Let me start this post by saying that I understand that what works for one family doesn’t work for another. I believe that breastfeeding is the best option for all babies, but also know that it is not always possible or what’s best for mom.
We have been breastfeeding for almost 15 months now. And other than the first week where we just weren’t getting together well, and Sweet Girl was losing a lot of her birth weight, things have been moving along quite nicely. I follow her cues, feed her when she’s hungry, and will still use breastfeeding as a means to calm her down when she is seriously hurt or just having a really rough day.
For us, it is a great time to sit calmly for a moment and just be with each other. It is such a comfort for her that I know I’m doing the right thing by continuing to nurse her when she needs it.
For a lot of people, including my husband, nursing a baby past a year – and especially when they can verbally ask for it – is past the time when they should be done. I have come across so many things on Pinterest – charts, food recommendations – that show only cows milk or a non-dairy alternative. It makes me sad to think that many moms will see that and think their baby doesn’t need their breast milk anymore. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across something about baby sleep and breastfeeding. I see so many outrageous suggestions that infants only 6 weeks old should be sleeping 12 hours or more (that’s something for another post). I may not have liked getting up multiple times a night for the past 15 months but I do not regret my decision to follow her lead as to when she no longer needed to eat every time she woke up. We have slowly taken out one night feeding at a time and are down to just one. And I think we are getting close to not needing it anymore.
I have no doubts that infants are able to understand their own needs. It seems to me that so many people are under the impression their children have no awareness whatsoever of whether or not they are hungry or tired or upset for whatever reason. These are base instincts that we understand all animals to have so why not our own children? And if they are not born with this understanding, when do they “develop” it? When they can talk? For some kids that takes a really long time – or doesn’t happen at all in some cases – but you can’t argue that they can’t communicate their needs.
Anyway, back to breastfeeding. I was talking to my mom about Sweet Girl’s sleep and how she is still waking once (sometimes twice) at night and is still eating once. She was under the impression that she no longer needed it. But I explained to her that I could tell she did. It’s easy, if you are in tune with your baby, to know when they need to eat and when they are just in need of comfort. Especially in the middle of the night when they generally go right back to sleep when they get what they need. I know she still needs to eat because she still does. It is one of those things that I’m not going to rush just because someone else – family, well-meaning friend, stranger, or doctor – tells me she is ready to sleep all the way through the night.
I am happy that I can still provide my little one with such important nutrition. I am happy that we still have the opportunity to take a few minutes together every few hours during a busy day. I can’t say when I’ll be done breastfeeding. I can’t say when I will encourage Sweet Girl to sleep through the night. These are things I will allow to unfold over time. I don’t plan to breastfeed her forever, nor do I think she’ll want to. What I do know is that I want this relationship to come to a natural end. No tears (at least from Sweet Girl), no fuss, no asking why she can’t have it anymore. Just a gentle move into the next stage of her life.