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Extended Nursing & Co-sleeping in the Time of COVID

My son is 21 months old now. Born in the first months of the COVID pandemic, he’s now nearly 2 years old. One thing that is different with him and his two older sisters is that he is still nursing. I breastfed both girls, our eldest until just about 12-14 months, and the next until around 16 months. Both girls lost interest gradually until weaning was just a natural step. Baby boy, however, is very different. The boy loves to nurse. He shows no interest in stopping. Loves the cuddles, loves the milk, just loves everything about it. I also love the quiet, dedicated time to connect, bond, and rest with him. 

One thing that is very different with this baby than our other two is that when he wakes at night, if we can’t calm him with some pats on the back, he often ends up nursing to sleep in bed with us. I love this sweet cuddling time; however, the sleepy time comfort comes at a price in the morning: When my watch buzzes at 5AM for me to get up to run, I have to go from deep sleep to instant ninja to wiggle-squirm-slide out of our tangled bed without waking the babe. If I try to go running with a waking babe this wakes my husband…which wakes one daughter…and then the other. This leads to a household awake about 2 hours too early. 

I have felt it important to nurse my son through the winter “sick” season, which also, for us, included COVID infections in January 2022. Nursing has helped me to deliver as many antibodies as possible to my youngest, and is just such a comfort measure that it is hard to say no when that simple action can deliver so much comfort and love. Both health benefits and ability to comfort a sick child have been really important in helping me decide to keep nursing for this period of time. When he had COVID, he actually largely returned to only nursing, refusing food and milk/water. Nursing was key for keeping him hydrated and delivering at least a baseline of nutrients.

Sleepy, happy baby.

Both girls have climbed into bed with us since they were toddlers when they were having trouble sleeping, bad dreams, or just needed some comfort. We never had such a regular bedfellow as we do with this little guy, though! Sometimes we laugh about how connected he is to us, and the debate is open as to whether it’s his unique personality, the fact that he has had far less outside exposure than his sisters at his age due to pandemic, or if I’m just holding on a little tighter since he’s our last. Probably some combination of all of those factors!

Recently, I have started to push him towards a little less nursing time. This is bittersweet: I both want to cling to these last “baby” experiences and also desperately want to be onto our next, more independent, stage of life. This comes at the conjunction of circumstances: warming weather, he is thriving at daycare, and the hope of a lessening pandemic all have me jonesing for outside adventures and long weekends hiking or camping on my own, with my husband, or with his older sisters.

One thing that I do pay close attention to is proper nutrition and hydration. My body has been under the stress of pregnancy and nursing for nearly 3 years — this is no joke. It takes significant resources to grow and feed a child, and trying to add running into it requires intentional thought. These posts are coming up next – stay tuned and subscribe (at right) to not miss out on these posts.  

All this is to say that I am constantly surprised by how each pregnancy, babyhood, and now toddlerhood is unique. Some things I thought I would never do (breastfeed for much more than a year, regular cosleeping) is the perfect fit for this time of life and this child. It is a humbling reminder that life is fluid, circumstances are fluid, and we as people are best when we can bend and flow with the changes that life brings. I like to try to think critically at what I do, why I do it, and what I can do better in future. Right now, I know that weaning the baby soon will be best for my mental help and sleep – but I will likely give myself a laugh and keep the midnight baby cuddles for the time being.

What have you found surprising about motherhood (or parenthood)? What surprised you to be doing or enjoying in a way you didn’t anticipate?

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