Guest Post: Breastfeeding two year old twins

Eva has two year old boy/girl twins, Jordan and Sarah. She works full time as a professor of human development.

What do you think when you hear that someone is nursing TWO YEAR OLDS? Surprise? Discomfort? Disgust? If they’re old enough to ask for it, they’re too old? I might have thought some of these. I cannot explain it, but it’s different when it’s your own children. It’s just Sarah and Jordan nursing, like they have every day since I could walk to the NICU. In the first year of their life, breastfeeding felt all consuming – six times per child during the day, a few more per child at night. I had to plan every meeting, every social engagement, and every attempt to leave the house around nursing or pumping. Now it is in the background, like bathing or brushing teeth. There are moments it is surreal. Recently I was tandem nursing and asking the kiddos about Spanish body parts — “point to your nariz; put your hands on your cabeza…” My son popped off and asked “Bubbie in Spanish.” When your child is asking how to say grandmother in Spanish, it’s a bit odd that they still nurse. On the other hand, it’s our normal.

I recently spoke with another daycare parent. When she found out that my kiddos still nurse, she seemed quite surprised and asked many questions. She nursed her child until 18 months so she’s clearly not against extended nursing. Still, I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed, and caught myself almost blaming my kiddos during the conversation (“they just don’t want to give it up”). Some family members quickly change the subject if I mention nursing and have even expressed concern. At times I feel pride discussing it with others, but there are moments when I feel a bit like the crunchy deviant Mama, like I should be wearing a prairie skirt and braids in my hair.

During pregnancy and the newborn phase when people asked if I planned to nurse I told them I would try and hoped it would work. Once we truly established nursing (after 3 very challenging months) I said I hoped to last a year. After a year I said I’d like to get them through another daycare winter. I have no specific goal at this point.

It has evolved in the past year. At 13 months they still nursed wake up, 10:00 AM, before nap, after nap (their daycare is in the same building as my office), before dinner, before bed, and throughout the night. I gradually weaned them off the nighttime (thank goodness), working hour and pre-dinner ones, finally dropping the lunchtime one at around 20 months. Unless they are sick, they do not nurse between bedtime and 7:00 AM. I never offer, but almost every morning and bedtime they request and I do not deny at those times.

I prefer nursing one at a time. I still occasionally tandem nurse when they are both frantic for it, but over 50 pounds of toddler nursing feels overwhelming. I’m not sure why given that our alternative is just as crazy,  often with one nursing one while reading to the other, book across the nurser’s body, nurser’s feet in reader’s lap. Sometimes when the first nurser seems to be dawdling I’ll give a warning, “three more seconds” and then count off. Other times the waiting kiddo will say “Sarah all done, one, two, three.”

When the kiddos were sick with the stomach bug, I was really happy that they still nurse. The doctor told my husband it was wonderful I still nurse to help them stay nourished and hydrated. I was glad to be able to offer them something comforting, nutritious, with antibodies, and in small quantities. I did at times, though, feel as though my body was letting my daughter down. I certainly do not produce as much milk as I used to (the days of eating with impunity are long gone), and Sarah was so hungry that she would sometimes stop nursing and cry because she could not get enough. I had flashbacks to newborn Sarah nursing for 40 minutes and still not able to get enough, and once again felt a sense of failure at being able to nurture my child.

There are days when I think nursing is less important to the kiddos than it used to be. Sometimes they are distracted and seem more interested in the book that Daddy is reading to their brother/sister than nursing. Other days, though, they cry and beg “Mama nurse…. Mama do one baby… Mama do two babies” as I pick up their sibling first thing in the morning. I still believe that my son as a singleton would have weaned by now, as he’s easily distracted, but if I am around, my daughter insists on nursing at bedtime and in the morning. Sometimes my husband gets them ready for daycare and if they don’t see me before breakfast, they might not ask. I believe twice I have left the house before bedtime and they went to sleep without nursing.

On a recent morning after the kiddos nursed and I was dressing them I asked, “Do you think soon you will want to go to bed and not nurse, just cuddle and read books?” They both looked at me like I’m nuts and said “no!” Then I asked “Do you think some mornings you want to get up and get dressed and have breakfast, and not nurse?” Sarah said “get up AND NURSE.” Tonight I asked Jordan “Do you want to read a book, or nurse?” and he replied “read a book after nursing.” The whole self-led weaning thing has yet to take at our house. I’m not sure how we’ll do it. Perhaps when I leave town? Or a few nights/mornings when I skip bedtime/wake up?  I’ve also read about letting them pick out a present, and saying they can have it when they are all done with nursing. We’ll see what we end up doing. I don’t want to force it in a way that they are dissatisfied with the way things ended.

At any earlier point discussing this topic, I think I would have said that I was not completely ready to be done, or at least, that I’d be sad when it ended. There were nights when Jordan skipped nursing, or a morning on vacation when they both did, and I felt almost teary wondering if the last time had already happened. Today I think I can say that I will be ready to be over when they are ready. I look forward to (mostly) having my body back (no idea what those post-nursing breasts will look like, though). Not thinking about what bra I have on (my son and I actually had a discussion about my wearing the “wrong bra” and “Mama take your bra off” just this week) or how cold my stomach will be when I lift my shirt. Occasionally having my husband say “why don’t you sleep in this morning?” because the kiddos won’t yell “Mama nurse!” until I drag my sleepy body out of bed. Being able to plan a business trip without worrying about clogged ducts and traumatized children. There are certainly things that I will miss, some of which are already long gone. More than two years of multiple times per day, looking down into my children’s eyes and seeing them content and relaxed. More than two years of feeling their warm bodies snuggled into mine. My daughter’s definitive nod when I ask her questions while she’s nursing. My son popping off to laugh or answer a question. I worry about getting enough snuggle time when they no longer nurse, as these days, hugs and kisses don’t always come when requested. Even when we’re done, I hope I find time every day to take each of my babes, snuggle them close, kiss their delicious heads, and tell them how much I love them. The memories of crying, frustration, pumping, bites, and all-night-long nursing are already fading, and I’m mostly left with melty thoughts of the sweet, gentle, cuddly moments. Babyhood is such a short instant in our lives, and I treasure all of these moments with each of them. I’ll miss it and not miss it and never forget it.

13 thoughts on “Guest Post: Breastfeeding two year old twins

  1. I think it is wonderful that you still nurse them. I just wrote a post about how after 3 months I just can’t keep it going. I wish I had your stamina. I’m pretty sure I would have stopped when I went back to work but I have a good friend who is also a lawyer at my firm and she still nurses her almost-two year old. Her daughter asks for it (like yours) and it is comforting for them both.

  2. I stopped nursing at exactly 1 year, when DD went to daycare and I back to work. HUGE mistake. I must admit I didn’t want to pump at work and just “wanted my boobs back” lol. They went down a whole size when i stopped and I was thrilled to have them back. then she got sick, and sick and sick. I was so angry about it for a long time, I know she wouldn’t have been as sick and it would have helped, I just know it because she was exposed to loads of stuff before daycare and when she got sick it was very quickly gotten over.

    Now if I hear someone say nursing a 2 yo is gross, I give them my thoughts!!!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your breastfeeding journey it sounds similar to ours, at least till this point. I have 11.5 month old twin boy’s who still breatfeed about 5 x/day. I struggled a great deal in the beginning due to a NICU stay, preemie feeding issues and poor milk supply. I was bound and determined for this to happen for us and it has. I have also battled pumping, long nights of feeding and biting.

    I have had numerous people assume that because they will be a year in 18 days that it will all come to an end. I’m not so sure that’s the case and your post has helped me sort some of that out.

    Ideally I would like to wean down to only nursing in the morning and at night but we will see how that plays out.
    Thanks again for validating this journey for me and bringing tears to my eyes at the possibility of this lasting a bit longer.

  4. When I read the title of this post, two thoughts crossed my mind: “Beautiful” and “I’m jealous”. It’s sad that our culture is one that makes you feel uncomfortable talking about nursing two-year-olds. If it works for your family, that should be all that matters.

    I only managed to nurse my twins for 7 months, but the weaning process was far more traumatic for me than my daughters.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing. Reading your post made me think so much about the breastfeeding journey that ended for me this summer when my twin boys passed their second birthday. I too had recently reached the point at which I knew I was ready, and suspected that my boys were as well. We had dropped the morning/pre-breakfast nursing at 18 months and so they had just been nursing before bed. While visiting my in-laws, I decided rather suddenly that we would just put the boys down without my offering to nurse them and see what happened. All of us had a good laugh as we sat somewhat anxiously in the living room, waiting for wails of misery. None came and the boys fell peacefully asleep. This was two weeks past their second birthday. I definitely still feel twinges when I think back to nursing them, but there was really something so satisfying in feeling that the end of this phase came when everyone was ready. I think it’s always bittersweet, but I do feel so very lucky to have been able to exclusively nurse twins for so long.

  6. I still feed my twin boys at 29 months and I feel the same as you Eva.
    What a precious post. Thank you for sharing so honestly.So so sweet.

    We only feed morning on wake up and before bed. They still ask for it other times but I refuse.
    I know it isn’t our society’s norm even for a singleton but I have never regretted it.
    My boys have gone to sleep once without nursing but one woke through the night and I did feed him that night.

    “I’m mostly left with melty thoughts of the sweet, gentle, cuddly moments. Babyhood is such a short instant in our lives, and I treasure all of these moments with each of them. I’ll miss it and not miss it and never forget it.”

    I too feel a little uneasy now about the snarky comments and the look of wild disbelief that we are still BFing.

    Frankly …I don’t give a damn. I think I’ll tell them I’m going for the record just to stir them.

    I am waiting for a bit of self led weaning too but I think I may have to leave town …*sigh*

    The end of breastfeeding means the end of babyhood.

  7. Thank you for your post! Before babies I just assumed I’d wean at a year, but that’s coming right up and I think we’ll keep going.

    My twin girls are a little small, just under the 50% percentile, and they seem like they’ll need milk for a good while to come. One of the things that changed my mind was hearing that they need a lot of oz of milk even after 12 months. Why give them cows milk when I can do better? And I think the World Health Organization recommends nursing at least 2 years.

    Nursing is going well, and is working for all of us. Sometime in the not so distant future I look forward to giving up pumping at work and scaling back to 2 or 3 feedings a day.

    Til then, I’ll try to enjoy babyhood while we’re there.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  8. Thanks for sharing your eperiences. i am still nursing my twin girls at 21 months, mostly for snuggle and comfort. Neither them nor I are ready to stop yet. These are my last children and I know I’ll get baby sick again as soon as I stop nursing! The only thing that worries me a bit is that they are both very small, not even in the growth charts. I hope they are not substituting real food with futile efforts to get enough milk out of me because there really isn’t much left anymore. They are not good eaters. Anyway, if the nursing is not to blame, it is such a joy for all of us so we don’t mind breaking some conventions for it.

    Thanks again!

  9. Thanks for sharing your story. It is so similar to ours I felt you were writing my words. We hit 2 years in December and I’ve been getting a lot of folks telling me to give it up, but I just don’t feel we’re all ready yet. We are cutting back some, but not weaning completely yet. I so appreciate reading your story and knowing that I’m not the only one who wandered into nursing toddlers who is savoring every moment.
    Thanks and Peace,
    Beth

  10. I first read this post when my twins were 6 months old. Nursing was finally starting to seem natural and even easy at times. We had three months of pumping before my babies even latched on for the first time. But I had decided before they were born that I wanted to nurse. My twins are now 14 months old. Most of my fellow nursing mother friends have stopped nursing but I feel no need to stop. My babies love it and so do I. We are now in the glory days of nursing. No worries about latch, supply, teething or anything else. Nursing is pure enjoyment now. Thank you for sharing the inspiration.
    -Alisa
    .-= Rusted Sun´s last blog ..cowgirl and cow-twins =-.

  11. Ah! Coming to this many months late, but had to say thanks for sharing your story! Beautiful! I am still nursing my 18 month olds with no end in sight, for the near future anyway. We like it, it works for us, who cares what anyone else thinks!

    I don’t know anyone in real life nursing toddler twins, so its nice to read about your experiences. It is such a sweet time for us too, I will be really sad to see it go!
    .-= Kristin Hutchinson´s last blog ..Ring Around the Rosie =-.

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