Year Of Breastfeeding

July 23, 2012

I’ve never been overly sentimental about breastfeeding. In fact, I’ve often poked fun at la leche moms, because despite the fact that they are making healthy choices and encouraging our world to be more boob-friendly, they are also kind of annoying. I know I’m not supposed to say this.

The thing is that from the beginning, the whole business of breastfeeding has been a giant pain. Sometimes literally, with latch changes and teeth, clawing and scratching, and often figuratively, pulling me away from conversations and interrupting my life for yet another stop at the milk buffet.  And yet for all its disadvantages, here I am soldiering on. One year later and I’m still feeding on demand, through the night, and in cramped bathroom stalls–all for the love of baby.

Or is it?

There’s no denying this past year of nursing has taught me a lot about patience and endurance, but it has also revealed to me a giant secret about babies: boobs = quiet.

Is baby hungry? Boobs. Is baby fussy? Boobs. Is baby tired? Boobs! Want a moment of silence? BOOBS.

Surprisingly, this breastfeeding philosophy is wildly unpopular these days. In fact, I’ve had people outright tell me I’m doing it wrong. Part of me agrees. For example, next time I will absolutely not forget to give the kid a bottle once a week. I didn’t realize that shying away from bottles would cause Waylon to refuse to take one all together, cornering me into a wall of dependency. I also agree with the camp who says that breastfeeding your babies to sleep prevents them from sleeping through the night. They are absolutely right. As of last night, Waylon is still getting mid-sleep nummies.

Here’s the thing, the pros of breastfeeding far outweigh the cons. Do I groan at 3AM when I hear Waylon fussing in his bed? Yes, but I’m almost immediately back to sleep when he’s nursing next to me. Am I annoyed when I have company over and he’s pulling at my shirt? Yes, but afterwards he’s much happier and playing with his toys independently. It’s a great trick and more than convenient having these baby soothers built into my body.

I think a lot of people who see me continuing to breastfeed and co-sleep assume that I’m an overindulgent parent. So far I’ve heard, “You’re going to spoil him!” “It’s obvious who’s in charge in your house!” and “Looks like Waylon has you right where he wants you.” I try to laugh off these conversations, but it does cause moments of self doubt. So much so that on a few separate occasions we’ve tried to let him cry it out or have skipped feedings to work on his patience.

Finally I emailed two mamas who breastfed and co-slept until their kids were well past a year old. I tried not to sound desperate, but I was little desperate. I told them I worried about the pattern I’d set up for Waylon, that he’d probably be sleeping with us when he’s sixteen, and that he was too dependent.

Much to my relief, they both responded with multi-paragraph examples of how their kids are fine, no longer breast-feeding, and perfectly adjusted to real life. One of them even lamented not breastfeeding longer. She said, “After I weaned both my boys started getting chronic ear infections and we dealt with tons of doctor’s visits/antibiotics/tube discussions. Around 2 the ear infections stopped. So, that’s more motivation. I say all this because weaning is really enticing when you have a baby who nurses all night and weaning might be the cure all. But man, nursing is the best, whether you feel all swoony about it or not.”

The other wrote back with specific examples of weaning, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping with all four of her children. She even had the decency to dig out her old baby books and copy down verbatim how she was feeling at the time and I noted that all her children were much closer to two than one when they were weaned and out of their bed. I breathed a sigh of relief.

What’s most ridiculous is that these moms were some of the only moms I felt comfortable asking. Breastfeeding has become one of those dicey topics that shouldn’t be dicey. I’m still confused what we’re fighting about. Are there really women out there trying to convince other women not to breastfeed past a certain age? Are we still throwing stones at those who don’t breastfeed at all? I’m honestly confused.

At least once a week someone asks how long I plan on keeping up this gig. Usually it’s non-threatening and, despite being a bit tired of talking about it, usually leads to a great discussion. But there are also the raised eyebrow conversations, the ones where I end up talking too much and making up statistics so I don’t look like a crazy la leche freak. It’s not my favorite.

Look, I’m going to nurse this kid until he self-weans or turns two, whichever comes first. And after it’s all over, you better believe I’m going to cry about it, because despite being an annoyance, it’s also really beautiful and unbelievably convenient.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

***

Thanks Erin and Jennifer for answering my desperate emails.

56 thoughts on “Year Of Breastfeeding

  1. Pat Walsh

    I agree with you Kate. Breast feeding is the best. I breast fed both of my children for about 18 months and I cried when my second child stopped. My “children” are 29 and 32 years old now, and they are both independent, well adjusted, happy adults. After you have children, of course they rule the house, who else would! Enjoy your special times with Waylon!

    Reply
  2. Karen

    Sometimes Marc and I have sleepovers. He’s nearly 6.

    he is not nursing, though. 5 1/2 is my limit. ;)

    Luc still sleeps with us sometimes. I could care less what other people think. He still needs the comfort of slapping his little hands on my face. And that’s fine by me.

    Love this post. And love the little fishy face!

    Reply
  3. brittany.

    i absolutely love this post. and completely agree with your sentiments about the ridiculous “mommy wars”. who cares how long/where/when/why/blah blah blaaaah you breastfeed or if you don’t. being a mom is hard enough without all the judgey eye glares from other moms (or just people in general).

    thanks for this. :)

    Reply
    1. Kate {motleymama} Post author

      I’m not sure why we have to have wars about anything. As long as you’re not abusing your kid, I don’t really care what you’re doing. We’re all in it together.

      Reply
  4. Nikki M

    I breastfeed all three of my babies, they all were 3 -3 1/2 months when my body just stopped. I would drink tons of water, eat more, feed 24/7 to up my milk, call the lactation consultant for help…anything I could think of. I think going back to work really messed things up. Trying to pump when I could but my body just didn’t like the pump. Its great that your still going strong your doing the best thing for your baby!

    Reply
    1. Kate {motleymama} Post author

      Loving your baby is doing what’s best for your baby. And you were! Don’t feel any guilt. I honestly breastfeed more for my own convenience than for Waylon’s benefit. Truth!

      Reply
  5. Christa

    As far as breast/bottle feeding I say everyone’s different and what works for some doesn’t work for others, to judge is to think we have it all figured out, I know I sure don’t!!! You and Waylon look happy as pie so whatever you’re doing is working great!!!

    Reply
  6. Zoe

    I breastfeed/fed on demand and nursed them to sleep. So far none of mine have had issues falling asleep by themselves once they weaned. And they even slept through the night when I was still putting them to sleep by nursing. Sometimes it just depends on the kid….Waylon could very well still be waking up at 3 for a snack or snuggles even if he was on a bottle.

    Also, good luck with that once-a-day bottle with your next one. I could never stick with it. Who wants to drag out a pump and bottle when you can just lift up your shirt?! Besides, even when I was successful getting them to take the bottle, it seemed like they weren’t satisfied for as long. There’s something about mommy’s boobs that keeps them full longer.

    Reply
    1. Kate {motleymama} Post author

      Not all of us have to plug our pumps into a deer spotlight… ;)

      But you’re right, I know I’m overly optimistic about the bottle. I just wish so desperately it was an option that I’m determined to try harder next time.

      Reply
  7. Heather

    Preach! You do what’s best for you guys and give the naysayers the parental wink-n-nod. For the record, I did things very differently and took the same type of heat for my decisions anyway. People are zealots about parenting styles b/c were all just terrified of really being wrong. We have to convince our selves that our way is right in an absolutist sense. It’s silly but true. Truth is I know awesome kids raised on a variety of methodologies and ways. Do what works and give the polite smile and topic change sentence to the naysayers.

    Reply
  8. Kristen

    I love your honesty about all of this. I am still breastfeeding my 7 1/2 month old. In the beginning I was indifferent to breastfeeding. My mom and MIL would both go on and on about how wonderful it was, etc. etc. I did not have those feelings for a long time. Now, I am appreciative that I did it and am still doing it because of the quiet time I have with my baby, the one on one special time, and who am I kidding, the convenience. I have also made the bottle mistake and my child will not take a bottle… I am trying a sippy cup and she is curious about it. We don’t co-sleep and she does sleep through the night, but I think that is because I was a bit selfish and wanted some alone time with my husband, not because I think it is a bad thing. The thing about parenthood, forget about everyone else and be confident in what you choose. It sounds like you already know this! ;)

    Reply
    1. Kate {motleymama} Post author

      I don’t think wanting alone time with your husband is selfish! I also need the alone time, which is why Waylon starts out in his own bed until 2AM when he wakes up to eat.

      Reply
  9. Dara

    “Are we still throwing stones at those who don’t breastfeed at all?”

    Yes. I bottle fed (although I tried breastfeeding) and I got a few dirty looks. Enough that I would try my best to get him fed before I left the house so we didn’t have to while out. Got a few passive aggressive comments from a lady at church about it too. I don’t get it. My son’s as happy as any who were breastfed. Oh well.

    Anyway, I am always happy to read about how breast feeding works for others. Next time around, I’m going to give it more effort–I think I probably quit too quickly.

    Reply
  10. Ella

    W is very much like my son was. My boy is 19 months old now, and I didn’t nurse past 4 months, but we co-sleep and we get the same questions/looks.

    I used to always answer with, “we only plan to do it till he is one”. I had this need to tell people there was an end in sight. As he was turning one, I had a breakdown in the middle of the night because we were so far away from STTN and from breaking our co-sleeping. It was killing me. But the next morning I woke up and realized that I was only setting limits for judgmental “friends” or strangers! I really liked co-sleeping and I know my son is sensitive/high needs and it just takes more to calm him or get him to sleep.

    I stopped offering people end dates because they don’t care and it won’t change their minds from thinking we are nuts anyway! Plus, my husband and I like it! It has been amazing to let go of all of the self caused aniety by just not telling people a made up ending. He still has a Paci, spends half the night in our bed, gets rocked or bounced to sleep, etc. It works for us. It really does. We are a very happy little family, so I don’t care what other people have to say.

    Also, I held him all the time and he is very independent. Very. He loves us and loves to play with us, but he is his own man and I have never had to force him to get there. Plus, is is very affectionate and LOVES to cuddle or hug. He comes up to me and kisses me or my hub all the time. I like to think we have made an affectionate boy who will turn to an affectionate husband and then father.

    Reply
    1. Kate {motleymama} Post author

      I saw your comment on Twitter–thanks for breaking your rule and leaving some good words here! We also did the whole “we only plan to do it till he is one” gig. I laugh at it now. It’s silly to set those kind of guidelines–and I agree, we only really said that for other people. How ridiculous.

      It sounds like we have very similar sons, which warms my heart. I liked what you said: We are a very happy little family, so I don’t care what other people have to say.

      Amen.

      Reply
  11. Erin

    The motto of my life: Nurse them into submission!

    But seriously, everything will be okay. My mom always gives me great perspective on how short this period of time is (even if you nurse for 2 or 3 years), and that for all of history, and right now, all over the world, women are nursing their babies. They’re exhausted, the kid has taken over the bed, they’re covered in bodily fluids, but they’re surviving. I can’t tell you how many 3 am feedings that realization has gotten me through. SOLIDARITY!

    Nurse on, Kate.

    Reply
      1. Kate {motleymama} Post author

        I blatantly stole that motto and use it all the time. Along with your other one: “motherhood, it’s a marathon.” Thanks dude.

        “for all of history, and right now, all over the world, women are nursing their babies. They’re exhausted, the kid has taken over the bed, they’re covered in bodily fluids, but they’re surviving.”

        Thank the good Lord I have someone telling me these smart things.

        Reply
  12. Kimberly

    When I quit nursing at 10 weeks, I felt I really had to. We were nursing only for comfort and antibodies, she had to get most of her calories from formula and I just couldn’t do both anymore. Getting bottles ready and then taking off all my clothes every time she needed to eat was so overwhelming. But just a few weeks later I missed it, I was so sad. I’m excited for a new baby to try harder, to know what I need to do to make more milk so I can JUST breast feed and to finally be successful at something I feel like our bodies are made to do.

    Reply
    1. Kate {motleymama} Post author

      That whole first time mom ordeal is such a fragile time. Throwing in the complexities of breastfeeding and it gets overwhelming fast. I hope you aren’t feeling bad over it. Loving baby=best gift ever.

      Reply
  13. Meggie

    I’m with you 100%. We’re going on 14 months and while I always wanted to nurse, I wasn’t ultra-passionate either way. I never read any books and la leche still kind of scares me. But at this point, nursing seems easier than weaning. And while I’d love to no longer be the only one who can put Gray to bed, or feed him when he wakes at 5, it’s easy with the boob and I know I’ll miss it once it’s over. Keep on doing your thang, girl.

    Reply
  14. bridget

    Great post! I wish I could still breastfeed my 8mo old, especially when teething rears its ugly head. Your son is lucky to have a momma like you!

    Reply
  15. Katie

    I’m kind of like you in the sense that I don’t really care one way or another, but then I ended up liking nursing (months and months and MONTHS into the gig)–and I secretly scoffed at the crazies who talked non stop about it. But yet, I knew I was doing something good for my baby. And I also got the WHEN ARE YOU STOPPING ALREADY talks…and my baby? was STILL A BABY. And it was irritating. So then I’d have the defensive tone and sound like a crazy myself out of feeling attacked. It’s so stupid. I wish “america” would butt OUT of what moms do. I hate that what you are doing with nursing your baby until (potentially) 2 is considered “extreme”. HELLO. You get to lay down. Shut your kid up. And rest. It’s heaven if you ask me ;)

    Now—

    I am reminded why I was so pissed/sad/ugly cried when my baby self weaned at 11 months old. Damn it.

    Sigh. Onto baby 2 ;)

    Reply
  16. Annie

    Hello! Never commented before, but had to today;) When my 3 year old was nursing my husband called me a one trick pony…any tear or whimper, out came the boob:) When I was pregnant with my one year old, I acquired a new trick. We stopped nursing when my son was 22 months, and once I had a big belly, my son wanted to lay on it all the time. So if he was grouchy or tired, all I had to say was “want to lay on Mommy’s belly?” I’m a big fan of whatever works. Also a big fan of letting kids do things in their own time. My son co slept for a year and a half, but now he sleeps in his toddler bed no problem. We also barely mentioned potty training and he did it mostly by himself at 3 and a half. So, yeah. Point is, do what you want:) I’m still nursing my one year old and the thing that bothers me is that at work people will comment that I’m still nursing because I’m pumping two times a day…yes, people, I’m still nursing. Yes, she’s over one. Yes, she still takes a bottle at daycare. People love to comment on EVERYTHING.

    Reply
  17. Candis Jones

    We still breastfeed 4 times a day and I have no idea how to wean because that baby smacks his lips and gets more excited about milk than anything else in his life. So we’ll get there when we get there. :)

    Reply
  18. brianna

    Loved this post as I kind of love talking about breastfeeding. I know sometimes it just doesn’t work out for some people but I am a huge proponent of breastfeeding. I’m coming up on a year myself and don’t know when I will stop. I only work part time right now but will likely be going back to work full time in the near future so I have to consider how much more pumping my sanity can handle.

    The thought of weaning both makes me sad because I love that special time with her and makes me super nervous because the girl will not take a bottle when she is with me or at home. Daycare is no problem at all but once she is at home she loses her mind and refuses to even touch a bottle, even if I am not home at all and her dad is the one trying to feed her. That child will choose to starve before taking a bottle. That fact means that I am the one who is responsible for putting her to bed and getting up with her in the middle of the night. Yes I nurse her to sleep (totally a bad move, I know) and she is still getting up most nights for a light snack of boob.

    Whatever, I also appreciate the power of the boob. Call me selfish but I also appreciate that it’s me she wants when she is sad or tired or scared. I know her preference for me over everyone else is not going to last forever but right now it is pretty great.

    I guess I am fortunate that nobody really gives me grief about the fact that I am still breastfeeding. I think some of that comes with living in a liberal area where breastfeeding is more common. Really, it is no one’s business if you continue to breastfeed your son or if you cosleep. He is going to be just fine and will get the sleep thing figured out eventually. All we can do is our best and hope that the rest will work itself out.

    Reply
  19. Julie

    Just to give fair warning as it seems no one has addressed this point…I am reminded of my combined 28 months of breastfeeding every morning as I pick my boobs up and tuck them into my bra. TMI, sorry, but these kiddos can suck the life out of you…and I wouldn’t have it any other way. :) Do what’s best for you and your children and ignore the haters.

    Reply
  20. Karen

    You should do a post on how having a baby does or does not affect sex life. (: me, I’d rather have a cookie most of the time.

    Reply
  21. Nessa@CasaBraaflat

    breastfeeding is so personal. the only “right” way to do it is to do what is best for your situation. i only nursed for 3 months with #1 and 4 1/2 months with #2. i have a friend with 5 kids and she has nursed a shorter amount of time with each one. you don’t need proof that what you are doing is right. afterall you wouldn’t be doing it unless you thought it was best for you and waylon. kudos to you!

    Reply
  22. Danielle

    Ok- so I’m not alone?! My baby girl Taylor is 8 months old and she sleeps about an hour at a time at night. She nurses right back to sleep, but still, it’s not fun. In my weakest moments, like when my mom gets after me or my aunts tell me that I’m just crazy, I’ve tried sleep training and formula feeding. Taylor doesn’t tolerate either. The one night we sleep trained she cried so hard she threw up twice. I knew then that it wasn’t for us. And if I give her formula, she screams while squirting the milk all over her face.

    People have suggested all kinds of things- don’t breastfeed, don’t co-sleep, feed her more during the day, ignore her when she cries, blah blah blah. It doesn’t work! Ironically enough, my dad is the one who gave me the best advice: She will sleep when she’s ready. She will stop nursing when she’s ready. That doesn’t make you an overly indulgent mom- it makes you a perceptive one. Why force what she isn’t ready for?

    So yeah, breastfeeding hasn’t always been fun. Her favourite teething toy is the boobs. She scratches and pinches and slaps while she eats. But like you said, it’s the easiest way to make her happy. And for that reason alone, I won’t give it up until she’s ready.

    Reply
  23. Anonymous

    Great post. If parenting has taught me anything, it is that you need to do what works for your child and your family. I really don’t understand why people become so aggressive/defensive about their own particular parenting styles and approaches. Really, love is what children need most–parenting which comes from a loving place is most important. Everything else will work itself out.

    I remember once, speaking with (well, just listening, really) a mother who felt very, VERY strongly that her way of giving birth, nursing, parenting, etc. was the best way. At one point in the conversation, she looked at me and said, “I’m not sure why I am speaking so strongly to you. You don’t really have any opinions.” I am not sure that anything anyone ever said to me has offended me quite so much. I was speechless. However, if I had it to do again, I believe my response would be something along the lines of, “Yes, I do have opinions. But, they are opinions for MY OWN CHILD and MY OWN FAMILY, not yours. I see no reason to argue with anyone else about what they are doing, as long as they are loving their child.” Probably not very Christian of me, but I have pretty much avoided that person ever since. :)

    Your sweet boy is obviously flourishing. You are doing a wonderful job. What you are doing is working!

    Reply
  24. Bridget Hunt

    Am I giving out a “don’t mess with me” look? Because I never have people ask how long I’m going to keep it up or tell me that I’m spoiling Parker. I must be.

    Either way, I think you’re doing a great job, Kate. Listen to yourself. Not the haters.

    Reply
  25. Shannon

    Kate, I love that you are able to open such honest conversation on your blog. I think I wore imaginary earplugs through most of Behrs early months because I was so sick of everyone’s opinions. Every family needs to make decisions that work for them. You seem to be doing a great job raising Waylon. Keep it up!

    For the record, and 18.5 months, we are still co-sleeping strong in the wee hours of most mornings. (although my boobs dried up long ago…)

    Reply
  26. Erin

    I’m a new visitor stopping by from ETT, hey!!

    Oh, I am totally with you on bf. Mine is 13 months, and we still nurse before each nap and before bed. Yeah, and in the middle of the night. Oh I wish it had not been 1 year+ since I got uninterrupted REM sleep, but for now, it eludes me. And once I feed her she is right back to sleep.

    You’re right. The boob has special magic. It helps my little one to wind her busy little body down before sleep time, and is the ultimate comforter post-shots or collisions with hard objects. :)

    We are getting ready to move to London, and though I can tell that my supply is dropping a bit more each month, you can bet that I’m holding onto it with all that I have these next few months! It will be key to “calm down, we’re on a plane” time, and “let’s get over this jetlag quickly” time. No shame in it.

    Good luck on your weaning, whenever that may occur. And happy nursing snuggles in the meantime!

    Reply
  27. Michelle Mez

    First time visitor!
    I feel soo strongly that everyone should make their own choice and have the freedom to feel comfortable with that choice. I didnt breast feed once – not one single time. I didn’t even try. I made that choice before I ever got pregnant and I stuck to it with everything that I had. It felt right for me and I have never had regret over it. It worked well for our family. But I am still nagged about it from everyone that hears this. It’s so crazy to me that people care THAT MUCH about what other people do with their children.
    Let Mom’s be Moms and make choices for their own families and comfort levels. Sheesh!
    Good on ya for continuing with what you want.

    Reply
  28. KT

    Hi! I’m a first time reader and it usually takes me weeks of lurking to finally comment, so this is big! Anyway, I just wanted to say that I was really surprised to read your post. I’m about to have twins and I’ve made the decision not to breastfeed. Obviously, a big part of that is the fact that I’m having twins, but in reality, it’s not something that I’ve ever looked forward to. In fact, I’ll be honest and admit that I really dreaded the idea of even having to try. And feeling that way was something that I always thought I’d be judged for…like big time judged. The thing is, is that the pros don’t always outweigh the cons, depending on the person/family. I was so surprised to read that you feel like you’re being judged for still breastfeeding at 12-months. It kind of seems like the thing to do nowadays and I actually feel like I’ll be judged for choosing not to breastfeed at all. I guess what it boils down to is that there’s no point on worrying about what others think, because people will always share their unsolicited opinions. It’s great that you stick to doing what you think is best for you and baby!

    Reply
  29. shannon

    came here through e’s recommendation–staying because of this post. ;)
    i am in month 14 of nursing monster #5. all together…errmmm…10 + 22 + 18 + 24 + 14…88 months of nursing. eeek! and no, i’m not a hardcore cray la leche momma…it’s just, all those reasons you said.
    yup.
    good on ya, momma.

    Reply
  30. Pingback: Sleep Training a One Year Old : Night 1 | Motley Mama

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  32. Meg

    Just googled “sleep training a 1 year old” and came accross thos post, as I nurse my 14 month old back to sleep at 1:51 am. I need to sleep train!!!

    Reply

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