From the moment I got pregnant, I knew I was going to breastfeed and pump. Breastfeeding in public would never be a big deal because I would always have a bottle on hand. The baby would be weaned right after his first birthday. That was my plan. Well, all that turned into those crazy things that you think before becoming a mom.
Still, I never thought I’d be that mom. The extended breastfeeding mom.
My first son was born the day after a world famous magazine posted an “extreme mom” breastfeeding her 3-year-old toddler, who is standing next to her, while she stands with a hand on her hip. It was titled: “Are You Mom Enough?” It started controversy all around the world. Being a new breastfeeding mom, I was hearing all about the debate. I never imagined that I would be an extreme attachment parent following in the footsteps of that magazine cover.
Being a new mother has its set of breastfeeding battles. Sore nipples, engorged breasts, latch issues, positioning issues, inconsistent sleep. So thinking about breastfeeding a 3-year-old, was the farthest thing from my mind. I just wanted to survive the first week. Eventually, we did make it through. The first month, then three months, and so on.
We were falling in love.
Although I was always confident that I would breastfeed and pushed through the unexpected learning curve, I never expected to love it as much as I did. It bonded baby and me very closely. My husband and family were extremely supportive and constantly making sure that I was well nourished and getting rest. I refer to this time as the honeymoon stage of our breastfeeding journey.
As baby got older, he started achieving new milestones such as crawling and exploring the world. However, he still needed mommy, and we still nursed.
Before I could blink he was walking and it was his first birthday. Which meant our breastfeeding journey was about to end — or was it?
You can guess where this is going. I became ‘that’ mom! I kept breastfeeding my baby.
My gut said that we were not ready to wean.
The first year of motherhood taught me the valuable lesson of trusting your gut. So I began meeting and talking with other moms through La Leche Leauge and local mom groups, who were also going through extended breastfeeding, usually defined by nursing past the first year. Connecting with local women who were on a similar breastfeeding journey not only reassured me that I was making the right decision for my baby and I, but also showed me how normal it really was to breastfeed longer than you initially thought you would be.
I continued researching extended breastfeeding. When I’m passionate about something, I am one of those people whose nerdy side takes over and I have to learn everything I can about my passion.
I learned that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended breastfeeding for at least 12 months and beyond as long as mom and baby want to. I also learned that the World Health Organization recommended breastfeeding for up to 2 years, or beyond. Again, that seemed a bit extreme for me at the time. At this point, I wanted to nurse as long as baby and I were happy.
As my little guy approached his second birthday, I was still ‘that’ mom!
This was the age I was starting to get pressure to wean. It ended up being much harder than expected. I had one of those 2-year-olds that believed he was too old for naps. Nursing him to sleep was my go-to for nap time. Any temper tantrum could be resolved instantly. If he was sick, he would be comforted and relaxed from breastfeeding, not to mention he would recover quickly — thank you antibodies! Breastfeeding still felt right for us.
The sessions were fewer and farther in between, but my toddler showed no interest in weaning, and I did not feel the need to push him to do so. While I know it’s apples to oranges, I always compared it to parents who weren’t ready to take a pacifier away from a 2-year-old. It’s a sense of comfort in a big growing world.
If you are wondering how long I have been this ‘extreme’ mom, I’ll tell you: 6 years!
Yes, I have been breastfeeding nonstop for over 6 years! Don’t worry not all those 6 years are my first baby. My oldest was about 4 years old when he completely gave up breastfeeding. It became a nap and bedtime routine, as well as when he would get sick, which was not often.
About 3 and a half years after my first baby was born, we welcomed our second baby. He of course, also breastfed. There were some very brief moments of tandem nursing. Yet another ‘extreme’ milestone I never intended to hit. It was honestly at that moment I realized I was ‘that’ mom. They say parenthood changes you; you need to be flexible to new ideas that you may have been so turned off by. I was a new mom to two little ones, alone at home when dad returned to work, just like my own mother and I had a lot to adjust to.
I had to take a deep breath and remind myself: it felt right.
As for my oldest, he is now totally weaned (FINALLY!) while his little brother, who is now 2 1/2, is still nursing. Honestly, I’m not sure if he will nurse as long as his older brother did. Again, I felt the same pressure to wean him since he turned 2, just like I did my first, but the sessions are fewer and farther in between for us at this stage.
Mentally, I truly am getting tired that I have been super-breastfeeding-mom nonstop for so long. But I know I’ll miss it.
A part of me cannot wait to achieve that next ‘extreme’ milestone of having a weaning party. In the two years that my oldest has been weaned, I still look at him with fond nursing memories and would never trade that bond. I know if I miss it this much now, I will continue to miss it when he is even older. They are only little once, and I know that he is healthy and confident from having a strong family and nursing bond.
So moms, if you are feeling pushed to wean, know that you are not alone with the back and forth thoughts in your mind. You are not alone and your mom tribe is around you. You do what’s best for you and your children. #SarasotaMomStrong