I’m an extended breastfeeder. Wow. If you’d asked me a year ago, I’d have said no, I won’t be breastfeeding past a year.
Breastfeeding is a topic that seems to be quite unnecessarily controversial. And then when you add the word “extended” in front of it, well then it seemingly becomes a whole other monster of a topic.
When I was pregnant and had decided I’d like to try breastfeeding, I took the approach of “Sure, I’ll try it, but if it doesn’t work out, no big deal.” I was afraid to add to pressure myself to do this thing I had very little knowledge of (and no experience with). Secretly, I really REALLY wanted it to work out, though. When the baby was born and we slowly figured out how breastfeeding worked, I gave myself the new goal of nursing just during my 14-week maternity leave and then evaluating whether to continue based on how it’s going.
As the end of my maternity leave drew nearer, I realized the importance of continuing to breastfeed as I transitioned to working again. I gave myself a new goal–to breastfeed until the baby was 6 months old, then reevaluate.
At 6 months, we were still going strong. And it was toward the end of winter, so I figured I should try to make it at least until after flu season ended. So I gave myself a new goal–one year.
Then a year came and went, and Jax showed no indication of wanting to wean (and frankly neither did I). I am a proponent of allowing a child to wean him/herself when he or she is ready, if it’s not too much of a burden on the mother. Given that I was still enjoying the breastfeeding experience at 1 year and didn’t consider it much of a burden, we kept going.
Jax is 17 months old now, and we still nurse several times per day. He eats table food and snacks, and he drinks whole cow’s milk when we aren’t together. But my boy still loves his “nummies nummies.” And for now, I’m ok with it.
However, I do admit I’m beginning to notice more frequent thoughts of “maybe I should gently wean soon” and “I wonder if he’ll sleep better if we stop nursing.” I hate to consider the end of our breastfeeding, which we’ve both truly enjoyed. It saddens me to think of a time when Jax won’t want to be comforted that way. I know we’ll find other ways, though, in due time. Babyhood is fleeting, and I am overjoyed that my little guy is growing up so big and strong, but the end of breastfeeding is bittersweet–laden with big, heavy emotions like sadness at losing our special time together, guilt over thoughts about weaning before he is possibly ready, and happiness and satisfaction over a job well done. I know lots of people will say that we’ll find other ways to connect and spend special, quality time together. I know that’s true, but I don’t think anything will feel quite as special (for me and Jax) as the time we spend nursing.
I never, EVER thought I’d be successful at breastfeeding. And I certainly never expected to continue into my son’s second year. But I am thankful it’s happened this way for us. I’m fortunate to not have too many Negative Nancies issuing their disapproval of our extended breastfeeding. If my friends or family members find it odd that we’re still going at 17 months, they’ve kept those opinions mostly to themselves,thank goodness. In contrast, I’ve even had a few people tell me that they think it’s wonderful.
I picked up a copy of What to Expect the Toddler Years the other night because I had a giftcard and a whim. The first page I flipped to once I returned home with the book was one all about extended breastfeeding–more accurately, how to wean. I was amazed to read that the author thinks that there is no nutritional benefit to nursing past one year. Wow–people still think that on the baby’s birthday, a mother’s milk suddenly turns to the nutritional equivalent of water? In case you’re interested, Kellymom.com lists some studies that have found that breastmilk is a valuable source of nutrition past the 1-year mark.
I’m sure you can guess that as I continued to read WTETTY, my blood began to boil. While there is a wealth of information in the What to Expect books, I don’t encourage breastfeeding mothers to use it as a breastfeeding resource. There are so many other, better, more informed resources out there for moms interested in extended breastfeeding.
I suppose I’ve ranted long enough. My main point is this: I’m a proud extended breastfeeder and I’ll keep going as long as I feel it’s the right choice for my family.