D-man is still nursing at 16 months old, anything over a year is generally considered extended breastfeeding. I have breastfeed all my children for a year or longer. At this point I have breastfeed for a total of 57 months. Did you catch that? 57 MONTHS or 4.75 years. I was actually surprised when I added it up, it didn’t seem that long but I have nursed for longer than my undergraduate degree took.
When I started breastfeeding I never thought much about how long I’d do it for & never thought I’d have nearly 5 years under my belt. Before I knew it days turned to weeks, weeks to months. I have struggled with cracked nipples, pumping for work, milk supply, mastitis, postpartum depression, & the day to day struggles that go along with breastfeeding.
Taking it slowly, having help when challenges arose, being in the moment & having a really great support system helped. My husband has always been my rock in support. Mike’s support of breastfeeding, in particular, is tremendous. He’s a very hands-on parent, we work toward being partners in parenting & this wasn’t any different, minus the whole “he has no breasts that lactate” thing.
And with each struggle I was able to work though them with Mike’s support & continue the breastfeeding relationship. I feel like after realizing how LOOOONG I’ve been at this I’m all nostalgic about it, even though it wasn’t all roses.
Mr. J nursed for about a year. Being it was my first time I had ever nursed I wasn’t sure what to expect. I can say we did have a rough start, latching & just getting a groove. Once we found it & worked through his acid reflux & my over active let down we did very well. I learned how to nurse or pump while: reading, writing, typing & brushing my teeth. He was my initiation into multi-tasking at a whole new level.
Mr. J and Mr. G are also 18 months apart. He was 9 months old when Mr. G came into being & by my 2nd trimester my milk was drying up. Mr. J was a year old when the milk supply was gone & he wanted no part in nursing.
Then Mr. G was a breeze baby. Really when it came to sleeping & eating he was a piece of cake. I thought it was because I was a pro! But really now that I have more experiences under my belt I realize that it wasn’t my pro status that made it a breeze. He just didn’t encounter some of the same struggles his brother had. Then when Mr. G was 10 months old, Mamacita was on the scene. While she was cooking away my milk again decreased suddenly when I entered my 2nd trimester. Mr. G made it to 14 months, but again when the milk was gone he wasn’t interested.
Mamacita nursed for 15 months. She taught me that I couldn’t rest on my laurels when it came being a pro. In fact, now that I think of it she still does this. I guess she’s helping me learn humility. Anyway, she was more challenging than Mr. G in how she latched. She also wanted to comfort nurse more than either of the boys before her. Her need for comfort coupled with my over active let down had to be worked through. She also self-weaned at 15 months, not because I was pregnant again but I had some weird hormone flux that caused problems with my milk as my milk production continued to decrease she became less interested in nursing. Before we knew it we no longer were breastfeeding.
Now there’s D-man. He & I have had probably more challenges than the others. With him I had my first horrible bout of mastitis, I had never had it go full blown before, but it did with him. I dealt with severe postpartum depression & the unique challenges to nursing that existed through this. He also bit me, he once drew blood. At that point I did consider ending breastfeeding, I mean it really hurt, but he wasn’t ready & I knew it would be an awful time. So we worked through teaching him not to bite & to be gentle. I also had to work through my TOTAL terror at the thought I might lose a nipple–seriously that kid has a massively strong chomper.
BUT I’m glad we worked through it like we did because he’s 16 months & I’m not sure when he will be ready to wean. I lean toward the idea of child-led weaning or self-weaning of a child although I may at some point decide to introduce gentle weaning. I’m not sure yet. After one year I don’t rush it, obviously given my current track record.
I do crack jokes about how long he might nurse, but that’s because I’m not able to NOT crack a joke. It’s against my nature to be anything but a smart-ass I think it’s in my DNA. However, even with my smart-ass self this breastfeeding relationship works well & is gentle for both of us. I’m really glad that we’ve gotten to share it together, as with the other rabble-rousers back when they were littles.
Some great resources for support & information on breastfeeding I’ve turned to over the years:
- Le Leche League : Even though I’ve never attended a meeting the information available has been invaluable. I do a membership though & I find the magazine that I receive, New Beginnings, in the mail to be hugely supportive. I also have a well-worn copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.
- KellyMom: Very easy to use & a go to resource when I needed help figuring out what to do. I love the way this site is laid out. It offers a treasure trove of information.
- Mothering Magazine: I may not do everything all natural but the support overall has been really wonderful for me. Mothering also has a great forum that has a lot of support available in this area.
- As a Catholic who breastfeeds I also drew on the following book for support: Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood: God’s Plan for You and Your Baby by Sheila Kippley. Even though I got it as I was having my 3rd, both my husband & I were not a practicing Catholics until after the birth of Mr. G (a story for another time), & I was feeling worried about balancing 3 kids under 3 while breastfeeding. It helped me to turn to my spirituality for additional support. While there is NO official Catholic Church teaching on breastfeeding (this is because each mother-child relationship is unique) the Church is very supportive of breastfeeding mothers as it is of all mothers & it helped me to have that support.
- And another great Catholic resource is the Catholic Nursing Mothers League. This is a great network of support for women of Catholic faith who are breastfeeding while practicing gentle Catholic mothering.