I wrote a blog post after breastfeeding my son 6 weeks and thought that was an accomplishment. Then I got to 6 months and felt victorious, especially after all of the struggles we had getting to that point. Now here we are past my son’s first year of life, still nursing, and living to share useful insights about nursing with other Mommas.
If you would like a full recap, I highly recommend reading this post after 6 weeks and this post here after 6 months. I share a lot about the early days of nursing my son. “It was hard” is an understatement considering the many challenges we faced as a mother-son team.
Tongue and lip ties that went undiagnosed by several pediatricians. Latching issues and alignment issues that were finally corrected by a chiropractor we have just fallen in love with. I had bleeding, cracked, and sore nipples. I had a baby who refused a bottle even though I purchased about 6 different options. As he got older, he’s decided he has hated being covered. Though a struggle, it’s been nice to get the courage to nurse without a cover. Through all the struggles, we have gone past the one year mark without any signs of stopping anytime soon.
Common Myths About Breastfeeding After 12 Months
If you are still feeling like you are facing judgment for nursing your child past 12 months, I want to share some resources with you to build your confidence.
First and foremost, you don’t owe ANYONE an explanation, but it is always good for our confidence to feel supported with information.
Myth #1: Breastfeeding past 12 months offers no nutritional value
Well, this is an absurd myth if you ask me. This post from Kelly Mom has a ton of great information. For example, “448 mL (about 15 ounces) of breastmilk provides 29% of energy requirements, 43% of protein requirements, 36% of calcium requirements, 75% of vitamin A requirements, 76% of folate requirements, 94% of vitamin B12 requirements, 60% of vitamin C requirements”
“Some of the immune factors in breastmilk increase in concentration during the second year and also during the weaning process.”
Breastfeeding also has MANY benefits for the mother.
Myth #2: Breastfeeding past 12 months is for the mother’s ego only
Judging a mother who is breastfeeding past 12 months means you clearly have too much time on your hands. Also, I don’t know about you, but my ego is not filled up by a twiddling, acrobatic toddler sucking on my boobs that look nothing like they did before we started this process. My ego and confidence is fueled however when I see how well nourished my son is.
Myth #3: Breastfeeding past 12 months causes a child to be overly dependent
Anyone who leans on this myth hasn’t done their research in to “attachment parenting” and I highly recommend they take the time to do so. Attachment parenting has been shown to help a child cope with stress better, fewer behavior problems, and helps develop a confident child.
Although I am not perfect, I try to practice what I can that aligns with attachment parenting.
In our case, my son doesn’t have “stranger danger” when I hand him off to anyone, he explores, has no issues with independent play, and also seems extremely confident.
Myth #4: A breastfed baby doesn’t sleep through the night
Best way to fear monger a new mom? Step 1: Tell her she will never sleep again. STOP! IT! Our breastfed baby sleeps 11+ hours at night. Next.
Myth #6: Just pump and give a baby milk in a cup then
Nursing a child is more than just a cup of milk. We nurse for nutrition, we nurse for comfort, we nurse for quite moments, we nurse for connection, we nurse if we are frustrated, we nurse for pain relief, we nurse when we are scared… a bottle or a cup cannot always meet the emotional need of a child. I also know where my Judgmental Judy is heading with this and NO we don’t just “nurse all day”.
Side note::: I don’t know why our culture is so offended by breastfeeding moms in public and not half naked Kardashian on billboards or lingerie fashion shows on television.
What I Learned from 12 Months of Breastfeeding
Decide Why You Are Still Nursing
For some odd reason in our culture it is hard for people to accept a baby nursing after one year, at least that’s the feeling I have gotten. The questions suddenly shift to “when will you stop nursing?” and the statements now have a judgmental feel “are you going to nurse that baby forever?”… “You’ll never wean that baby!”
I encourage you to know YOUR REASONS for nursing your child and think of them often. Yes, it is discouraging when your circle or strangers don’t support you, but as long as you know your WHY you can withstand the storm.
Teaching How to Ask
One of the things I started associating with nursing is the “milk” sign language sign. It took a month or so, but eventually I was able to teach my son to ask for milk using sign language. It has helped ease a little frustration for us both.
The approach isn’t always perfect and there are days he pulls at my top. There are also day we confuse the milk sign when asking for water, snuggles, or something that I am still trying to figure out.
My point in sharing this with you is to help you to help your little one find other ways of communication. It isn’t fool proof by any means and it takes some time, which is frustrating, but it helps when they do get the hang of it.
Answering Your Questions
Before writing this post, I asked on Instagram if anyone had any questions pertaining to our journey nursing.
How do you manage once they have teeth?
Twiddling the other nipple, pinching, and biting during nursing sessions can be frustrating. If my son bites, I gently remove him tell him we don’t bite and we continue nursing. If he does it again, especially if he laughs, I remove him, putting my breast away, and have a conversation with him about why we don’t bite.
Yes, I understand this sounds bizarre and yes, I understand he probably doesn’t fully understand what I am saying. However, I feel like this is my opportunity to exercise patience with him and attempt to teach right and wrong.
The twiddling has often been solved by completely covering the other side with a shirt. Pinching, well I am still working on that one, but I have been told giving him something to hold on to is a good idea.
Do I lose my patience? Yes. Do I still cry because I am frustrated? Absolutely. But I revisit my why AND I know that the benefits for him are longterm and the frustration is temporary.
Do you still breastfeed at night? How do you get the baby off the boob all night?
I felt like these questions could be answered with the same answer. We transitioned our son to his own room when he was 9 months old. I was unable to wean him off of nighttime feedings until he was 10.5 months old.
I did a lot of research before making the decision to both move our son and wean him from nighttime feedings. To be sure that he was not waking for nighttime feedings because he was hungry, I made sure I nursed him more during the day. To be honest, this helped the nighttime feedings quite a bit.
I realized that during the day he was so active, discovering new things, and our nursing sessions were shorter and less focused. At night he was needing extra calories. I had to become intentional during the day and nurse him every 2-3 hours to make sure we maintained caloric intake for him during the day.
Will you start to introduce cow’s milk at all?
This one gets extra tricky. I know I have a couple Judgmental Judy’s in my life that want to judge me for this answer. I also haven’t fully gotten myself to a firm answer on this subject.
We live dairy free in our home, but I know it can be difficult to avoid dairy in our culture. I know that I cannot shield him from never ever ever having dairy in his whole life. So for now, I don’t really know.
I will continue to breastfeed and offer a variety of whole foods every day. I try my hardest to make sure he is eating quality foods and I limit processed foods whenever possible. I offer him leafy greens, beans, broccoli, almonds, which all have calcium in them.
How long do you plan on going until?
My immediate answer is 2+ years old, but I also know that my son is super intelligent. When he is ready to wean, I trust that he will let me know.
How many times a day do you nurse your son?
Honestly, I don’t know because every day is different. If I had to guess I would say that it is at least more than 6 times, always after he wakes up and usually before he goes down for a nap or sleep. Each day is different for us. If we are home during the day, he nurses more. If he is working through a milestone or a leap, he will naturally be more inclined to nurse. I try not to focus on a set time or amount and I focus instead on what he needs that day comfort wise.
Other Things That Help Me
There are other things that help me that I know not everyone has access to. First and foremost, my husband is one of my biggest supporters. He has supported me nursing out son since day 1.
Second, I have been so fortunate to have a friend who is supportive of me nursing and she nurses her son who is 17 months old. Not everyone blessed to have a friendship where the other woman understands and supports your goals for your family. Nursing past infancy is just one of the many values we have in common as moms.
We connected through a moms group that promotes and supports our family values. If you are struggling to meet people that you connect with, you might want to see if there is a Holistic Moms Network Chapter in your area.
I also use Facebook support groups a lot. Facebook groups are the modern day chat rooms. Somewhere along the way chat rooms, mom blogs, and online support groups got a bad wrap, but I really believe in them. I have found several holistic parenting groups or breastfeeding support groups on Facebook. Assuming Facebook doesn’t further sensor these topics (natural parenting, holistic health, breastfeeding, etc.), they are a great resource to connect with moms around the world.
Breastfeeding comes with so many challenges and hurdles to jump. When you work through those challenges and jump the hurdles, the benefits are so much greater that the struggle.
It hasn’t been easy. There have been days where I have questioned myself and if I should keep going. I have felt the pressure from my inner circle about our decision to nurse. I have heard the good ol’, “you still nurse that baby?”.
Like with all of my posts, I am never here to say my way is the right way. My only intention and hope is that you find the inspiration you need to follow your own gut and heart. It is always my hope that people feel supported.
There is no perfect way, but there is your way. Cheers to you, Momma for making the decisions that you feel support your family best.