Don’t Be a Weaner: Extended Breastfeeding

I never really decided to breastfeed. I just always knew I would. It makes sense, for a whole variety of reasons.

I also knew I’d stop breastfeeding at one. Maybe not the day that my baby or babies turned one, but that’s when I’d start the weaning process, introduce cow’s milk and get on with my life. Babies don’t “need” breastmilk after one and three year olds nursing was just weird, so of course I’d wean at one. During my one-day breastfeeding class at the hospital I planned on delivering at, the lactation specialist made it very clear that we should not breastfeed past one. The WHO says it’s ideal to breastfeed until two because in most of the world, that’s the best nutrition those children will ever have, according to her. Totally unnecessary and actually quite unacceptable to do here in the land of the free.

Even when I learned more about extended breastfeeding and the benefits to both mom and baby, I didn’t change my mind. When I had preemies I decided I’d nurse them until they were 14 months old, to make up for their prematurity, but that was IT. I thought I would be SICK of being touched, that I would need some space, that I’d be weirded out, that I would be ready for it to be over.

And I’m definitely not ready for it to be over.

In some ways this decision is fear based. I am terrified of flu and RSV season. I am terrified that my children will catch one of these awful diseases and that we will end up in the hospital. I know that no amount of hand sanitizer can stop that and that my only line of defense for them is breastfeeding. So I absolutely will not wean this winter.

They don’t act ready to wean in any way. Cormac still nurses all night and his weight is still very low, so I am hesitant to decrease the amount I feed him. I have thought about offering a sippy of an alternative milk during the day to see if that will help him gain weight, but none of the milk options I have researched has high enough caloric content to justify replacing my own milk. Both babies (toddlers) still nurse 4-5 times per day. Clara drinks water regularly as well, but Cormac just spits his all over the place.

I know that I now face judgment like I have never faced before. I will go from being praised and supported to being in a group that faces the harshest criticism in the parenting world. Honestly, that intimidates me. I don’t want to deal with being called a child molester or any of that garbage that extended breastfeeders get called. I don’t want to have to explain that their immune systems and brains are still developing at a rapid pace and that my species specific milk is the perfect food for them. I don’t want this beautiful relationship and bond that I have with my children to be under the scrutiny of friends, family members and strangers.

I never thought I’d be that nutjob breastfeeding her toddlers, but here I am. I’m still not a weaner.

No Comments

  1. Heather P. -  November 11, 2012 - 9:19 am

    I am beyond infuriated that the therm “child molester” is being used in insulating a extended feeder. That is such a strong term how dare someone say that in this instance! I am just shocked that someone would say such a thing for something so natural. I am in tears!
    That hit a nerve sorry. Jessica I am sure you are a strong woman. You don’t need to explain your reasons for being a wonderful provider for your children!

  2. Laura -  November 11, 2012 - 9:50 am

    It is brave to breastfeed past a year, I’ve gotten comments for going past 6 months. I will be in the same boat in 6 weeks, to wean or not to wean at a year. All of a sudden with winter coming 18 months seems like a nice round number to aim for. Stay strong sister

  3. Melody -  November 11, 2012 - 10:37 am

    I’m with you, Jessica. My twins are 14 months, and I am now planning self-weaning. Both of my girls still nurse 4-5 times a day and often at night. One recently got a stomach virus, and our doc praised me for still breastfeeding–saying it was the best thing I could do for her immune system. I have already heard comments about why am I still BFing.

  4. Kate -  November 11, 2012 - 2:08 pm

    Jessica, you go mama! each mama and baby/toddler have their own specific timeline. do what feels right to you. it is hard being an extended breastfeeder, an our society sure as heck doesn’t help! *a nerve was hit with me as well* my daughter just turned one and, gasp… she is still nursing and double gasp… fall on the floor… she is still exclusively breastfed. we have tried different foods but the only thing she really likes… munching on apples. she still doesn’t “eat” them. do i get glares and glances, heck yes! do people offer their unsolicited opinions? you bet. but i know that for her and me, this is what works for us! she is one of the healthiest, happiest baby’s you will meet [mostly said by the unsolicited advisers, BEFORE they find out her eating habits ;)]

    keep strong mama!

  5. kimberly -  November 12, 2012 - 8:45 am

    My son just hit 16 months and like you I thought okay at 12 months we will just wean and he will go on to normal milk like his brothers did, BAM no big deal! I was WRONG! My older two boys were formula fed so the transition was so easy. Ben has NO interest in anything other than breast milk. he will drink water from a cup but thats it. I have tried all the percentages of milk, I have tried it cold and warm, I have tried almond milk, soy milk and everything in between and he looks at me like im crazy. I was told by my mom and dad that he shouldnt be nursing anymore and that he isnt a baby. But he is still a baby to me and if he wants to keep nursing than so be it! he will wean when he weans and until then I will keep nursing my little big boy 🙂

  6. Amy -  November 12, 2012 - 11:09 am

    I planned on BFing until 6 months… then I thought a year…. he is now 11 months, and going strong. He eats food too, but nothing makes him quite as happy as nursing. And I don’t really want to give up the snuggles. Someone asked me the other day how long I was going to keep nursing, and I thought it was none of her business, so I told her “until he goes away to college.”

  7. Jessica -  November 12, 2012 - 12:40 pm

    You shouldn’t have to explain to people your reasons for extended breastfeeding. That’s what’s so sad about it. People should do their own research and be educated on it before they go judging someone for breastfeeding past a certain age. My sister think I’m nuts for breastfeeding and that I should absolutely not breastfeed past 12 months. I simply told her that I didn’t realize that my child’s nutritional needs magically changed the day she turns a year old! I feel the same way you do though. It really is intimidating knowing that people are judging you. But you know that you are doing what’s best for them and that’s all that matters! Good for you!!

  8. Allison -  November 12, 2012 - 4:28 pm

    From about 2 months I knew I wanted to be a extended breastfeeding mom. My son is coming up to the 6 month mark, so we have a while. I brought this up to my husband and he had no problem with it. He has kids from a previous relationship who were never breastfed so he thinks it’s great and is 100% supportive of my decisions. But outside our family and close friends I get a lot of judgement for still BFing. When he was 4 months someone asked me, and seemed shocked at my answer, if I was still BFing. Why would I not be?? And now people are telling me it’s ok to supplement formula. I understand that it is, but they need to understand that I don’t want to! He likes what he has now and is doing just fine so why change?

    Good for you, Jessica!! I look forward to your updates on nursing toddlers and extended BFing.

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