If you made it through a year of breastfeeding and want to keep it going, then you're entering the territory of "extended breastfeeding." Although the only real difference between extended breastfeeding and "regular breastfeeding" is the age of your child, there is significantly less information out there for moms who are nursing children who aren't technically babies anymore. Learning how to survive extended breastfeeding might seem simple — you conquered nursing a newborn, after all. But like each stage of motherhood, nursing a child who is beyond their first birthday comes with its own set of challenges that you'll both have to overcome together.
If you thought breastfeeding in general came with its own set of stigmas (which it undoubtably does,) just wait till you mention that you're nursing a toddler. Or better yet, try nursing them in public. Extended breastfeeding, of EBF, is still widely frowned upon by the general public, even though the benefits of extended breastfeeding are clearly established.
At the end of the day, it's really no ones business how long you breastfeed your child — it's simply up to the two of you. Instead of worrying about how you'll be accepted, focus on how you're benefitting your child, and use these tips to help you survive the frustrating moments that will be laced in between the beautiful ones.
1. Forget About Multitasking
Remember the days of newborn nursing when you could peruse social media, or catch up on a good book during your nursing sessions? Or, better yet, the days of nursing in a sling when you could cook dinner while you nursed or just remain mobile? When you're nursing a toddler, you can forget about moving around. In fact, your toddler will likely be doing most of the moving (affectionately termed "gymnurstics" by Mom.me).
Try to have a "nursing spot" where you always nurse, that will make it easier for both of you, and less tempting to multi-task while you're at it.
2. You Might Feel Like A Fast Food Joint, But You Should Still Require Manners
One of the most common frustrations of moms who are nursing a child older than one year is that they feel much like a human fast food restaurant. Momtastic recommended that moms require their toddlers to learn "nursing manners" instead of just nursing on demand like a younger baby would. Since newborns depend on breastmilk for survival, nursing on demand is normal. But as your baby moves past their first birthday, teaching them signs or words to use when they want to nurse, and also telling them that you're allowed to say no, will help you regain a bit of sanity.
3. Learn Your Child's Cues For When They're Hungry And When They Just Need Comfort
As your baby grows, it becomes pretty apparent when they're nursing because they're hungry or because they want closeness or comfort. Both are totally acceptable reasons to nurse, but differentiating between the two can help you decide when it's OK to say no or give them different snacks to hold them over instead.
4. Avoid Easy Access Shirts In Public
Any mom who has been accidentally exposed by a toddler looking for "milkies" in public will tell you that loose shirts or low, stretchy necklines are not your best friend when out in public. Either keep your child far from your boobs or wear shirts that ensure they can't expose anything you don't want exposed.
5. Limit How Frequently You Nurse
According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no point when breast milk becomes obsolete for a child's diet. Even as they eat more and more solids, your breast milk will continue to change to meet their nutritional needs. But since your child will be getting nutrition from solid food as well, it's more than ok to limit the amount of times you nurse per day.
6. Don't Feel Pressured To Wean Or Stick With It Longer Than You Want To
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, then with solids for the first year and after that point for "as long as mutually desired by mother and child." However, Fox News pointed out that there is still very much a stigma in our culture that makes mothers feel like there's no point to breastfeeding past one year. The same article, however, quoted Dr. Joan Meek, chair of the AAP saying that there is "no point at which you can say 'there's no value to this'." The article also stated that simply calling it "extended breastfeeding" continues the stigma. Extended breastfeeding is simply breastfeeding.