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.