I’m still nursing my 27mo daughter. Before she arrived, I hoped I would be able to breastfeed – my mum passed away before I got pregnant, but I know she breastfed me and my brothers and always spoke positively of it. However I didn’t want to set my heart on something I couldn’t guarantee would be possible.
I was lucky enough to have a very healthy baby who latched like a trooper immediately. After a few hurdles (regressing to a sloppy latch initially, two months of agonising nipple thrush, some oversupply issues), our BFing relationship became happily established and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I was lucky enough to be running my own business and so took her with me to work and fed her in the shop. She was a very relaxed and easy newborn.
Time ticked on and around 6 months my easy newborn ‘woke up’ and became much more challenging! She really, really suffered with teething (including an ear infection for nearly every tooth) and struggled to calm down when emotional and distressed. BFing soothed her so amazingly well that it never crossed my mind to stop, and soon 6 months turned into 9, then 12. Time goes so fast when you are dealing with the day to day of a small person. People kept asking if she had weaned yet as she hadn’t really taken to solids and suggested it was a factor but I just knew she wasn’t really ready. Sure enough a few months later she started eating solids like a trooper. She has always looked older than her actual age, so I went through a phase of feeling incredibly self-conscious and yes, embarrassed that I was still feeding my ‘big girl’. I didn’t really know any other mums extended (or longer-term, as I like to think) breastfeeding, but was fortunate enough to have several extremely supportive online groups who helped me trust my instinct that it was NOT a ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ thing to do.
Canines and molars came along, sleep regressions came and went, and I struggled with late-onset PND. My cuddly baby was turning into a wildly independent, confident toddler who adored nursery and socialising and could hardly spare the time to hug me. Around 14 months we settled into a happy routine of one feed on waking and sometimes if she struggled to settle during the night. As she got older and more independent, I started to treasure the moments of ‘booby cuddles’ we had together more and more, as I never knew when they would end, but assumed it would be soon.
When I got pregnant, the questions started again – was she weaned, wouldn’t it make her jealous of the new baby, etc? I felt under a lot of pressure to wean her especially during the intensely stressful and emotional times of 1st trimester, but it just didn’t feel right. I perfectly accept that it is not for everyone, but for me I cannot hold a child who is screaming in pain and tiredness from a molar cutting or a relentless cough (and yes, we do give her calpol etc too), and know I have something within my grasp that will sooth her better than anything else and not use it. For better or worse that is why we are still going at 27 months, with me 4 months pregnant. I feel like my milk has largely gone now, and her feeds are briefer and rarer than ever, but she still knows that if she needs it at night, she can snuggle down in my arms and have a quick feed.
I’m lucky that my husband and family are unquestioningly supportive (and if they don’t completely agree with it in principle, they keep that opinion to themselves). I don’t talk about longer-term breastfeeding openly among my extended group of friends because I felt some assumptions were made about me as a person who EBF and didn’t wean at the ‘standard’ 3-6 months (ie that I disapproved of FF, which has never been the case), and I feel it is such an emotive subject that everyone brings their own agendas to, I would rather not go there. However I do occasionally post the odd positive-about-longer-term-BFing blog or article in the hope that my friends who are in, or coming up to a similar point with their babies, know they can talk to me about it.