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Considering Extended Breastfeeding?

I nursed my daughter until she was 16 months-old, and only stopped because I was 5 months pregnant and it was getting a little too uncomfortable for both me and her.

I breastfed my son until he was 22 months-old.  My goal was to make it until he was 18 months, but that was right at Christmas time, in the middle of winter, a.k.a. – cold and flu season, and I wanted him to have as much defense against getting sick as he could, so I continued through until the spring.

I’m obviously a big supporter of extended nursing, but I also know that it has some pretty strong opinions and stereotypes surrounding it.  If you are considering extended breastfeeding, I want to encourage you to go for it!

I think one of the biggest hang-ups for some mamas to get over when thinking about extended nursing is what other people will think of them. We all know that we shouldn’t care what others think of us, but the reality is, it’s hard not to.  I want to share a little bit of my experience (and how I dealt with this issue) with you.

The way I avoided others’ opinions was that I didn’t tell people I was still nursing my son, unless they asked specifically, or we were talking about something that had to do with nursing – like sleeping habits.

Most people, besides my family and a small group of close friends, had no idea that I nursed my son that long.  It’s not that I was ashamed, or didn’t want them to know, it’s just that I didn’t really think it was any of their business, and I didn’t need their approval, affirmation, or opinion.  So I just didn’t tell them.

Just because you extended nurse your toddler, doesn’t mean you have to be an all-out breastfeeding advocate who doesn’t wear a bra and lets her little one walk up and lift up her shirt and start nursing anytime, and anywhere he pleases.

Your toddler has most likely started solid food, and gets a good amount of their nutrition and calories from the 2-3 “regular” meals that they eat each day, so it’s not like they are nursing every two hours the way they do as an infant.  You can nurse your toddler in the privacy of your home, and not have to worry about nursing a bigger baby in public and what others will think.

By the time my son was about 18 months-old, I only nursed him three times a day, first thing in the morning when he woke up, before nap time, and before bed.  These became special minutes that I got to sit down and relax with my son, and give him some one-on-one attention, in the midst of the crazy days with two young kiddos.

Extended nursing has great benefits for both mother and child, so if it’s something you’ve thought about doing, don’t let worrying about what others will think of you deter you from doing what is best for you, your family, and your babe!

Do you extended nurse your toddler?  How have you dealt with others’ opinions and stereotypes of extended breastfeeding?

Photo credit: Daquella manera/Flickr

Getting Something Off My Chest: Should mothers feel weird about extended nursing?

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