For the Love of Boob

September 27, 2011

Consider this my coming out of the closet post. No need to jump to any conclusions here, people… I’m not a lesbian. I’m coming out of the closet that I know so many women hide in. The extended nursing closet.

You see, breastfeeding a newborn is a beautiful, natural experience which is highly recommended to all new mothers. We are repeatedly told “breast is best” and the attachment formed between mother and her breastfed baby are stronger than you can ever imagine. So much so, in fact, that those who choose to (or must resort to) formula feed a newborn can feel ostracized in our society. But something happens along the way where it all the sudden becomes taboo to breastfeed. When in the nursing relationship does this occur?

When my son was born, my goal was to breastfeed for 3 months. I was told by several people that I would never make it that long, and I believed them. The first 3 months are by far the hardest. It is time consuming, demanding, uncomfortable, and emotionally draining at first. I began to doubt any special attachment was forming. I didn’t feel like I was bonding with my baby any more so than when I would feed him a bottle of pumped milk. I had doubts we would ever make it. As my deadline approached, I noticed that I was getting the hang of it, and so was my baby. My milk supply started to even out and I wasn’t having nearly as much difficulty.

I figured since it was getting easier, I would extend my goal to be 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. The next three months made a world of difference in our nursing relationship. I was pumping less frequently and feeding on demand. This helped my milk supply stabilize so I wasn’t becoming uncomfortably engorged anymore. I stopped obsessively watching the clock to make sure the baby was being fed every 2-3 hours and started listening to my baby’s cues on when to feed. My son was becoming stronger and was able to support his own weight better, so my arms weren’t becoming so tired from holding him up all the time. Overall, it was becoming a much more delightful experience. I only ever received positive feedback from bystanders about breastfeeding.

Then, the 6-month mark hit. People started asking me when I would start weaning. I was constantly given suggestions on how to introduce formula into his diet. If I would just give him some cereal before bed, he wouldn’t wake up so often… It didn’t feel right to me. Our nursing relationship had improved so much, that I felt there was no reason to stop it now. I moved my deadline to breastfeed until at least 12-months-old.

Those 6 months were great. I was starting to feel that special bonding I thought I was missing in the beginning. There is something special about a nursing baby looking into your eyes and seeing the gratitude and appreciation beaming from their tiny little face. If you stop nursing before a baby really develops controlled facial expressions, you never experience that.

As the 12-month mark approached, the weaning “suggestions” became stronger and stronger. Maybe it’s because I know what I used to think before I had my son, that I “heard” these suggestions so strongly. If a child is old enough to drink cow’s milk, he doesn’t need mama’s milk… If a child is old enough to ask for it, he’s too old for it… Your baby will sleep through the night if you stop nursing… Cow’s milk is more nutritious than breast milk… 

None of that is true, by the way, but it is the way our society thinks. My son was not sleeping through the night at 12-months-old, so it was tempting to try weaning just to get him to sleep. Again, I listened to my intuition and kept nursing him when he needed it. (He did start sleeping through the night, all on his own, around 15-months, by the way). He is now 19.5-months-old and still nursing when he needs to. Most of the time it is only before he sleeps (naps and night time) and in the morning. But, from time to time he asks to nurse during the day too. When he does, it is only for a few seconds, but I figure there is something causing him to feel uneasy and nursing just reassures him his mommy is there for him.

I still get comments from time to time about weaning him. But, as my dad said to me the other day, “I’d tell you that it may be time to cut him off from [breast milk], but I know you well enough to know that you are going to do as you damn well please.” Well said, Dad, well said.

I never, in a million years, would have thought that I would be nursing a toddler. In fact, I am pretty sure I would have thought it was gross or sick before. But, as with many things in life, we often shut out the ideas which we do not understand. And extended nursing, my friends, is something you will never be able to understand unless you have made it to that point.

So there I am… out of the closet. Don’t ask me when I am going to wean, because I don’t know. I suppose I will keep nursing him as long as he needs it, or until it becomes uncomfortable for me to continue.

As an ending note: My examples given as to the negative feedback I have heard about extended nursing (as seen above) are simply not true. If a child is old enough to ask for it, he is too old for it… Babies, from day one “ask” to be fed. Just because they become more proficient in communicating their needs does not mean those needs disappear. A child will sleep through the night if you stop breast feeding…  I can’t say for certain, because I didn’t try it, but I have heard from others who did, that weaning their child did not make them sleep through the night, it just eliminated an easy way to get them back to sleep. Cow’s milk is more nutritious than breast milk… not true… Cow’s milk is formulated for baby cows. Breast milk is formulated for baby humans. I trust God knows what he’s doing.

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15 Responses to “For the Love of Boob”

  1. Mom Says:

    You are so lucky that you have the opportunity to stay at home and do this for him!! A truly dedicated mom. I love your last sentence.

  2. Another Extended Breastfeeding Mom Says:

    My daughter was sleeping through the night at 3 weeks, and she was exclisively breastfed. She’s not almost 18 months, and nurses usually 3 times a day, but the past few days she’s been asking a lot more. I LOVE nursing my daughter, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. You’re doing the best for your little one. Keep up the good work.

  3. AJ Says:

    I enjoyed reading this so much! I loved your description of the experience…sounds just like my mom, hehe :) Keep up the good work, and way to go!!! So proud of you for listening to your intuition and not caring what others say. You have to do what is best for your baby and that is all that matters-keep it up!!!

  4. Anna Kudak Says:

    I totally identified with this post! Happy Coming Out! I’m still shy about it, but I’m working on it. I need to stop caring about judgment, right?

  5. AJ Says:

    And by the way…The Sanford Foundation votes you mother of the year hehehehe!!

  6. EmilyM Says:

    Mother of the Year from The Sanford Foundation?! That is a pretty prestigious award with a lot of competition! I’m honored. Will there be a formal award ceremony? :)

    Anna- It’s tough… As someone who gives way too much thought into what others think, I know how hard it is to hear what others say. I say follow your inner voice, not the voice of others.

  7. Theresa Says:

    Great post – Same with me, not planned, that’s just how life has progressed. I really thank the parent/baby educators at our hospital for instilling the confidence in parents to do what is right for them and their babies. As well as providing guidance through this journey, which is against the norm in the US.

    We are still working on the sleeping through the night though! As they said in parent/baby class, you still have to “parent” through the night whether they are nursing or not. I’m happy that (most of the time) nursing makes it quick to get her back to sleep.

    I can really tell if E is overwhelmed with a situation, she really insists on “momma milk”. And it was great to know she wouldn’t get dehydrated when she got the stomach flu – we just fell back to all nursing to get her through.

    I have no clue when it will end… when the time is right for both of us I guess.

  8. Emms Says:

    This is beautiful!!

    We are also still nursing, she is only 14 months, but there’s no plan to stop at this point in time.

  9. Rachael Says:

    I love it.

    I’m still going strong with my 22 month old 2-3 times a day and you are so right that as they get older they can show us just how much they appreciate what we are doing for them.

    LO knows that when we are out she has to ask (and respect if I say no) so not many people know I’m still feeding but those that do have been pretty supportive. My family think it’s great my 10 yr old brother always tells me when LO is crying “just give her some milk that will make her stop” hee hee

    I never planed how long to nurse for and I have no idea when we’ll stop I’m guessing when the time is right.

  10. Fathima Says:

    I love this post! I nursed my daughter for 19 months and nursing my son now hwo is 15 months. Its wonderful. I do it in the mall or anywhere I have to as long as I am decently covered. so thumbs up! I will do it as long as I can until he turn two!

  11. Gail Says:

    The decision to stop does not fit all. I agree that the bonding gets stronger when you nurse longer. Craig was 22 months.

  12. Kristina Says:

    I am only seven months in, but have had many people my daughters ped included, try to get me to supplement and/or wean. I have PCOS and it is assumed that my supply is low. I on the other hand do not feel it is, I hear her swallowing and gulping like never before! I have thought about giving in to the temptation to wean, even tried for two days, but something felt just wrong and neither of us were very happy. Back to the boob she went and I am so proud to say that she has had no formula in 72 hours and that from now on I will follow my heart and her needs and I hope to say that we are still nursing in 7 months from now. Thank you for the inspiration to continue nursing!!

  13. AH Says:

    I don’t usually comment. I’ve read several of your other posts and enjoyed them. But this one, I had to comment on.

    I appreciate your thoughts. I’m 9.5 months in with my baby girl. I had some of the same thoughts beforehand. I’ve been thinking about them more and more lately as I approach my goal of one year.

    Can I offer my thoughts on the “when they’re old enough to ask for it” bit? I think this is so strongly entrenched in our minds because our culture associates the two cute containers with adult pleasure. There is some sort of thought that an older baby who can ask to nurse is intruding on an area reserved for adults. (Can you tell I’m typing at work, on my pumping break, and trying to avoid red-flagging my IT folks. Ha!)

    I have to say that I look forward to no longer pumping at work, but I will likely continue to nurse when we’re together, at least for awhile. I don’t know when we’ll stop for sure, but I’m hoping to let her make that decision.

    Thank you for your thoughtful posts.

  14. […] I have mentioned before, I nurse my son. As his second birthday comes closer, I know the end of that relationship is very […]

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