beneficial too. Plain and simple.
        Lastly, “soft teeth” don’t exist. Period. End of story. Teeth are hard, enamel is hard, and dentin is supposed to be hard (unless a cavity is present). Anything “soft” in/on your teeth is a cavity. This 3 month recall period your dentist has you on and special paste and “extra treatment” is a load of garbage. I guarantee if you take the opposite end of your toothbrush and tap on your teeth, you will hear a tapping sound…. Meaning your teeth are hard. Teeth are hard and that’s a fact. http://oralhealth.deltadental.com/Adult/OralConditions/22,Delta93

        I wish you all the best and I’m truly sorry I “hijacked” this post. I’ve followed and loved Elena’s blog for years, but I promise from now on to only be a silent participant.

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        • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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          I think there has been a lot of misunderstanding in the comment section as there always is when intent can’t be judged by tones of voices and , as sad as it is, in the world of mommy guilt/justification/defensiveness/judgement. We all do it to an extent.

          So I’d like to believe that none of the participants of this conversation meant anything bad with their initial posts and we are all just defending what we know/believe in. Let’s leave it at that. Breastfeeding is great, brushing teeth is great! On a personal note, there’s absolutely no way I can brush Lexi’s teeth after she’s fallen asleep ( and I think that’s where Rachel got the night weaning part, because that’s the only way one can brush teeth after nursing), so I think Corinne’s suggestion to brush in the morning is a great alternative. Both Dental health and breastfeeding is important regardless of whether you believe in the studies that say BFing causes caries or the studies that found no such correlation.

          Now I wish I could move ALL these comments to my Oral Care post

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        • Corinne

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          I’ll speak only for myself when I say this. When I said my teeth are soft, I didn’t actually mean *soft*. I meant more susceptible to cavities than someone else. And as far as the “extra treatment” you feel is a hoax? I also got an extra treatment prescribed by my dentist because I have a higher bacteria count in my saliva which breaks down the enamel much more than others. This treatment is supposed to help neutralize that bacteria. As far as the cleanings every 3 months, my dentist didn’t suggest that.
          That’s all I will add!

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        • Rachel

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          I’m not confused or misreading what you (Holly) wrote. Your original comment specifically said:

          …” This occurs when breast milk sits on the teeth over night when there is no salivation to neutralize the acid. Please brush Alexis’ teeth after nursing and before sleeping”

          This means no night nursing. Night nursing for bedsharing, full-term BFing moms generally means nursing to sleep, dream nursing, nursing in the middle of the night when they half wake up, etc. Nobody is anti-brushing over here, but MANY dentists are anti-nursing to sleep since you can’t brush their teeth without waking them back up.

          I specifically mentioned night weaning and even went on to explain how difficult it is for a lot of us moms who are nursing toddlers/preschoolers when it comes to explaining the dynamics of full term nursing. It’s not about being “anti-nursing” or anything like that, it is that most people are ignorant when it comes to night time nursing and what occurs while bedsharing with a nursing child.

          Obviously nobody’s teeth here are like cotton balls. Duh. As I said before, I have no idea if Holly is a real dentist, a hygienist, or just someone looking to tell us nursing moms that nursing to/during sleep can cause cavities. There hasn’t been any good studies conducted regarding any of this. It seems that dentists want to blame moms for nursing to sleep. I’m guessing that MOST of us brush their teeth in the morning and at night. The only thing I didn’t do was brush with fluoride since it wasn’t recommended until we discovered cavities.

          My dentist basically said, “okay, cavities are fairly complicated, some people get them easily, others don’t. Here are some steps to take..” She let ME decide what to do and didn’t place blame on any one thing. We opted to use the tooth paste and rinse. To even try to say it is a load of garbage makes me thing you either haven’t stayed educated in dentistry or you aren’t actually a dentist.

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          • Julie Penter

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            Wow! That escalated quickly, huh? I just wanted to say that I think you (Rachel) really were mean to someone who was just offering an opinion based on experience. (basically what all of your comments and Elena’s entire blog do as well) As for the need to continue to attack her when all she seemingly wanted to do was make sure your children didn’t get tooth decay seemed a little excessive and childish. And then when Elena came in and tried to move on after Holly apologized, you continued on. Why is it okay for you to express your opinion about why she was wrong, but not for her to say why you were wrong? And then to question her education and practices? Who are you to do that? Every dentist, doctor, etc. will more than likely have a different opinion than the other. That’s why when we don’t like someone’s opinion, we move on and find someone else’s opinion that works better with our beliefs/thoughts. (Gotta love the 2nd opinion!) I would hope that in the “real world” you would never verbally attack someone the way you did here simply due to a difference of opinions.

            On a completely separate note, Hi Elena, love the blog and Alexis is hysterical with the leg in the air while nursing! I think if I saw that in real life, i would be that awkward person staring at the lady nursing, but not because she was nursing…just because her kid is so cute and funny!

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  • Holly

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  • Mrs Loquacious

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    I nurse my daughter to sleep every night. If the issue is the mingling of solids with breastmilk on the teeth, and not the breastmilk itself, then a way to mitigate the alleged damage would be to brush my daughter’s teeth after every solid meal, which is what I do anyway.

    However, I belong to the camp of critical thinkers that does not equate correlation with causation. I think that it is impossible to isolate one cause for infant dental caries, since I am sure that multiple factors play into this condition (e.g. how often child brushes teeth period, the amount of fluoride child is regularly using, genetics, how child’s teeth are brushed, general diet, etc.). To blame nursing to sleep as the reason (or even *A* reason) for children having cavities in their baby teeth is far too simplistic an attribution and fails to consider the bazillion other factors that might be involved.

    And once again, I think it’s kinda lame that this wonderful post on breastfeeding got hijacked. If you are so charged up about this issue, Holly, why don’t you blog about it yourself? The readers of this blog know that this is Elena’s personal experience and perspective, and if anyone takes her word as gospel and doesn’t bother to do their own research, then that is their prerogative. No need to attack and accuse and get all worked up. Sheesh.

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  • Jessica

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    I nursed my oldest until she was five (well, five and one month or so). She self-weaned right before her sister was born, so I never got to tandem. My youngest is still nursing at 16 months and I plan to let her self-wean as well. Thanks for sharing another public perspective on nursing beyond infancy!

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  • Jessica

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    Thank you. I think it’s wonderful for moms, like you, to be open to letting their children wean at the time that is right for them. Since my oldest was five, she has even been able to talk to me about her feelings about it. She has even gone so far as to thank me for letting her decide when to wean, and to ask me to do the same for her little sister because she wants her to have a similarly positive experience. I joke sometimes that if my youngest goes as long as my oldest, I will have a decade of nursing under my belt. There was only about a month between the oldest weaning and youngest being born. I was open to tandeming, but my oldest wanted to be the big girl I think and so she decided she was done.

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    • Kay

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      Jessica, that is amazing! I love what yoi said about your eldest saying she wanted her sister to have the same experience. 😀

      Reply

  • Ana O

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    Since it was brought up, one of my favorite bloggers cured her daughters tooth decay (dentist confirmed) by following the regimen from Ramin Nigel’s book ‘Cure tooth decay’. The before/after photos are incredible. This is how I am working on reversing my own decay. http://www.mommypotamus.com/how-i-reversed-my-daughters-tooth-decay/

    Reply

  • Aubrey

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    I love this post. My son is 17 months and we are still going strong. He loves his “milks” and I’m not looking forward to him weaning. Other than my mom and cousin I don’t have anyone to talk to about nursing this long (Between the 3 of us kids my mom has 11 years of BFing under her belt). None of my friends breastfed longer than 3 months. But we’ll keep going until he’s ready to quit!

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  • Kelsey

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    Wow! Everything you explain and mention (except the foot) is exactly like breastfeeding my 11 month old. I do not see it changing anytime soon, and plan to continue breastfeeding until my son has weaned himself.. He is far too attached. I am glad to have read such a similar experience :)

    Reply

  • Miravone

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    Hey!

    Great to see another breastfeeding mama celebrating an amazing and absolutely normal thing. Feel free to follow my breastfeeding project at http://www.papermachedoll.blogspot.com (I was also featured on “The Everyday Momma’s” blog along with you!)

    You are an inspiration and I plan to full term as well! Way to go mama!!

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  • Lauren

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    My daughter’s 9 months and I can still relate to ALL the annoyances. It’s kind of cute how she kicks me in the face, I guess I’m just used to it. I used to have a nursing necklace (I broke it by accident) which helped greatly and I need to get another!

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  • Ivonne

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    Hi!! Your blog was the first think I read about this topic. It amazed me and found it super helpful. I was starting to nurse my baby and knew almost nothing about it. I’ve been breastfeeding for 20 months now and like You I’m loving full time breastfeeding. Thank You so much for being an inspiration for me. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!!

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      Aaawww that is so amazing to hear! Good job on getting to 20 months! It’s a big achievement, breastfeeding isn’t easy :)

      Reply

  • Ilana

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    Thank you so much for this post. I am breastfeeding my 27month old. I initially had said 18months, then 24 months, but have learnt that the ;opinion of what you are going to do before you get there is just that, an opinion. life happens when you are making plans.
    I often get asked when and why am I still breastfeeding, and my answer has been that I would like her to wean, or to get to an ‘understanding’ age of being able to discuss it:) I don’t want to rip something away from Lily which God blessed me with for her.
    I have never heard a discussion of why are you not breastfeeding.
    I love it, absolutely love it, and want to click ‘like onto all your paragraphs :)
    Thank you for sharing your heart, because I must admit when I get questioned I have this nagging in my head like something is wrong, or that I am merely a weak mother.

    This post is such an encouragement and a reminder that if its not bad for them why not give it to them.

    mwah!!!

    P.S. the blessing of breastfeeding as afforded me the opportunity to donate breastmilk to Milk Matters as well as start my own company (The Lily Way) with the first product being ‘feeding aprons’ – Gods blessing of grace!

    Reply

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