16 months. I have been breastfeeding my son for just over 16 months. When I was pregnant with him I had hoped that I would be able to breastfeed but I didn’t want to get my hopes up that it would be an easy process. I also didn’t want to set myself up for failure. Breastfeeding is such a personal topic in many ways. It should be respected that women have many different experiences and challenges with breastfeeding and feeding their children in general. While I am not here to get into any arguments about that, I just hope that women can be supported no matter what their choices are. I have heard many different stories from my fellow mamas about how the breastfeeding process was approached with them and their unique situations. Some moms felt immense pressure from nurses to breastfeed when it just wasn’t working and others felt pressure to supplement right away. It is equally as interesting to see how different cultures value or don’t value breastfeeding. While I cannot speak to each individual’s experiences, I can say that is seems as though there is a huge gap when it comes to feeding support for new mothers.
In my experience I was supported in my decision to breastfeed but, at the first opportunity that my child showed signs of cluster feeding the nurse suggested I give some formula so that I could sleep. Fair suggestion, I suppose but, I knew based on what I was hand-expressing that there was colostrum there and enough of it. I refused the formula and proceeded to stay up with my child and feed throughout the night – I mean, he was just born after all, it must be an awfully confusing time leaving a warm and secure place to a chilly hospital room with bright fluorescent lights and beeping sounds all around. He was latching well too. The next day, the next nurse who was in charge of looking after us asked me to hand express some more colostrum and feed my baby with a syringe. She was shocked with the amount I was producing and the formula question was not brought up again and hasn’t really come up since!
Pros and cons
Some may argue that there are no cons to breastfeeding necessarily as it is the absolute best thing you can give your child and you should do so at all costs. Well, I am here to call BULL on that. As someone who exclusively breastfed my son for nearly seven months then breastfed in addition to baby led weaning, breastfeeding does have its cons. This is not to dissuade anyone from breastfeeding because trust me, I am so grateful and feel blessed to have been able to breastfeed for so long but, when your child won’t take a bottle, cluster feeds, and is an all around clingy and boob-obsessed little being, it can take its toll. The other thing that is hard is sleeping. We have defaulted to cosleeping, another thing I was going to keep an open mind about but with breastfeeding and the nature of my child, this is another thing that just seems to work best for us.
Do what’s best for you and your child
There have been many a night in these last 16 months where I have loathed breastfeeding. Most nights I totally still enjoy this great bonding experience and love the satisfaction it brings to my little man but, some nights are definitely tough. I am not willing to give it up yet and I am letting him lead me in that process. With going back to work we have cut down on the feeds quite a bit but he definitely looks to it as a comfort in the mornings and evenings. We will nurse until he decides to quit or I am unable to but for now, I am just going with the flow.
Mental health and breastfeeding
Something that took me by surprise were the effects breastfeeding can have on mental health for various reasons. The fact that you are in such high demand from your child being the sole person for nourishment can obviously wear a person down. I have heard from many a mama that when they stopped breastfeeding their mental health and postpartum anxiety drastically improved. We have to remember that breastfeeding releases a lot of hormones and changes things greatly for a woman so these are all things to consider and to make others aware of.
It frustrates me to no end to hear of women being told what they are doing is wrong no matter what that is. While I may have my own opinions on certain things, I bear in mind that I don’t know that woman’s individual struggle and what she has endured to simply feed her child. When I hear my friend’s are being called out in a grocery store isle for buying formula but someone doesn’t think I should still be breastfeeding my child at 16 months old, it’s maddening! So in conclusion, I hope that we can just relax, let our babies lead as much as possible and do what is best for us because at the end of the day that’s all that matters.