By Christy Borovoy
I am not exactly sure when it was that she started really nursing well again, but I do know that we have a special story to tell about a beautiful little girl.
I believed that my daughter was going through the regular processes of weaning at six months old. I did not have a lot of breastfeeding support and just accepted that this was how it was to be. By seven months old she was weaned. I didn’t know what had just happened to us — a nursing strike.
When I got pregnant with her sister, Isis, I almost immediately had a bleed from placenta previa and was put on bedrest. In a way I think my higher power had a plan for me. I know there would have been no support for my nursing Cosie during my high-risk pregnancy. She was almost 18 months when I got pregnant, so she hadn’t been nursing for some time and really didn’t seem to care about what she had lost. That was until we brought Isis home.
It began with a vengeance, “Mommy I nurse?” she cried while watching me nurse her sister. When I asked other mothers of nursing siblings about her pleas, they encouraged me to let her try. Many of these moms knew I had a lot of healing to do with Cosie. I really felt she got the short end of the stick when it came to nursing. I had allowed her to wean so early, not knowing then that children just don’t wean naturally at six months old, or even a year. While many children ask to nurse with the arrival of a new sibling, most don’t really want to actually nurse. They are just looking for confirmation that mom is still there for them and that they are still valued, too. This was not the case with Cosie. She was serious and it was clear that this was a tangible need. I needed to find ways to help her latch on properly because at that point it was only frustrating for both of us. I would let her try and while she wanted to nurse, she had a heck of a time getting any milk out. We would almost always end up expressing some milk into a cup for her to drink. This seemed to satisfy her just fine for a time, although she continued to express a desire for the closeness of nursing.
With Isis being born a preemie, I didn’t have the kind of time I would have liked to devote to helping Cosie get back to the breast. Once Isis got to be a few months old, I really started working with Cosie. She wanted to nurse desperately, and I felt if she wanted to nurse that badly then she must somehow really need to and it was my responsibility to help her relearn how. I taught her how to latch on properly, I showed her positioning, we used straws, we tried binkies, and thumb sucking. Something must have helped as she was watching Isis nurse and one day it just clicked and she got it. She nursed! She nursed like she should, without sucking on my nipple like a piece of spaghetti. She was actually nursing without hurting me. We were both so amazed. She smiled wide and said, ” No teeth?” meaning she wasn’t hurting me and I replied, “No teeth!” with a smile. What heart this little girl has. There was a longing in that heart that had been fulfilled. The recognition of it in her shining eyes helped me to see that there had been a longing to match within my own heart as well, and it had just been met.
Cosie and Isis nurse together often. I don’t mind tandem nursing and rather enjoy being able to give my youngest the best nutrition and my eldest the security she needed to know that she was not being left behind. The nutrition, reduced risks of breast cancer for both of us, and the added immunities she is catching up on that she had lost from weaning so early are just added benefits.
From the beginning doctors told me that my eldest daughter is a high-needs child. I think she is just incredibly smart and knows what she needs. I have seen marked improvement in her behavior since she started nursing again. She is a beautiful little person to be around. We walked a difficult path of personal trauma this last year; the closeness that we have shared through nursing has helped her and I through it. I was so glad that I had the encouragement I needed to help her get back to the breast. Sometimes all it takes is the knowledge that it is possible and a few staunch supporters to get you through a challenging dilemma. She really needed that extra comfort in a time of many uncertainties.
Now that Cosie is four and has been nursing again for well over a year, I find myself reflecting on this time in our lives. She still nurses regularly, maybe once a day, mostly for security. She still can find comfort at my breast on a hectic day, or avoid a fallout. She still comes to me seeking the best relief when she is ill, when breastmilk might be all she can keep down. I am immensely empowered as a mother who persevered and was gifted by the humbling experience of bringing Cosie back to a place she longed to return to…a return to nursing.
For further reading:
10 Good Reasons to Breastfeed Your Toddler
Breastfeeding a young child
A Natural Age of Weaning
Why Mothers Nurse Their Children into Toddlerhood
Do Babies Under 12 Months Wean?