Saturday, April 16, 2011

Extended Breastfeeding, So Far!

Welcome to the April Carnival of Breastfeeding:
Extended Breastfeeding

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.

Breastfeeding at 2 Months2 month old Sasha at my breast, swaddled

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.

Sasha NursingStill going strong at 16 months!
Nursing in Bed

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
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
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
Callista @ Callista’s Ramblings:  Pressure To Stop Breastfeeding
Zoie @ Touchstone Z: Breastfeeding Flavors
Tanya @ Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Six misconceptions about extended breastfeeding
Jona ( Breastfeeding older twins
Motherlove Herbal Company: Five reasons to love nursing a toddler


  1. I love hearing your story as a mother, because you have such a varied experience. Good for you for nursing your first baby despite the lack of support (or help with the weaning -- yowch). Your time with Tyler sounds gorgeous, and I love that Sasha continues to love that connection with you. I know you'll figure out what to do for pregnancy, and how to support her through it.

    To answer your questions! Yes, one so far -- 3 years and going strong, despite my pregnancy and losing my milk (temporarily). It's meant so much to me to breastfeed him through these 3 years so far, and I look forward to being past this pregnancy and able to be physically comfortable again. I hope he can remember this time a little and find it as sweet and comforting then as he does now.

  2. I had to wean my first child at 2 1/2 months in one day because I had to go on medication for my mental health that wasn't safe. So I feel your pain. To make matters even worse, my daughter much preferred to nurse on one side so that side was engorged and the other was fairly normal. I was VERY lopsided (like over 2 cup sizes difference.)

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. I answered your questions in my carnival post about nursing a 4-year-old, 3-year-old and a 19-month old... what I call "triplex nursing."

    Your first weaning experience sounds so uncomfortable. I'm glad you've gone on to have other experiences and be able to inform and educate others!

  4. Good for you! Wow! Keep following your instincts ... they are serving you well in your mothering. I really liked Hilary Flower's "Adventures in Tandem Nursing" for answering a lot of my questions when I breastfed through 2 pregnancies. I also have a post on my blog about it, here:
    Good luck to you and thanks for sharing your story. :)

  5. I have actually read that the longer you go between nursing sessions, as would be typical during weaning, the more antibodies the milk contains! So even though there is very little left, whatever your toddler gets is actually very beneficial. Our bodies are so amazing!

  6. I have nursed one child to 12 months, one to 17 months and I'm currently nursing my 22 month old son. I hope to wean on his terms. Thanks for the post!

  7. Thank you everyone that has stopped by so far! I'm enjoying reading your posts as well. I'm excited to be participating in the carnival. :-)

  8. This is a great post for the breastfeeding carnival. I am nursing three children currently: 4y9m, 2y8m and 9m. There are so many benefits that I and my children have gained from extended breastfeeding. Emotional, nutritional, and immunological to name a few. The most intense times have been during illness when I could count on my milk to keep them hydrated and during life changes or developmental stages when nursing gave them love in exactly the way they needed. I appreciate the benefit of time to calm down and just be. It had greatly decreased my stress.

    Breastfeeding was not easy to start. I had to work through shredded nipples and pain for many months with my first. Since then, I've had mastitis a couple of times. And lost my milk due to emergency surgery, but quickly relactated thanks to two hungry toddlers.

    I apologize for the long comment. Your post and questions got me thinking :)

  9. @Zoie ~ Your long comment is welcome! I'm glad my post and questions inspired you to comment. :-D

    I have been generally very lucky with nursing and easy starts. I can NOT imagine nursing two children and a newborn... but I hope to get the chance to nurse 1 toddler and a newborn. :-)

  10. My 35 month old just recently weaned. In my 2nd trimester of my current pregnancy my milk has dried up. It has been somewhat bittersweet, but my breasts and body still comfort him him. He still sometimes cuddles his face against each one, and can't keep his hands off a mole I have about 1-2 inches below my left breast. I'm glad I still have a physical way to comfort him when he has an ouchie or just doesn't feel well, but I must confess - it isn't the same for him with out "boo-boo milk". I have no idea if he will re-initiate nursing when the new baby gets here. I guess we'll see.

  11. @Shana ~ I worry about a pregnancy forcing my daughter to wean early, but am hopeful I'll keep my milk. I hope your son will re-initiate nursing, if that is what you want.

    "boo boo milk" - I like it! We never gave it a separate name, so the only difference is the sign for it. My 19mo loves Mommy Milk AND Cow Milk... I guess I have kind of given it a different name afterall!


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