When Your Breastfeeding Toddler Is Still A Total 'Boob Barnacle'
“Eighteen months. That’s my limit. If she’s not weaned by eighteen months, I’m cutting her off,” I cried out to my husband in exasperation. Our sixteen-month-old baby had woken me up me for the third time that night to breastfeed, and I thought I might actually cease to exist from sheer exhaustion. She was cutting teeth, and the only thing that seemed to bring her any relief was nursing. I was SO OVER IT.
Amelia is a quarantine baby, so her attachment to me is so intense that I often feel a little smothered. She was home with me for her entire first year of life, rarely venturing outside the walls of our home. I cherish the way I didn’t miss a thing, but I firmly believe it had made her natural progression into independence a little more challenging. She’s stuck to me like glue twenty-four hours a day, and that includes breastfeeding for far longer than either of her older brothers did.
Both of my boys weaned right around fifteen months, but they had slowed to once a day for a few months before that. I only nursed them to sleep at night, and the experience felt sweet and tender. When they weaned, it was bittersweet. I was proud of them for growing up, but it felt like the last bit of their infancy went to sleep with them on the first night they went to bed without “boobies.” They woke up as bigger boys, fully in the throes of their toddlerhood.
Amelia has dragged this out long enough that I am fairly sure all I will feel is relief. She is almost nineteen months now, and — in news that will shock exactly zero other parents who have breastfed or chestfed — I did not cut my “boob barnacle” off at eighteen months.
Well, it’s complicated. I mean, I meant to start limiting her access to the titty bar when she turned sixteen months old so we could be done by the time she turned eighteen months, but she looked so sweet and tiny. I figured one more month wouldn’t hurt. Then she had four molars coming in all at once, and it felt cruel to wean her while her mouth hurt. Right when those little teeth broke through her gums, she broke her little leg. I didn’t want to be cruel and take away her only comfort when she was injured.
The cast came off, and I started to work up my resolve to dissolve Boob Corp, then BAM. RSV hit our house. My poor angel girl was totally miserable, requiring a trip to the ER, strong steroids and breathing treatments.
What kind of monster could see their helpless baby laying in a hospital bed whimpering, “Boobie, Mama?” and say no?
Not this monster.
And so, here we are, a month past my “limit” and there’s no end in sight. My kid nurses a zillion times a day, including overnight, and I am just going with it, apparently. She doesn’t take a pacifier, and she hasn’t “latched on” to a blanket or toy. (Cringeworthy pun absolutely intended.) “Boobies” are her only comfort item right now, and she needs me.
I guess since I’m going with it, I can’t say I’m not okay with it. I am, for the most part.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated. Just last night, I nursed her on both sides, and she drifted off to sleep peacefully…until I gently unlatched her like I do EVERY NIGHT OF HER LIFE, only this time, she lost her damn mind. She woke all the way the hell up, and she just kept shouting, “Boobie!”
And by “shouting,” I mean shrieking at a pitch I’m shocked I could even hear with my human ears. It was a tone I can only describe as “verging on dog whistle.” Our poor pups ran outside to escape her absolute come-apart, and I calmly deposited her into her father’s loving arms and went to run a bath. For myself. Let him and his useless, milkless nipples figure it out once in a while.
I love her more than life itself, but I get SO touched out. One of my kids is just always on me, and nursing just magnifies that. When my boobs were giant and full of what felt like gallons of milk, I had limited sensation in my nipples. Breastfeeding felt like nothing. A breeze.
Now that they are less full, I can feel her tiny little razor-sharp puppy teeth just grazing my skin the entire time. They don’t hurt, but sometimes the sensation grates on my last nerve. I’ve considered googling “flesh colored silicone patches to cover nipples” just to see if such a thing exists. I could just try to convince her that my nipples fell off from overuse.
The only reason I haven’t looked them up is because I’m afraid they DO exist, and I can’t imagine explaining to my husband why I’ve chosen to go nipple-less rather than continue to nourish our child. (Although, truth be told, I think he’d totally get it. He’s one of the good ones.)
I dream of sleeping through an entire night, but it hasn’t happened yet. She is up at least two or three times a night. All she needs is a minute or two of nursing to settle back down, but somehow, she always manages to need it right when I finally get into a deep, restful sleep. I’m full-time exhausted.
But forcing her to wean just isn’t for me. Not yet. The World Health Organization recommends nursing to age two or beyond, but even if they didn’t, all I need to do is look at her.
She’s still just a little baby. All day long, she is in motion, making her every feeling known with a big, emotional display. She gets into mischief, smiling up at me past a curtain of wispy, curly tendrils that perpetually come loose from her tiny pigtails. When she’s finally all snug in her zip up jammies at night, and we sit in my chair and rock and breastfeed, her long, black lashes rest gently on her chubby cheeks as her eyes finally flutter shut. Sometimes, she still makes a suckling motion with her tiny little lips while she sleeps. She is the embodiment of my wildest dreams come true. A little rainbow girl to complete our family after a season of loss and pain.
I’m really ready for the day when she decides she is done breastfeeding (and I completely understand why some parents put an end to this toddler-nursing situation before their titty-obsessed kid decides to do it) but my choice is to deal with the parts of breastfeeding that drive me absolutely bonkers for a while longer.
Until she’s two. That’s my limit. If she’s not weaned by two, I’m cutting her off.
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