I was blissfully hopeful (and slightly naive) when I decided to breastfeed my first baby, and especially when I thought about doing nursing long-term. That’s not to say I wasn’t warned that it could be hard, though. In fact, I had a number of mom friends who’d emphasized the difficulties of breastfeeding. Still, I tried to remain optimistic. My logic was, “It has to work well for some people, right? Maybe I’d be one of those people.” Turns out, there are so many things I’m glad I didn’t know about extended breastfeeding, since, as it turns out, I was not one of those people who enjoyed an easy, care-free experience. My early weeks of breastfeeding were full of challenges and stress and tears, I would not have been able to fathom the concept of extended breastfeeding. Hell, I could barely grasp the idea of nursing my son each subsequent day.
I’m trying to remember the first time I ever heard the term “extended breastfeeding,” and I honestly can't recall that moment. It’s possible that it may have even been a recent discovery, but I can’t say for certain. If someone had tried to inform me about, or endorse, the idea of “extended breastfeeding” when I was pregnant or even nursing my newborn, I probably would have simply nodded politely, smile occasionally, and thought to myself, “Wait, there's more than just regular breastfeeding?" Turns out, there’s a few other things I didn’t quite realize, including but certainly not limited to:
That I Would Actually Do It
I am trying to imagine how I would have handled this kind of information in my son’s first weeks of life. If I’d been told, while crying over our inability to latch, that I would eventually breastfeed for over two years, I’d have probably collapsed on the floor in shock. The pressure I would have put myself under to figure it out only would have made our early problems worse, I think.
That I Could Still Have Significant Struggles Late In The Game
Maybe I just had really bad luck? Either way, I had a bout with thrush (which is super painful, for the record) after my son and I hit the one year mark. You’d think, just as I thought, that we’d found our groove and it would be nothing but smooth sailing, but nope. There were still ups and downs throughout those two years.
That Supply Issues Are Always A Threat
Speaking of issues, thrush wasn’t the only problem that occurred. I still had to make an effort to maintain my supply, especially after feedings were fewer and further between.
That It Was Even A Thing
I was really hoping to make it to six months of breastfeeding. At first, that benchmark seemed next to impossible. However, is it got closer and closer, and as it became a reality, I switched up my goal to simply be “as long as possible.” Had I known there was another benchmark, the mysterious realm of “extended breastfeeding,” it might have changed the way I approached things.
That It’s A Great Excuse To Avoid Underwire
This would have been my downfall, I think. Of course, one never needs a reason to opt for more comfortable bras, but I personally liked having one. Had I known that extended breastfeeding would give me an excuse to stay in nursing tank tops for that long, I probably would have wanted it to continue a little too much.
That Weight Issues Can Occur After You Stop
Like many women, I found that breastfeeding helped me lose some of the weight I’d gained during pregnancy. However, I also had the distinct, um, pleasure of seeing some of that weight start to return when I stopped breastfeeding. My solution? I just got pregnant again (although I wouldn't exactly suggest doing that, you know, just for kicks).
That I Probably Wouldn’t Need All The Milk I’d Pumped & Saved
If you’re currently pumping and saving milk, you may want to skip this one. I put a lot of effort into this particular process (as any mom who pumps does), especially during the first few months. Though, I can’t tell you how much milk ended up expiring in my freezer. At the time, it never crossed my mind to pump and dump or, you know, not pump at all. I thought it was merely what I was supposed to do, but if anyone had dared to suggest I wouldn’t need it all, I probably wouldn’t have been the best listener.
That It Might Not Be That Big Of A Deal
It’s kinda like the midpoint of your sophomore year of high school, or even college. The excitement has worn off, you’re used to your routine, and you’re no longer in awe of the fact that you’re there. At some point, you probably even look around and shrug, like, “Meh, guess I’m going to be doing this for a while.” That’s how I felt about extended breastfeeding. I put long-term breastfeeding on a pedestal, and while I’m really glad I did it and hope to do it again, it was not nearly as life-altering as I thought it would be.