Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Extended Breastfeeding

When I was pregnant, I knew I would breastfeed my baby. I wasn't going to try, I was going to do it, and do it I have, for 11 months and 2 days. When I started almost 1 year ago, I wanted to make it at least 6 months, and at 6 months I hoped to make it to a year, and now that I am almost at a year, I have mixed feelings about where we will go from here. I really think that BBZ was on his way to weaning before he became sick at 9 months. He was so busy that I was bringing him to the breast more than he was coming to me. All of that changed after he got sick. As I have said, his only comfort was nursing. Before that, he was a pro at comforting himself. Then suddenly he was extremely dependent on me and on nursing. He is getting much better and I think he will wean when he is ready. I don't really understand, logistically, how a baby weans at a year. He needs to have his regular nursing sessions up to 1 year, so how does someone wean before 1 year? I guess I could have weaned him to the bottle and switched to whole milk, but what is the difference between needing a bottle before bed and needing to nurse? I have never given him a bottle, so to introduce one now seems weird.

I've been doing some reading about weaning and I have learned there are basically 3 ways to wean: abrupt weaning, mother-led weaning and baby-led weaning. I guess I am going to do a combination of mother-led and baby-led. I am not in a hurry to begin weaning him off of the breast milk...I know that the immunities will continue to protect him against all kinds of sicknesses, especially with the bad flu season everyone is worried about. I should knock on wood, but BBZ has been healthy without so much as a snotty nose since his discharge in the middle of July! I really do believe that my breast milk has protected him against illnesses, and it will continue to do so as long as I choose to breastfeed. So anyway, what I am looking forward to is to stop pumping at work. I am SO OVER IT!!!! I can't believe how much I am over it. I will have to cut pumping out slowly, because if I stop pumping cold turkey I will be extremely uncomfortable until my body adjusts. But even cutting down to 1 pumping session a day is something I cannot wait for! I think I will cut out one of the 2 pumping sessions within the next 2 weeks and mix the breast milk I send with him to daycare with whole milk to get him used to it. Then I can continue to nurse him at home until he is ready to stop.

I was at a great store called Kangaroo Kids one day when BBZ was pretty new and I was talking with a mom of a nursing toddler about how I was not quite comfortable nursing in public, but I wanted to be. She said that as soon as I am comfortable nursing in public, people will say he is too old to be nursing. I pretty much took that as no matter what, someone is going to disagree, or judge me as a mom, and you know what...that's OK! At one point I said I wouldn't dare go past a year, but now that the year mark is right around the corner, I see why people keep doing it. Part of it is that I do enjoy it, but I don't want BBZ to be dependent on me for longer than he needs to be. I want to gently encourage him to eat more solid food, find ways to sooth himself, and when he is ready, nursing will end. I know it won't be next week, and I hope it isn't until he is 2, but this will be an adventure for both of us, as I learn to let go and he learns a first of many lessons in independence. My coworker spoke a poem once that I loved, but I couldn't remember any of it besides "babies don't keep", so while searching for it I found the following excerpt...

Babies Don't Keep By Stephanie I'm what most would call an "attached" parent in the sense that I pretty much never put my baby down. She sleeps with me and she nurses whenever she wants (even if it means I have to pull the car over). I hold her a lot and wear her in a sling throughout the day or when we're out instead of keeping her in a car seat. I do most, if not all of that, because that is what makes her- and me- happy. It works. It's our groove. The dance we do. I understand other Moms might not understand. And probably think I need professional help.

I do put her down if I need to.

But if I don't want to, and she doesn't mind the snuggles and smooches, then I see no harm in indulging. I do not think a baby that is held too much will not learn to walk. Heck, Gray was worn constantly in the sling and was my earliest crawler and then was walking at 11 months. I do not think holding a baby too much will spoil them. Someone reminded me long ago that items that are left on a shelf and forgotten spoil.
So quiet down, you. You who think you know better than me, the mother of this precious child. I'm going to go on rocking my baby, 'cause babies don't keep.

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.

Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo
The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo
But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren't his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.
- Ruth Hulbert Hamilton

Ahhh, what a lovely poem. I do not pretend to think that all moms should breastfeed past a year. Perhaps I will wish BBZ didn't if this goes on longer than I would prefer, but I will do what I think is best for my child, and onlookers can judge however they see fit. We will go on doing our little dance together, as the above mother said so eloquently. I also recently read a story that a mother wrote that compared weaning to helping her child balance on the balance beam..."don't let go" her daughter said to her, and as the mother walked beside her, helping her find her own balance, how afraid she thought her daughter would be if she let go too soon, before her daughter had her balance? She held on and gently guided her daughter until she realized that her daughter was a few steps ahead, balancing herself. Looking back, the mother couldn't remember who let go first.


  1. Oh Anna.... this post made me teary eyed. BBZ is so lucky to have you as his mommy and I really think you are doing what is best for him. I will be embarking soon on my own breastfeeding journey and I have been wondering myself how one simply stops at one year. One year is my goal, but I already knew that I would not have any concrete plans and would do what I thought was best for me and my baby.

    I also believe that, although personally I don't think I will be breastfeeding until she is 2 or 3 years old, I think it is sad that our society looks down upon mothers that do. Our culture is in the minority in our views and practices on breastfeeding, and its sad that it has become that way. Studies show (very obviously) that breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for our children up to 4 and 5 years of age. It gives them every thing they need, including very beneficial antibodies and immunities that protect them and can save them from serious illnesses.

    Many mothers shy away from breastfeeding because of our society's view on it. They also stop earlier then they really want to because of this. And although research and studies have proven otherwise, many woman fear that breastfeeding and giving our babies what they need, when they need it, will produce clingy, too dependent children, when in most cases, it results in the direct opposite.

    Breastfeeding does not fit into every mother's lifestyle or plan, regardless of cultural views, and I respect the mother's right to choose not to, just as I think people should respect a mother's right to breastfeed as she sees fit for her family's situation.

    I didn't mean to go off on a tangent there, but this really hit home on something I have been thinking about quite a bit lately. I am just so happy that for you and BBZ and that you are able to follow your heart and do what you feel is best for you and your baby. You may never even realize the implications long term, but I have a pretty good feeling that BBZ is a very lucky little boy and is going to turn out to be an amazing little man.

  2. You are doing exactly the right thing...following your gut. Mamas' intuition really is so strong and real. When I was breastfeeding, I knew in my heart it wasn't working for so many reasons...it was prolonging my post-partum depression and Logan was, quite literally, starving. I did, though, know that breastmilk is so important and so I pumped and pumped...and pumped some more...until my entire freezer was full. Even though I did have to switch to formula, he got breastmilk for almost 6 months!! For the most part (knocking on wood too), Logan has been pretty darn healthy, especially considering how often I get sick because of my job. You have to do what is right for you and BBZ and I love that you are not judgmental of others (like me) :) who couldn't make it a year. Or two. ;)

  3. I commend you for making it this far. A few more teeth for BBZ and you will probably choose that mommy-led route:-) You are such a fantastic mom, Anna. Laura is right, BBZ is lucky to have you.

  4. Found your blog from Gina's. Very well written post. I agree you have to do what works best for you and your child. I don't think breastfeeding past 1 year is abnormal. I could not imagine breastfeeding my 4 or 5 year old though. I think when the time is right you will know.

  5. I did the same combo- at 13 1/2 months, we were down to just night, she took cups all day with whole milk. One night she fell asleep while I was rocking her, before nursing... she nursed one time after that and was done... I cried for a week... and then about 2 weeks later she was irritable and I thought if she still nursed I could call her... but she was past it and I am glad she did it on her own... the WHO recommends 2 years and the AAP says atleast 1 year... with swine flu around the corner, I don't blame you wanting to protect him...

    The bottom line is no book, other parent or non-parent, friend or stranger can make your and BBZ's decision.

  6. It is awesome that you were able to go this long, if not longer. I had two that I nursed until they were about 8-9 months old. I work full-time so pumping 2-3 times a day is challenging. I had stored plenty of milk for both of them to have some of mommy's milk until they were about 10 1/2 months old. Weaning was hard, but they both started to show more interest in the bottle after about 6 months.

    It truly is something you have to decide for yourself. What works for one mother may not work for the next.

  7. wow! good for you! i wish we could've made it a year, but it didn't work out...he weaned himself, that's for sure. not one for extending breastfeeding myself (not breastfeeding me... but, you know... that came out wrong) but for some it works.

    way to go!! breastfeeding is awesome!!