In few short weeks my boy, BabyCakes, will celebrate his first birthday. With this milestone just around the corner I started wondering, how long we will continue our breastfeeding journey together? Some where I picked up the impression that one year is the “normal” cut off for breastfeeding. But the other night while BabyCakes lovingly gazed up at me as I nursed him before bed, it struck me that I don’t think either of us will be ready to stop breastfeeding at a year.
So I asked the veteran mamas on First Time Mom’s facebook page how long they breastfeed their little ones and how did they know it was the right time to wean. The response was amazing. We really have the best readers here at First Time Mom! I found their comments encouraging and enlightening. In fact, I made some very important personal realizations about breastfeeding, realizations I hope every breastfeeding mother recognizes:
1. There’s a plethora of breastfeeding support. Breastfeeding is not necessarily easy, but as I found on our facebook page, there is a large community of breastfeeding mamas who are ready to share their stories and be your cheerleaders. Groups like the La Leche League International help connect mothers and offer excellent support and education. Lactation consultants frequently make house calls and help mothers overcome breastfeeding struggles. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics clearly states that breastfeeding is best for both baby and mother so the medical community has a vested interest in promoting and supporting breastfeeding. Many hospitals even offer free lactation support groups. KellyMom is my favorite online resource for breastfeeding information. Indeed, there is a lot of support for breastfeeding mamas out there!
2. Breastfeeding is about much more than nourishment. I came to this realization after introducing solids. BabyCakes enjoys his food, but he loves our nursing time. Starting at nine months, since BabyCakes is a skinnier baby, our pediatrician recommended we feed him solids before breastfeeding. At first I was worried this would negatively impact my supply, but it has worked great for us. BabyCakes has always been an efficient nurser; however, as our relationship grows, BabyCakes really milks our breastfeeding and snuggling time together. When he is sad, hurt, tired, etc, breastfeeding is the most effective way of comforting him. For me, breastfeeding is about nurturing, not just nourishing.
3. It’s normal for mamas grow emotionally attached to breastfeeding. I was almost reduced to a puddle of tears as I contemplated the thought of our breastfeeding journey ending at BabyCakes’ first birthday. I never anticipated becoming so attached to breastfeeding him, but I cherish our time together. Now that he is mobile, nursing and story time are our only quiet times together. Often while BabyCakes nurses he looks up at me, plays with my hair, pats my face, and completely melts my heart!
4. It is OKAY to nurse beyond baby’s first birthday. Moms on the facebook page shared stories of nursing past their babies’ first, even second, birthdays. A couple had babies who were done before a year, while others talked about nursing through pregnancy and/or tandem nursing. Many also pointed out that there is not set age at which one must stop nursing. Moms also shared about how they knew that it was time to stop. For many, their little ones slowly (or suddenly) lost interest. For others, their supply dried up. Some weaned the older sibling because they weren’t able to keep up nursing more than one child. A few had medical reasons. The most important thing I gathered is that moms and their children know when the time is right for them. Each breastfeeding relationship is special and should be supported and respected.
Like all good things I know that my breastfeeding journey with BabyCakes will end someday when he is ready. Until then, I’ll enjoy the time we have together and tuck away these precious memories in my heart.
Did you breastfeed? How long did you breastfeed your little ones and what did weaning look like for you?