I’m so happy my kid can breastfeed, I might let her do it forever

Guest post by Taryn
World Breastfeeding Week (1)

In my naive pre-baby days, I thought toddler-nursing was for hippie weirdos. “If they can ask for it, they’re too old for it!” I would exclaim in my most judgmental tone. This was back in the day when I also thought breastfeeding was simple and came naturally to all moms. Ha!

I blame it on my pre-natal class, really. Our instructor (who herself had never breastfed her own daughter) showed us an incredible video of brand-new babies who, when placed on their mama’s belly, inched their way up to the breast and latched on. “Great,” I thought, “breastfeeding will be totally easy” and I never gave the subject another thought.

Until Charlotte was born. We couldn’t get her to latch during our brief stay in the hospital. The next day, my midwife came over and sat in bed with me for hours, trying to get Charlotte to latch. When she finally gave up, we called in a lactation consultant who — given that Charlotte hadn’t eaten since birth — rushed right over. Barb (aka wonder woman) put us on a ridiculously regimented program. And when we finally did get Charlotte to latch, we discovered that the poor darling couldn’t suck. So we proceeded to painstakingly teach her to suck while feeding her (pumped breast milk) through a tube stuck to one of our fingers.

Once she got the hang of that, the latch problems came back. We developed a round-the-clock routine that went like this: alarm clock goes off, wake Charlotte up and try to get her to latch, keep trying until both of us are in frustrated tears, give up and give her a bottle and watch her hungrily suckle it back while feeling like the most incompetent mom ever, put her in the wrap and jiggle her around the apartment until she falls asleep, pump milk for Charlotte’s next feeding, store milk, wash bottle and pump, relax for a too-short while before beginning again.

Sometimes we’d have days-long stretches where I could get her to latch at almost every feed. And then we’d regress and go back to mostly bottle-feeding. And then, when Charlotte was seven weeks old, we got thrush. And then I got mastitis. One morning, after a ridiculously hard night, I found myself in the bathtub painfully massaging a rock-hard plugged milk duct while bawling my eyes out. I had had enough. Six hours of crying later, my partner J. convinced me to give it one last try. And wouldn’t ya know it, Charlotte latched on like a pro and never looked back.

And that’s when I decided: after all we’d been through, Charlotte could nurse through college if she wanted to!

Charlotte will be two years old next month, and she is still breastfeeding. She only nurses twice a day now — before bed and in the early morning — but she still loves it as much as ever, and shows no desire to give it up. So we continue.

And sure, I may get strange looks the odd time I breastfeed in public (these days, it’s mainly just on overnight airplane flights), and yes I do look forward to the day when my body is my own once again. But Charlotte is also still getting the full health benefits associated with breast milk; we are doing as UNICEF, the WHO, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend, and as women in many other cultures do; we still get to have some close cuddling time that’s just for the two of us; and I still get a daily reminder of my personal strength, and my commitment to my daughter.

Comments on I’m so happy my kid can breastfeed, I might let her do it forever

  1. Great read! Thank you for sharing!
    I hope my baby- when she’s born in June- doesn’t have too much trouble latching on… You are an extremely patient woman. And “OW” about the clogged duct… Seriously ouch…
    Good luck with the breastfeeding! So many people forget that the breastfeeding is recommended for 2+ years. I’m bound to get weird looks as well… Though by the time my little one is 2 and a half there will probably, hopefully, be another baby who needs my milk more. 🙂

  2. I hope when my baby is born in July, that it will be able to latch easily. I also used to think that I’d wean at 11 months like my mom did with me, but as I’ve read more about it, I’ve decided I’ll stop when my baby is ready.

  3. Lovely story.
    My son turned 1 today and I’m so happy to still be breastfeeding. We had huge struggles in the beginning as he too was unable to latch, turned out to be tongue tie, which we got snipped and all is good. Was that ever suggested for you?

    Im aiming for at least the 2 year mark too, its a lot easier now he can ask for it! Even if it is by pulling my top down!!

  4. Great read! I second the ouch on the clogged duct..had that happen a few times and it’s misery.

    Good luck and happy nursing to you & Charlotte! I’ve had one nurse as long as 4 years, and I’m loving how many other moms are nursing until baby decides they’re done. Go you!!

  5. Wow, your story could very easily be my own story. When my son was born, in a hospital, he wouldn’t latch, then he wouldn’t suck when he did latch. We were in the hospital for days while they force fed him formula through a feeding tube in his nose while my heart broke and I was sure we’d never be able to breastfeed. But I’m happy to say, like you, after plugged ducts, cracked nipples and many hours of tears and frustration, my son latched on like a pro and never looked back either 🙂 It’s nice to know you’re not alone.

  6. This sounds so familiar! My son is 11 months now and shows no desire to stop breastfeeding. And I’m happy for him to. Remembering what we went through trying to get him to latch, I don’t really want to give it up!

  7. I love this post! My daughter had no trouble latching, and this makes me appreciate our own problem-free nursing experience more… and reminds me not to be too cocky, because it sounds like you did everything right and then some. Happy nursing!

  8. I will echo the other comments that can relate to this post. We have had a long struggle with breastfeeding that has involved multiple rounds of thrush, plugged ducts, and mastitis. However, those challenges have strengthened my resolve to nurse my son until he decides he is done. He is 9 months old now, and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. It is still reasonably painful, but I enjoy the bond I share with him during that time.

  9. I totally hear you with the “if they are old enough to ask for it” pre pregnancy judgement. My mother always said that (she has 8 kids) and also keeps telling me, at four months pregnant, that if I breastfeed longer than six months I will have “looooong breasts”. So when I found out my husband was breastfed until he was two, I mocked him horribly. Guess who ended up being the winner in that situation? After I actually started researching breastfeeding and UNICEF, WHO etc’s recommendations I felt like a total idiot. I really hope that breastfeeding works for me easily (fingers crossed) and if it doesn’t, that I have the balls to keep it up like you did!

  10. Your post almost made me cry….I have a five month old who still feeds around the clock and at night in. her sleep….I have gotten some criticism about my«lenient» parenting but I feel lucky
    that sheis able to nurse so easily and I am dreading weaning her off so I decided to nurse as long as I have milk and she is interested…thank you for sharing your story

    • My (one week away from being a) nine month old still nurses every two to three hours, and I’m ok with that. I do complain about the lack of sleep, but I love that she eats me.
      We had a horrible time of it in the hospital (though it was one of two “Baby Friendly” hospitals in New Hampshire) due to a gruff lactation “specialist” who told me that I was starving my baby by not giving her donated human milk before mine came in (on day two). I’ve also had trouble with a previously pierced nipple on my right side – the babe really only uses that boob when she’s too sleepy to protest.
      I’m trying to increase her (not breastmilk) food intake, not so she’ll wean but because I’d like her to try new things. I initially thought I’d stop at one year, but I think I may keep going until she decides she’s done. It is her food, after all.

      • My ten-month-old still nurses every three hours or so (less at night). He didn’t really start “getting” food until he turned ten months old, and even now he doesn’t eat much that isn’t breastmilk. He’s huge and happy, though, so I just let it be.

      • My 14 month old still nurses every 2-3 hours at night, and every 4-5 hours during the day. To be honest, it’s not even that routine because we demand feed. Some days he probably only nurses a few times, other days he nurses a lot more. I would like to point out that part of the reason for such variance is that it’s not just food. There are many different reasons to nurse, including to recieve wonderful antibodies which change, second by second, depending on what we’ve been exposed to. Amazing, right?!

    • My 9 month old still eats several times at night. For awhile I worried about it, because he is “supposed” to be sleeping through the night. But you knwo what? I am the one who wakes up to feed him, no one else…so why should anyone else care? I have literally told people that before if they were invasive enough to question me on it.

  11. Your post almost made me cry….I have a five month old who still feeds around the clock and at night in. her sleep….I have gotten some criticism about my«lenient» parenting but I feel lucky
    that sheis able to nurse so easily and I am dreading weaning her off so I decided to nurse as long as I have milk and she is interested…thank you for sharing your story

  12. Thank you for posting this. My story is nothing like yours. LOL. But I am nursing my fourth and last baby girl. She is about to turn 1 and for the other three I had a weaning plan that had them off the breast and onto milk by 1 year. Really, I wanted my body back so bad, I almost had a party when they were weaned. BUT this one is SO different! She is still nursing four times a day and when I try to wean her off of one feeding or another I get a little sad and end up letting her nurse again. I’m such a wimp this time around! I don’t care about having my body back, I just want to savor the whole experience because I know it’s my last one. I’m dead meat with this one! The baby of the family totally has me wrapped around her finger in so many ways!! And I love it 😉

  13. Yes. So much yes. My daughter is ten months old and we STILL have tough moments – like last week, when she hadn’t yet gotten used to her mouthful of seven giant teeth and was scraping the hell out of me, which led to cracks, which led to her spitting up my blood, which led to brief terror – but after all the shit we went through (jaundice, bad latch, reflux, more bad latch, nursing strike), I’ll be damned if I’m going to be the one to make the weaning decision.

    What I AM ready for is to be done pumping five times a day. That’s a whole hour-plus I’ll have back! Every day!

  14. This article just brought me to tears. I wish that I was able to find someone to help me. My son was tongue tied and after we finally got it clipped two weeks later he could not suck! With me just pumping and finger feeding I dried up within 3 months :[

    • Ashley, kudos to you for doing all you did for three months. I had a bad start with my son and we were able to work it out. Two friends of mine who had babies at the same time had bad starts and were not able to get it worked out — due to multiple factors involving both the babies’ latches and their own production challenges.

      Guess what — over two years later, all our children are healthy and thriving.

      I loved breastfeeding and I am a huge champion of it, but I think so much else goes into good parenting and thriving children. We are expecting another and I really hope I will be able to nurse again. I think it will be majorly hard for me if it doesn’t work. But I just remind myself of the children of my friends who have great relationships with their mommies and are as healthy as can be, and I know that it will all be OK in either case.

  15. In the end it’s always about what is right for you and your family. I made it a year breastfeeding, and am good with that. I did miss it when we stopped, but my daughter weaned like a pro and I really needed to get back on anti-depressants at that point. I made it through pregnancy and breastfeeding without them, but I could feel that ominous cloud forming by the time we hit a year. It was better for both of us for me to not sink into a bad place where I might not be the best mom I can be.

  16. That’s a thing I hear often, by the way, from new moms (now that I’m a new mom and I spend some time hanging out with other new moms). They heard that breastfeeding is “natural”, so assumed it would be “easy”. Then they were shocked when things didn’t go well after all.

    Natural does not mean easy. Nobody thinks a “natural” childbirth is easy. Lots of “natural” things have a learning curve. Sex, for instance, is “natural”, but we usually suck at it the first few tries.

    Breastfeeding is one of those things that is a skill for you and the baby. You learn what to look for in a good latch, you learn how to position them so it’s comfortable for both of you, etc. They learn how to suck and latch and how not to bite and all sorts of things.

    Pregnant ladies, if I have one bit of advice, it’s this: read up on breastfeeding while you’re pregnant, so you have some tricks up your sleeve that first hour after birth while you’re trying to get the baby to latch. I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but just that research is a good thing! I recommend “Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding”. Also, go to his website and look at his videos of babies with a good latch so you know what to look for.

    Breastfeeding went very smoothly for me. We got it going in the first hour. I knew what to look for in a good latch and insisted on it from my son right away, and I also knew a few tricks to try to get a good latch. I haven’t had any cracks or nipple soreness or other problems. Even without all that, it’s been hard, frustrating and exhausting!! You have to be up a lot and it is hard to adjust to life as a breastfeeding mom.

    • Hear hear. That said, breastfeeding is one of those things, like sex, where reading about it and watching videos of other people doing it is not necessarily all you need to do it yourself. I read a ton of stuff during pregnancy and watched all of Dr Jack’s youtube videos obsessively (and they’re GREAT, by the way) but when my newborn daughter had absolutely no interest in latching or sucking, I was still totally lost. The thing that helped the most was having an experienced mom friend come over and look at what my actual baby was actually doing. (Also two appointments with a lactation consultant, craniosacral therapy, a nipple shield, and round the clock pumping. Whew.) I am so incredibly grateful I have a good milk supply and a baby who is gaining weight, even if she needs a few assists to do it.

      • Oh, yeah, agreed. Book knowledge is not all you need to be successful! I was just saying it can’t hurt to have some tips and tricks. Even then, it’s a learning curve and a huge adjustment–or at least it has been for me.

  17. This is awesome.. my daughter is 26 months old and still nursing. The other day we all had a sickness going around and she couldn’t keep solids down, milk was fine though. so awesome! she gets protection from my sickness too.. pedialyte can’t top that! i know it won’t last too much longer, and i’m enjoying this time. you rock!

    • My son weaned peacefully (no effort, we both just kind of forgot to nurse) a couple months ago – he’ll be two this week and I didn’t really miss it at all until his very first stomach virus. Then let me tell you, I SO wished I could just pop him on my boob to comfort him and get some liquids in there!

  18. I hear you! We struggled in the beginning too and I was so happy we worked it out that I let him self-wean. It ended up being earlier than I expected at 16 months. I will admit I didn’t really LOVE breastfeeding but I was very very grateful that I could do it for as long as I did.

  19. This could have been me! Only add in a posterior tongue tie that we didn’t fix but had to work through. I’m so proud that we can breastfeed and I’ve been dreading weaning my 9 month old when the time comes. I initially thought we’d wean when I return to work at one year, but having done some initial reading, I don’t think we’re going to go that route. I think I’m going to let her drink breast milk for as long as she wants!

  20. Love this! Had major problems too, even with a nipple shield. Had to pump and bottle feed at first (and still try every time with a nipple shield). A lactation consultant said we needed to do the clipping due to tongue tie too but the next day after seeing her my 3 mo old baby nursed minus the nipple shield JUST FINE. I am so glad my husband and pediatrician didnt agree with getting it clipped and talked me down when I was hysterical from frustration. In the end, he is a happy nursing baby and I never take it for granted. Kudos to you for working it out! And to all of us for persevering!

  21. Wow, thanks so much for all of the amazing comments!
    It’s really touching to hear that so many others had similar experiences, and that so many are breastfeeding toddlers!

  22. We also had a similar experience…a tough time getting started, and then mastitis and thrush and reflux and distraction issues later on over the first six months. Now, at 25 months, my son is a breastfeeding enthusiast, and like you it’s hard to imagine stopping him after having such trouble getting started. I had planned to wean starting at two years (if we made it that far), but I realized that was a pre-baby preconception that didn’t make any sense. So I’m waiting until cold and flu season is over (he’s been crazy healthy so far–knock on wood!–and I thank my breastmilk for that), and then I’ll slowly try to set more limits beyond mostly avoiding it in front of anyone besides close family. But I’m not in a huge hurry.

  23. This is all-too familiar! The video in birthing class, the crazy circus of the SNS (supplementary nursing system), the frustration, the relief. Matteo is just 9 months old now, but my husband is already encouraging me to wean — I’ve said that my goal is to have him weaned around his first birthday. But part of me is a little sad about it!

    • Why would your husband encourage you to wean? If you and your child want to continue, you should. That sounds and feels wrong to me to have him make that decision.

  24. I am crying reading your editorial. I love breastfeeding my son and hope we can also continue to have that special time together despite my old judgemental ways!

  25. I’m due any day now with my second girl, and I’m terrified of breastfeeding. I couldn’t get my first daughter to latch correctly and ended up getting frustrated, feeling horribly guilty and like a failure, and exclusively pumping for 12 months.

    I, too, was told that breastfeeding is easy, it comes naturally. Most of the women in my family who had done it never struggled. I told my husband about a week after our daughter was born that I’d rather go through labor 10 more times than try to breastfeed. Labor was easier for me and far less painful. It took 2 seconds for me to decide I wanted another baby–it has taken a lot more for me to decide I want to try breastfeeding again. Luckily, I have a LOT more support this time. (We won’t even start on the Navy pediatrician who told me I was starving my baby and should be able to pump 8oz at a time 3 days postpartum.) After all of that, if this baby and I are able to figure it out, she can breastfeed as long as she damn well pleases. I will happily nurse her til she is a toddler–and beyond.

    • Ugh…I know that guilty feeling. I’m so sorry to hear your story–but I hope that you now know that it’s GREAT that you were able to pump milk for your baby girl and that you did the best you possibly could, which means you are a success! I wish more folks had a pediatrician like ours who, after she watched me tear up at our first conversation about breastfeeding, has always stressed that while breast milk is best, it’s OK if we end up using formula. It’s OK if I prefer pumping to what was the very stressful and painful act of breastfeeding. It’s OK to do what works as long as the baby is gaining weight–IT’S OK!

      We were able to work out the breastfeeding issues, but I still worry that I’m not doing enough to up my milk supply. But…I do whatever I can–and that’s the most important thing! Good luck with your second 🙂

    • My daughter was born, breastfeeding started out rocky and she ended up in the hospital with low blood sugar and dehydration, 3 days in the NICU. On the bright side–we were able to get latched when she was in NICU and she is now eating like a champ! My milk came in like gangbusters and I will hopefully be able to maintain for my chunky monkey. She was 10.5 pounds at birth!! (Home birth too, so glad I had NO clue of her size hehe)

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