When I began breastfeeding my son, I thought that if I made it to a year, I'd be really proud of myself and ready to stop. However, by the time his birthday came around, neither of us were ready for him to wean. For him, it was a comfort, and, for me, it was a reassurance that I was not only needed, but important. (It's easy to forget that sometimes in the quotidian acts of mothering.) If you're considering prolonged breastfeeding, I have some tips and can tell you everything you need to know about breastfeeding after one year.
There are several studies out there that demonstrate myriad benefits of nursing beyond one year. Everything from higher IQ to increased resistance to certain viruses and bacteria, to emotional benefits like closeness to parents and self confidence, according to La Leche League International. But that doesn't make it a walk in the park. Sometimes, breastfeeding past one year can be a pain. You might notice a decrease in your supply, or weight that you can't seem to get rid of. Also, it's difficult for date nights and travel. However, it's absolutely doable if it's something you're committed to, and something your child needs or wants.
Heck, if your child is anything like mine, getting them off the boob isn't as easy as all that.
The first thing you need to know is that you might get "touched out" at some point, noted La Leche League USA. Especially if you have a stage five clinger. Yes, most of the time, cuddling and loving your child, feeding them and hanging out is truly the light of your life, but sometimes? It's not. You also might not want to touch your spouse or have visions of slapping someone who gets too close on the train on your way home from work. It happens and it's normal.
Your child may suddenly just stop breastfeeding, too. While it's uncommon, according to Kelly Mom, for babies to do so before 18 months, self-weaning happens. For my daughter, she was just over it one day when she figured out it took more time away from playing with her brother. It was like she just got up and never came back, even if I offered. On one hand, it was nice to have control over my body again, but on the other hand, it bummed me out. I don't think I was ready. It was a strange place to be in as a mom. With my son, I knew when he stopped that it was time. There was no such preparation the second time around.
The older your child gets, the more erratic the nursing becomes, too. Your kid might nurse for a few short bouts during the day, and then for a long time at night or not at all, according to Kelly Mom. My son had a fairly regular routine, but how long he breastfed at any given time shifted so wildly from one day to the next, that it was impossible to gauge how long it would last.
Along with erratic nursing periods, they're also quite vigorous and, let's say — to be diplomatic — inventive, when it comes to positions. This is often hilarious and fun to watch, but it can also be problematic. If they're laying on top of you or across you to nurse, you might occasionally end up with a foot to the gut — or your face. Also, they have teeth. I've been bitten more than once and had to adjust how my son would latch. It was less than stellar.
Haters are going to hate. You absolutely will be judged for nursing your 2-year-old in public. There will be snide comments or side-eye. People will not shut up about it. My own mother said to me "I can't believe you're still nursing him, isn't it time to stop?" No, mother, it's not time to stop, and I'll buy wire hangers next time, geez.
But hey, you can just say, "You know, it has been shown that women who breastfeed for longer periods of time are less likely to get breast cancer?" (Not to mention ovarian and uterine cancer, according to Parents.) Sure, that response is petty AF, but it's true, and if they're not minding their own business, you might as well pour some tea for them to stay awhile.
But it's not all tea and roses for your body. Sharon King, a registered nurse and lactation consultant, tells Romper that there can be some complications associated with prolonged breastfeeding that you might not be aware of. First is that while it's extremely uncommon, some women don't get their period or fertility back until they wean. "It's a trick of nature. Some women get it back right away, some women never do as long as they're nursing," says King.
Also, according to King, it can be harder to lose weight. "Breastfeeding can make you really hungry, and while it can help you lose weight, it can also help fat stick around, as that's what keeps you producing high-quality milk. A lot of my patients end up falling into a snacking cycle that they find difficult to snap out of, even after their baby weans."
In the end, it's a personal choice and it has consequences. Fortunately, most of them are more benefits than penalties, so drink up, tiny humans.
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