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!"