The way breastfeeding affects a mother's body in the first year or so is very well-documented. There are articles upon articles written about how to handle engorgement, clogged ducts, and other common breastfeeding "symptoms." But breastfeeding past the first year isn't discussed quite as often. And it should, as there are a few things your extended breastfeeding body will do that will freak you out. Or, at the very least, surprise you.
Once you've breastfed longer than a year (the definition of "extended breastfeeding," according to the Mayo Clinic,) your body adjusts so well to breastfeeding that it basically becomes a part of you. You may forget about it altogether sometimes, and breastfeed without even really thinking about it.
Although extended breastfeeding isn't that common or well-received, the benefits for both you and your child are numerous. According to Parents, your child is less likely to get sick the longer you breastfeed. Additionally, despite common misconception, Dr. Sears noted that extended breastfeeding can make your child more independent later in life, just as it establishes a healthy mother-child relationship.
It's a beautiful thing, but extended breastfeeding will affect your body in a very different way than the first year of nursing will. Read on to see how your body will change as you extended breastfeed.
1. Your Boobs Will Shrink
As your milk comes in and your supply establishes itself, you can expect your breasts to grow a cup size or two, according to Baby Center. But after that, they'll likely remain about the same size as when you were pregnant.
However, after you've been nursing for a year, and your baby starts eating more and more solids and you produce less milk, your breasts won't have that same "perk" and size that they did before. In fact, you may be shocked at how they're still producing milk and simultaneously shrinking. Although they won't return to their pre-pregnancy size until you stop nursing altogether, they might begin the process sooner than you expected (or hoped.)
2. You Won't Leak All The Time
Leaking and unpredictable letdown is basically par for the course of breastfeeding. Until you've been doing it for a while. According to La Leche League International (LLLI,) eventually you'll stop leaking altogether. The reason is that your body becomes so attuned to your supply that your letdown reflex won't be as overreactive and you'll produce exactly the right amount of milk for your child.
3. You'll Still Be Starving. All The Time.
Think the breastfeeding hunger will subside once you nurse for longer than a year? Think again. Most mommy forums are laden with mothers lamenting their constant hunger. And it makes sense since you're still burning calories by breastfeeding — around 300-500 per day according to Women's Health. Don't ignore the hunger and remember to fuel your body with healthy foods to keep both you and your baby happy.
4. You'll Be Incredibly In Tune With Your Baby
One piece from Mama Natural noted how extended breastfeeding causes you to be in-tune with your toddler's needs, even more so than in the first year perhaps. Your body will produce the exact amount of milk you need, you'll have such a seamless routine down that you won't even think twice about nursing. In fact, as your baby learns to communicate more effectively, you may even have a little language where you "talk" about nursing and when they're hungry.
5. You'll Probably Be Unapologetic About Nursing A Toddler In Public (As You Should)
The longer you breastfeed, the most comfortable you are with it. I remember being scared to nurse my first daughter in front of my extended family. After the first year of nursing my second child, however, I nursed uncovered in public all the time without shame or regard to what people thought. Where and how long you choose to breastfeed your child is no one's business but yours and your baby's, so do it confidently and proudly. Nurse on, mama, nurse on.