By Dr. Jan Sommers SPECIAL TO THE TRURO DAILY NEWS
I never thought I would be breastfeeding a toddler.
Dr. Jan Sommers has embraced the benefits of breastfeeding and continues to have special one-on-one time with her 22-month-old-son. SUBMITTED PHOTO
My first son weaned at 11 months, and at the time I was hoping to get pregnant again so I never really thought much about it. I guess I had always just assumed I would breastfeed for a year, full stop.
Then, my second son arrived. We had a tough go at first, he had a mild tongue-tie, and lip tie, so his latch wasn't perfect and I was more tired and strung out dealing with a toddler and newborn. But once my sweet baby boy got the hang of it, well, you could say he was hooked.
I have always enjoyed breastfeeding my sons. I take a great deal of satisfaction looking at their growing bodies knowing I had a significant part in not just their emotional nourishment, but their physical nourishment as well. Every mom who breastfeeds, even for just a short period of time, can be proud of this. I am particularly proud of the fact that I was able to keep with it, despite returning to work early (eight weeks with my first son, and four months with my second). Now it is just a part of everyday life, and it is easier and more satisfying to keep going than to stop.
For mothers who do breastfeed well into the second year, there are special rewards, like seeing the happiness that your toddler takes from this quiet one-on-one time, and the more humorous moments, as they begin to express preferences for timing, location and ‘side’ as my son puts it.
I will never forget the day he sat up in the early morning after feeding on one breast and while grinning tapped the opposite breast saying ‘odder side?’ My husband and I burst out laughing and I quickly obliged. I look forward to the closeness and physical contact breastfeeding my son gives me when I get home from a busy shift at work. It gives us a chance to reconnect, especially since it is hard to keep my boy still for the rest of his waking hours.
Some people view this parenting style as indulgent, and I have heard the saying "that you should stop breastfeeding once they can start asking for it..." from well meaning family members more than once. I respectfully ignore this advice as simply uninformed. As a physician I can quote numerous studies and worldwide experts (including the World Health Organization) that support my decision making in how I feed my child, but even more importantly my instinct as a mother compels me to keep going, until the time to stop feels right for both my son and I.
It took me a long time to decide to write this article. Like a lot of other moms who breastfeed their children beyond infancy I am not particularly showy about breastfeeding, and I mostly nurse my son at home. Staying ‘closeted’ this way does nothing to help promote breastfeeding as the ‘normal’ way to feed a baby, and I wanted to do my part to help other moms feel a little more comfortable with their choice to breastfeed. Surveys show that at birth, a huge percentage of moms in Nova Scotia want to breastfeed their babies; but only a minority are still exclusively breastfeeding by six months.
The first months are hard, and a big challenge is just figuring out how to navigate the world with a breastfeeding infant. If you have to hide in a bathroom, hot car, or bedroom every time you need to nurse, those challenges can feel even harder. Normalization of breastfeeding is key. So there, I said it, I am nursing my 22-month-old, and you know what, it's awesome.
Dr. Jan Sommers lives in the Truro Area and is the proud mother of two young boys.