Heart to Heart: Breastfeeding Past Infancy

Erin breastfed her son, Dylan, until he was 25 months old. Her story is a perfect example of a healthy nursing relationship after infancy. Her baby loved it, she loved it, so why feel pressured to wean early? Now pregnant with #2, there is nothing she would do any differently.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with me, Erin!

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“When my son was born three years ago, it had never occurred to me not to breastfeed him. I was determined, based on what I had read about the benefits of breastmilk, to avoid formula at all costs. Now, I want to start off by saying that I am in no way knocking Moms who use formula. Breastfeeding is HARD, and pumping SUCKS. Formula is an amazing invention that keeps babies alive and saves those mothers who either can’t produce the milk or for whom formula just makes more sense for them. I was lucky enough to work from home so that I could take breaks between meetings to feed my son. I still had to pump, but I didn’t have to rely on pumping to make sure he got enough milk when I went back to work.

The first couple of weeks were definitely a challenge. My son was over 10 pounds when he was born and needed to eat around the clock to keep his belly full. The first couple of days in the hospital were terrible because my body was exhausted and not producing enough milk, so I was feeding him around the clock. However, once I got past the first couple of weeks, my milk came in, my nipples stopped feeling like they were being ripped off of my body, and I finally started to enjoy breastfeeding.

I am one of those few mothers who breastfed for just over two years. Now that I am pregnant with baby number two, my goal is to breastfeed my baby girl just as long as I did with my son. I wouldn’t give up those two years of daily snuggle sessions or the bond that my son and I developed through those quiet hours of nursing for anything. Sometimes it was exhausting, but always worth it. The one thing that I will change is that my son relied on nursing to fall asleep. He went through a lot of sleep regressions (as all babies do), but what I learned later on was that a lot of his sleep issues came from the reliance on nursing to fall asleep. At 22 months old, I finally figured this out, and my son had to learn how to fall asleep without “Mommy milk.” It involved a lot of tears from both him and me, but ultimately, it was the best thing for both of us.

For the next two or three months, he would nurse in the morning, and sometimes mid-day, but he slowly lost interest in nursing until it naturally just faded out. Now, if my daughter loses interest before the two year mark, I certainly won’t force it, but I don’t see myself stopping her from nursing as long as she still wants it. The World Health Organization recommends two years of breastfeeding if possible, and in my mind, there were absolutely no negatives in hitting that mark. My son is now an independent, curious, loving, smart and healthy 3 year old boy. He has no allergies that we know of, and although he and I are as close as can be, he’s fine being left with a babysitter or his grandparents if I have to go out. Babies grow up so fast, and those moments are fleeting. Between the health benefits (for both Mom and Baby) and the bond that it creates, I’d absolutely recommend it if it makes sense for you.”

Note: I did give up pumping the second my son turned one. Pumping is terrible and I am not looking forward to doing it again. Once he could supplement with Cow’s Milk, that’s what we did.

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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