Thursday, April 1, 2010

How I Became an Extended Breastfeeder By Mamapoekie

Today, as part of a post swap, The Leaky Boob is graced with the presence of Mamapoekie. We hope you enjoy her story. Please share any thoughts, stories of your own or questions you may have in the comments below. It is our hope that our guest posters would give us food for thought and stimulate active conversations. Visit Authentic Parenting to read more of Mamapoekie's thoughts and to read my guest post over there today. Enjoy!

How I Became an Extended Breastfeeder

By Mamapoekie

I am still breastfeeding my 21 month old daughter. Shocking, right? I know I would have been if somebody would have told me the like two years ago.

I always knew I would breastfeed my children. Yet never ever did I think about for how long. I think I always kind of assumed that breastfeeding went up to six months and then just naturally stopped. That’s what media and society has led us to believe anyway.

I had occasionally heard stories of women breastfeeding teething babies and six-year olds… I found that quite quirky, to say the least, even a bit scary maybe.

So there I was in the hospital. I had just given birth to this perfect little creature. Very much in love, a little light headed maybe, in awe of that little person in my arms, when my OB walked in and said I had to breastfeed for at least a year. I had gestational diabetes and breastfeeding that long would seriously diminish my daughter’s chances of developing diabetes herself.

A year seemed like a huge lapse of time, but would I risk that beautiful little girl’s health because I felt queasy? Certainly not.

So I set off with that in mind. One year. I talked to my family and friends about it and everybody found it – as I had – quite long. But if my doctor said so… I had the time anyway, because I was a stay at home mom, so it was worth the shot.

I breastfed through teething, through travelling and moving to another country. I breastfed on planes, in cars, while cueing, with the baby in the sling... I breastfed at night and during the day. I breastfed when she got her teeth (she now has a full set of them), I nursed along snarky comments and ignorance. But I would make it to a year.

Somewhere along that first year I got connected to fellow breastfeeders and learned a great deal about parenting and breastfeeding. The most spectacular thing being that it is in fact recommended to breastfeed up to two years!

Through the nursing relationship, I also learned a lot. I found out that setting an age limit to breastfeeding is quite arbitrary. I also learned quite quickly that breastfeeding isn’t just about feeding your child. It’s about comforting, mothering, loving them to the depths of your core. And that weaning is a developmentally milestone that has to be reached, from both sides. It is about growing up for the child and about letting go for the mother. Now I hope it may last for quite some time, for I know it will break a little piece of my heart when she will be over and done with.

This is my story, please tell me yours. For how long were you planning to breastfeed, how long did you end up doing and what influenced you?

Mamapoekie is a mother and a wife. She was born in Belgiuim and travels the world with her expat family. They are currently living in Ivory Coast. Mamapoekie blogs about attachment parenting, unschooling, natural childbirth, natural living and many other topics at Authentic Parenting. She also has a fanpage on Facebook.


  1. Great to hear a positive story about extended feeding! I'm hoping to feed my 7 month old daughter until she self weans. I'd hope that she doesn't wean before she's 2 at least as I know how beneficial it is. I'm sure there is more full term weaning going on that we're aware of, it's just that people feel embarrassed to 'admit' to it. The more it's talked about, the less people will perceive it to be weird.

  2. Thankfully, when my first was 6 months old and nursing, (this was almost 20 years ago!) I took her to a pedi who told me to please nurse for a year, and it is a "lucky baby who gets to nurse for two years!" So I had encouragement from the get-go. Unfortunately, she weaned before that, but her siblings hung on through subsequent pregnancies, some of them after their second birthday.

  3. Although I was a midwife before I was a mother , was breastfed by mother and knew the benefits of extended breastfeeding, I probably would not have chosen that long unless my girls had insisted upon it. When my first was 10 months old I conceived my second and tried to wean several times during that pregnancy for my own comfort. Through the encouragement of LLL and other moms and my daughter's refusal to wean we kept on. I tandem nursed both girls for 17 months, the oldest FINALLY weaned at 3+ and then the second weaned at 2 1/2 in a very gradual process. : ) For my girls extended nursing was very comforting and forced me to stop for a few minutes to focus on them. : ) I thought I would be relieved when nursing was done but I actually was sad that those particular special moments were a part of our history.

  4. When I became pregnant, me friend mentioned that her friend told her that I would probably bf til the child is 4. I had no idea how long bf'ing was done, so I asked. My friend said, "oh, about a year." I said, "oh, so after that it's dirty and wrong." She said , "yep, pretty much". When preg, it was also mentioned, "if the kid can ask for it, he's too old." Well, my friend's friend did foresee correctly as we are at 3yr 7mo with no end in sight. He likes a good 45 min session after he wakes in the morning and from nap, and however long to fall asleep at nap and night. It's the perfect comfort after owies, after which he's rarin' to tackle whatever activity knocked him down. He takes on ever-changing imaginary roles as baby animals with their mama's in their appropriate habitat (even if he know they aren't mammals). He achieves perfect contentment while nursing. I have a secret, unfounded hope that nursing, along with gentle parenting will help circumvent the pattern of substance addiction in his family history. Who knows, but at least he'll have had something perfectly good in his life.

  5. I love the conversation over here! My son nursed until he was 26 months old. He probably would have gone on much longer, but I was done at that time.

    After weaning, one thing that I missed about nursing was that it was such a great compromise - when we were at odds with each other, we would have a nursing session and it would reset us both so we could get along again....ya know?

    Now with my second, I plan to nurse at least until she is 2.

    Sadly, it starts to become a social stigma after the 12-month point (and sometimes even before).

    But, we're plugging away. Nobody knows what's best for baby like baby and Momma, right?

    Keep up the great work, ladies!
    btw, just did an article on how breastfeeding saves lives and TONS of money - woohoo!

  6. How wonderful to hear how all of you just trusted your child and your instincts

  7. I love the stories and the progression. Things change and we find ourselves doing what we never imagined. Way to go mamas and babies!

  8. In college before I had kids, one of my friends was married and pregnant w/ her 4th child, still nursing her 3rd. She ended up tandem nursing them for 2 years. I thought that was fine for her, but a little extreme, and I wouldn't want to nurse a child who is old enough to ask for it.

    Then I had my first child, 3 or 4 years later. I had gotten to know that mother/friend well by then, and trusted her advice. She attachment parented without knowing there was such a term. She was my mentor and the one I turned to for parenting and nursing advice.

    I ended up tandem nursing my 1st 2 children, who are 19 months apart, for 13 months. They self-weaned when my oldest was 2 3/4 and my 2nd was around 14 months (weaned a month after her big sis) when I was 3 months preg w/ baby #3. Baby #3 is now 4 years old... and still nursing with Baby #4 who is 17 months.

    Serves me right for saying I'd never nurse a baby who is old enough to ask for it. To my credit, Baby #4 isn't technically talking yet. She signs (ASL) to ask for "nurse, please," since she can't verbalize it. ;-)

  9. ummm. no that not shocking, why would it be?
    It's a personal choice between mother in child... I am a "Extended Breastfeeder" I BF son #2 for 3 1/2 years and his Sister for almost 2 of them years. now my BF my little girl still and my new baby who is six months.
    so i've BF for 4 year come july.

  10. Before having children myself i was very anti breastfeeding an older child.
    I stopped BF my first 3 children before a year because i wasn't aware of the health benefits past 6 months.
    Now i am still BF my 12 month old 4th child and will continue to do so until she decides 'thats enough'.
    People unfortunately are very anti BF an older child and i feel more needs to be done to promote the benefits of extended BF.
    Maybe then people wouldn't just think we are all a bit 'weird' for wanting to continue!


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