Connection after breastfeeding

My 3-year-old daughter recently found our old nursing pillow in the closet. It had been about a year since we finished nursing, so I was surprised when she said, “Remember I used to lay on this?”

She didn’t remember actually nursing, though, and when I told her that’s how I used to feed her, she had a lot of questions like, “Was the food on the floor?” I explained what nursing was, and she smiled and asked sweetly, “Can we do that now?”

While we couldn’t nurse, I did set the pillow on my lap and let her climb up on it. She lay there smiling up at me and started twirling my hair, her favorite relaxing activity.

I hear a lot of moms who are starting to wean worrying that they’ll be sad once they’re done nursing, or that they’ll miss this time for connection.

My daughter and I have found many other ways of bonding as she’s grown older. There are more “I love yous” and kisses from her and more time for playing her favorite activities one-on-one. We still lie together often and bedshare part of the night. While these activities aren’t quite replacements for nursing, they are wonderful ways that we can keep a strong attachment.

After she laid on the nursing pillow on my lap, we were able to play together for about 30 minutes while her brothers were playing on their own. She created a game for us where she’d pretend that it was nighttime and we would pretend to sleep, sharing a pillow and cuddling under the same blanket.

It’s nice for us to reminisce about the time we nursed and to remember that it was one of the ways that our attachment developed in her earliest years, but we’re still enjoying other opportunities for connection now. And I know that even when she’s older and these games are over, there will be other things to replace them, such as times where we can talk about her day at school or other one-on-one activities we can do together.


Inspired to read more about breastfeeding?

API’s Breastfeeding Library

Nature’s Case for Breastfeeding

The Real Breastfeeding Story

A story of working and breastfeeding, and staying determined

Editor’s pick: To promote breastfeeding is to promote Attachment Parenting

4 ideas for gentle weaning

Morning cuddles: a story of child-led weaning

When Your Partner Wants You to Wean: Heart Advice for Nursing Mothers

5 tips for a strong nursing relationship while working away from home

A Post We Love! I breastfed my preschooler for (somewhat) selfish reasons

Blog post we love badge jpgEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) is so grateful to the parents who share their experiences on this blog. Many of our writers have their own personal blogs where they share more about their unique brand of Attachment Parenting. We want to take the opportunity to highlight blog posts beyond API that capture the essence of API’s Eight Principles of Parenting:

Today, we want to recognize a post written by Krystal Newton, a stay-at-home mom to 2 boys, on her blog, Mommy Laughs:

“I have been parenting the only way that feels right, and it just so happens to fall into the Attachment Parenting message. When I wrote this blog post, I wanted to reach out to women struggling with making the decision to breastfeed long-term. I want them to see that it’s a beautiful relationship and an opportunity to just take a step back, to settle down, and to have a few peaceful moments with your child.” ~ Krystal

krystal newton, mommy laughs, preschool post highlightI Breastfed My Preschooler For Selfish Reasons

… I don’t breastfeed my 3 year old for the nutritional benefits (though those are a plus) or to make a statement. I don’t breastfeed him, because it’s the only way I know to comfort him or because I refuse to let him grow up. I breastfeed my 3 year old, because in those short quiet moments, I have the ability to pause my hectic life and love him, snuggle him, and reminisce on our journey. It forces me to slow down and notice the little things: How his hair sweeps over his eyebrows, how the dimples in his hands are disappearing, how he smirks in his sleep, and how beautiful he is. These quiet snuggles are less frequent as he grows so incredibly independent. While the benefits of extended breastfeeding are endless, my reasoning for choosing to let Colton decide to wean are somewhat selfish in that I love nursing him just as much as he does…

Read the entire post here, and enjoy!

To 3 and beyond: An interview with Janell Robisch on breastfeeding

to three and beyond coverI received a copy of To Three and Beyond: Stories of Breastfed Children and the Mothers Who Love Them at a critical point in my parenting journey.

At the time, I was breastfeeding my third child at 2-1/2 years old. The longest I had breastfed my other two children was 9 months, and my original goal with my third baby was 1 year. I was thrilled to make it to 1 year, and so changed my goal to 18 months. My breastfeeding journeys with my daughters had always been rocky, a struggle to make it month by month it seemed. So I was unsure how long my good luck would last with my third, my son.

At 18 months, I changed my goal to 2 years. And at 2 years, I made a firm decision in favor of child-led weaning. But about 6 months later, I was surprised by my feelings of feeling touched-out and tied-down. I felt ready to wean, but at the same time, I was very sad at the thought. It was evident that my son was not ready to wean. I never thought, in a million years, that I would be struggling with these feelings.

And then the book, To Three and Beyond, arrived in my mailbox. It was sent from Praeclarus Press, owned by Kathleen Kendall Tackett, member of API’s Resource Advisory Council and co-editor of API’s 2013 Journal of Attachment Parenting. What a Godsend! The book is a collection of stories by mothers who breastfed children to 3 years old and beyond, choosing to allow their children the full benefit of extended breastfeeding and child-led weaning.

The book was my main source of support and comfort during the rest of my breastfeeding journey with my third child. It was my “support group” on paper.

(Photo credit: Allison Profeta)Today, I share my interview with To Three and Beyond‘s editor, Janell Robisch, whose own breastfeeding story graces the pages of the book. A former La Leche League Leader, Janell breastfed her 3 children to the ages of 5, 4-1/2 and 3-1/2 years.

API: Janell, I do so love your book! Please begin by telling me what inspired you to write To Three and Beyond. How do you want your book to benefit families?

JANELL: My own experiences with breastfeeding a young child and the lack of resources for mothers nursing a child beyond toddlerhood inspired me to create such a resource.

During the writer’s process, which was fairly long — about 10 years — at least one other book on the topic was released, but I wanted something more personal, a book that mothers could curl up with and be able to empathize and connect with. I see this book as kind of a La Leche League group meeting for long-term breastfeeding mothers. It is a collection of stories, and there are all kinds of mothers with all kinds of experiences. They are ready to share their experiences and give their support to the reader through their words.

This book will give mothers a sense of belonging to a greater group of mothers doing what they feel is right for their families and maybe an idea of how things might go along their own journeys. It also provides some resources for getting more support and evidence about what science has to say about natural-term nursing.

API: How do you offer support to mothers breastfeeding a toddler or older child who feel isolated and unsupported in their choices, and who may be reconsidering those choices?

JANELL: Remember why you have made the choice to continue breastfeeding.

You are not alone, not by far. I feel comfortable saying that at this moment, there are thousands — if not more — mothers nursing beyond infancy and even toddlerhood.

One of the most important things to do is to find support. It means the world, even if it is only online or from one friend or family member in your life.

There is a list of resources in the back of To Three and Beyond, but parents can also join the “Breastfeeding to Three and Beyond” online discussion group on Facebook. It is a closed group that started out about the book but is now mostly a discussion group for mothers with questions, stories and things to share about nursing older children and breastfeeding in general.

API: How does your book fit within the mission statement and vision of Attachment Parenting International (API)? What are your views of API?

JANELL: I am happy that such an organization exists, and I believe that API’s tenets of parenting reflect a safe, nurturing and loving way for preparing for parenthood and raising our children.

The website is full of great resources for parents, especially those looking for ways to approach parenting in a way that respects not only their feelings and needs but their children’s feelings, needs and development.

While no two mothers’ experiences are the same, one of the main threads running through the stories in this book is that of individual mothers carefully considering their children and their families and making decisions about breastfeeding and parenting based on the family’s needs as a whole and the children’s needs in particular. There is compassion and respect here for children’s needs, even when they contrast with what society presents as the “right” way to do things, and there is balance as well.

API: Thank you, Janell, so much for you time and insights. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

JANELL: I just want to give a shout out to all the brave mamas out there who fly in the face of tradition, not to rebel but to parent in the best way they know how, those who are brave enough to question parenting practices that ignore the needs and developmental stages of children and do what feels right for their children and families.

(Photo credit: Allison Profeta)

The Slow Road to Weaning

My toddler Jacob is now 2 years and 2 months old. He breastfeeds several times a day, especially at naptime or at night. Nursing remains an important source of comfort for him. And yet, I am slowly noticing shifts in Jacob’s nursing patterns. For example, at night now I can often re-settle him without nursing. And on a few occasions he’s stopped playing, laid down and fallen asleep all by himself. When we’re out of the house or doing something fun, he can go hours and hours without nursing. And I have noticed that my milk supply is slowly decreasing.

Jacob is not my first nursling. I weaned his older sister, Hannah, when she was 34 months old. But no two children are the same. Hannah’s nursing style, and by extension her weaning style, was very different from her little brother’s. She still nursed 7 or 8 times a day at 2 1/2 years old. Jacob nursed 5 or 6 times a day at 1 1/2 years old. Hannah refused to go to sleep without nursing until she was almost 3. Jacob is much more easily settled with just a pat on the back.

I took an active role in Hannah’s weaning when we reached a point where the relationship wasn’t working for me. I started with partial weaning, using techniques like “don’t offer, don’t refuse”. We worked together to find things to replace breastfeeding – both food and comfort measures. I was worried that I would damage our relationship in some way through weaning, but I am happy to say that it didn’t.

Jacob is one cool breakfast-eater
My son Jacob eats breakfast in style

Through my experience with Hannah I’ve come to view weaning, when handled gently and respectfully, as just another step on the path of childhood. All of the groundwork that you’ve laid throughout your breastfeeding relationship, and through attachment parenting in general, will not be destroyed when the time comes to take the next step. Those ties are strong. And as children get older, they develop skills that help them to connect in other ways. They become more ready to leave nursing behind.

While I took a fairly active role in weaning Hannah, I can see that Jacob’s breastfeeding relationship may draw to a close on a different timetable and without my involvement. Honestly, I feel relieved at the prospect. I love our breastfeeding relationship, and I will look back on it fondly. But I also love that my son is moving in new directions and finding new ways of relating to me. And I am glad that he is finding his own way through that process. Or, at least, that he appears to be.

The only sure thing about breastfeeding is that it will eventually end. There is a bitter sweetness in that truth, and perhaps a lot of unanswered questions about when and how. I’m not sure that when and how breastfeeding ends are the most important things, though. The important things are striving to honor everyone’s needs as best you can, and enjoying breastfeeding while it lasts. Because the happy memories that you can take away from a positive nursing relationship are the real gift of the time your child spends at your breast.

Have you ever weaned a child? What was that experience like for you? Or do you have any thoughts on the weaning process? I’d love it if you shared in the comments!

You can catch up with Amber’s regular adventures on her blog at

Breastfeeding Is Not Just For Babies! The Benefits of Breastfeeding a Toddler

I loved breastfeeding my daughter when she was a newborn. Her tiny body fit within the crook of my arm, and I treasured the feeling of cradling her there as she nursed. I loved seeing her take such immense comfort from me and my milk; nursing both soothed and sustained her. It was so peaceful . . . slow summer afternoons spent with her gazing softly up at me, hands clasped at her chest as though she was holding on to the most important thing in the world.

Nineteen months later, she’s as likely to be nursing standing on her head as in any other position. Continue reading Breastfeeding Is Not Just For Babies! The Benefits of Breastfeeding a Toddler