As I type this, my 14-month-old is standing by my chair, grabbing at my shirt, insisting on having her “nursies”, once again. I don’t know how she hasn’t had enough in the past 24 hours, as her multiple wake ups last night resulted in extra middle-of-the-night nursies I don’t usually indulge her with. But, I’m not feeling well, and she’s going through some kind of mental leap (or just trying to solidify her youngest child status for life) – so night time nursies to the rescue. In all honesty, laziness is probably my main motivator for our “extended” breastfeeding relationship.
I don’t mean to say it’s easy all the time – we struggled a lot this time around. Nora had awful reflux when she was brand new, which resulted in lots of me smelling like vomit and 2 a.m. scream fests. She has never successfully taken a bottle in her life, and believe me, I tried every bottle out there. She had a lip and tongue tie that probably caused a lot of these problems, and wasn’t discovered until she was about 4 months old (at that point, there was pretty much no reason to put her through the revision procedure since she was already sumo wrestler sized.) I was her sole source of nourishment for the first 6 months of her life. I could not leave her for more than 2 hours max at any point. (This was when being able to work from home was essential to our continued nursing journey- thank you boss man.) There were times that I was so overwhelmed with this reality that I almost quit – but for whatever reason, I didn’t. I have had mastitis approximately 250 times, and am actually fighting off a bout of this lovely affliction right this moment. Explaining to those around you, such as your all male coworkers, about why you’re “sick” but don’t look or sound sick, is tricky. “No – I’m not actually contagious, it just feels like my left boob has been in the ring with Rhonda Rousey a couple of times, every joint in my body is throbbing, I have a 100-degree fever, have never been so tired in my life, and generally want to die”. I usually just opt for “sinus infection.”
Even with these challenges, breastfeeding has still seemed easier to me than the alternative. The scheduling, bottle making, cleaning, remembering supplies when you leave the house – can’t do it. I can fill my baby’s number one need at all times, in as long as it takes me to unhook that super attractive Target nursing bra (although now, she just helps herself most of the time – insert eye roll emoji here). It’s kind of my go-to for everything. Is she hungry? Nurse. Is she tired? Nurse. Did she fall down? Nurse. Is she mad at me because she’s a toddler and I’m her mom? Nurse. Sometimes I think that without breastfeeding, I’d have no idea how to make her happy. I would be looking at her like an alien life form, wondering what the heck to do now. I haven’t been extremely concerned about what she eats now that she’s on solids, because I know she is making up for any nutrient gaps with breast milk. I feed her whatever we have and whatever she’ll eat, and don’t think twice about it. I know if her entire diet was only solid foods, I would be anxiously checking all the nutrition facts and doing calculations in my head constantly.
I know that by breastfeeding past the first year, we are a small percentage of the mother/baby population. According to the CDC, only about 20% of babies are still breastfeeding at 12 months, and that number drops exponentially as the child gets older. There are so many health benefits to both mothers and babies, I can’t understand why anyone would be critical of a decision to continue breastfeeding past that point. The health benefits for my daughter are another big factor in my decision-making process, as she can benefit from my immune system until hers is operating at optimum fighting power (around age 2 according to our pediatrician). Yet I still get the questions: “You’re STILL breastfeeding?” “How long are you going to keep doing that?” And the silent looks of surprise or judgment if we’re out in public.
So for the record, the answers are: Yes, we’re STILL breastfeeding. I have no idea how long we are going to keep doing this, but if my child has any say in the matter, I’d guess until…college. And as to the looks of surprise from strangers, I’m sorry for the eye full of boob during your Saturday family lunch, but toddlers just don’t like to sit still for longer than 60 seconds (even when nursing) so it’s kind of inevitable. As the kids say these days: sorry, not sorry.