There are so many parenting milestones that you simply cannot prepare for, no matter how hard you try. The first time your kid walks, endless and complex emotions will bombard you with reckless abandon. The first time your kid tells you they love you (without prompt), you might need a few moments to adequately collect yourself. And of course, there are the not-so-fun moments, like the first time your kid throws a toddler tantrum in a very public place, or the first time your kid throws a toy at your face. Very few books or well-intentioned pieces of advice can help you but, thankfully, breastfeeding can prepare you for toddlerhood in a way very few things can.
I wasn't sure what I would learn when I chose and was successfully able to breastfeed my son. Over time, I realized that breastfeeding would teach me how to sleep sitting up, how to further appreciate my body and all the amazing things it can do, and how to deal with a toddler. It might not seem like they connect, but the lessons you learn while you breastfeed are lessons that can directly affect how you navigate the sometimes difficult, very frustrating but also wonderful toddler years. I mean, honestly, breastfeeding is difficult. Just like toddlers.
So, with that in mind, here are nine ways breastfeeding prepares you for toddlerhood. Trust me, you're doing more than sustaining your kid when you're feeding them in the middle of the night. You're preparing yourself for the fun but trying, hilarious but frustrating, inevitable toddler years ahead.
You Learn Patience...
Breastfeeding is an exercise in composed perseverance, which requires an almost inhumane amount of patience. For some women, their baby or babies latch immediately and their body produces enough milk effortlessly and breastfeeding is just a breeze. But, for many, breastfeeding is difficult and painful. Babies don't latch right away, milk production is low, breast infections happen, and a mother's patience is tested. If you can make it through a difficult time breastfeeding, you'll easily make it through the toddler phase. When your kid throws a tantrum or refuses to listen or tests you in a way you've never been tested before, you'll smile internally, knowing that you've already been put through the breastfeeding ringer.
...And The Perfect "This Too Shall Pass" Mindset
That fortified patience is why you'll have perfected the, "this too shall pass" mindset. When breastfeeding was difficult or exhausting or uncomfortable, you knew that it wouldn't always be that way. Sticking with it until it became second nature gave you the strength to, eventually, get through a toddler tantrum that feels just as endless. If you can grit your teeth and internally scream through a painful or frustrating breastfeeding session, you'll definitely be able to count down backwards and get through your kid throwing their toys like they're practicing for an upcoming NFL season.
You're Used To Being Flexible With Your Time...
Breastfeeding makes any mother acutely aware that her time isn't just hers anymore. Oh no, a little mini-you is calling the shots and you're just along for the ride. And if you choose to breastfeed on demand, you'll become a pro at being flexible with your time, your set-schedules and your pre-determined plans. You won't freak out when something doesn't go the way you wanted it to; you won't second guess every decision you've made when you have to improvise; you'll simply realize that flexibility is the name of the game, and you'll probably start calling yourself Gumby.
...While Also Learning To Stay Consistent
There are multiple tips for breastfeeding your baby successfully, and establishing a consistent feeding schedule and/or pattern is one of them. When you get on a routine (whether it's on-demand feeding or attempting to establish a feeding schedule) you'll be better prepared to continue being consistent when your kids starts to test rules. Schedules create a sense of predictability that toddlers crave, and deviating from a routine is one of the many reasons why your toddler might throw a tantrum or become altogether unmanageable.
You're Great At Multitasking
Breastfeeding and multitasking go hand-in-hand, and when you've perfected the art of feeding your baby and doing a great number of other things (often simultaneously) you'll be better equipped to handle toddlerhood. Keeping one eye on your kid while you answer a work email or cook breakfast and dial into your first of many conference calls for the day, will seem like a breeze thanks to the many mornings, afternoons, evenings and nights that you sustained your child while doing a hundred other things at the same time.
You Don't Care If People Stare In Public During A Toddler Tantrum
If you chose to breastfeed in public without a cover, people staring at your kid while they inexplicably lose their mind in the cereal aisle of the supermarket will feel like a seven day cruise to the Bahamas. Unapologetically breastfeeding women are constantly judged and scrutinized when they feed their baby in public; people point fingers and rudely whisper and even become combative. If you can handle those ridiculous and downright rude encounters, I'd venture to guess you've thickened your skin enough to handle that one child-free individual giving you the stink eye while your kid loses their collective shit.
You've Perfected Setting Realistic Expectations
Breastfeeding rarely looks the way it's marketed; which is to say, you won't always feel like the flower crown-wearing, glowing woman who just so happens to feed her kid while frolicking in some magical forest. In fact, it's pretty common for many women to hate the act of breastfeeding, because it is exhausting and painful and difficult. If you're one of those women, you were probably forced to adjust your breastfeeding expectations to a more manageable, realistic level, which will bode well for you when it comes time to parent a toddler. We'd all like to think our toddler sons and daughters will be perfect little angel babies, but realistically, they're going to act out and throw tantrums and test our wine-needing patience. It's best to be realistic about toddlerhood, so you can better equip yourself to get through it.
You're Great At Utilizing Resources
If you chose and were successful at breastfeeding, chances are you're unbelievably skilled at googling damn near anything. You know what the best breast pump is, how much breastmilk your baby should be consuming, where the closest breastfeeding mom's group is, where a great lactation consultant is located. Literally, everything. Knowing where to go to find the resources and support you need, will be just as beneficial when you're looking up how to survive a toddler tantrum, how your toddler communicates, and anything else you may be faced with.
You Remember That You Need To Take Care Of Yourself First
Breastfeeding makes you realize that first and foremost, you must take care of yourself. If you're not providing for your own body, your body cannot provide for your son or daughter. That lesson is arguably the most important lesson any mother could learn (breastfeeding or otherwise) and one that will definitely be of vital importance when you have a toddler. You can't help your toddler through a difficult day, a tantrum, sleep regression, incoming teeth, or any other issue, if you don't take care of yourself first. Take some time for you, treat yo' self regularly, and toddlerhood won't be as taxing as it can (sometimes) be.