This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Breastfeeding hosted by The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog and Blacktating. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I had my first child when I was just 17 years old. I didn't do any real research during that pregnancy, but somehow knew that breastfeeding was the right choice for me. My stepmother was surprised by my decision. I don't think she or my father really understood. They went to the store the day my daughter was born and returned with gifts - they each picked out a t-shirt for me. While I do nurse in t-shirts these days, I don't think they are generally considered nursing-friendly clothing.
Soon after, I got into an argument over nursing my daughter without any cues from her. I knew when she was hungry because my breasts told me. I moved out. I nursed her until she was about 6 months old when I switched her to formula. When I asked about a pill to dry up my milk, the doctor told me to just wait for it and to take Tylenol for the pain. Wait. Pain? I had no idea! It was awful! While I would never "wean" like that again, my mother adopted my daughter not long after that, so it was best that she was not still on the breast.
Fast forward 8 years.
I had another daughter and knew again, this time with research to back it up, that breastfeeding was the right choice. We also co-slept, eventually using an adjoining toddler bed for extra space. This made breastfeeding at night easy. This time I decided to let my daughter decide when she was done with nursing. I thought bedtime nursing would be the last to go, but it really wasn't. When Tyler was 3 years old, she would still latch on for just a few seconds. It was as if she was just confirming that my breasts were still there for her. She weaned at 3½ years old. After nursing for that long, my breasts never went completely dry. Years later I could still hand express and get liquid from my breasts, though something tells me it might not have been very tasty or even nutritious.
Fast forward another 7 years (after weaning) and I had yet another daughter. Sasha is now 1½ years old and our nursing relationship is still going very strong! I intend to nurse her until she is done, despite the occasional odd looks I used to get from coworkers when the topic would come up in discussion. My only concern is nursing through a pregnancy because I'm hoping we'll have 1 more child (before I turn 40). I know some have had milk issues during pregnancy, but some have not. I worry about it sometimes.
Doing the math, I have a total of 5½ years of breastfeeding experience so far. I chose not to vaccinate my younger daughters, so I really appreciate the immunity benefits of extended breastfeeding. I absolutely appreciate that when my daughter is upset or has a booboo, nursing for even a few seconds helps her to calm down and feel better. I cherish the bond that we share through our nursing relationship.
One more breastfeeding bonus? The longer I breastfeed, the more it lowers my risk of breast cancer! My mother and grand mother both had breast cancer scares, though thankfully no actual cancer so far.
I have fond memories of drifting off into naps with Tyler when she was still an infant. I am amused when I think of their different reactions to being un-latched. With Tyler, I had to slowly sneak away from her. With Sasha, it is all about timing. Sasha definitely uses my nipple as a pacifier, though I don't recall Tyler doing that.
The thought of weaning makes me a little sad, in that bittersweet way that we want our children to stay tiny forever. One day I hope to support my daughters along their own breastfeeding journeys!
Have you nursed a child beyond infancy? What benefits did you and/or your child gain from extended breastfeeding? What obstacles did you face?
Visit The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog and Blacktating to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Breastfeeding!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
Mamapoeki from Authentic Parenting: Extended Breastfeeding?
Mama Alvina of Ahava & Amara Life Foundation: Breastfeeding Journey Continues
Elita @ Blacktating: The Last Time That Never Was
Diana Cassar-Uhl, IBCLC: Old enough to ask for it
Karianna @ Caffeinated Catholic Mama: A Song for Mama’s Milk
Judy @ Mommy News Blog: My Favorite Moments
Tamara Reese @ Please Send Parenting Books: Extended Breastfeeding
Jenny @ Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: The Highs and Lows of Nursing a Toddler
Christina @ MFOM: Natural-Term Breastfeeding
Rebekah @ Momma’s Angel: My Sleep Breakthrough
Suzi @ Attachedattheboob: Why I love nursing a toddler
Claire @ The Adventures of Lactating Girl: My Hopes for Tandem Nursing
Elisa @ blissfulE: counter cultural: extended breastfeeding
Momma Jorje: Extended Breastfeeding, So Far!
Stephanie Precourt from Adventures in Babywearing: “Continued Breastfeeding”: straight from the mouths of babes
The Accidental Natural Mama: Nurse on, Mama
Sarah @ Reproductive Rites: Gratitude for extended breastfeeding
Nikki @ On Becoming Mommy: The Little Things
Dr. Sarah @ Good Enough Mum: Breastfeeding for longer than a year: myths, facts and what the research really shows
Amy @ WIC City: (Extended) Breastfeeding as Mothering
The Artsy Mama: Why Nurse a Toddler?
Christina @ The Milk Mama: The best thing about breastfeeding
TopHot @ the bee in your bonnet: From the Mouths of Babes
Beth @ Bethstedman.com: Extended Breastfeeding: To Wean Or Not To Wean
Callista @ Callista’s Ramblings: Pressure To Stop Breastfeeding
Amanda @ Postilius: Nursing My Toddler Keeps My Baby Close
Sheryl @ Little Snowflakes: Tandem Nursing- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Zoie @ Touchstone Z: Breastfeeding Flavors
Lauren @ Hobo Mama: Same old, same old: Extended breastfeeding
Tanya @ Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Six misconceptions about extended breastfeeding
Jona (Breastfeedingtwins.org): Breastfeeding older twins
Motherlove Herbal Company: Five reasons to love nursing a toddler