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What I Would Have Missed-My Journey with Extended Breastfeeding

A short disclaimer: Every mom chooses the best form of nourishment for their child-one that works for their body, baby, and lifestyle. This is my personal experience with nursing, one that I wanted to share with fellow moms. Let’s support one another!

 

 

Like many mamas, the start of my breastfeeding journey was hard. So hard. Like, way harder than expected. I experienced severe nipple pain, oversupply, a baby with IUGR that required close weight gain monitoring, and post-partum anxiety.

But, I was SO lucky to be surrounded by support. My husband, our extended family, La Leche League, my obstetrician, and even my daughter’s pediatrician all played a role in my continued perseverance. I hired an amazing breastfeeding specialist that helped us immensely, and day by day each feeding grew easier until I no longer had pain, my supply was on track, and I “had it all under control.”

Except, something felt like it was missing.

While pregnant, I heard stories of women saying how enjoyable breastfeeding was to them. That it actually felt good as the hormones were released, and that it was the best time to bond with their baby. I wasn’t feeling that. I felt more like it was part of a job description for “Mom” rather then something miraculous and beautiful.

As we planned my daughter’s 1st birthday party, I started receiving questions about when we were going to wean her and switch to cow’s milk. For some reason, I kept coming up with reasons why she wasn’t ready to wean. She was nursing 4-6 times a day, including before naps and bedtime. It felt wrong to take all those times away from her when she so clearly wanted them. Plus, she was still so tiny, around the 8th percentile for weight, and it seemed like breast milk was helping her thrive. Selfishly, I wasn’t sure how on earth I would get her to fall asleep since we still nursed to sleep!

So we just kept nursing. The pressure was off at that point. I had “made it” to my one year goal of nursing! Anything longer was a bonus. Then my daughter got sick…just a run of the mill cold…but we spent a long weekend at home sprawled on the couch nursing constantly. It was during one of those marathon sessions when she kept looking up at me with so much gratitude and happiness in her eyes, and I suddenly felt it.

 The miraculous feeling, the beautiful connection and amazing bonding moment of me nourishing my child with my own body. This feeling, I had waited 14 months to feel it, and I would have missed it had we weaned at one year.

That one moment seemed to open up a floodgate of emotions for me and I feel like I have finally fallen in love with nursing! At this point, we have no plans to wean and I hope that I can let her wean herself when she’s ready. Maybe I will even nurse her when pregnant with baby #2! Which, BTW, won’t be happening for awhile-just in case any family members are reading…

Although I find it much easier to nurse a toddler than a baby, there are some interesting differences between the two. Notably:

The traditional nursing positions of football or cradle hold go out the window and are replaced with a squirmy child who stands, sits, straddles you, kicks you and pulls your nose all while staying latched.

You no longer have to look for “hunger cues” as a toddler will just pull down both your shirt and bra and say “Boo! Boo!” (Boob!)

I’ve never known fear like the fear you feel with a teething child latched to your nipple “Will she bite me? Will she not?!?”

Although extended breastfeeding is gaining in popularity in the US, you may still get an odd look or remark when you tell people that breast milk is the only type of milk your child receives. The best response….a smile and a healthy, happy child!

Any mamas out there who are breastfeeding a child over 1 year? What has your experience been?

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8 Responses to What I Would Have Missed-My Journey with Extended Breastfeeding

  1. Dana Miller October 6, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

    Thanks for sharing and my experience was similar. I only really enjoyed nursing a lot as my baby grew into a toddler. It’s so great to really connect with them and be able to care for their well expressed needs. Plus, I think the nursing helped to prevent the temper tantrums and melt downs that are so typical of toddlers. I did manage to keep nursing through pregnancy (though I cut back since it was uncomfortable with no milk there) and now I’m doing the tandem thing. I think this has also helped my older child adjust more easily to a new baby as there isn’t nearly as much jealousy. Good luck!

    • Jacqueline Simmons October 7, 2015 at 10:40 am #

      Thanks Dana! I agree-it’s SO helpful with those temper tantrums and soothe in general. That’s so great you are tandem nursing, I appreciate you sharing your story as well!

  2. Paige October 6, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

    So beautiful Jacqueline! Thanks for sharing!

    • Jacqueline Simmons October 7, 2015 at 10:41 am #

      Thanks Paige!

  3. lisa October 6, 2015 at 11:16 pm #

    My daughter is 26 months and in the 4th percentile for weight, we still nurse on demand, but I’ve recently gone back to work part time, she gets a pediasure at the sitters if they can get her to drink it lol. I love nursing her, even when I wish she’d wean, I know she won’t be little forever.

    • Jacqueline Simmons October 7, 2015 at 10:43 am #

      Hey Lisa! I work part time as well but also nurse on demand on my days off-it’s a good balance! It’s always helpful to remember that this will only be a small part of your life to help put things in perspective. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Jana October 7, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    I just recently weaned my daughter who was a few weeks past her second birthday. I am pregnant with #2 and it started to really hurt and be uncomfortable so I was ready to be done and my daughter also seemed ready as we were only nursing before bed at night and she seemed less interested. I have to say that “weaning” at that age and when we both seemed to be done was SO EASY! I couldn’t imagine stopping at 12 months either, she just didn’t seem ready and neither was I. So happy to see a positive article about extended breastfeeding, thank yoU!

    • Jacqueline Simmons October 7, 2015 at 10:59 am #

      Hey Jana! Absolutely- it seems like weaning off of only 1 feeding per day is much easier! Congrats with baby #2, thanks for sharing!

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