I’m now, officially, an extended breastfeeder.
Baby Love is several weeks past one, and our nursing relationship is going strong. She still nurses around 4 times a day and 4 times a night (even though she eats crazy amounts of solids as well!).
When I started breastfeeding I didn’t have strong feelings about it. It seemed like less work than bottles, and I tend to prefer natural to artificial whenever practical, so I figured I’d try. If it didn’t work, no big deal. And I was definitely stopping when she got her first teeth!
Being 2 weeks late, she took to it like a champ. I was in awe at her skill at just minutes old.
Then I grew to resent her. If I was around, she wanted to nurse. ALWAYS. I felt like I didn’t even know what she looked like because I only ever saw the side of her face not blocked by my boob. I felt unloved, like she didn’t care about me, just my services. This continued for weeks. My mom told me to just give her a bottle and take a break, but breastfeeding was working and I didn’t want to mess up my supply if I could feed her. And after a few weeks it got better.
For months breastfeeding was no big deal. No longer a source of resentment, but not the big, bonding experience I’d been led to believe it would be, either. Functional and fine.
Slowly, though, I grew to love it. Being able to feed my child. To nourish her, body and soul, with my body. To be able to give her what no one else could. To feel the closeness. To know I was showing her love in the way she could best receive.
She got her first teeth at 5 1/2 months. I never even considered stopping. I didn’t even remember that had been the plan until months later, looking back. After all, by then breastfeeding was easy! We were both skilled and she needed it less frequently. Why would I stop and switch to bottles at that point? And that’s ignoring the love I was developing for it.
She began solids, following Baby Led Weaning. I never worried about how much she was eating. I’d been trusting her to feed herself appropriately for 6 months, and I continued to do so. I knew that no matter what she ate, almost all of her nutrition was coming from breastmilk, and so there was no need to worry about her solids intake. As more of her nutrition came from food, she ate more well balanced food of her own accord. No need for my intervention. And definitely no need to stop or reduce breastfeeding to force her to figure out what she was doing fine on her own.
And then she turned a year. Our nursing relationship is different now. She eats a RIDICULOUS amount of solid food for her size. But if she’s teething, or sick, and doesn’t feel like it, she can still get her nutrition from my milk. And even when she’s getting much of her nutrition from food, she’s still getting a perfectly balanced supplement from me. She nurses for comfort. When she’s sad or scared or needy, nursing makes her feel secure in my love. And she nurses for fun! She loves nursing! It makes her happy. And it makes me happy to make her happy.
No more is she the floppy little baby in my arms, being held to the breast. When we’re at home sometimes I’ll take my breast out and she’ll walk or crawl over, beaming, and crouch down or climb up to align herself and latch on. Once there she looks up into my eyes, hers filled with joy. She nurses laying down, but also sitting, standing, kneeling, crouching, and bending. Mornings when my husband is home he’ll often go get her when she’s up and bring her to me in bed and she’ll gleefully crawl across the bed, squealing, climb onto me, and plop herself down for snuggles. I take out my breast and she adjusts her snuggles to latch on, sighing contentedly.
Breastfeeding is such a huge part of our lives in so many ways. We both love it. I can’t imagine stopping, just because she hit an arbitrary age. And I can’t imagine her naturally stopping now. I imagine that as she grows she’ll nurse less and less until she no longer wants to. But until that time, I look forward to our nursing relationship continuing.
If you’d told me a year ago I’d still be nursing past one I’d have nodded, smiled, and then rolled my eyes behind your back. But here’s the thing: babies don’t turn one overnight. It’s a slow, gradual process. And while a one year old seemed huge and old a year ago, now she’s still just my baby, and neither of us is ready to be done.