Extended breastfeeding, by definition is nursing a child past 12 months old. Somehow I became an Extended Breastfeeder, but if you’d ask me what my breastfeeding plans were up to the day I gave birth to CharlieB, my response was “I am giving it a shot, if it works it does, if it doesn’t I’m fine with that too”. I’ve been breastfeeding for over 2 ½ years, and honestly, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I even learned about the term “extended breastfeeding”. It’s not something you commonly hear about, nor see (at least in the US) but it exists and I’d wish people would stop treating it as something abnormal and wrong. But I digress, and will address this issue in another post, for now the focus of this post is on my breastfeeding journey, because I want others to realize that breastfeeding is unique and different for everyone. What works for one person may not work for another. Also, for something that is dubbed “natural”, it is not the most natural (like) process at all and is far from easy. It takes work, patience, persistence, dedication, and tears (yes I said tears) to do this. It isn’t for everyone, and THAT IS OK!!! I repeat, IT IS OK TO NOT SUCCEED IN BREASTFEEDING, and IT IS OK NOT TO WANT TO BREASTFEED. Opting out doesn’t make you less of a mother, like having a C-section doesn’t either. That being said… my journey to Extended Breastfeeding.
CharlieB’s first latch seemed very instinctive (after my emergency C-section). I was amazed, because it was like she knocked my hand out of her way to do what her primal instincts told her and she LATCHED!!! IT HURT! Explain to me how something so “natural” should hurt like this? The next time she needed to latch, it seemed a lot more difficult. I kept trying, but I had little expectations for my success in breastfeeding. I knew there were great benefits to breastfeeding, which is why I wanted to try, but I didn’t have that strong conviction that ‘I MUST Breastfeed.’ Before delivering I made the choice to Supplement or Combo feed, even if I could breastfeed. I saw the struggles many of my sister-friends had with breastfeeding and honestly I just didn’t want that type of stress in my life. I just wanted a happy baby (Thank you God for delivering that), so as long as my baby was fed, I really didn’t care how. So from the very first day of birth my children where nursed on demand (not scheduled feedings) and received 1-2 bottles of formula a day.
Some struggles I witnessed from others⚠️:
☕️Baby refusing formula when tried to transition because of low production or not enough stored before going back to work
☕️Latching issues, inverted nipples
☕️Postpartum health issues, prevented immediate breastfeeding
☕️Inadequate Milk intake
The first few days after she was born, while in the hospital, I continued to try to nurse each day. I even attempted to pump with my breast pump and even requested a hospital grade pump to use. Each pumping attempt was a fail. THE PAIN WAS CRAZY. I couldn’t do it. It hurt too much. I wondered if I was just a punk… and then I started asking others, and then the truth came out, the first two or so weeks of pumping is HELL. BE scared, because it DOES IN FACT hurt, BUT it does get better. It really does stop hurting. I am very thankful for my sisters and their honesty, because I would have quit pumping sooner, actually I did and my dear sweet sister in Trinidad (also a HG suffer) told me when I was at my wits end NOT to stop and she promised the pain would cease in a week or so and it DID.
HG caused me to start my maternity leave early and CharlieB was almost 2 weeks overdue, so I only had 9 weeks at home with her and to recover from an Emergency C-section. I didn’t have much of a stash so pumping at work was crucial for keeping my supply and trying to breastfeed until she was 1 (once I got the hang of nursing, I made the decision, with the recommendation from her pediatrician to nurse until 1 year of age.) Boy did I underestimate what was needed to do this. I was lucky I didn’t have to use our wellness room because you had to schedule it on this website and it was for the entire building to use for any medical reason. That wasn’t going to work for me since I was (1) a slow pumper (2) an unorganized mess (3) a person that doesn’t work well with specific timed schedules, (I’m very free spirit and mapping out my day to the minute gives me anxiety). Since I was part of the library staff, I used our personal storage space (basically a mini office with no windows.) We were a staff of 3 (including myself) & there was only 1 key to the room, my supervisor suggested that I use it, and was perfect for my needs. There was a table, I brought my own cleaning supplies (OCD) and I would go in the room 2-3 times a day to pump. It was tricky in the beginning because I was allotted a total of 90 minutes for the entire day to pump (my two 15 minute breaks and 1 hr lunch.) I was told that I could combine the time however I saw fit, but I had to use my personal time to pump, so I no longer could go out for lunch. My pumping regime was exhausting, my sterilization process and cleanup took about 15 minutes, which ate into my pumping time. I would pump maybe a total of 4-6 oz in 40 minutes. I started taking breastmilk supplements, it increased my pumping session to about 8 oz per session (thankfully both my girls never consumed more than 4 oz at any time while they bottle fed). I changed flange sizes, which helped but not the amount of time it took me to pump, so I invested in these discreet pumping cups, to pump at my desk, since I worked in an open office setting, to pump while I worked, so I could take back some control of my life. Of course when I got home I would immediately nurse CharlieB (she would never take a bottle from me anyway) and the milk was used for the next day (she was also given formula when she finished the pumped milk, so I never worried about the amount I pumped, as long as she had at least 3 bottles of breastmilk for the day. Pumping at home was a little difficult, CharlieB was a reflux baby & required to be held a lot. I was often alone with her, so that made it difficult. I often baby wore her a lot to soothe her, so it made it difficult to pump. In the end I was able to store up a generous stash of milk in the deep freezer.
Eventually, I realized that this was a lot and too much for me. I was working 5 days a week and two nights a week I worked 2 jobs. It was becoming difficult for me to adjust to motherhood and maintain my pre-mommy work lifestyle, so after working full time for 4 months, I started working part time. Once I started working part time, my stashed increased a little more, and I stopped leaving breastmilk for her when I was gone. She drank formula when I was away for less than 6 hours and the days I worked 6 hours or more I would provide a few bottles of breast milk in addition to formula. Pumping frequency became one to 2 times a day, depending how long I worked for the day. I nursed her any time I she was with me, she refused to take a bottle from me.
My body adjusted to the new rhythm, I no longer needed breastmilk supplements. When CharlieB (6 months) went away with her dad for a 2 night trip, she actually took the bulk of her stash for the trip. But of course she truly wasn’t away from me, because I had to pump a lot those days. By the time she was 7 or 8 months, I only pumped the days I worked more than 6 hours, there was no need to pump as often, because I didn’t get uncomfortable as fast as I used to. By the time she was 8 months, I ceased pumping, and maybe a week later I found out I was pregnant with Baby Number 2.
I nursed CharlieB during my entire pregnancy with no issues other than HG, (I ceased pumping at this point.) At 12 months, I began to wean her, but she wasn’t eager about this change. It took a little mommy cleverness to get her to take milk, and eventually she did, but she was not ready to quit nursing cold turkey. She weaned off daytime feedings (with the exception of naptime) pretty quickly, but she wouldn’t stop night time feedings. It took an additional year and 4 months to get her off completely. So this was the start of my journey to both extended breastfeeding and tandem nursing (this will be the next post.) Honestly, I believe supplementing/combo feeding led to my success in breastfeeding, which made it possible for me to nurse this long.
☕️Is Extended Breastfeeding a norm when you were growing up?
☕️Have you breastfed past 1 year?
☕️Let me know in the comments some of the stigmas that you heard or may have had (growing up) about breastfeeding.
Here’s some additional information🖥:
📝 I will include additional links in each following post on Breastfeeding.