We made it to a year (and counting)!!!
I can’t even describe how happy it makes me that we are still breastfeeding, after our rocky beginning.
Our breastfeeding pattern has changed slightly over the past couple of months. Here’s some of the things we’ve experienced since my last breastfeeding update:
- Biting: Ah, yes. Every nursing mother’s fear. I knew it would come eventually, but I’m happy to report it hasn’t been as bad as I imagined. Alma has bitten me several times, but never very ferociously. She always lets go as soon as I
screamtell her not to bite. It has only happened when she was either teething, sick (hard to nurse when you can’t breathe through your nose!) or was showing me signs that she didn’t want to nurse, but I offered anyway. Lesson learned. To anyone who thinks that mothers who breastfeed long term are somehow ‘forcing’ their child to nurse: there is absolutely no way you can coerce a child to breastfeed. They will bite you.
- Frequency: For a few weeks, I tried cutting out some feedings, and for awhile we were down to 7 or 8 times a day. But then, Alma started asking to nurse more frequently again, 8-10 times. She was really insistent, too – she’d find our boppy pillow and say “nah-nah-nah!” and pull at my shirt until I fed her. I figured if she’s trying that hard to get some milk, she needs it! Everyday is different, some days it’s 10x, some days it’s less.
- Domperidone: I am no longer taking domperidone, and it’s really nice not to have to remember the pills anymore. I know my supply went down a bit ever since I started decreasing my dosage (around 9.5 months), but Alma is old enough that she doesn’t need me to have a full milk supply. She gets about 10-15 ounces a day from me, around 4-6 ounces of hemp/coconut milk, plus three meals and and a snack or two.
- Lactation visit: We met with my lactation consultant, Melissa, again after Alma turned 11 months. I wanted to see how much milk Alma was transferring from me (around 2 ounces per feeding, less if she is eating more frequently) and to talk with her about my hopes for our second year of breastfeeding. We also weighed Alma and saw that she was gaining above her curve (so all my worries about her not eating enough solids were put to rest).
- Communication: Alma used to sign “milk” or pull at my shirt and root around when she wanted to nurse. Now she usually just says “nah-nah” to let me know she’s hungry.
In my last breastfeeding update, I wrote that I wanted to get down to 4-5 feedings after Alma turned one. After meeting with Melissa, I’ve decided that I won’t actively try to drop any more feedings. (Currently, I offer to nurse Alma 6 times a day, she asks for 1-2 more quick feedings, and she wakes up to nurse 1-2 times.) We talked about how my milk supply has been so sensitive to any changes, so there is a concern that if I drop any more feedings, my milk supply will lower and Alma may lose interest in breastfeeding.
Of course, when Alma inevitably becomes disinterested in nursing as frequently as she is now, I will follow her lead and drop feedings according to her cues. I hope at some point we can successfully nurse only in the morning, before naps, and at bedtime – but I’m not in any rush to get there.
My goal is to breastfeed Alma until she is 2. I’m not entirely opposed to nursing beyond that, if Alma wants to, though I am well aware that the general feeling of extended breastfeeding in this country is negative. I am interested in extended breastfeeding for several reasons:
- Breast milk continues to provide optimal nutrition for toddlers. Over time, the composition of breast milk changes (for one, it increases in fat content) to meet the changing needs of active babies and toddlers. My breast milk will give Alma important antibodies and nutrients, and will support her still-developing immune system for as long as she nurses.
- Research has shown that cognitive achievements are higher for children who breastfed longer.
- Contrary to popular belief that children who breastfeed longer are more dependent, extended breastfeeding actually fosters independence throughout development.
- The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least 2 years.
- Extended nursing often delays the return of menstrual cycles for the mama (woohoo!) – I will admit this is a huge motivation for me to continue breastfeeding on demand!
- Breastfeeding reduces a nursing mother’s risk of breast cancer, and that risk is lowered even more for each year she breastfeeds.
- And even if all of the above were not factors, I am continuing to nurse Alma because she enjoys it and it’s comforting to her, and I enjoy providing her with that comfort. Some of my favorite times of the day are when we’re rocking in the glider in her dark room, while Alma gently kneads my chest and lets out quiet sighs as she falls asleep nursing. When either of us cease to enjoy it, we will stop.
I know that extended breastfeeding is not a popular choice in the US, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about people judging me for this decision. But I also don’t want to pretend like it’s not happening in our lives, and keep it secret (and in doing so, promote the belief that extended nursing is somehow wrong, or something that should be hidden).
All of that being said, I’m not even sure how long this sensitive milk supply of mine will hold out for. Alma may become increasingly disinterested in breast feeding as my supply wanes, or she may be happy with whatever amount I can produce. There is really no way to predict when our breastfeeding relationship will end, but I’m fairly certain it will be Alma who decides to stop, not me. (As a side, if she weans herself much before age 2, I will consider pumping a few times each day, and offering her the pumped milk in a cup. If I’m able to pump a decent amount, I’ll continue doing that until she is 2. She didn’t want to drink breast milk from a cup the last time I offered, so we’ll see.)
This will be my last breastfeeding update for awhile, at least until anything major shifts. Right now, I’m celebrating the fact that I achieved my first long term goal of nursing for one year, and from here on out, there is no pressure to meet all of Alma’s nutritional needs.
And to Alma: Thanks for hanging on with me, baby!
For more on our first year of breastfeeding, check out: