For many moms, choosing to breastfeed your baby seems easy. But that choice is just the beginning. Even if breastfeeding goes well, you have to decide if and when you will introduce a bottle, supplement with formula, pump at work, and eventually wean your baby. While it's largely the norm to breastfeed for a year or less, some breastfeeding parents decide to nurse their kids well past their first birthday and for a variety of reasons. And when Romper asked moms to explain why they extended breastfed, they each had a different story of how and why they made that choice.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents breastfeed their babies exclusively until they are about 6 months old and start eating solid food, and to continue breastfeeding as long as it works for all parties involved. But how long is that, really? It varies from parent to parent, to be sure, but for many moms that means not weaning until well after their baby's first birthdays. I know moms who chose to keep nursing simply because extended breastfeeding was convenient, comforting, and a great way to snuggle, while others felt strongly about breastfeeding as long as possible for personal or health reasons. And, not surprisingly, some moms didn't plan to extended breastfeed at all, but ended up doing it out of necessity.
I ended up weaning each of my kids at different ages and for different reasons. Like so many parts of parenting, extended breastfeeding is not only a personal choice, but something totally different for you, your family, and for different children. For more from moms on why they extended breastfed, read on:
"I nursed my first until 25 months. My goal had always been two [years], and we both loved it. It just made sense for us, and it really helped her during my second pregnancy when I was too sick to do most things. Her 'nanis' were her constant."
"I'm allowing my child to self-wean. She will be my only child. I see no reason to force her to wean. I may change my mind, but I'm nearly 16 months in and I enjoy nursing.
"I breastfed all of mine until they were at least 2 and the youngest until she was nearly 3. Until we reached a natural end, I had work commitments, was pregnant again, and it just wasn't working. I was incredibly lucky that breastfeeding was a pretty easy experience for me and [my children] enjoyed it. It was never a major choice or decision. By the time I finished with my third we just used to jokingly call it 'boob yoga' because she'd climb around all over the place while feeding."
"Because it felt good to comfort both of my children in that way. It especially helped with toddler tantrums, cooling down, and feeling connected."
"I nursed my first until he was 20.5 months, because I thought nursing was what made me a good mother. I wasn’t able to exclusively due to insufficient glandular tissue, so I thought nursing him longer would somehow benefit him, since I failed him as a small infant. Now I have my second who is almost weaned at 11 months and I can’t explain the relief I have that I will have my body back after over four years of either being pregnant or breastfeeding."
"We nursed until my daughter was 2.5, mostly because I didn't have the energy to fight my strong-willed girl on the issue, but also because it was quality cuddling time and I didn't see any good reasons not to. When I started a new medication that was contraindicated, we stopped cold-turkey."
"I am nursing my 19-month-old with no end in sight. He's been sick with lots of different things, and nursing is a major comfort during his illnesses. Also, I don't have it in me to fight him off of the breast. He loves nursing and I like the trick that always works."
"Because the only real way I know to fix a baby or toddler’s problem is by whipping out a boob. I’m too lazy to try nap time or bedtime without it."
"It wasn’t on purpose. One twin weaned himself and the other one didn’t. I assumed she would eventually and waited it out. It was lovely and exhausting."
"I breastfed my first baby 17 months, and had to quit because it hurt like hell when I got pregnant. My second baby fed for 27 months, and my third until she was just shy of 3. I wanted to do it. I did it until I couldn't stand it anymore and when I had that feeling I knew I needed to quit for our relationship and for my mental health. I loved breastfeeding a toddler though. The awareness they have of what they're doing is kind of unique and incredible. I enjoyed it, and they obviously did too, but I had familial support and wasn't working outside the home."
"I breastfed my first until he was about 2.5, and my second until she was 15 months and had to stop because I got pregnant and had terrible nursing aversions. I am still breastfeeding my third and plan to until she decides to stop. I am terrible with bottles and couldn’t handle cleaning them or keeping track of parts. I also don’t want to have to figure out another way to quickly calm a baby down or put them to sleep."
"It was a wonderful bonding thing and quiet time with her every evening. To be honest, it helped me decompress after work and at bedtime, too, and was quiet time for me. She was a sleep boob addict for a while."
"Because I don’t know how else to effectively comfort them when they get hurt, are tired, don’t feel good, or are overwhelmed. It’s basically all I have in my parenting toolbox."
"I never intended to extended breastfeed. It just sort of happened. My baby turned 1, and he still looked so much like a little squisher. He turned 2 and clearly adored nursing, and it was the only time he stopped being so 'busy' to snuggle up with me. He turned 3 and whenever he got hurt or very upset, he'd say, 'Mama, melk pease? Melk feel me better?' My heart would melt. I didn't think I'd be comfortable breastfeeding a kindergartner, so we began to slowly wean. He nursed for the last time on his 4th birthday. I am now nursing his brother, and I think we'll go the long-haul this time, too."
"I didn't know I was going to breastfeed this long, but after about 18 months I started believing that it was not just my decision when to stop. It's been 32 months, and he still loves to nurse before sleeping and when he needs to calm down from being really upset or over excited."
"I knew I wanted to nurse for a year at least, but a year came and I didn't see a reason to stop. It helped us feel connected after daycare (working mom win) and was great if she got sick. She weaned at 3.5 when IVF medication made me lose my supply."