When I gave birth to my youngest son in June 2017 (you can read his birth story here) I knew I wanted to breastfeed. My goal was to get to at least a few months of breastfeeding. With my older boys I pumped exclusively for 6 months and 3 months. I was happy and proud of myself for giving my children a few months of breast milk. Afterwards they had formula, and guess what…that’s totally ok too!
I wanted to give my baby at least a few months of breastmilk just like I had with his brothers. It started out rough. I’ll explain down below…
But I am happy to report that things have gone so well that we are now at 22 months of exclusive breastfeeding!!! What in the whattttt. While this may seem like a long time in our country, it’s actually quite common around the globe to breastfeed until two years of age and beyond. (FYI – The World Health Organization recommends two years)
I actually NEVER expected to breastfeed this long and there’s days I don’t really want to. But, I know that the benefits for my son have far outweighed any negatives.
(By the way, I am not someone who cares how you feed your own baby. I only care that they are fed. What’s unique about my feeding journey is that I’ve been a formula feeding mom, a pumping mom, and a breastfeeding mom. So truly, no judgement here!)
Breastfeeding this long has given me a chance to learn all about the world of extended breastfeeding. I’d love to share with you some of the things that I’ve learned along the way:
What no one tells you about extended breastfeeding
– It may not be easy at first. My baby couldn’t latch at first. After his birth, when we got home from the hospital, I had a lactation consultant come to our home to help me. I knew something was up when he was screaming the whole time he was trying to eat. My baby was found to have a severe tongue tie and lip tie! After having those issues corrected with a laser at a pediatric dentist, everything was much better (besides a round of mastitis for me!)
– Just like there’s mommy shaming for NOT breastfeeding, there’s actually mommy shaming for breastfeeding TOO long! Yes, you read that right. Apparently there’s some perfect balance that a mother should achieve when it comes to breastfeeding. Like we should be able to turn the switch off to our baby when they reach a certain age…that’s it, no more boobies for you, kid. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Once your baby is old enough to realize they’re being breastfed they really seem to enjoy the bonding/feeding experience. Weaning them off the boob is a multi-step process and often not an easy tear-free one. Some kids give up the breast as easy as they give up a pacifier…and let’s be real, some kids don’t give up the breast easily just like babies who have a hard time giving up a paci. Every baby is SO SO different, and there’s no reason to shame a mom about how long she chooses to breastfeed her child.
– It’s not always fun and you may want to quit sometimes, but it is always worth it. There’s been many days I want to quit. But, I’ve realized that this journey isn’t only about me. My son hasn’t wanted to quit nursing yet so I have simply pushed past the days I want to quit. It’s always been worth pushing past those moments.
– Find a friend or tribe of breastfeeding women who support you! My friend Carrie (she blogs at Our Potluck Family) was my breastfeeding support person during the early days of this journey. She texted/Facebook messaged me and even called (gasp!) to check in on us and cheer me on from the sidelines when I wanted to quit when I got mastitis. My husband has also been extremely supportive of my breastfeeding journey, and let’s me know how awesome I’ve done to provide the best nutritional start for our children. If you’re having a hard time finding breastfeeding support in your own circle of people, there’s lots of places to find support online and otherwise. Sites like KellyMom.com are jam-packed full of amazing BF info, and I’m also linking to another helpful article from Fresh Milk Mama of where you can find amazing breastfeeding support (click here for that!)
– You can breastfeed when your child has teeth. Sooooo, I was one of those people who thought it was the actual weirdest thing to breastfeed a baby that has teeth. I used to say that I would never BF once my baby had teeth. Well, he got teeth around 4 months old so I had to learn to adapt to feeding a small human that had chompers. Do they bite? Yes, sometimes. Does it hurt? You bet. But you can gently remind your baby to not bite you. Eventually they get the point, and feeding resumes as regularly scheduled.
– You can breastfeed on your terms. Want to breastfeed in public? Go for it! Don’t want to breastfeed in public? Don’t! This truly is your journey with your child, and you get to decide how and where you feed your baby. For me, I was a fan of finding air conditioned nursing rooms and charging my cell phone at the same time lol (Walt Disney World has some of the BEST nursing rooms ever, by the way!) but I’ve also breastfed outside in the open without batting an eyelash. When your baby is hungry you gotta do what you gotta do, right?!
If nursing your child beyond babyhood is the right choice for you and your child, then I encourage you to follow your mama heart and do what’s right for you! It’s totally normal, even if it seems like you’re the only one in your circle of friends.
PS – you can check out La Leche League for stories of other breastfeeding mothers.
What else have you experienced during extended breastfeeding that you wish someone would’ve told you?