Dylan is just over 2 and is still breastfeeding. It’s not that often anymore – in the morning, before naptime on days I’m not at work, before bedtime and sometimes at night. OK…so maybe that seems like a lot – but it’s nothing compared to the every hour on the hour schedule we used to be on!
Before I had a baby I always thought for some reason that when a baby gets teeth they don’t need to breastfeed, and certainly if they can ask for it they don’t need it! When I started breastfeeding Dylan my initial goal was a year. When Dylan was around 8 or 9 months I thought about going back to work and worried about how it would work with breastfeeding. At the time Dylan was feeding very frequently and there was no real pattern. I went to a LLL meeting and asked the leader questions about breastfeeding and going back to work and she explained that my body would figure it out if I decided to work part time or even full time. It would still be possible to breastfeed. With that information in mind, I stopped worrying about weaning and decided to just let it happen when it happens. There are so many benefits to continue to breastfeed past a year that it just didn’t make sense to me to stop.
I have very few friends outside of LLL that still breastfeed their toddlers. A lot of my friends with toddlers the same age as Dylan started the weaning process at around 6 months so that they would be able to return to work at a year. They began to replace feedings with bottles of formula and over time all of the feedings were replaced with bottles. To me it always seemed like a lot of work to worry about carrying around bottles and mixing formula, and then having to make sure it doesn’t sit out too long, and then of course washing the bottles. Then they had to worry about timing the bottles and making sure they didn’t overfeed their baby. At six months a baby is still a baby and still benefits from all of the good things breastfeeding offers. Same thing at a year. Even 2 years, Dylan is technically a toddler but his need for breastfeeding is certainly not gone. Right now the plan is to continue to nurse Dylan as long as he needs and as long as I still enjoy it.
I know that some mothers are not interested in nursing a walking, talking toddler and that is OK too. Weaning can be done gradually, with love. When doing so a mother has to replace not only the nutritional benefits of breastmilk by providing their child with other nutrious foods and drinks, but must also replace the emotional benefits of breastfeeding. In doing so a mom should ensure that her child still receives a lot of love and attention and cuddling. If weaning takes place prior to a year, breastmilk should be replaced with formula. If weaning takes place after a year, breastmilk can be replaced with cow’s milk. A mother should drop feedings gradually as to avoid plugged ducts and mastitis and also so that the transition is gentle for her baby. If a child feeds a regular times, slowly feedings can be replaced with bottles or solids depending on the age and needs of the baby/toddler. If a baby has no particular schedule, a mother can try to create blocks of time with no nursing. For example, a mother can feed her baby when they wake up in the morning and then try not to feed her for 2 hrs, then three hours, then four hours after etc, and provide her baby/toddler with milk in a bottle or sippy cup or food instead and also lots of cuddles and attention. Eventually these blocks can get longer and longer.
So while I didn’t start out intending to nurse a 2 year – that is where we are now. Nursing helps Dylan fall asleep, and it is a way to reconnect after a busy crazy day apart. It soothes him when he is sick and pumps his body full of antibodies when he needs them. We are both enjoying our nursing relationship and we continue to approach it with love and respect.
This post is part of the 2010 API Principles of Parenting blog carnival, a series of monthly parenting blog carnivals, hosted by API Speaks. Learn more about attachment parenting by visiting the API website.