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Getting Over “Extended” Breastfeeding

My daughter is starting to cruise around the house all by herself now, it’s amazing.  On Thursday she’s going to be a year old, unfreakingbelievable!  But, *gasp* I’m “still” breastfeeding

Unfortunately, my youngest sister-in-law, B, has a daughter, A, that is about 4 months younger than J.  I say unfortunately because it seems like everything is a competition and everything I do is scrutinized against how B is doing things.  I really try to avoid getting wrapped up in mommy wars and I try to let people’s comments or pressure to change the way I’m doing things roll off my back (Pass the bean dip!) but I feel like it’s going to get worse over the next few years.

The latest is “Well, B is only going to breastfeed until A is one…”, “You’re still doing that?”, “When are you going to give her milk?” or “When are you going to stop?”  My answers: Oh, that’s cool.  Yep, still doin’ it!  She’s drinking milk right now… and she’ll stop when she’s ready.

My daughter is only a year old.  She nurses for nutrition and for comfort which she is obviously ok with and I’m obviously ok with so why does it matter to you?  What’s the point of asking these questions?  Why don’t you just tell me what’s on your mind instead of beating around the bush?

So, you know what?  Next time anyone asks me when I’m going to stop or if I’m still doing that I’ll simply ask why.  Really, why do you want to know?  What’s it to you?  Yes, my daughter can eat regular food but she still has a need to breastfed just as your son/daughter might need their bottle, pacifier, thumb and/or to be rocked, swayed or bounced. 

Breastfeeding offers amazing immunological and nutritional benefits plus it’s the perfect time for connection after being separated all day when I’m working.  Not to mention children who breastfeed for an “extended” amount of time also benefit from fewer allergies, they’re well adjusted, possibly smarter, AND mother (and daughter, if you have a girl) can benefit from reduced risk of MANY cancers.  (Get the fact sheet here.)

When kids have needs they express them and I believe in “giving in” to those needs not suppressing them with what I’m being told that they should or should not need.  If my daughter has a need to nurse, I let her.  Not because someone told me that was right or wrong but that’s what feels right to us.

I want to know why everyone has such an issue with “extended” breastfeeding because really, is it “extended”?  What is considered “extended”? 

In my eyes my daughter has a need and urge to nurse, so I let her and I’ll continue to let her until she and I are ready to stop.  I think a better way to look at it would be continued breastfeeding.  When is this magical time that it becomes “extended”?  I’m not extending anything and I don’t think my daughter is; we’re simply continuing to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding is natural.  Breastfeeding is normal.  Breastfeeding doesn’t become “extended” it just continues until the need is gone.  So, when you ask me why I’m still breastfeeding I’ll ask you why you’re still breathing.  Oh, because you need to?  Well, my daughter still needs to, too.

What are your experiences with “extended” breastfeeding?  When do you think it crosses over to “extended”?  Is it because of social pressure that you think it is now “extended” or personal beliefs?

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Breastfeeding is The Most Natural Way…Alies the Challenge

Breastfeeding seemed to be and I’ve always heard that it is the easiest and most natural way to feed a baby.  Like the urge to have a natural birth was just, well, natural – breastfeeding seemed like a given, too.  Maybe I was dense but I didn’t realize that it wasn’t something that was always easy to do until my daughter and I struggled.  In many ways I was (and still become) booby trapped along the way.

During my pregnancy it seemed like 99.9% of my brain was being used for planning the birth of our daughter, learning about pregnancy, learning about babies and getting the apartment ready.  I mean, we took one of those hospital classes, mainly to see the hospital, but other than the 5-10 minutes they talked about breastfeeding I didn’t do much to prepare.

My daughter was born at 7:41 in the morning after about 12 hours of labor.  Needless to say I wasn’t quite thinking straight after she was draped across my chest.  I sat there in a daze just simply amazed with her and myself.  When I think back about that morning I think about all the things I could have done differently that could have helped us.

For starters, I did a great job coming up with a birth plan that worked for us but it really only included the fact that I’d like to breastfeed and not that I’d probably need some help.  I birthed at a Certified Baby Friendly Hospital so I thought that getting help would just be a given, I guess.  I am not the type of person to ask for help with anything unless I really need to and by that point I’ve usually messed up pretty bad.

I didn’t get good skin on skin contact with my daughter right after her birth because I was so excited to have everyone meet her and I didn’t really know about the importance of skin on skin contact.  I mean, I read a bit about it in my Hypnobabies workbook but it went in one ear and out the other.

I remember asking the nurse about 5 minutes after she was born if I should try to breastfeed.  She said sure, you could try and as I put J to my breast I felt this pang of panic.  She didn’t just latch on, or lick, or show any interest at all.  So, I stopped and the nurse took J for her bath (in the room!).  I don’t know why I told her to take her and give her a bath instead of just laying there skin on skin with her for a while.  It’s something that I really truly regret.

Our family members all came in to meet our bundle of joy.  It was a great morning and we were all so happy.  After an hour she started to grunt and protest which got me excited.  Our first real breastfeeding session would be under way!  I put her to my breast and she slurped it up like a champ.  It was pretty uncomfortable but I figured it was because I wasn’t used to the sensations. The nurse told me to let her nurse as often as she’d like but not to go longer than 2 hours while also checking her poops and pees.  I diligently obliged and nursed her on cue like I was told (and I had read).

Things were going great except I noticed that it was every half hour or less

Dad's tuckered out!

that she’d want to nurse.  It seemed like she was on the boob more often than not. The first night together we happily co-slept in my hospital bed and I’ll never forget lovingly gazing at my sleeping husband across the way as my little nursling ate to her hearts content all night. 

I remember in the middle of the night our nurse came in so I asked her if she could help me because I didn’t know if I was breastfeeding right.  She helped my figure out the football hold which was AMAZING.  But,

J sleeping on Mama

when I asked about the latch she told me I’d have to ask the lactation consultant.  The next morning we were supposed to be discharged right away so things with the LC were rushed.  J was sleeping the whole time and I didn’t want to wake her because it was the longest stretch she’d had yet.  So, the LC asked me questions, showed me how to manually express, answered my questions and we were good to go!

I didn’t know we had a shallow latch issue for months. I thought that she just needed to comfort nurse, a lot.  When A’s entire family (seriously, like 9 people) came over on Christmas night at 9:00pm I was pissed, she was fussy, we couldn’t get a good latch the whole time and we damaged my left nipple.  My nipple has never been the same since that.

When people asked me if she needed to nurse again after she just ate I started to doubt myself.  When the first weigh-in at the doctor’s office showed that she’d lost too much weight I really started to get freaked.  I called the hospital lactation consultant and asked questions but I was always leaving messages, not getting calls back and when I did it was something that I already found out myself – or something not really helpful.  I didn’t know any LC’s that did home visits and I didn’t really have money for one.

So, I sat down with my nursling and read a zillion blog posts, articles, kellymom, watched youtube videos, read The Breastfeeding Book, listened to insights from my ONE nursing friend etc. until I could figure out how to get her to latch better.  Once we had a proper latch (which, sometimes I failed at my first round of discipline as a mother and let the lazy latch be ok) most of the time she still wanted to nurse CONSTANTLY unless I was wearing her.  Once I started wearing her in my moby wrap things took a glorious turn.  I felt like I was finally starting to understand her and we were jiving.  I’d know when she was getting hungry during her pre-cues.  It was fantastic.

Now I understand that although breastfeeding itself is natural, the act of it isn’t always a natural one for mother and baby.  Especially for those moms like me that live in a world of assumptions.  To succeed at breastfeeding you need to be informed, be dedicated, be flexible and most importantly have support and USE IT.

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