You see, the days and months that have gone by have resulted in my baby morphing into a breastfeeding toddler. And trust me, that changes a lot of things!
I wrote last year that breastfeeding has many benefits in toddler hood. It is a great source of vitamins, reduces illnesses, improves cognitive development and the list really does go on. It's just a wonderful, and I might add cheap, drink.
But it's not normal in Australia to breastfeed toddlers. Somehow I stumbled on to this rare terrain of breastfeeding in toddler hood and I'll share with you what I've discovered.
Churches are the main places I don't feel free to breastfeed wherever/whenever I want. I think this is my problem. Perhaps church brings out my Puritan side (surely Puritans would have breastfeed in church anyway?). I find that churches have unique breastfeeding cultures. And I'm not a quite a radical reformer so usually abide by the culture of the church (usually going to parents' room or the back of the church). But I'm trying to overcome this because it usually means I can't hear, and so I get really bored.
Church has also been the only place I've had an incident of exclusion because of breastfeeding. A women's Bible Study - because you're not allowed to bring kids (and we 'demand breastfeed' so that means I feed frequently and separation is difficult). Also a leader of a church playgroup has been the sole executer of a nasty 'it will stuff up the kid' comment. But such incidents are rare and few between.
I will also add that breastfeeding in a rural or country setting has been the most difficult for me because of what I interpreted as disproving stares. So I do wonder what breastfeeding women in the country do go through.
Firstly, I feel reassured that Little Miss gets so many vitamins, proteins and essential fats from breast milk, because sometimes it's hard to get anything into her mouth (notable exception being cheese).
My entire family suffered a serious bout of gastroenteritis a few months back and Little Miss was most likely spared a hospital stay because she sucked for hours on end thus hydrating herself (she recovered much faster than her poor parents!). The same occurs with other sickness' like colds and teething.
Research I've read claims that breastfeeding a toddler helps not to push them to independence before they are ready. It definitely has worked that way for us. For example, we go to a new place: and that is scary when you're a tiny person. So she clings to Mummy and has a short breastfeed. Her neediness at these times were annoying for me at first. But now I can understand by breastfeeding her I am conveying to her, in a language she can understand, that she is okay. A minute or two later she becomes a little explorer, who would happily chat to anyone, including the neighbours dog.
Usually it has been eye-opening and quite frankly hilarious
1. Miss Toddler is friendly, and endearingly so. And when is the most appropriate time to wave at unsuspecting passer-byers? Well, a time when your hands are free of random objects, dirt and food - whilst breastfeeding of course! I admit it is entertaining for me watching reactions to this. Interestingly enough, most people respond with returning her wave, albeit over zealously.
2, Church is a great time for a toddler to breastfeed (ideal for Mummy too). But then toddlers love to dance. So we end up with the situation of Mummy sitting contently feeding then child jumping out of lap and begin dancing to the latest groovy hymn. Mummy must quickly adapt to this situation (for discretion sake). Another fun activity is dancing and breastfeeding simultaneously. Trust me, that is a logistical nightmare.
3. Besides breastfeeding, Miss Toddler has other hobbies including playing with teddies and building enormous block towers. The logical step for her then is for me to show affection to her toys by offering them what I offer her, a breastfeed of course! So yes, my breastfeeding resume now includes 'breastfeed' a Winnie the Poor teddy, and a toy car, even a carrot!
4. Breastfeeding with a talker is utterly hilarious. Milk let-down a bit slow? "More, more, more…" demands Miss Toddler. Tasting really nice today? 'Yummy' sings Little One with a grin stretching the length of her tiny face.
Our little Secret
Our little 'secret' is called cholecystokinin. You see every time I breastfeed, this special hormone relaxes me. This is something I need as I live with a little person who has more energy than an Energizer bunny! I guess if I'm sharing this much, I should also say that cholecystokinin is released into my Miss Toddler and has a tranquilizer effect!
I will admit sometimes breastfeeding a toddler has been very difficult for me. I have 'hid' to feed at times and at other times been very guarded in my self-discloser when talking about my breastfeeding habits.
However, predominately I think it has been an overly positive experience. The comfort and joy it brings my little one is indescribable. When she's tired or hurt and I show her a breast she giggles, and really, goes silly because she can't control her delight! I love that.
It has helped me to grow thicker skin. Hopefully my skin will remain thick as I continue parenting in a way I think is appropriate and God honouring.
Interestingly enough, breastfeeding in the second year has assisted me in developing a greater theology of the body. It has helped me to be free from the bondage of the pursuit to bodily perfection.
I spend a lot of time now marvelling at the beauty of the functioning human body, thus moving beyond mere physical appearances. (I enjoy watching the remarkable synergy our bodies have. I mean I think of my daughter and then I feel milk rush in. She catches a cold and my body immediately produces antibodies to that virus to add to her breast milk). I stand amazed at a remarkable intelligent Designer.
I see the human, including the human body, as the pinnacle of God's creation. And I am ever so thankful.
Danielle and Daniel Stott are Bible College graduates who live on the southern Gold Coast. Daniel is training to be a teacher and Danielle is caring for their baby daughter.
Danielle and Daniel's archive of articles can be viewed at