breastfeeding after the first year
There’s so much talk about breastfeeding a newborn but not so much about feeding a one-year-old. It’s presumed that it just gets easier and there’s nothing much to discuss but considering I’m writing this after clearing a three-day-long blocked milk duct, I’d say it’s a conversation worth having.
I’m heading into my fifth (not consecutive) year of breastfeeding. It doesn’t deserve an award or recognition – it is what it is, it’s just what I’ve done. I’ve been comforted by the connection of breastfeeding my babies and frustrated by the relentlessness of it. Indeed, it’s often an all night affair and it takes its toll, especially when newborn hormones are long gone and nipples are tweaked and pulled and bitten.
Percy is now 16months and while he doesn’t feed as consistently as a newborn, he’ll still feed at least eight times in a 24hour cycle – sometimes more, sometimes less. Lately I’ve noticed that the late night, long feeds are starting to irritate me; I often feel agitated when feeding him, especially if I’m tired. It’s a potent reminder that breastfeeding really can drain you of your stores and leave you feeling depleted and exhausted.
But still, I’m not ready to wean just yet. And if I’m honest, I’m feeling a lot stronger and healthier at this stage that I did when feeding Che and Poet (who didn’t really gain an appetite for food until I weaned them). Percy is and always had been a food lover – he only really seeks breastmilk for comfort, even though I’m well aware of the fact that he’s getting so much more than that every time he feeds. Studies show that breastfeeding toddlers provides them with 29% of daily energy requirements, 43% of protein requirements, 75% of Vitamin A requirements and 60% of Vitamin C requirements.
Every time he feeds I think of it as a big immune boosting cuddle and I admit, it comforts me to know that it’s the perfect remedy when he’s unwell. Indeed, breastfeeding can heal sore hearts.
A few things to keep in mind:
wear supportive bras : I find that supportive maternity bras are just as important now as they were in the first few months of feeding. My essentials include this sleep bra (this is all I wear in the first few weeks after birth and continue to wear it at night now), this Esprit bra, this design from Hotmilk and this sports bra (because there’s nothing wore than inadequate support when you’re exercising).
eat well : it’s easy to forget just how important a good diet is when we’re breastfeeding but we really do need to keep ourselves nourished so we don’t end up completely depleted. For me that means lots of good fats and proteins as well as a top-up from Franjo’s Kitchen cookies and a seasonal visit to my naturopath for some immune + energy boosting tonics.
stay hydrated : breastfeeding = dehydration unless you drink lots of water and herbal teas. I drink a big glass of water before I go to bed at night and first thing in the morning and take my water bottle with me everywhere. But still, I find it hard to stay hydrated, especially at this time of year.
release tension : movement is so important at every stage of breastfeeding to make sure there’s no unnecessary tension in the upper back, shoulders and chest. When your prana (vital energy) is flowing freely, your milk will do the same! Movement, massage and non-restrictive clothing is also key to relieving blocked milk ducts. A simple technique that I always use to release tension and encourage energy to flow in and around the chest:
Stand upright and bring your fingertips to the centre of your chest. As you exhale, take your arms wide, bending your elbows and gently pushing your chest forward. On the inhalation bring your fingertips back to the centre of your chest.
And when it is time for me to wean, Daniel will take over settling at night time, I’ll cry because it’s just another metaphorical cutting of the cord (bye bye babyhood) and I’ll drink sage tea to dry up the milk.