Nursing for over 2 years

I have been nursing for over 2 years.

Right now I am expecting reactions somewhere between “eww!”, “why?”, and “how did you do that?”

I thought I would share my journey with breastfeeding because it’s been a long, and I feel informative, one. There seems to be such a stigma about breastfeeding. In truth it is both very natural and a difficult body function. We need to speak out and try to make long term breastfeeding normal (because it is!).

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Recommendations

Let me start off by saying the World Health Organization recommends that children be breastfed for 2 years and beyond.

“From the age of 6 months, children should begin eating safe and adequate complementary foods while continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years and beyond.”

https://www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding#tab=tab_2

For some reason here in the US, nursing for an extend period of time is characterized as weird. In other parts of the world, nursing past 3 years is normal. I found this great article about these trends that is worth a read: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/15/parenting/baby/how-long-should-you-breastfeed.html

Starting Out

I started out nursing shortly after Little One was born. He arrived in a bit of a dramatic fashion and you can read all about that here. When we started to nurse it was a bit delayed. After a couple times trying with it not going great, a nurse realized that Little One was tongue tied. A pediatrician came in the next day and did a procedure to fix the tongue tie. In the meantime I pumped and fed him using a syringe. It was definitely not how I pictured my first nursing experience to go. After another day, Little One was latching much better, but still not as well as he could be.

Enter the nipple shield. If you don’t know what this is, it’s a thin piece of plastic that goes over the nipple that helps a baby latch. The message I kept receiving in the hospital was try to get the baby to stop using the shield as soon as possible to avoid nipple confusion. I was so stressed out about this and kept trying without the shield. Ten days after Little One was born we had his first well baby appointment and I spoke to my doctor about this. She told me not to worry and use the shield as long as Little One needed it and that eventually, he will stop. You know what? She was right! In his 3rd month Little One stopped using it and hasn’t used it ever since.

Now every baby is different and every situation is different, but this is what worked for us.

The first couple months

I was recently talking to a friend whose sister-in-law just had a baby. She was telling my friend how the baby was so good and on a feeding schedule. My friend was considerate but not feeling great about herself because she had a rather difficult birth and nursing experience and it brought up some old feelings.

I honesty gave a bit of a laugh. The baby is two weeks old – just wait until the baby starts cluster feeding. That nice little schedule is going to go out the window. Now every baby is different and so is every family. Not every baby goes through a cluster feeding phase, but a lot do!

Cluster feeding is when the baby wants to nurse repeatedly for a couple hours stretch. He will take a nap and want to cluster feed again. This process normally lasts for a couple of days, then goes back to normal. A couple of days after that the cluster feeding starts up again. This normally starts in the the 3-4 weeks of life and can last a couple of weeks if not longer. The reason this happens is because nursing the baby triggers mom’s body to produce more milk.

There is so much growing that a baby does during the first couple of months. Cluster feeding is how the baby gets the mom to make as much milk that he or she needs.

Little One and Cluster Feeding

Little One started cluster feeding in his 3rd or 4th week of life, but I can’t quite remember. I felt like the only thing I was doing was nursing because I was doing it for days on end. This might be too much information, but during this time I developed a sharp pain when Little One nursed on the left side. I spoke with my doctor about it and she said it was one of those things that needed time to adjust and to keep using nipple cream. (This one is good for soothing and this one is great for tougher situations).

Eventually the pain subsided, but it took about a month. I could have very easily bowed out at that time and made the switch to formula. Knowing how good breast milk was for my Little One, I decided to stick with it. I am also quite thrifty so I didn’t want to pay for formula!

The cluster feeding lasted for about 3-4 weeks before we developed more of a balance. In the off days of cluster feeding, your body will continue to produce more milk. I used this time to pump and freeze the mild for later use.

Going back to Work and Pumping

After my short maternity leave I had to go back to work, which meant pumping there (this is the one I used). I was constantly struggling to produce enough for the day and trying to build a reserve. I would often do extra pumping sessions to help build my frozen stash.

My doctor recommended to just worry about producing enough milk for the next day. However, I wanted to have extra in the freezer because I was just not crazy about pumping.

I want to take a moment to recognize that I was only successful because I had a work environment that accommodated me. As a society and a work force we need to change to make pumping at work available to everyone! I read so many stories of women who stop pumping because they aren’t able to at work. Nursing is so important for the heath of a baby. Give moms the tools to keep it up. Pumping is hard enough without the extra challenges of an unaccommodating work place.

It is important to know your rights when it comes to pumping in the work place. Check out this website from the Department of Labor which indicates what the law states about pumping in the work place. While it is the law, it takes mothers (and fathers!) advocating and speaking up for their rights to effect change.

I spoke with my employer before I got back and set up a plan for pumping. The nature of my job has me moving around a bit. I do have a private office that I used to pump in. However, when I was on the road I often used my car adapter to pump in the car or reserve a meeting room in my other office location for privacy.

Speak up! Know your rights! Hold your employer accountable!

1 year

I made it to one year. That was my goal – at least one year of nursing. At this time I decided to stop pumping at work. It was a huge relief. Through my pumping experience I built quite a stash. I was able to send milk with Little One to day care until he was 18 months old!

We developed a schedule at this time. Little One would nurse when he woke up, right after we got home from day care, and again before bed. Also, on the weekends we would nurse before he went down for his nap.

18 months

Around 18 months Little One stopped wanting to nurse when he got home from day care. He wanted a snack instead. The first time it happened I cried. My little boy was growing up and that special connection we had was coming to an end. While we have kept up the morning and night nursing sessions, it was sad to lose this one.

2 years

We have reached two years! Little One is still nursing before going to bed at night. Sometimes he decides he wants to nurse in the morning, but it’s not an everyday thing. If he isn’t feeling well, sometimes he will want to nurse randomly during the day.

We have a good balance. Little One eats solid food during the day and for each meal. He will nurse right before going to bed. This is an important step in our night time routine. You can read more about that here. I have decided we will keep going as long as he wants to.

To all those out there who view nursing for over 2 years old to be weird, I have to say it really isn’t. In most parts of the world it is normal. I have nursed my son since he was born and we have grown together. It’s not like I have suddenly started nursing a two year old. It’s a natural connection only a mother and baby can have.

Final Thoughts

So that’s the story of how I been nursing for over 2 years. My big takeaway is that nursing is hard, but it is worth it for your baby. Because of this, I do believe fed is best and you need to do what is right for you and your family, whether that means breastfeeding, using formula, or a mixture of both. I have also learned that moms have to stand up for themselves! Advocate for the right to feed your baby in whatever way that means! Hopefully with more moms and dads speaking out we can bring about the change for a more accepting society and work place.

I would love to hear your nursing stories. Have any of you tried nursing over 2 years? Let me know in the comments below!

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Emily
1 month ago

I just wanted to tell you quick that I think you’re amazing for nursing your little one so long. I let my babies self wean as well and I think it’s the most natural way to go about it. Congratulations for keeping it up, Mama. I know it’s hard.

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