I have always been very forthcoming about my journey with breastfeeding and how hard it can be at first.
Not too long ago, I was out with some friends, and the topic of extended breastfeeding came up. I am someone who has breastfed for an extended amount of time with both of my children. With Caleb, I went to 21 months, and Chloe is 15 months and still nursing. I came into the conversation late, so I didn't really have time to interject or give my two cents. But when I started paying attention to the conversation, they were basically making fun of another mom for breastfeeding her almost two-year-old child.
Aside from coming in to the conversation late, I was too floored to interject. It's 2019, and we are STILL criticizing other moms for choices that they are making for their family? I honestly wanted to say "What the actual f**k is happening here?"
Who is that mom hurting by feeding her almost 2 year old? Honestly, nobody. Plus, there is no set age for when a mom needs to stop nursing her child. Again, HER child. Not yours, not mine. If a mom wants to breastfeed for two weeks, two months, twelve months, or two years, it's NONE OF OUR BUSINESS.
But the more I thought about it, the more upset I got. Finally I realized that getting upset wouldn't get me anywhere, but educating others about extended breastfeeding might. Anytime I mention to anyone that Chloe still nurses at 15 months, I get a variation of comments, ranging from, "Wow, what a sacrifice," to "Oh my goodness you're my hero." I honestly don't even think about it most days, it's just something we do. You go to your refrigerator in the morning and pour your kids a cup of cow's milk or almond milk or oat milk, and I nurse mine (only Chloe - even I would admit that Caleb, at 4.5 years old, is a little too old to nurse for my taste).
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding along with introducing appropriate complementary foods for 1 year or longer. WHO also recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to 2 years of age or longer.
But considering that fewer than 35% of infants in the US in 2018 were breastfed to 12 months (according to the CDC), there are a large majority of women out there who have no idea what an extended nursing relationship looks like.
Breastfeeding at 15 months looks VERY different than it does 6 months. So if you're one of the women who nursed up until 6 months, then you are probably imagining that the nursing relationship looks the same at 15 months as it did at 4 or 5 or 6 months. But that couldn't be further from the truth! The same way that babies consume less formula once they start eating solids, they begin to consume less breastmilk, too.
Up until 6 months, breastmilk is still their only source of nutrition, and Chloe, for example, nursed every two hours during the day until we introduced solids. After 6 months, solids are introduced, and by the time a baby turns one, they should be getting the majority of their nutrition from solid foods. When she was 12 months, Chloe's feeding schedule looked something like this:
This is still what it looks like today. She nurses as soon as she wakes and right before she goes down for bed. I rarely have to nurse in public anymore, and she has been introduced to cow's milk and she takes it just fine. In the event that Eddie and I have a date night or I have an event, she just gets a cup of regular milk. I don't pump anymore (although I might express if I miss a night feeding and a morning feeding), I don't get engorged, and I don't leak anymore.
Some other myths include that I must get bitten often, because Chloe has a mouth full of teeth. Well, she's had teeth for a while, and has she tried to bite, yes. But I pull her off the breast and cut her off for the session, and she knows better. It doesn't happen as often as people seem to think it might.
Why do I still nurse? Easy - because it's still convenient, and she still asks for it. When it stops being beneficial for either or both of us, that is when we will stop. With Caleb it was 21 months, and while I do have a cutoff of 2 years in mind, I wouldn't be upset if she chose to wean earlier. The nursing relationship is something that is so special, so personal, and so dynamic. It looks so different for everyone.
Whether you choose to pursue an extended breastfeeding relationship or not is nobody's decision but your own. And ladies, again - it's 2019. Lay off the criticism of other moms for doing what they feel is right for their families. Just because it's not the way you did it, doesn't mean it's wrong.
Seriously, with all the love in the world,
P.S. This is not to make you feel bad if you didn't nurse at all, or if you nursed for 2 weeks, or a month, or 6 months, or however long you did or did not nurse. The amount of time you nurse does not make you a good mom. Feeding your child, and being the best mom YOU can be, makes you a good mom.
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