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Extended breastfeeding seems like such a strange term to me. It is the term used to describe breastfeeding beyond 12 months. The fact that there is a term to describe nursing your child beyond 12 months of age is strange to me. Who decided that 12 months should be the cut off and that there needed to be a special term for those that breastfed beyond that magic time marker. In so many cultures “extended breastfeeding” is the norm. It is natural, common and very likely not given a second thought, let alone a special term. In our culture that is not the case. Extended breastfeeding is not the norm and there is definitely a lack of support for those who choose to nurse their children beyond 1 year of age. In fact, not only is there a lack of support but there is also a sense that choosing to nurse your child beyond a certain age is a weird. I will say that I feel like we have made great strides in normalizing both breastfeeding itself and extended breastfeeding. But, we have a long way to go.

I am breastfeeding for the third time beyond that magic 12 month marker and have received my fair share of sideways glances and awkward, silent moments when people find out. The most common question I get is “Are you going to wean her soon?” like it is somehow the business of anyone but myself.

My goal when I began breastfeeding, with Maya anyway, was to breastfeed for “at least a year”. I didn’t give much thought to how long I would do it or how I would go about weaning. With Anna and Nora I had a similar goal. I wanted to get to at least a year and beyond that I would just play it by ear. I didn’t have a set end date in mind, although I figured I would go at least as long as I did with Maya. It seemed like the right approach. If breastfeeding beyond a year worked for my girls and for me then that is what we would do.

Maya and Anna were both breastfed until 20 months of age. It was a weaning schedule that worked well for both myself and my girls. They were both pretty much ready to be done and I was ready to be done. I had to push a little as we dropped certain nursing sessions but for the most part they dropped sessions on their own. With Nora things are going to be a little different, I can tell. She is extremely attached to breastfeeding. There are times when I am ready to be done but most of the time I’m perfectly okay with the status quo. She is definitely not ready to be done. She still asks frequently to nurse. Sometimes too frequently. She is still very dependent on it for comfort if she is sad or hurt, and I’m okay with that. I don’t foresee a time in the near future when she will take kindly to being nudged into the weaning process. I fully anticipate she will be older than her sisters when our nursing relationship comes to an end. So, we will keep going until she is ready to stop, or until I definitely don’t feel like I can do it anymore. Hopefully she gets to her end point first so I don’t feel like I am forcing it on her.

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