What’s “extended” breastfeeding?

Sometimes I’m a bit hesitant to write about breastfeeding on this blog. I guess I shouldn’t be. Being a working mom living in an urban environment and breastfeeding are some of the reasons I think my “Mommy Blog” and my personal experience is different than so many of the other blogs out there. Many Mommy Blogs, even some of the favorites I follow, are written by moms who stay-at-home during the day. Many of them live in suburban areas with houses and big back yards. Many of them do breastfeed. However, breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding seem to be easier, at least more convenient, when you’re around your little one all day. I come from a different point of view. I work outside of the home and returned to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave. Breastfeeding and exclusively breastfeeding (no formula or any food aside from breastmilk) for the first 6 months were important to me, if possible.

Having said this, I like to think of myself as free from judgment. I know there are lots of superiority complexes out there, especially on the internet, when it comes to parenting. “Mommy wars,” as it’s often called, is a real thing, and much of the debate centers around subjects such as breastfeeding, co-sleeping, crying-it-out etc… It’s hard to be completely free of judgment when you have opinions about these topics. But, I only know what works for me and my family. And that might be very different from what works for you and yours. I try to keep that in mind.

Sure, I am an advocate of breastfeeding. I try to educate people I know about the benefits for both mommy and baby. However, I know breastfeeding is not always as easy as it was for me. And sometimes women aren’t able to nurse for as long as they had hoped, and I know that can cause a lot of mommy guilt. I can see that. Mommy guilt is a real thing. Unfortunately, wanting the best for our kiddos and making that happen is not always easy, so as mommies, we’re often too hard on ourselves (dads too).

I have a friend who didn’t know if she even wanted to breastfeed. She wasn’t breastfed and neither of her sister’s breastfed their children. She just didn’t have any breastfeeding examples in her life. She tried it and breastfed for three whole weeks before throwing in the towel. I was so proud of her! She tried it and her daughter got an unmeasurable amount of nourishment and benefit from those three weeks. That’s a success story in my book.

My hope was to nurse for at least a year, but I set 6 months as a mini-goal. I didn’t know how pumping would go at work, if I would be able to keep up my supply etc… Six months came and went with little to  no problems, so we kept going. Then, a year.

I thought it seemed strange to just stop because some arbitrary date had passed on the calendar. I had made it to one year. Yay! But now what? I’m lucky in that I have a supportive partner. I know that can be one of the most significant barriers to successful breastfeeding. Tim was willing to let me make the call. I got the sense that he didn’t think it was necessary for me to continue breastfeeding, but the more I read and the more I shared with him about the benefits of “extending” past one year, the more he seemed to agree that it was about my relationship with Adelaide and we could just go with the flow and decide on our own.

So here we are. Adelaide is now 19 months. We’re still breastfeeding, although it’s really only twice, maybe three times a day. I nurse her in the morning and when I first get home from work. I would be fine with just in the morning and right before bed, but Adelaide seems to prefer right when I get home from work over right before bed. She does nurse before bed too, but not very much – just a little comfort nursing (the fact that my supply is dwindling and she just nursed an hour and a half earlier are probably contributing factors to why the before bed nursing session is no longer a significant one.)

I thought it was important to nurse Adelaide through the winter. From things I had heard and read, this would be the best way to get through the cold and flu season. Often when kids are sick they get easily dehydrated and nursing is one of the only ways they will accept fluids. I was reminded of the benefits of nursing beyond one year that I wrote about here. Plus, the World Health Organization recommends nursing until age two at the minimum. I just didn’t see any reason to stop if she and I were both happy with the way things were going.

January 15 was my last day of pumping at work. It wasn’t really a conscious decision to stop that day. If it had been, I think I would have posted here – a celebratory blog post patting myself on the back while shouting “Hallelujah!” – instead, it was just that January 16 was a really busy day at work, and I didn’t make time to pump. Then, on the 17th, I just decided not to do it anymore. Adelaide turned 18 months on January 28, so I was planning to stop pumping at work around that time anyway. What a relief! Pumping is just such an annoying hassle. I can hardly believe I did it for as long as I did, but I made it 15 months – first pumping three times a day when I first returned to work, then two times a day since Adelaide was around 6 months (I think) and then once a day since around a year. Not having to worry about cleaning my pumping supplies and packing them every morning has been so nice. Freedom!

Breast milk freezer stash | nextlifechapter.com

This is a shot of my breast milk freezer stash this time last year – four bags full of 2.5oz bottles. When Adelaide was around 12 months, we introduced cow’s milk, and I went down to only pumping once a day at work. The stash became just one bag and we sent a combination of both whole milk and breast milk to daycare. We finished the last of our stash two weeks ago, and I’m sure Tim is grateful for the extra room in the freezer!

It’s been eight weeks since I’ve eliminated pumping at work and things are still going well. I’m sure my supply has decreased and that’s okay. If there’s not much milk to be had, Adelaide will slowly wean herself. And, I feel much more comfortable letting her slowly wean on her own than having to say no and deny her the comfort she has known since only minutes after she was born. Slowly weaning as she moves toward her second birthday feels right to me. And if she’s not quite done by two, I’m actually okay with that.

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