I haven’t nursed Nora in over a week. She is officially fully weaned. She still asks for it on occasion but she doesn’t get upset when I say no or distract her with something else. Although I was completely ready to be done with breastfeeding I still feel a little sad, or maybe nostalgic is a better word, now that it is over. It feels a bit like the end of an era. Babyhood in our family is officially coming to an end. Our kids are getting older and more independent by the day. Even the baby of the family isn’t a baby anymore.
Being done with breastfeeding feels like such a huge deal to me. Donating my nursing bras and tank tops felt surreal. For close to 5 of the last 7 and a half years I have had a nursing baby or toddler. It was just so much a part of my parenting routine that to have it be done feels weird, and I must admit a bit freeing. I don’t feel so tied down or required anymore. We all like to feel needed, and all my girls still need me and prefer for me to put them to bed at night, but I’m not required. Being gone in the evening around bedtime is now something I can do if I want to!
Nora was by far the hardest to wean. Perhaps it is because I waited a bit longer to start the process with her, perhaps it was just such a comfort to her she didn’t want to willingly give it up. Maya and Anna were fairly easy to wean, with only one or two nursing sessions being a little more challenging. By the time I started weaning them at 18 months they were down to just a few times a day anyway and we fully weaned within a month or so. Nora was still going strong at 18 months so getting her give it up was a lot harder. We took it slow and I tried to let her set the pace as much as I could, although I was ready to be done so I tended to nudge her a bit when I could. It took about 4-5 months to finally get to the point where she was just nursing once or twice a day. Getting rid of those last couple of sessions was a lot easier than I anticipated. I figured she would put up a huge fight, but with a little distraction and the introduction of some new elements to our morning and nighttime routines she quickly decided it was okay to give it up.
I really enjoy our new nighttime routine. We read a book (the same airplane book every night!) and snuggle for a few minutes. We still get that quiet, uninterrupted time together and she still gets her much loved snuggles before getting into bed. It works well and both of us are happy.
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.
By the time you get to your third child, after successfully breastfeeding two other babies for 20 months each, breastfeeding seems like a breeze. I’ve been incredibly lucky with my breastfeeding success and I know not everyone has such easy experiences so I’m very grateful.
Breastfeeding came naturally to me, and other than a few minor hiccups in the road, each of my babies have been champion nursers and Nora is no exception. All my babies had good latches and nursed well and often as newborns helping insure I got and maintained a good supply. As the months wore on with Maya I got comfortable nursing around others and even nursed in public a few times. By the time it was Anna’s turn I was pretty comfortable with the whole nursing in public thing and thanks to her super efficient nursing abilities I was usually able to get her fed before anyone even noticed what I was doing.
This third go around with breastfeeding has been a breeze. Nora was a champion nurser right out of the gate and things have been going really well ever since. With 2 other kiddos to chase after breastfeeding on the go is a must. I’ve nursed her while giving them a bath. I’ve nursed her while sitting in their room helping them get ready for the day. I’ve even nursed her while chasing a two year old around the house. The one thing I hadn’t mastered was true nursing on the go; nursing her while walking around with her in the Ergo. That is until our trip to Disney.
Taking two kiddos ready for adventure to Disneyland I knew I was going to have to step up my game. I didn’t want my need to nurse Nora to get in the way of their fun. I didn’t want to have to constantly say “Sorry guys I need to feed Nora first.” I knew that would result in a few meltdowns and a lot of kid wrangling while I tried to feed the baby. At first I stopped to feed her when I needed to but I knew it wasn’t going to work every time. Then, as we were in line for a ride, Nora got super fussy. She was tired, hungry and over stimulated. I didn’t have a choice, I had to nurse her then and there. So, I carefully loosened the shoulder straps on the Ergo, positioned her as best I could, covered her head with a blanket and did my best to get her latched on. It worked. She latched on, nursed contentedly until she fell asleep. I had done it. I had truly nursed her on the go.
The rest of the trip saw me nursing her as we walked around the park almost every time she needed to eat. If you had passed me you would have had no idea. It simply looked like I had a baby sleeping soundly in an Ergo. I had done it. I had achieved the master level of breastfeeding!!
I’m still waiting on my certificate to come in the mail
Friday night, for the first time since she was born, I didn’t nurse Anna before bed. At 19 months it was time to be done. She probably would have kept going if I had been willing, but I was ready to be done. As I read her a story and rocked her for a bit before putting her in her crib I found myself feeling a bit sad. Even though I was ready to be done it felt like the last piece of her babyhood slipping away.
The process to get to Friday night when we were officially done breast feeding started about a month ago. Slowly Anna had been dropping nursing sessions on her own since she turned 1. We were down to the last 3, the hardest ones in my experience, for them to give up. The first one we worked on was her before nap nursing session. It was by far the toughest, and although she no longer asks to nurse before nap time it is still a struggle to get her to fall asleep. A few days after we ended to before nap nursing she decided to give up the first thing in the morning session on her own. It was nice not to have to battle her on that one.
Once we were down to just the before bed session I took a break for a couple of weeks from the weaning process and let her adjust to the new normal. I knew on Thursday it was the last time I would nurse her. I had picked Friday because I figured if it was a real challenge to get her to go to sleep it would be easier when we didn’t have to get up early for anything the next day. Surprisingly, she was fine with it. We read a story and then snuggled and rocked in the rocking chair for a bit. She was out within minutes of me putting her in her crib. And, she has continued to do well every night since.
I am proud of myself for making it another 19 months. Breastfeeding this time around was a much easier than last time as it didn’t come with any of the early struggles I experienced with Maya. It wasn’t challenge free but the challenges that did come up were easy to get through thanks to the 19 months experience I had nursing Maya. I’ll miss my quiet time with Anna all snuggled into me that nursing guaranteed daily. Although, Anna loves to snuggle so I’m sure there will be no lack of snuggle time with her.
When I was breastfeeding my first daughter I had all the time in the world to give her when it was time to nurse. If she wanted to spend 20 or 30 minutes nursing it was fine because there was nothing else more important or that needed my attention more. We spent a lot of peaceful, uninterrupted time together while she nursed.
Before my second daughter was born I fretted over how breastfeeding would go given that I would now have a 4 year old who also needed my attention. Sitting down to quietly and calmly breastfeed seemed impossible to me when there was a rambunctious little girl running around who would need help going potty or help getting a snack or would want to play, etc. etc.
When Anna was born I was determined for our breastfeeding relationship to be as calm, peaceful and enjoyable as it was with Maya. It was important to me because I felt she deserved it even though she was our second and life was more chaotic now. I set my mind to it and did everything I could to make it so. A few things I did to make this possible were:
- I set the precedent from the beginning that I would sit quietly and nurse her whenever possible.
- I prepared Maya before I sat down to nurse Anna. I would ask her if she had to go potty or needed a snack because I was about to feed her sister and wouldn’t be able to help her for a little bit.
- Whenever possible I nurse Anna in the quiet of her bedroom before naps and bedtime. Of course, that only works when my husband is home to watch Maya.
- I try hard not to be distracted while nursing. I focus as much attention on Anna as I can just as I did with Maya when I had all the time in the world.
- I talked to Maya before Anna was even born about breastfeeding and what it would entail.
- I make sure Maya has something fun to do while I’m nursing Anna either something to play, or a show to watch.
12 months in and I’m happy to say I feel as though I’ve been able to give Anna pretty close to the same attention and quiet during our nursing sessions as I did when I nursed my first child. It wasn’t easy and it took dedication but I made it work.
It is so easy to get distracted in the day to day chaos of raising children. I enjoy the peace and quiet of sitting down to cuddle my baby while she nurses and I’m glad I as able to make it happen even with so many other distractions around.