Tuesday, November 22, 2011

extended breastfeeding the second time around

I have written about 'extended breastfeeding' many times throughout this blog. In reality I think the amount of time I spent feeding North (until he was around 19 months old) was not all that 'extended' compared to a lot of wonderful and dedicated Mothers who feed well into the preschool years and beyond. 

My first post on the subject highlighted the social inconvenience of feeding past the age of one, and sure enough as soon as Indigo began to walk I started to sense, feel and sometimes even hear the Tut Tuts all around me as she pulled at my shirt and signed 'milk' in a public space. 

Indigo is far less discreet than North ever was. When she wants milk she wants it NOW and if she can't have it she'll kick up a real fuss until I think it's really much easier to give her the comfort she needs than to try (and fail) to distract her. The combination of her allergies and eczema are extra motives to continue this nourishing relationship for as long as possible (and don't worry, her diet is my diet, I am aware of the co-relation). 

I've already had three strangers on separate occasions tell me that babies don't need milk after the age of one and that I am 'spoiling her' too much. Doesn't anyone take the World Health Organisations recommendations seriously? How is it that so many Mothers fret about whether to start solids at 4 months or 6 months but when the question is when to wean from breast to formula, 6 months or younger is an accepted norm?

I admit it's not always easy feeding for an extended period, which is why I have such respect and admiration for women who feed for many years. As much as I love and cherish the bond we have I can also feel drained, emotionally and physically depleted and very much tied down to house and home. Sometimes I feel like the only one of my kind. Did you know that the normal thing to do nowadays when your child is between 6 and 15 months is to go away for a weekend with your husband or friends and leave the baby with grandparents or trusted carers? I hate to generalise, but it really feels like everyone I know with a baby has done this. The mere thought baffles my mind. Indigo is 15 months old, has never taken a bottle and has NOT ONCE slept through the night (she wakes up on average twice a night)!! 

And with that admission comes even more judgement. Grandparents bashfully suggest 'sleep school'; well-meaning friends and mothers advise "crying it out"..."just for a few days", even health professionals encourage me not to feed her when she wakes because "she doesn't need the nutrition". 

But I am so much more aware this second time around, how quickly the time will pass and how soon it will be before she is sleeping through the night and these precious moments together will be tucked away into her subconscious. That taste of freedom I hear about and crave will oh so quickly be mine to relish. I'll spend nights away, I'll sleep until noon, I'll stay up late without worrying about when I'll have to rise. And then one day, I'll wake up after a long and restful nights sleep and sigh, "How I long for my dear baby girl to feed and to nourish with love!"


Stephanie G. said...

Each family, each child is different. What works for some may not work for others. I applaud you for sticking to your guns and doing what feels right for you!

eidolons said...

I get strange looks when people discover that I'm still nursing my three year old and my 1.5 year old. I applaud you for doing what you believe is best for you and your daughter despite the nay-sayers.

Mama G said...

Lovely pictures :) I'm still breastfeeding my 3 and 1 year old. When they're at their most annoying, I try to remind myself that one day I'll be looking back and be sad those days are over!

Sarah said...

I love the last picture! So sweet and I know that happy nursing face well! I am still nursing my 2 and a half year old 2nd child and it is so different this time. I have been lucky that I have never, in many years of nursing both my babies and then toddlers, been admonished by strangers, I would find that very hard to deal with. And, I agree with you that this time passes so very quickly, I feel blessed to give them all of myself while I still can! Thanks for posting this!

aluminiumgirl said...

A post so close to my heart at me the moment. My little one is 17-mnths, still breast-fed, and quite demanding when she wants it (hands down my shirt/ up my shirt, squealing...). She has been wakeful and demanding overnight, and EVERYONE has told me to stop breastfeeding her/take a night off/she's too old for it anyway - but I can't. She needs the comfort in it, and I am her Mummy and I want to comfort her. Thanks for posting :)

ruby and levi said...

Thank you for this post. My little man is only 7 months, but he's a very big boy and I already feel people looking a bit sideways at me when I feed him in public. He is also ridiculously reliant on me, and a very unsettled sleeper unless Mummy is within reach. I feel exactly like you - everyone I know seems able to go out for dinner and movies and even weekends while their babies sleep blissfully with someone else caring.

But one day our kids will think we're uncool, and be embarrassed by us when we want a cuddle or a kiss, and I know I'll desperately miss those chubby little arms that only want mummy. So I'm okay with being attached to my boy for now - it goes too quickly!

Erin said...

Great post & one I can surely relate to. I believe in & practice baby-led weaning. My first baby weaned herself at 18 months, my second baby at 2.6 years, and I'm still nursing my now 9 month old. I definitely feel tied to my house & home ... hubby & I never get out alone for more then an hour or two and definitely not at night since none of my babies "slept through the night" until they were much older then "most" babies. Time passes by quickly though and I know I'll look back and miss these special days. And you're right on about the WHO recommendation ... I often remind people of that :)

Jenifir said...

It has been quite a while since these thoughts have been much in my mind as my youngest is coming up on 11! All four of my children nursed past their second birthdays and weaned with only a little encouragement from me. My daughter (no.2) was a very demanding baby with food allergies and side effects from anti-seizure medication and had to share me with her brother who had special needs. I can only say that nursing at the time was an important coping tool for us both and allowed for many positive feelings at a time that was quite difficult. There was definitely negative social feedback at the time but nobody could question our choices now when they meet the kind, thoughtful, competent, independent and confident 18 year old young women she is now. Trust your instincts!

Sandi Ratch said...

Ignore anyone who tells you you "should" be doing something that you know isn't right for you. It's none of their business. I nursed my son until he was 3. That's right 3 YEARS old. He didn't sleep through the night until he was 18 months. That did take a toll on me, but the closeness that we developed and share make up for it and far more. By the time he was 3 I no longer nursed in public, but it was quiet time for him and me and it helped him go to sleep. He still likes to fall asleep with me and he's amost 8 now. And I cherish it.

One pair of Hands said...

Who makes the rules anyway? Nearly 100 years ago, my Nana fed my Mum until she was 19 months old without any criticism that she ever mentioned to me. My grandson decided he'd had enough when he was 11 months old though his big brother had gone until he was nearly two. It is really nobodies business but yours. The pair of you will get it right when the time comes to stop. Be happy.

beth said...

how did you know I needed to read a post like this today? my husband and I were blessed last week with our third little boy. our second co-sleeps and we have no plans on "kicking him out" until he is ready. so, when the fam asks where the baby is sleeping they fall into a very judgemental silence when they hear that BOTH boys sleep with us... and some not so politely tell us we have to move #2 out of our bed now. I responded to one by telling her I'd rather move to Africa where family beds are accepted as the norm than "kick" my middle son out of our bed.
It can be hard making "different" choices, but God bless you for making one and sticking with it!

Bianca said...

I can't get my head around how people can think there is something wrong with it. Its like we're trying to overprotect our babies and children to the extent that we're seeing danger or sexual undertones where there are none, where there is complete innocence. Not really related, but along a similar line, I nearly died on the weekend when my own father looked strangely at my husband who without thought helped my two year old toilet training neice to the bathroom when took his hand and asked for help. Then when I took offense to his reaction and told him to grow up and not be such a prude, my brother (her uncle) said that he wouldn't feel comfortable doing it either due to the political climate, and meanwhile, my completely innocent husband now feels like a pervert. What the hell!? Is it me, or are people going crazy. -In either situation, there is a baby or a todler who is observing peoples reactions to what should be viewed as an innocent act and do you think those reactions start to shape how that baby then feels about the situation and that they're doing something 'naughty' or unnatural?

I think something is lost there for both adult and child and its really sad.

Keep your head up and your boobs out ;)


KarmaSpirit said...

How absolutely beautiful. I can relate to each and every one of your posts, but your posts about extended nursing particularily touch me. My oldest was 4 months old when I became pregnant with my 2nd. I was blessed to be able to continue nursing throughout my pregnancy and am currently tandem nursing my 20 month old and 7 month old. I will never take for granted the special bond we have, or the health benefits that come from nursing. Breastfeeding is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.

Like you, I often feel alone in this journey, as so many (including family) are quick to judge and tell us we are doing something wrong. Then I read something like what you posted today and it reminds me that I'm not alone, and we ARE doing something amazing for our children. I think if more people would slow down and really cherish this time with their children, allowing them to nurse as long as desired, the world would be a healthier and happier place.

Have you ever seen this youtube video on extended nursing? "Ignorance Meets Knowledge"... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdEN8nKWA4E It really touched me.

As always, thank you again for a beautiful post. xo

Amy said...

Another great post :) I don't have children yet but absolutely can't wait to breastfeed for as long as my children choose to.
I love the photos, and what I wanted to comment on was your dress - I have the same one! Great summer colours, which is perfect at the moment.
I love your mothering philosophy, you inspire me xx

MamaNatuurlijk said...

Good for you to follow your heart!

Lot's of people have told me that babies don't need to have so many feedings. Especially when they are past one years old. What a lot of people don't realize is that our babies are made for small amounts of milk at a time. The stomach is small, the milk is easily digestible and they really need to have a lot physical contact to develop the brain (have you read "Why love matters' by Sue Gerhardt). When a baby is born only 20% of the brain is 'developt' (simpy explained), the rest will grow after birth for the first three years, and mainly trough physical contact en communication. That is why babywearing and co-sleeping is so important. Even when a child is one years old this stil is important. Breastfeeding isn't just nutrition, it's love and attachment too. It's just too bad that a lot of people don't know this and aren't used to seeing children being breastfed. That is why I am open about the fact that I breastfed for 3,5 years. If everybody keeps it indoors the taboo wil continu.

By the way, the last 2 years of breastfeeding he only wanted to drink in the morning. This makes it much easier to keep going.

Ps; How great of you to keep breastfeeding even when it means having a special diet. I wish you a beatifull breastfeeding period.

Love MamaNatuurlijk

Nicole said...

Lovely post about a very special journey...the ups and downs and your views on public perception towards extended breastfeeding. I wish it were more accepted/respected.

PS. I am also baffled by parents who are happy to leave their babies when they're so little!

Chicane Champagne said...

26 months and still going strong too! Yay!

Julie said...

There are so........ many benefits to breastfeeding. I fed my first until he weaned himself when I was pregnant with my second baby.( two years plus) I fed my second until I encouraged him to wean when he turned three. I was really tired and thought it must have been the broken nights sleep and breastfeeding. I then found out I was anaemic. Wish I had this checked before weaning. I really missed breastfeeding for a while, but now after 8 years I have adjusted (LOL). I encourage all women to be strong and to breastfeed for as long as you and your baby/child want to. There are so.... many health benefits. Happy breastfeeding. xxoo

Anonymous said...

Hurray for you. You wrote perfectly many of my thoughts. I have been asked whether I am "still doing 'it' for me or for her" along with the "I am spoiling her" and "she is too old now" , and "she doesn't need it" comments from many people, friends family and even my doctor.

Now, after my third child...I think bugger it. I am the Mum and I will do what I think is right for my children.

Anyone who comments really does not have the right to. They really shouldn't be judging me as I do not judge them for their choices.

My cildren didn't have a bottle and certainly didn't sleep through the night easily. We too are currently waking two to four times a night and (gasp) we even co-sleep.

Our last child can be quite the challenge to feed...with the stand up lay down gymnastics and the on and off stretch the nipple approach. BUT... I enjoy the extra cuddles and bonding. As well as the knowledge that I am still providing for her...weather it is for comfort or nourishment. I still think it is important.

I say give yourself a pat on the back!!!!!

Anonymous said...

P.S Is it just me, or does tbe last picture perfectly explain what a fantastic job you are doing. It looks to me like Indigo is enjoying her breastfeeding experience. Why on earth would you be criticised for that is beyond me. Priceless!!!

ecoMILF said...

Thank you everyone for these amazing comments. So nice to hear from other Mums who are going through something similar or those that simply wanted to express their support of extended feeding.

Beth and Aluminium Girl good luck with it all and I love what Bianca said' Head Up and Boobs Out!

KarmaSpirit I love that video!! So empowering!

Amy- I got the dress at an Op Shop- how funny. I do love the colours

Bianca- couldn't agree more- that poor child is going to given so many complexes. That's one thing I am learning as a parent- what you do and say is what you project even if you're not using the 'words' in front of the child. I try really hard to let go of past baggage and to give my children as much of a clean slate as I can.

xx m.

LashyLashla said...

i hold my head up high, care not ehat others think. im giving my kids what i consider to be the best start in life. I am teaching them about emotional security with every feed. I care not about the sleepless nights. My soon to be 3 year old has NEVER wokn to find himself looked after by someone other than one of his parents. Go with your heart, breathe deep and provide the nourishment your babies require

LashyLashla said...

i hold my head up high, care not ehat others think. im giving my kids what i consider to be the best start in life. I am teaching them about emotional security with every feed. I care not about the sleepless nights. My soon to be 3 year old has NEVER wokn to find himself looked after by someone other than one of his parents. Go with your heart, breathe deep and provide the nourishment your babies require

Tania said...

Be proud of the wonderful job you are doing of caring and nourishing your little girl. I feel that breastfeeding is like a gift of health to your baby and it makes sense that the longer your baby has it, the better the effect. Yes, we are in the minority, but babies are little such a short time in the scheme of things. Weekends away can wait (still has not happened in all my 9 years of child rearing!) as can uninterrupted nights. I fed my my first two for about 18 months and as for my third, I want to try for at least two years. It is a precious time for you and your baby that passes all too quickly.

Kory said...

Bravo to you!

I can really relate to feeling alone in the ways you're parenting, I've heard all those comments too. I do my best to trust my instincts as a parent and let everyone else's opinions fall to the wayside. Seems you do too, and really, isn't that the best we can do?

P.S. I absolutely adore the last picture, what a sweet moment!

Rhiannon said...

Just getting around to reading this post meagan. I think it is lovely. I understand how demanding it must be phyically on your body, but when we have another child, I too hope I can breastfeed with such comfort. I really struggled with breastfeeding first time round, and while we made it to 8 months, I would have loved to feed longer.
I would love to know your hubby's thoughts and extended BFing (presuming you guys are on the same page, but you never know!)
And slightly off topic, have you taught Indi to sign as well? Do you find her speech development different from norths (I have heard girls are often little chatterboxes much earlier and find this with my mothers group).
Rhi xx

Emily said...

:) Thankyou for this post and this whole blog which I have just discovered.

I was told recently babies don't need breastmilk after 6 months - that there is no nutritional value and it's only for the mothers enjoyment. Grrr. I am happily still breastfeeding my 15.5 month old son, and will continue to do so for now. I can't imagine how I would calm him if I weren't breastfeeding. And he also has allergies. But why should I justify why I am breastfeeding to anyone? I am just doing what is NORMAL!

Look forward to exploring your blog more :)

Anonymous said...

I'm still nursing my 23 month old and this is great to hear :) I've met a couple moms at LLL who are nursing toddlers but its rare. I don't plan on even doing the "don't ask, don't refuse" idea for a while.. no weaning of any kind in sight.

Rachel said...

This is exactly how I feel! My husband and I couldn't dream of going away (we haven't even been on a date since Lillian was born) without our children at this point still. Lillian is 21 months old and I'm still breastfeeding her on demand and cosleeping. I'm also currently 14 weeks pregnant with baby number two, and I see tandem nursing in my future!

Happy Whimsical Hearts said...

Beautiful and truthful post. My daughter is 21 months and breastfeeding. I feel good about it and that is it right, but I am also getting some comments and looks {mostly from my mother and mother-in-law!} You are right that this time goes so quickly, and how adorable they are as they look up to us as they cuddle in close for their milk :-) Loving your blog by the way

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