Thoughts on Weaning and Extended Breastfeeding

Ever since Jasper’s first birthday people keep asking me how long I plan on continuing to breastfeed. There is a little bit of an accusation in their tone, like what they really mean is “it’s getting weird that you are still nursing that baby!”

I have to admit that I have in the past given women nursing “older” babies the side eye (though by older I mean 2-3 years) before having Jasper so I understand the cultural bias, but it irks me still the same.

People very close to me including people who have Jasper’s best interests at heart, educated well meaning people that SHOULD know better have confessed to thinking it’s “creepy” that he now asks for it (in his own way which is by pulling down my shirt and saying “Nuh Nuh Nuh,” his word for milk for some reason.)

I wasn’t prepared for the defensiveness and well, defiance that I would have to this judgemental crap.  I mean I GET it, but the logical part of my brain won’t let me give in as long as I and my body still have some fight left in us  – which may not be much longer.

I just don’t understand why I should feed my baby cow’s milk when a) he doesn’t like it b) I can still provide him with all of the nutritional and immunological benefits of breast milk c) Jasper doesn’t want to stop nursing yet

This has all been on my mind a lot lately because since Friday night my boobs have been on a mini strike. I was unable to let down even WITH the oxytocin spray and continued to have issues throughout the weekend with let down not occurring.

I finally decided to cut out the afternoon session figuring it would ramp up my supply and ability to nurse Jasper before bed –  so that would mean nursing him at waking up, at lunch and before bed (and still once at 5am – yeah, I know). But yesterday when I got to daycare to nurse him at lunch I had nothing. And he wanted it so badly it broke my heart. Then at bedtime it took almost 20 minutes to finally achieve a let down – even after going a whole day without expressing any milk I still barely could produce.

I have no idea what is causing this sudden cessation of milk supply and I’m not inclined to fight it too much because maybe it’s just my body’s way of saying “it’s time.”

But I’ll be damned if anyone else is going to dictate to me when that time is.

You can all go examine what exactly it is about providing RECOMMENDED and optimal nutrition for my baby that bothers you and go to hell. Yeah, that’s right, I said it… my boobs, my body, my baby.

Who knew I’d become such a lactavist?

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Heather says:

I know this is an old post, but I just wanted to say that it really spoke to me. I am breastfeeding my 8 month old daughter and dont plan to stop until we both decide. I love breastfeeding and even though I am only on my first child, I am already dreading when I am done breastfeeding all my babes. Goog job for sticking with your mommy instinct

Why I am up reading posts tagged with breastfeeding on your blog instead of packing for Imaging or sleeping is beyond me, but since I’m here, just want to give you a big thumbs up! Xander is 20 months now and I just recently stopped breastfeeding. I loved everything about it.

Wendy says:

Mrs. Brown is very right about needing to express to get things going. Your milk will dry up if you aren’t nursing or expressing a few times a day.

Wendy says:

I breastfed my first baby until she was 18 months old, weaning her just 6 weeks before delivering my second baby.

In European countries, people are much more comfortable with breastfeeding toddlers and breastfeeding in public. People in the US feel it’s creepy because our culture over sexualizes breasts and has forgotten their main purpose.

Breastfeed as long as you like. It’s good for your child. Boobs have a purpose beyond pleasing men.

Besma says:

Hey, I just stumbled upon your blog as I was googling ‘switching from breastmilk to cow’s milk’. I’d like to tell you that I breastfed my son for 2 years. I never thought at any point that it was getting too weird as he was growing older and larger. He’s 5 now and we have a great bond that I owe to breastfeeding. You see during the first year your baby really needs your milk for development. But during the second year, I believe, we continue the breastfeeding for the bond. When your baby is one year old he is completely aware of your body and specifically your breasts. He understands that the warm, sweet, comforting milk is coming from your insides. And he can only get that milk if his mouth comes in close contact with your soft breasts. And he knows that only you can give him this comfort. This is a very intimate act that he will forever ‘remember’ in his subconscious. I can’t imagine the same experience can be replicated with a hard bottle, a latex nipple, and milk that came from a cow. Honestly, I think that mother who do try discourage you from nursing are just feeling guilty for not attempting to feed their babies. But hey, you have fed your baby for over year.. and that’s great. So if your body has stopped producing milk, then maybe it needs to take a break. So don’t be too harsh on yourself and listen to your body. By the way, did you abrubtly stop producing milk? As in did you wake up one morning and found your breasts dry of milk?

Mrs Brown says:

Umm… neither exactly.

http://parenting.ivillage.com/newborn/nbreastfeed/0,,42sn,00.html

or

http://breastfeeding.about.com/od/breastmilkpumpingcare/ht/handexpress.htm

If you are just squeezing, it doesn’t work worth poop. Also, using a little (very little) lanolin helps your fingers move without causing skin irritation. My lactation consultant helped me get this to work.

ariana says:

Mrs Brown, do you mean pumping first or just “squeezing”?

Mrs Brown says:

Sorry I’m late in responding. I’m not even sure if you are still checking the comments. I had problems with let down and had to express a little milk to get going before latching my DD. I don’t know if you have tried that, but it made a big difference for me. DD just turned a year and I’m still aiming for two.

mandoo says:

I’m a few days (weeks?) late here, but I wanted to chime in and say: don’t wean until YOU and JASPER are ready to wean.

DS is five months old and we weaned two weeks ago. A combination of: moving to a new house, the end of maternity leave, DS catching the flu, DS getting some kind of bacterial infection (don’t ask!), and me basically being too exhausted to pump during the day at work and/or at home in the mornings or after DS went to bed. Our situation was different, of course, as our little guy was already getting 1-2 bottles of formula a day and had just started eating rice cereal, but still… there’s a piece of my heart that died when we stopped breastfeeding and I’m still full of regret.

So until YOU and JASPER are ready: your body, your boobs, your baby = your decision.

Bev Baker says:

My “babies” are now adults(I have 3 grandchildren) but I breastfed all 4 of my sons(twins my 3rd pregnancy). My first son forced me to give up the breast around 6-7 mos because he was biting me and he lost interest. He went straight to the cup. My second son breastfed until he was 2.5 yrs. He only nursed once or twice a day from the age of 2. He gave it up when he was ready.My husband thought it unusual, but I just handed him my breastfeeding books. I nursed my twins for the first 4 months and slowly stopped because their nursing times were increasing and I was nursing 24/7 and exhausted (expressing milk was so helpful). All of this to say that each situation is different and you only need to do what is right for you and your baby. No need to apologize to anyone for doing what you feel is best – it is your decision. Take care and keep up the great work!

Trinny says:

Wow what a great discussion – I feel privileged to have stumbled accross it. I expect some readers will cringe when I say I am still feeding my little girl who is 2 and 4 months. Like many on here, whilst I was pregnant I had in mind a certain time I would feed for (9 months, which I felt seemed like an eternity and that was only because my sister had gone for that long with my nephew) but once you have the baby you quickly realise how they rarely if ever fit into what you have planned for them! I will let her decide when she wants to stop. I have no doubt that it has been allowed to continue because I have not yet returned to work and she has never attended daycare. She will when she is 3 and if she gradually stops needing it then, then so be it.

Whilst I understand that people have differing opinions on this I don’t agree that feeding beyond 2 is wrong and I detest this attitude that helps create the feeling that women who feed even beyond a year are somehow using the relationship to satisfy their own needs rather than their child’s. Milk teeth are so called because they are lost at around the same time that breastfeeding is supposed to stop (5-7yrs). Whilst it would seem absurd for a 7 yr old to still be feeding I think there is no harm in feeding to between 4 and 5. Of course discretion in public is advisable. Many people with children the same age as my daughter comment about how much more advanced she is intellectually and emotionally. I have no doubt that this is thanks at least in part to extended breastfeeding.

Keep up the good work and, as with bullying in general, you’ll probably find that those who comment negatively on what you’re doing are jealous and/or guilty that they didn’t/couldn’t do the same.

Rachel says:

I’ve been lurking for a while and I love your photography. I really like this post and I am SO impressed with what you’ve done to breastfeed your little guy. I just finished reading the responses to your post and it’s nice to see that you’re willing to write back and respond to people (to Kate, I am glad that you’re aware that your parenting ideas may change with a baby in hand, but FYI there is absolutely NO way you can pump for 6 months and maintain your supply without any drugs. The baby is always more efficient than the pump, and truly how can a mechanical device designed to get milk out of cows be more ‘natural’/normal/better for your baby than the breast? Not that I have anything against pumping – I’ve been doing it 3 times a day for 10 months as of yesterday)

My daughter turned 11 months old today and I’m struggling with the idea of dropping from pumping 3 times a day to twice a day (I work) when she gets to a year and supplementing a bit. I would happily breastfeed her until she was at least 3 if it were possible (I have 2 good friends who are breastfeeding 3-year-olds and a very normal friend who remembers being weaned in order to start kindergarten so I have plenty of support) but unfortunately we are facing a lot of pressure to start fertility treatments again soon and none of the clinics I’ve called will treat me until she’s been weaned for at least a couple of months.

I truly cherish the time we spend breastfeeding and since we are -always- on the go nothing could be easier when we’re out and about. It sounds like you are quite committed to continuing breastfeeding and I think that’s wonderful. I don’t know much about supply issues (being mostly an oversupply type of girl at the beginning) but I just wanted to add that even if your supply drops I wouldn’t force weaning if breastfeeding is still working as a tool to spend time with your son and to calm him when he is upset. I have friends who have tandem nursed through pregnancies and admitted that they basically had almost no milk by the 3rd trimester but still breastfed their children because of the bonding/comforting aspects.

Rachel says:

oops I meant I thought it was weird to nurse TO 12 months.

Rachel says:

I hear you! I also thought it was weird to nurse even passed 12 months!

now just one week from 12 month we are no where near stopping. I still have an incredible supply and Brighton loves it! So do I. He doesn’t even like to cuddle! How else will I get him to lay with me so sweetly?!

So I too plan on nursing for a while longer. I have no plans of when that will be, I’m just going with the flow!

Good for you :)

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