14 Months Of Breastfeeding

Yup, that’s what I did. Well, technically 14 months and three days if you’re really counting. And yup, this really is a post about breastfeeding, so feel free to skip it (you know, if you’re my brother for example). I never thought I’d be writing about it. But I actually get a lot of questions on the subject. And since I blather on about other random things (like cloth diapering) and this blog is really just a way for us to remember things that we might otherwise forget (like paint colors and vacation happenings), I figure that something I did for so long (around 425 days straight) deserved a post about the range of emotions that it elicited. So here we go.

My first emotion: grateful. I was just so thankful it worked. I was acutely aware that some moms try extremely hard but it’s just not possible. I was also pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as painful as I expected. I’d heard a lot about cracked and bleeding nipples (yes I just typed that) but thanks to genetics or a good latch (or some other random happening) I didn’t really have much pain at all (in the interest of TMI, I also never had sore boobs while prego, so maybe those things go hand in hand?). And I know the whole lack of pain thing might make you want to punch me (it annoys the heck out of my BFF) but I had a pretty frightening birth experience so I guess it’s always something (and not always the same thing) that throws you for a loop as a new mom.

Speaking of the whole birth thing, I was initially really stressed about Clara “taking” to breastfeeding because, due to our complications, I couldn’t nurse her until eight whole hours after she came into this world. I heard trying as soon as possible was the way to go, and I guess the whole scary birth experience had me fearing the worst (there was no baby-on-my-chest-to-snuggle-and-nurse-right-away occurrance, which is definitely what I pictured). But the sweet nurses pretty much just said to give it a try and it was miraculous. Clara got it right away. Such a relief.

As far as emotions go, after “grateful” and “pleasantly surprised” I moved into “exhausted and overwhelmed” territory. Clara was blissfully sleeping for 12 hours each night pretty much from the beginning, waking up for just one or two feedings most of the time (after we got the ok from the doc to let her sleep instead of waking her up to feed every 3 hours since she was steadily gaining weight).

But that meant that during the day she was feeding every two hours like clockwork (I fed her on demand, and at almost exact two hour intervals she screamed and wasn’t happy til she was nursing). So I really couldn’t get much done without having to stop and feed her. Which I actually loved for the bonding and the sweetness and the self-imposed break that it gave me from housework, blogging, and all that other stuff – but it was definitely exhausting and sort of all-encompassing in those bleary I-have-a-newborn months. I always joke that she let me rest at night, but during the day she made me work for it.

And when we went on a week-long family vacation when Clara was just six weeks old I remember sitting upstairs alone with Clara feeding her in a bedroom while everyone else was downstairs having fun together and thinking “I’m going to have to excuse myself and do this about eight times a day while everyone else hangs out – which adds up to 56 feedings that I’ll be doing over the next seven days.” That’s an overwhelming thought. At least it was to me. It was times like this that I actually wished feeding in public (or at least in front of your extended family) was more widely accepted. I tried to use a nursing cover but Clara wouldn’t have it. So up in my room I sat (with occasional visits from John who sweetly recognized that I’d rather be with the group and dropped in to keep us company). Back in these days feedings were pretty slow going (around 15-20 minutes per side for a total of 30-40 minutes spent sequestered). But we still managed to fit in some fun in the sun (or shade since she was so tiny).

I should mention that 1) pumping didn’t agree with me and 2) Clara never took to bottles (or pacifiers for that matter). You win some and you lose some. So every time she fed for the past 14 months it was directly from the source. Which was ok with me since pumping just didn’t work out and thankfully I have a job that allows me to be home with her. But it’s definitely sort of crazy as a concept because for over a year I was never away from my daughter for more than an hour or two. Ever.

But with a face like this, I was ok with that:

Around three months in I really got into the groove though. That’s where I’d characterize my feelings as “content and accepting.” I was happy to still be able to breastfeed and glad that it seemed to suit Clara. She seemed to enjoy it and I knew how to do it effectively and easily enough (in a parked car? check. in a dressing room? check). I even managed to sneak in a taping for the Nate Berkus show, nursing Clara in the green room right before we went on and right after (thankfully it was only a two hour process – or we might have heard her screaming for another feeding from on stage).

I guess I had adapted more to it, and it didn’t feel like as big of a job after I got into the swing of things. And by about 6-8 months old Clara had become a lot more efficient, so feedings were only about 15 minutes total (and sometimes even ten). Interestingly enough, the introduction of solid food at six months old (which Clara loved from day one) didn’t have any bearing on her nursing. She still wanted just as much, just as often. And I was secretly kind of relieved because I worried a bit about my production slowing or even stopping if she suddenly dropped a ton of feedings. But that was not the case.

Up until Clara turned ten months old I was still feeding her every two hours during the day at her insistence (screaming until I nursed her = her insistence). That’s right, for ten months (that’s 300 days) I nursed Clara every two hours (except during the night). I was ok with it, and my doc was ok with it, but I heard from friends that only going two hours between feedings at that age was reallllly often (as in all of my friends were only feeding every 4-5 hours or so at that age). My doc explained that it made sense since Clara was such an unusually solid night sleeper (she segued from waking up for 1-2 feedings in her 12 hour span of night sleep to not waking up at all around 2.5 months in – I know, we’re insanely blessed to have gotten such uninterrupted sleep for such a long block of time). But it did mean not-as-long daytime naps and a whole lot of frequent feedings to “tank up” during her waking hours in exchange for such an awesome night’s sleep. Heck, I’ll take it.

Blissfully, after turning ten months old Clara started stretching her feedings to every three hours, which felt amazing. It’s funny how an extra hour feels like all the freedom in the world. It’s all relative I guess. At this point I was coming into the whole “I love breastfeeding” phenomenon. I still felt grateful to be able to do it, Clara was a thriving happy girl, it was saving us money, it gave me a moment to step away from the computer/paint brush/hammer and connect with the bean, and it helped me get back into my old clothes (even though I don’t think I’ll ever have my pre-baby body again, it’s fine with me because Clara’s so worth it). I should add that I’m a breastfeeding enthusiast when it comes to me and Clara, but I don’t judge anyone else when it comes to what they choose for their family. Whatever works for you & your ducklings = my mantra as a parent in general.

The next speed bump that we encountered was when Clara turned a year old we introduced organic whole milk. The problem? Clara wouldn’t drink it. She still wouldn’t really take a bottle so our doc recommended trying a sippy cup. It worked for water, but she refused to drink milk (and we tried about ten million different sippy cup varieties, tried slightly heating the milk, tried watering it down or mixing it with breast milk, etc). This is when I started fearing that she’d be 21 years old and still addicted to breastfeeding.

Next we tried almond milk at our doc’s advice, and she went for it (we think the thinner consistency seemed closer to breast milk so she was down). And slowly we mixed almond milk with whole organic milk and she made the transition to 100% whole organic milk at around 13 months. Yup, it took nearly a whole month to get her on board with it. She’s stubborn like her momma. Haha. Shockingly, that’s when her feedings dropped waaay down. From around five times a day to just two – once before bed and once in the morning. Which made me feel excited and free but sort of oddly sad at the same time. “My baby’s growing up, and she needs me less” was sort of how I felt. I know that’s not really true, but it’s the best way I can describe the feeling.

By 13 months and three weeks she just wanted a feeding in the morning when she woke up. Clara has always been the boss of this whole breastfeeding thing (since we opted to just do the “on demand” thing from day one), so who am I to argue with the girl? Just one morning feeding opened up a whole new world of evening fun for me and John thanks to his parents offering to babysit (we could see a movie or go out to dinner without Clara after over a year of not partaking in those activities – amazing!). Of course I thought about her the whole time we were out, but I guess that’s to be expected (picture me saying “I wonder what Clara’s doing right now” every ten minutes during our first movie together in over a year).

Two weeks later Clara wasn’t even interested in her morning feeding. Which was sad because that’s the one where we lie down next to each other and relax together. I know I sound crazy, but it was such a sweet way to start the day. To anyone who has yet to try it, nursing on your side while laying down = awesometown (they taught me that move at the hospital thanks to the whole c-section thing). And now it’s over. So my current feelings are sad (because I’ll miss it) but proud (because I can’t believe I breastfed for over 14 months) and grateful (because I know being able to nurse that long or even at all definitely isn’t a given).

So that’s my breastfeeding journey. Off to cry now (and I can’t even blame breastfeeding hormones for the tears). I know, I know, someone with a nickname that won’t stick like $herdog shouldn’t be such a wuss. But it was an awesome/exhausting/amazing/tiring/surprising journey that I’m grateful to have experienced. Love you baby girl. Even if you’re over me my boobs.

Comments

  1. Momlady says

    Yay for you Sherry. I did the same thing 24 years ago and wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything in the world. I know it’s a bittersweet time for you right now…but what a great experience for you and what a wonderful thing for Clara.

    • Eve says

      Even after weaning, I continued to do the morning snuggle with my daughter well into her teens. We really loved the quiet, peaceful time together before the day really started, so she could talk about whatever was on her mind about the day before and the day ahead.

  2. Amy says

    You’ve got me all sniffly at work. :)

    I breastfed for almost a year. I work a 40-hour week and my pump died shortly before my son’s first birthday. I still breastfed him for a few weeks, but without the three pumping sessions during the work day, my production dropped off quickly. My son was fine without. He’d been starting to wean himself anyway.

    I know not everyone does, but I loved breastfeeding. It’s been 7 months or so and I still miss the closeness. I’m so glad you got to experience it!

  3. says

    Wow! 14 months is a long time! I guess it depends on everyone but I had no idea it could continue for so long. I’ve always thought that maybe I would do this when I have kids (not anytime soon) so we’ll see.

    • Rebecca says

      Worldwide, most kiddos breastfeed until they are 2-3 YEARS old. I guess we have a different cultural view of it here in the US. Not good, not bad, just different. :-)

    • Rosie says

      I breastfed each of my two children for about three years.

      Go Sherry! Good for you (and Clara!).

    • says

      A friend of mine nursed for just about 3 years, which I found slightly weird, to be honest. Once the baby’s old enough to articulate it’s want for breast milk… But as for just over a year: It’s healthy for the baby and as long as it’s fine for mom and baby, it’s fine for me.

      Also, luckily, here in Germany, breastfeeding in public is mostly accepted. I’m not a mum yet, but I’m sure it’s really helpful to just sit down in a (semi-)quiet corner and nurse instead of hiding somewhere.

    • Megan says

      I am currently breastfeeding my 26 month old daughter and pumping for her 2 month old sister who is tube fed. My 2 year old has kept up my supply so I 1)get to provide the best food for my struggling little girl and 2) only have to pump 2-3 times a day (nursing the rest of the time). I never never never dreamed I would nurse past a year, but I am so very glad I did. Good job Sherry on 14 months and for letting your little girl wean gently on her own terms. What an amazing gift you’ve given her!

    • says

      WHO recommends until 2 years actually, so with a lot of work and dedication it can definitely last that long, or even longer if both sides are happy with it! You might be surprised how short 14 months is when you have your own babes :)

  4. KMW says

    This is the first time I’ve commented on one of your posts and I wanted to say congratulations, Sherry! You’ve done such a wonderful thing for Clara and yourself. It helps to have a supportive partner, so kudos to John as well.

    I’m still nursing my almost 16 month old, and I don’t think he’s ever going to cut back. We’re still going strong at 4-6 sessions a day… er, night. (I WOH so he’s been a reverse cycler since I went back to work… lucky us! I envy Clara’s sleeping patterns!) Seriously though, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Thanks for posting this!

  5. Krista says

    Great job on 14 months of breastfeeding! You did a great job explaining all of the emotions. I bf my first for 15 1/2 months then I encouraged her to wean without much trouble since I was 4 months pregnant and my supply was going down. Now I’m nursing my nearly 16 month old and she isn’t showing any weaning signs yet although I’m feeling more ready for her to wean. I have loved the time and connection that bf provides.

  6. says

    I’m impressed. It’s so nice to see someone talking so openly about breastfeeding. I went to school for nutrition and it was pounded into our brains that breastfeeding was the best way to go. I ended up teaching pregnant teens at a bunch of high schools and they were all so against it – it was so hard for me to understand. Thanks for sharing your story!!

  7. lindsey g says

    aww.. i love it! i just finished my 13 month nursing session with my daughter! we dropped to night to and morning, then to nighttime, and now she doesnt need my boobs time! haha! i feel really sad, like you, i mean its basically ingrained into our brains now.. and then nothing. but what a sweet and special way we got to bond! thanks for posting sherry!! xo!

  8. Shaina says

    I can’t tell you how happy I am that you just posted this! My baby girl will be one month old on Thursday, and my journey into breastfeeding was a bumpy one. I too had a very traumatic delivery experience, and my sweet girl ended up in the NICU for 6 days, in which I was unable to breastfeed her at all. I was able to pump, and thank God, after a few days she was able to take a bottle and was getting breast milk exclusively. Again, she was such a champ, and we have been exclusively breastfeeding for 3 weeks! I hope to go for at least a year, and with breastfeeding seemingly becoming more and more rare, I’m so glad to read about someone else doing it for so long!

    • Maggie says

      Great job! Keep it up! The first few months are tough, but it gets soo much better. Just like Sherry says.

    • says

      Yes, it does get easier! I can remember at not quite a month in how painful it still was every single feeding, and having to pump sometimes to get rid of the engorging that would lead to mastitis (which I’ve had 3 times, now). I didn’t see how I could keep doing this. My son is nearly 6 months old now, and we’re going strong every two hours. It is not painful anymore, and hasn’t been for quite some time, although I can’t remember exactly when it stopped being painful.

  9. Sarah says

    I’m all teary at work too! :)

    You are an inspiration! Good for you and your success with breast feeding that long, and the bond that you will forever have with Clara. She’s lucky to have such an awesome mom! :)

    Thanks for sharing!

  10. says

    Perfect timing! I’ve been wondering about the details of your breastfeeding relationship with Clara as my daughter Virginia (“Nia”) is close in age to yours – she’ll be 1 on August 12. I also feed on demand and am getting ready to wean, but really don’t want to do cow’s milk so may try almond as you mentioned.

    Like Clara my daughter didn’t take a bottle and once she started solids st 6mths her demand for breastmilk didn’t slow down either. She eats SO much and is a little string bean! Anyway, congratulations on breastfeeding for so long! I can’t imagine not nursing in public – living in NYC my daughter would probably be very angry if I didn’t as we’re always on the go. I’m sure you’re enjoying the freedom now!

  11. Alli says

    I’ll have to try the almond milk thing. My nearly two year old won’t have the whole milk either and I, too, am afraid I’ll be nursing an adult one day

  12. Ann Wyse says

    Awesome!

    (And I think you *can* blame hormones for the tears. It’s the POST breastfeeding hormones.)

  13. says

    Good for you!! I’m a little jealous.:) Both my daughters refused to breastfeed, so I had to pump for every single feeding. My 10 month old just does formula now, (pumping does a number on you, so it’s not sustainable for a whole year) but I wish she was a great nurser like Clara! Now I don’t judge moms who don’t nurse because I know how hard it is…and I’m equally impressed with those who do it for so long for the same reasons! Good work!

    • Jessica says

      Megan, neither of my two opted to cooperate for breastfeeding either. My older daughter never latched, and combined with inexperience it didn’t last for very long. My younger daughter lasted for three months until I dried up :( I think that’s awesome that Mom’s {and babies} can nurse! I understand if mom’s cant or opt not to…but would’ve appreciated it if my two could’ve!!

    • Kelli says

      My daughter wouldn’t breastfeed either so I ended up pumping exclusively. I lasted 6 months before my supply started to dwindle and I became too exhausted to continue. Pumping definitely takes a toll on you. I was working full time from the time my daughter was 12 weeks so I pumped 2 times during my 8 hour work day. Man was that terrible! I used to pump in my car in the middle of winter. It was well worth it though for my sweet girl!! I wish I could have done it longer but it just didn’t work with my situation. I’m hoping my next child will latch on so I don’t have to go through that all again. Congrats though Sherry on making it so long with breastfeeding. It’s such a great thing!!!