I Would Have Breastfed My Daughter For As Long As She Wanted
When it was time for me to have my own children, it wasn't even a question that I would breastfeed. I figured God didn't give me a size G bosom if it wasn't to feed children.
My oldest son was a slow weight gainer and because of that we supplemented with formula and he weaned early. When I became pregnant with our second son four years later I was determined to not only exclusively breastfeed him but to also practice extended breastfeeding and feed him well past a year old. We did that and then some. We nursed until he was one year old, at which point I became pregnant. We nursed through that pregnancy, and then I tandem nursed him and a newborn and then continued to nurse a preschooler and toddler all while being pregnant yet again.
I breastfed one of my sons until he was 2 and the other until he was 3. All in all, when my breastfeeding journey concluded I had breastfed my three younger children for 5 years continuously. That's over 1,800 days and 20,000-plus hours of breastfeeding. Why would anyone actually do that to themselves?
We know that breastfeeding has amazing benefits for not just the baby but for mom as well. And the thing that people often forget is that those benefits don't just stop at age one. It isn't just hippie attachment parents that believe in this ideal either. Many world health organizations and pediatricians support extended breastfeeding as well. Sure the health reasons are plenty, but that's not the only reason. It's also the intense bond and connection that I build not only with my baby but with my other children as well.
I have a lot of kids, four the last time I checked, and I don't always get to have one on one time with every single one of my children. And when you have a newborn that time is even more elusive. But when you have to stop every 20 to 40 minutes in your day to breastfeed it's a great time to pull another child and sit down with just them to read, snuggle, or just talk. Nursing sessions are nice blocks of time that I can carve into my day to just be in the moment with them.
My extended breastfeeding journey wasn't always met with enthusiasm from people around me. My family often saw me nursing a toddler above a big belly and would comment "Come on Alex, seriously?!" I was open about breastfeeding in public as well and would often have people stare at me and some were bold enough to ask me point-blank "BUT WHY?!" My husband was always more bothered by that than I was. He didn't like that people silently judged me and by extension him as well. But I don't care, I didn't care. Children are only young for a blip on the massive scale of their life that if I can allow them to do something they love to do beyond some societal norms than so be it.
The decision to end our breastfeeding relationship was always up to my children… until my fourth. Remember how I told you I had breastfed for five years with no break? By the time my last baby was about 16 months old I started to feel beyond touched out. Whenever my daughter was nursing I felt anxious, angry, sad, and exhausted. Through my own Google medical research, I self-diagnosed myself with Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex also known as DMer.
The feelings were so intense that I knew I could no longer continue to give and give in this way. I tried fighting those feelings for months and went back and forth over the decision to quit. I even tried cutting her nursing sessions back bit by bit, but nothing ever really worked and I still felt off. I finally cut her off cold turkey a little before she turned two and a year later my emotions still run the gamut of feeling content with my decision and also a little regretful too. And because I'm pretty certain she is my last baby I regret it even a little more that I didn't allow her to end the process when the time was right for her.
Extended breastfeeding isn't the easiest, most convenient, or socially acceptable choice. It's often viewed by spectators as a selfish, weird, and possibly a sexually motivated decision by the mother, but that couldn't be furthest from the truth. While it may not be for you or even most women, it's just another "my body, my choice" decision that should be respected and not questioned.