Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nursing Beyond One Year

We have passed my one year breastfeeding goal with flying colors.  As I am typing this Jackson is now 14 months old and we are still nursing.  I never really thought I would want to continue breastfeeding beyond the first year, but it's one of those things (there are several!) that I changed my mind about after becoming a mom.

So I already get some negative reactions about "STILL breastfeeding" and not "cutting him off" now.  I don't really get easily bothered by them-- I just either ignore it, avoid the topic, or simply state that the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until age 2 or beyond as long as mother and baby mutually still want to.  Some people though I think are just uneducated or genuinely curious about extended breastfeeding soooo I thought I'd address it and my thoughts and where we stand!

Firstly, I no longer pump and Jackson does drink cow's milk too.  When he turned 1 I wanted to be DONE pumping.  It was never particularly enjoyable but it became a stress for me from when 9-12 months my pumping output greatly decreased and so I had to pump on my short days and days off to get enough milk for Jackson when I was working.  It was a relief to wean myself off the pump and be able to give Jackson whole milk when I was away.  I also started giving it to him in the mornings before his first nap.  So during the day we are down to 2-3 nursing sessions.  First thing in the morning when he wakes up, before his afternoon nap sometimes, and then before bed.  Nighttime is another story and it's a crapshoot.  He can nurse anywhere from 1 to 4 or more times just depending on what kind of night we have sleep-wise.  I'll get to that in a minute...

I will say that the benefits of breastmilk don't end when the baby turns one year old.  It still gives Jackson plenty of antibodies and I don't worry so much when he goes through phases where he doesn't want to eat much because I know at least he is getting essential nutrients still (that cow's milk lacks). 

On the topic of weaning... many people who breastfeed beyond a year allow their child to self wean.  I'm not sure if that will happen for us on its own anytime soon.  Jackson very much likes to nurse still, especially before bed and during the night.  It's a source of comfort for him more than nutrition at this point.  I do have a sort of "plan" for weaning Jackson though.

Whenever I think about stopping breastfeeding completely it makes me sad.  In some ways it'll be nice-- to have my body completely back to myself all the time.  To not have Jackson so dependent on me for nighttime soothing.  To be able to have a couple drinks without trying to make sure I'm not going to need to nurse in the next however many hours.  But mostly, it's sad to think that this sweet time in our lives is coming to an end.  He's growing up sooo much and even if it brings more freedom for me, it is sad to think of my baby not "needing" me in that sense anymore.  It marks a transition from being a baby to a little boy.  I don't think either one of us is ready to stop right now, which is why we haven't made an effort to actively wean yet.  All good things must come to an end though and I do have a sort of "plan" to initiate weaning. 

My first step is to night-wean Jackson.  The only time I ever feel like I want to be done nursing it's those nights where he's not sleeping well, teething, etc. and wanting to nurse all stinkin' night which is exhausting (and my poor boobs just aren't up to that anymore!).  So naturally that's the time I want to cut out first!  We are planning on helping him learn to sleep in his own crib all night during Spring Break (last weekend in March).  Once he is successfully doing that, I have a feeling he will either naturally night wean himself or he will cut down to just one or two nursing sessions which I plan to cut out by having his Daddy soothe him back to sleep. After that we will just play it by ear.  When he turns 18 months old then I plan on gradually cutting out the remaining feedings until we are no longer nursing.

I'm super happy that we have made it beyond my original goal.  It's been an amazing journey I wouldn't trade for the world.  We aren't quite ready to give it up yet either!  

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