As a mother that really struggled with breastfeeding I really take my hat off to the moms that have managed to breastfeed for a long period of time. Any mother that manages to breastfeed until her child self weans is a hero in my eyes.
With my first daughter breastfeeding was a complete nightmare but it didn’t last long because in my ignorance I followed some advice to top up my daughter’s feeds with formula. In all honesty though, it was a relief to give my boobs a rest. The result was that by 6 months old my daughter refused the breast and went completely onto formula.
My son was a completely different story. It was easier to breastfeed him because he was firstly a very easy and hungry baby that knew what to do, plus I was older and wiser. I made the decision before he was born not to make the same mistake – he was only ever offered the boob and when he went through a growth spurt I would express in between feeds and drink jungle juice to quickly increase my breast milk to accommodate for his need for more milk.
So in that regard the second time around was a raging success… except for a few things. I detested breastfeeding. I loved the cuddling and closeness but the abuse on my boobs was awful.
The other thing was that making milk takes a toll and my immune system was in a bad way. I caught everything that went around and I was constantly sick and feeling week. I was told that breastfeeding while sick is great for your baby because a mother’s body is incredible, when you are ill your body creates antibodies that gets given to your baby in the breast milk for protection against that illness.
So I breastfed by boy through the flu, tummy bugs and more.. and he got stronger and healthier while I felt weaker than I have ever been in my life. I lost weight and I felt tired and weak all the time.
My boy loved breastfeeding but due to my health I weaned him at 13 months. Both times when I stopped breastfeeding I felt such a sense of loss and sadness. I don’t know if it is because such a closeness was lost or perhaps because of hormonal changes but I also really welcomed having my body to myself and being able to go back on my psychiatric medication!
That said now that my daughter is 7 years old and my son is 5 years old I wonder if I should have done things differently and tried extended breastfeeding. I can see now so clearly how fast the time goes and how things that seem so overwhelming at the time are just a fleeting moment of motherhood.
But I can’t go back and change anything, I can only share with you how I feel now.
I recently read a short book by Tanja Russita called “And Up To Nine” where she writes about breastfeeding her two children until they self weaned. It is an awesome, very funny and honest book about author’s 9-years-long breastfeeding experience. You can find other formats on Smashwords.
It was a brilliant read that found me nodding my head in understanding at times and laughing out loud at others – from pooping after birth to the well-intentioned advice given by others. This book inspired me to write this post today.
4 Tips For Extended Breastfeeding
Be Prepared For Criticism
If you are going to be breastfeeding your child until self weaning there are going to be comments about it. So be prepared for that. Also keep in mind that no matter what you do as a mother you will probably face judgement anyway.
When I was breastfeeding my son there were many people that were shocked I was still breastfeeding him at a year old and advised that I should stop as soon as possible. Then when I weaned him just as many people told me that I should have let him wean himself. See?
Do What Works For You
Once again you are going to get so much advice thrown at you. There will be the people that advise that you don’t breastfeed past a year, those that advise that you don’t stop breastfeeding until at least 2 years and those that say let your child self wean.
You will get those that advise breastfeeding on demand and others that say you should feed on schedule.
The point here is that you are going to get advise from everyone and everyone. There are only 2 people in this breastfeeding relationship – you and your baby. The only way that there will be more than 2 people in this relationship should be if you are tandem feeding a baby and a toddler or if you are feeding multiples.
So yes listen to suggestions for sure, but use them for inspiration, nothing more. Take what you like and chuck the rest. Figure out what works for you and your baby.
Join A Breastfeeding Group
Getting support from like-minded people is always going to be helpful, especially when it comes to breastfeeding. The fact is that there is a lot of judgement out there, from when to stop breastfeeding to doing it in public and more. Being able to spend some time with other mothers that are also doing extended breastfeeding will provide much needed support.
You can physically meet up with other mothers or you can socialize online if there are no groups near you. I joined the La Leche League group on Facebook and it was fantastic to get advise on whatever I was struggling with and I loved reading all the posts by other breastfeeding mothers.
Remember It’s Not Forever
This is the thing that I can see now. I never even planned on breastfeeding my son past a year – my goal was a year and I went past that. While it seemed like such a long time then looking back it went so fast. My son loved breastfeeding and we would spend so much time cuddled together. Time that I often resented because I was needing to “get things done”. Honestly if I could go back now I would have given him a little bit longer and enjoyed the cuddles more. I can see now that there was nothing more important than spending those precious bonding moments together.