Monday, February 10, 2014

Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy - The One Year Mark

As some of you may have seen, Little Lady turned one year old a few weeks ago.

{You can find her birthday smash cupcake photos and one year photo slideshow at those links if you're interested!}

But outside of the fun of first birthday photos and party, there's one more thing you're likely to encounter around your child's first birthday if you're a breastfeeding mom:

The unfortunate inevitable societal pressure to wean.

I don't know what it is about hitting the one year mark, but if you're still breastfeeding you are really likely in my experience to hit much greater resistance.  Now, I know that before one year - most breastfeeding moms unfortunately typically encounter some form of resistance or judgment.  But - for me - it seemed the most heightened after the one year mark.

Blurry, low-light, toddler nursing - with a toy in hand!

For whatever reason once that one year mark hits - sometimes friends, family, co-workers, or even bosses seem to think that your breastfeeding relationship should be ending.  I've spoken with many people who assume that once my children are one year old I'd no longer be nursing, I would no longer need accommodations to pump, and that our babies were no longer babies and would be promptly transitioned to cow's milk like an older child or adult.

If you've read the research, it is fantastically obvious why continuing to breastfeed after one year old is a huge benefit to both your baby {and yes - I said baby - as in my mind they still are!} and your own body as a mother.  Breastfeeding is shown to decrease amount and duration of illness, increase cognitive development, and increase social and mental development in toddlers.  But the benefits don't stop there, as breastfeeding mothers can continue to see positives such as decreased rate of certain types of cancers, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and even types of diabetes.

With Little Man, I definitely felt the societal pressure.  I stopped nursing outside of the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, mainly because those were the two times of day when I wouldn't have to ever pump for and no one would ever know we were still nursing.  When I became pregnant with Little Lady, I began to nurse Little Man during my days off and on weekends as well.  He self-weaned in the middle of Little Lady's pregnancy due to my supply being reduced to almost nothing - but if he had kept on nursing, I likely would have tandem nursed both babies at the same time.  During the end of our breastfeeding relationship, however, it was mainly in private.  Before bedtime to nurse to sleep, first thing in the day prior to leaving the house, or a random nurse before a nap here or there.

It just seemed like and felt like at that point {between 1-1.5 years old} that others thought what we were doing was "wrong" or "coddling our children" or "not allowing them to grow up".  Now that I think about that time, it was so completely silly of myself to let anyone else's views have any effect on my relationship with my children - especially where or when I chose to feed them.

After Little Lady was born, Little Man began to ask for milk when I pumped every day.  Due to having a significant oversupply, I often had {and still have} plenty of extra milk to go around, and for a while Little Man was drinking one cup of expressed milk per day.  Currently every so often {especially during cold and flu season} he will still have a cup of expressed milk when he asks.  I just keep reminding myself that I'm keeping him healthy, helping him develop, and building his brain in the best way my body knows how.

As for Little Lady?  Well, I have no end to her nursing in sight.  At this juncture of one year, we're continuing to nurse just as many times per day as she needs {which tends to be between 5-8 times a day lately on her lead}.  I'm continuing to pump as such at work to maintain my supply.  And until she self-weans, we'll keep on in this pattern together.

How long did you breastfeed/will you breastfeed your child or children?  Did you feel pressure continuing to nurse after one year?

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  1. Ahh, yes. My little girl is 15 months and we are still breastfeeding. Her brother is due next month, and as soon as I got pregnant everyone asked when we were going to wean. I just don't understand why it's anyone's business. Thinking about it just infuriates me sometimes. Why should being pregnant mean that I have to give up giving extra nutrients to my child? I'm not one of those super gung hoe breastfeeding mothers either, but my daughter was six months old when we got pregnant and exclusively breastfed. It really upset me to have so many people ask (as soon as I told them I was pregnant!) when we were weaning.

    Welp, here I am 8 months pregnant and still breastfeeding my older baby. I love having the time to calm down before naps and I love the bonding while she wakes up in the morning. I feel so blessed that she hasn't decided to wean yet. I can't wait to tandem nurse.

    Thanks for posting! :)

  2. Great post!

    My daughter is 18 months now and still nursing very well with no signs of stopping. We also currently found out we are expecting our second child, some people were curious as to how I would continue but my parents and friends are great supporters of breastfeeding so, aside from the awkward look from strangers occasionally, no one bothers me about weaning. I am really hoping to tandem nurse if my daughter does not self-wean!

  3. Thank you for writing this! I am tandem nursing my 26 month old and my 2 month old. I thought my older baby would self wean during my pregnancy.. But that didn't happen. Were pretty private about it, I don't feel like dealing with people's reactions to nursing a two year old. I still plan on letting her self wean when she's ready to :)

  4. Way to go! We went for 21 mths before my son weaned, but I don't remember anyone commenting much mainly I think b/c I made it pretty clear that I wasn't shopping for opinions and I could cite a million reasons why it was beneficial. I think it would have been quite hard having to deal with constant criticism, so I hope you avoid that this time around!!!

  5. With my DS#1 I nursed him until 22 months. Some people would say things but I would just ignore them. It isn't their business to how long I nurse my kid. With DS#2 I plan to nurse until he is 2 and we will see where it goes from there.

  6. Mine both self-weaned just shy of a year and a half and I soooo felt they were still babies. You don't really realize how little a one year old is until you have one. Hoping 3.0 will nurse even longer!

  7. I appreciated this! As I am approaching 1 yr with my little girl so many are asking when I am weaning if I am excited to be done at a year(assuming I am stopping) When I don't have any intentions of stopping at 1. I was beginning to have weird feelings of shy-nish and shame.. when I shouldn't be! This past week I decided I was going to be confident in my decision to continue. I appreciate your post!!

  8. Thank you ladies for all your kind words, and that's fantastic how many of you all are able to continue nursing your babies, too! And I so wish we could have tandem nursed... maybe with our next baby! :)


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