My Love-Hate Relationship With Extended Breastfeeding

Anyone who has breastfed knows that it is not always quite as easy or tranquil as it is oftentimes portrayed. I had breastfed my older daughter but like everything else 10 years later it felt like starting over. Similar to how we forget about our labor pains when we have our newborns in our arms, my memories of breastfeeding were blurred by time and nostalgia.

I was surprised with how difficult it was to begin the journey with my new daughter.  I mean, ouch! I lived off Lanolin cream and didn’t wear a top for at least 2 weeks! Though feeding an infant on demand was still a lot of work those tender moments passed and things became more comfortable for both of us. We got into a groove and have been doing well ever since.

The thing they forget to mention about exclusively nursing your baby is that it never really seems to slow down until they are eating solid food. As the baby grows and sleeps less they still require more and more milk to fill their expanding tummies. Even when they are gobbling up peas and sweet potatoes the demand can still be grueling.

Then there comes the unsolicited opinions. Around the time my baby girl approached the milestone of her first birthday the pressure from others to wean her was on. I would get comments from people around me like “You’re still nursing her?” , “Wow isn’t she getting a little old for that?”, “All my babies were weaned by 6 weeks!”, “Does she really need that still?”

To answer some of those questions; Yes, breast milk is still beneficial to baby even after they turn a year old. It still has the same magical abilities of supporting their immune systems, and changing  with their nutritional needs. Not to mention the psychological benefits of comfort, trust and love that all children need. My baby is only 20 months and I don’t feel that it is unreasonable to want that type of comfort!

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No, she is not “too old” to breastfeed. She is no less independent for our decision to continue breastfeeding. We never need to nurse in public anymore as she usually only does it before nap and bed time now. She eats table foods with a fork and spoon, she is transitioning to a toddler bed in her own bedroom, she uses sippy cups with whole milk or diluted juice in it, she recognizes and names her letters and is starting to count and she plays independently and with other kids well. In our culture we tend to wean early but the rest of the world in general weans at much older ages.

I wasn’t too strict on weaning until I desired to become pregnant again. After a year I hadn’t yet resumed my cycle and was still nursing quite a bit. I wanted to at least reduce since I didn’t know whether my fertility had returned. Not having your monthly can be a huge benefit. One less inconvenience postpartum. I don’t use contraception and only natural family planning but, be warned- Just because you aren’t menstruating does not mean you aren’t ovulating. I did get pregnant before my cycle returned. What I thought was my period was actually implantation.

While attempting to wean we had some set backs. Each time a new tooth sprouted, when we moved, or if she wasn’t feeling well, she would regress and return to nursing more. At the time I would be frustrated. It felt like losing progress but, she would always go back to nursing less often once things got back to normal.

As you can see, most of my experience with extended breastfeeding has been pretty positive. Where the hate part of it really comes in for me is for myself! Nursing a small, still infant is much different than a heavy, mobile, squirming, pinching, squeezing toddler! And since I’ve gotten pregnant things have become tender and at times caused nursing to become uncomfortable again. As I said in my previous post Pregzilla  pregnancy and breastfeeding can be quite taxing at times.

The truth is the decision to breastfeed your baby or not and when to wean them are personal decisions and though there are many opinions there is no one right answer! You just need to do whats best for you and your baby! It would be great if she were fully weaned before June when the new baby arrives but, if not that’s okay too. I can totally picture myself being a bad-ass tandem nursing mama! I feel lucky to be able to take this journey with her as it comes and I know that one day she will stop completely and the difficulties will be blurred by time and nostalgia again.

What have your breastfeeding experiences been like? Share about your journey in the comments!

❤ Cait

Boobs Traveler

Last year I got an extraordinary gift! My dad paid for a ticket for my youngest daughter and I to come and visit him at his home in Florida! After a long New England winter I was more than happy to accept! I was excited to go but a bit nervous to leave the other half of the family up north while the little one and I enjoyed the fun and sun. I pushed back the guilt. I deserved a little rest and was determined not to get in my own way.

The day came and we made it to the airport. In the spirit of saving money I attempted to pack light and avoid checking bags. I also decided that the stroller would be too clunky compared to my comfy baby wrap (which she loves) plus, it freed up my hands. We didn’t have long until boarding time but it was a 6 am flight and I desperately needed a coffee. I waited in a long line for a $4 coffee I practically had to make myself and my babe was starting to squirm. “I’ve totally got this”, I thought to myself as I rushed back to the gate.

So there I was stomping through the airport, and what a sight I must have been! I had baby snug in her carrier on my chest, a hiking backpack filled to the brim on my back, a cross body purse on my hip, and an over stuffed diaper bag on my shoulder. She was crying and fussing and the let down feeling let me know what she was in need of. So I stopped for a moment and did what I knew I had to do; I pulled out my breast and let her feed as I continued with all of my gear still in tow to the gate. I had my reservations about feeding in public before. I had hid under blankets and stood in toilet stalls but during this trip all of my hesitation disappeared. My baby’s nutritional needs were much more important than my misplaced shame or other people’s perceptions about what was or was not appropriate.

Sure, I got a few looks but, I realized that most of the hang-ups I had were coming from within myself. Most people didn’t notice, didn’t care or gave me a knowing nod of solidarity or a smile of support. Once we were seated in the plane (me in the middle seat of course! Just my luck!) baby had fallen asleep and I was glad to have some time to exhale. The flight from Boston to Florida is thankfully short just about 3 hours. As we ascended the baby inevitably woke due to cabin pressure affecting her ears. The best way to relieve that was to cause her to swallow by feeding her and I did so without reservation. Hey, it was either see the boob, or hear the babe! If you have ever been on a plane with a crying baby you know that it was an easy choice! No one cared and I didn’t expose any more than the model on the cover of the magazine the woman next to me was reading.

When it was finally time to deplane the man that was sitting to my left helped me to get my carry-on and over stuffed backpack down from the overhead storage. I strapped my baby back to my chest, and he helped me put the backpack on my back while saying, “Wait a minute! You’re going to carry all of this yourself!? Are you sure you can really do that?” and I turned to him with a grateful smile and proudly exclaimed. “Yes, sir! I am a woman! I can do anything!” And we can, sisters! We can put aside our hang-ups to do whats best for our children, we can tenderly feed and comfort our babies and remain strong enough to carry the weight of our baggage. We can be soft and strong and fearless and amazing! Just as we were created to be!

What are your most memorable breastfeeding moments? Share below!

❤ Cait