To Extend or Not? Breastfeeding Beyond 1

by tinysneakers

While 6 months of breastfeeding is a common first goal and the WHO recommends at least 2 years of breastfeeding, 12 months seems to be the unwritten “standard” time of weaning.

I never thought much about when I would stop. I figured 12 months sounded pretty good—and really far away. When you have a newborn, 12 months sounds impossibly old. While I don’t have a problem with it, I didn’t really envision myself nursing a toddler that was able to ask for it.

Extending Breastfeeding Pros and Cons

Little did I know about anything. First, babies know how to “ask” for it long before toddlerhood strikes. {My shirts is constantly being pulled down and tugged on.} Second, though he’s a year old and walking and growing up so fast, he still seems like such a little baby. I can’t imagine him not needing to nurse.

I’ve mentioned before that nursing has definitely taken a physical toll on my body, with the inability to maintain weight or build muscle. Now that he doesn’t need to nurse, you would think it would be an easy decision to give it up. But it’s not- I go back and forth every day.

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I’d love to wait for KB to wean naturally- give up each feeding as he’s ready, whenever that is, but I don’t know if that’ll happen. He’s so used to his routine of eating after waking up; it’s ingrained in him. I don’t see him ditching that without a little guidance. Not to mention my biggest hesitation: his allergies to dairy and soy. Finding a milk replacement is a whole other ballgame. {I wouldn’t give him cow or soy milk even if he wasn’t allergic, but that’s a different issue.} His allergies are most likely due to an immaturity of his gut and/or development issues. If breastfeeding can help him build his gut so he doesn’t have to deal with health issues as he gets older, who am I to take that gift away from him?

mother's milk breastfeeding teabreast pump ameda truly yoursbaby cuddles while nursing

There are a thousand other reasons both to stop and not stop breastfeeding now that we’ve hit the 1 year mark:

Pros of Extended Breastfeeding

- Comfort: nothing calms him when he’s sick or hurt like nursing

- Continued immune support/ideal nutrition

- Sleep: when he hasn’t napped all day and is screaming his head off, nursing will put him to sleep. I know you’re not “supposed” to do that, but any sleep is better than no sleep.

- Selfish mom reasons: I love the snuggle time and the tiny time outs in an otherwise hectic day

 

Cons of Extended Breastfeeding

- Mom’s weight & continued limited diet for mom

- Mom’s schedule: has to be the one to get up at the crack of dawn to feed, has to be home to put him to bed, and has to be home at the end of every nap.

- Have to pump 2-3x for every 1 bottle.

{“Nursing in public” isn’t really an issue at this age since he naps at home and eats tons of solids.}

baby eating solids

When you put it like that, stopping is only for selfish reasons. But any mom will tell you that you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of your family, and so far, I haven’t been very good at doing that.

I lean towards weaning down to just morning and evening feeds, but I’m still not sure when or really if at all. I do know that when I stop, whenever that may be, I will be thrilled to wear whatever the heck I want.

Any advice? When did you stop breastfeeding and how/why?

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Caroline @ crackers & carrots January 23, 2013 at 7:48 am

I was wondering the same thing. The pediatrian keeps telling me that he’ll wean himself off, but I just don’t understand how that’ll work. I almost feel like I’ll have to start spacing out feedings more and more until there’s just so little demand that the milk dries up? I don’t know. I feel like I’m in the minority to have made it to almost 8 months of breastfeeding. My goal is to wean by 12 months, but with him still having a good solid 5 feedings per day, I can’t picture it. Oh well, time will tell!

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tinysneakers January 23, 2013 at 9:57 am

We naturally got down to 4 (from a gazillion) as he started staying awake longer between naps (meaning the number of naps dropped) since I nurse him when he wakes up. But now that we’ll be at 2 naps for awhile (I hope!), I don’t know what dropping a feeding will look like.

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Caroline Calcote January 23, 2013 at 7:49 am

I breastfed both of my kids until they were almost three years old (they are 2 yrs, 9 mos apart so that was almost six years of non-stop breastfeeding!). I had no plans for weaning them at all and planned to do child-led weaning. But then we ended up stopping when it felt right for us. I had planned to tandem nurse, but two weeks before baby #2 was due my body told me that it was ENOUGH. My almost three year old was obviously ready also because weaning was not an issue at all. I explained that his new baby brother was coming and that the “nini” would be for the new baby and that he was a big boy and didn’t need “nini” any more. He was totally on board and never asked for it again, even when seeing the new baby nursing. I thought it would be traumatic but it wasn’t at all!

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tinysneakers January 25, 2013 at 10:44 am

Wow that’s impressive! It’s good to hear that it went smoothly when the time came!

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Madeline @ Food Fitness and Family January 23, 2013 at 9:02 am

Em weaned herself at 13 months. At the year mark we cut down to morning/night only but she wasn’t asking to nurse at all. Then, she just stopped. It was nice that she weaned herself but I wasn’t ready for that nursing session haha. It is super nice not to have to worry about nursing her before bed though so we have more flexibility in our lives.

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tinysneakers January 25, 2013 at 10:46 am

The flexibility will be nice when the time comes but I know I’ll miss the bedtime ritual!

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Becky January 23, 2013 at 9:18 am

I work full-time and around a year we weaned. I uesd the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” philosophy when we were weaning. Basically, just down to morning at night at a year and then one day, we just went upstairs and ate breakfast, instead of nursing. He didn’t miss a beat. We nursed before bed a few more times and then about a week late, Dad put him to sleep without nursing and he’s never looked back. Never asked for it again (though, like I said, if he’d have tried, I wouldn’t have refused him). I did a lot of reading on Kellymom.com re: weaning.

Just remember that a happy Mama is key to a happy baby – make sure you’re taking care of yourself, too!!

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tinysneakers January 25, 2013 at 10:48 am

A happy mama is definitely key!! I like the don’t offer, don’t refuse approach- it just seems to make sense!

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Elizabeth @ The Bare Midriff January 23, 2013 at 9:36 am

I’m not a mom, so I can’t give direct advice on this. I know how tough of a decision it is, though. When I was a teacher I had a few parents who were still periodically breastfeeding their children (please note, my students were 3 years old at the youngest). I know that the psychological and emotional pull towards breastfeeding for both your baby and you is incredibly strong, and from what moms have told me, that’s the hardest part of weaning – replacing that intimate snuggle time that only you two can have (which, by the way is not selfish at all!). But I also know you well enough to know that you have a great instinct, and I am sure the answer will come to you in time. Listen to these other moms who have been through it and trust your intuition. You’ll get there.

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Lisa @ The Splattered Apron January 23, 2013 at 9:51 am

We took a very gradual approach to weaning–overall it took us about 3 months to wean completely, which wasn’t exactly the plan. I work full time so I had hoped to wean my daughter off of breastfeeding during the day around 12 months, just so I could stop pumping at work and continue with morning and bedtime nursing sessions. We tried mixing breast milk and cow’s milk but she hated it, so instead we offered cow’s milk in a straw cup and a snack in place of when she would be nursing. We started on a Saturday so that we’d all be home together for the first two days and then we dropped the three day time feedings over the course of 3 weeks. By her first birthday she was only nursing in the morning and at night, and I was happy to continue that for as long as she wanted (with an end goal of 2 years old in the back of my mind). Instead, around 13.5 months, she didn’t want to nurse before bed. So we dropped it and never looked back. At 14 months 1 week, she asked for her milk cup instead of nursing when she woke up one morning. So we did that. I was really happy we were able to do it gradually, without any tears (okay, no tears from her, there were definitely tears from me!) or tantrums and she called the shots on when she was done.
You are absolutely right, a happy mama is key to a happy baby and I know you’ll make the best decision for both of you. It’s a personal decision and no one else can tell you if you’re right or wrong, only you and KB can. Best of luck!!!

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Cortney January 23, 2013 at 9:57 am

Thank you so much for this post. I am still nursing my almost 17 month old. He does eat solids but reverts to nursing primarily when he is teething. I still nurse him to sleep, and he likes to nurse when he is upset. He is VERY fond of the boob!

I love the cuddles and bond that we have created. I guess the only two cons or me right now are having to eat so much to keep up with the supply (it gets old after awhile plus I am holding on to about 10lbs carried mostly in my lower body that I know will go away when I stop nursing) and the fact that I cannot really travel or be away from him for more than a few hours (pumping does not work for us). I don’t really want to be away from him a lot, per se but it does limit my commitment and work options sometimes.

I would not mind continuing nursing past two, if we could just get to morning and night nursing sessions. I do like the immunity that nursing provides.

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tinysneakers January 25, 2013 at 10:52 am

I’m with you on it being tough to always eat so much and not having flexibility to travel- not being able to pump would make it much harder! KB is definitely a comfort nurser too, so I can’t imagine not having that option when he doesn’t feel good.

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Laura @ Mommy Run Fast January 23, 2013 at 10:57 am

Breast feeding definitely makes the milk decision easier- especially when you don’t want to give him cows milk. I wanted to nurse longer, but L weaned herself around 14 months. I agree with Lisa that the gradual approach is ideal. Maybe you can cut out the post nap feed first, and keep the morning/night for awhile… good luck!

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tinysneakers January 25, 2013 at 10:55 am

I definitely think that’s what i’m leaning towards. I’ll probably give him a little bit more of a chance to see if he’s interested in weaning himself before I do anything though.

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Erika January 23, 2013 at 11:50 am

At 17 months now it’s kinda hard to remember how/when we weaned. I don’t remember how old he was when we cut out the night time feedings. I’m guessing around 10 months is when we were just doing morning and before bedtime nursing sessions (we was/is at daycare so he’d get 2 pumped bottles during the day). At 12 months (to the day) I stopped nursing but we continued with pumped bottles for about a month after that and he naturally drank less and less. I stopped nursing because I needed/wanted my body back – I was under weight and still didn’t have my cycle back and with a history of irregular cycles and problems getting pregnant I knew my body needed time to get “normal” before we were going to try for number 2. And yes – it’s very, very nice being able to wear whatever you want!

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Katie January 23, 2013 at 12:15 pm

I would have loved to have been able to do extended nursing. I work full time, though, and months of pumping took their toll. I completely dried up 8 months in, and my daughter stopped nursing because there was no milk. It was really sad, and I wish I could have made a go of at least morning and night nursing for another year. I think if it’s a viable option for you, it’s worth it to keep it going.

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tinysneakers January 25, 2013 at 10:55 am

Pumping definitely makes it tough!

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Lisa January 23, 2013 at 3:18 pm

I just stopped nursing my 18month old son 23 days ago (Jan 1st)
When he was about 7-9months I was SO done. Those months were very draining on me physically.

BUT, as I contined it got a lot easier.

At 18 months I was down to 2 sessions a day. I stopped beside I felt like he was old enough. It was time. No real reason. It was just time.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do. It’s a big decision!

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Christie January 23, 2013 at 7:11 pm

I’m still nursing my almost 1 year old 2x/day (morning and night). I work full time so that played a big role in the decision of when to begin weaning. We started mixing cows milk with what I pumped then gradually just gave her cows milk during the day. I’ll keep doing am & pm as long as we both want but in my mind I think it’ll probably end before 18 months.

I may change my mind later but I think I’ll be so glad when it’s all over! I am proud to have continued and so happy everything went well for us but it was never something I loved loved. I’d do it again in a heartbeat (plan to one day with future kids) but I guess it’s just the pumping I hate :)

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tinysneakers January 25, 2013 at 10:56 am

The pumping part is definitely the least fun of it all! ;)

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Tina @ Best Body Fitness January 24, 2013 at 8:06 am

I say go with your gut. The “mom gut” always seems to know best for the family – both your child AND yourself. Not sure what your gut is telling you now, but that’s what I would suggest.

My body was like a switch both times. I was a milk machine and then hit around 7 months and automatically dried up and had to fight to continue. With Makenzie I fought 3 months because I was so determined to make it to a full year, but my body just wasn’t having it. When the same thing happened with B, I did what I could but knew I had to let the weaning start when my body was doing the same thing and it was such a huge battle emotionally and phsycially.

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tinysneakers January 25, 2013 at 10:58 am

“Mom gut” definitely seems to rule all. I don’t know what it’s telling me right now, so I guess I’ll just wait for when it does tell me something- you can never go wrong going with your intuition. ;)

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Courtney H January 24, 2013 at 11:18 am

We’ve had this discussion many a time, I know. I found that my girls, although they maybe didn’t wean themselves, really showed me when they were ready to drop a nursing. My rule of thumb was I would replace that nursing with a snack and water one time- if they took that and were happy, then that was a successful weaning. If sleep got majorly interrupted, they seemed unsatisfied, etc., that nursing stayed around a little longer. They really show you when they’re done.
My admittedly selfish reason for stopping at a year was so that I could regain some flexibility in my life (and you know my girls are NOT breastmilk from bottle drinkers- which meant I had to be there for every nursing time for the past year). However, I think they also enjoy that additional freedom. Now Hadley can sleep over at other people’s houses, she can go out to meals without me, she can enjoy bedtime with Justin, etc. I think she has enjoyed being a “big girl”.
I will say though that it is HARD on me when they are fully weaned, you do feel like something is missing, but I think that is the nature of parenthood- your relationship with the baby continually adjusts and changes as they grow and their needs from you change.
Hope this helps! In the end, you do what is best for you and babe.

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tinysneakers January 25, 2013 at 11:04 am

You always give the best and most reassuring advice!!

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KatyBug January 24, 2013 at 4:56 pm

I love this and I’m bookmarking!

3.5 months in, I hope to breastfeed as long as possible, in large part because it’s one of the things that I think will keep us close now that I’m back to work :) I also really enjoy it (not the pumping — I HATE that) so as long as we’re both getting something out of it, I’m cool with keeping it up.

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Vicky January 30, 2013 at 5:28 pm

I would say keep breast feeding! My guy just turned 1 and I hope to bf until 2. Hopefully he will self wean.

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