I have been breastfeeding my son for 39 months. Yes! Three whole years.
I am so proud of myself. My initial breastfeeding goal was to go for at least six months. That was only because my attempt at breastfeeding my first son was not successful, and our journey lasted less than eight weeks. Even then he would get a bottle of formula between my attempts to breastfeed. So I didn’t want to aim too high.
As I continued to breastfeed well into my son’s sixth month of life, I set another goal of 12 months. By the time we reached 12 months, I began to get all the “When are you going to give him real milk?” questions. Like … whoa … hold up. Since when was the milk that was specifically designed for my baby not real milk?
Those questions and remarks did strike a nerve, and I felt bad about continuing to breastfeed a toddler … that is, until I found a few online communities of women who were breastfeeding way past 12 months. Their encouragement, support, and stories similar to mine gave me the confidence I needed to continue to nurse as long as my baby wanted.
That’s why I wanted to share the reasons I believe my nursing journey has lasted this long.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to research breastfeeding before baby arrives. Because breastfeeding was not successful with my first child, I made sure to look up everything possible to ensure that it worked out the second time. Learning basic terms and understanding the predicted timeline for growth spurts helped me get through the early cluster-feeding days. Knowing terms like “cluster-feeding” is important because, trust me, that feeling that baby keeps eating and they aren’t getting enough milk will come over you. Understanding that cluster-feeding is a thing, and that baby is right on track will give you the peace of mind you need.
Without the support of my biggest fan, my lover, my best friend, I would not have made it to where I am today. Even after I learned so much about breastfeeding, there were stll times when I wanted to quit. He would remind me why I wanted to breastfeed. He’d encourage me to get through a growth spurt. He’d bring me countless glasses of water to keep me hydrated. Without his encouraging words, his patience, his love, and his taking over night duties, I would not have made it this far. Even if you don’t have a partner, having a family member or friend who knows your desire to breastfeed will work. They can and will encourage you to meet your goals.
My own experience of not reaching my breastfeeding goals with my first child allowed me to learn from my previous mistakes. Again, cluster-feeding was happening with my first child, and I had no idea that that was why he was eating every single hour. I got absolutely no sleep, and when I mentioned this to family members, his doctor, and my friends, they were sure he was not getting enough of my milk. So I introduced formula and the bottle way before I should have. That experience prompted me to research exactly what was going on, and I found out he was indeed cluster-feeding. So when I had my second baby I knew what was happening … and I also knew it didn’t last long.
Being part of an online community of women who were experiencing the same ups and downs as I was helped me to stay grounded. It allowed me to stay out of my own head. Although I didn’t post much, just reading everyone’s posts about their experiences and the advice in the comments allowed me to feel at ease. Finding an online community or even an in-person community can help.
My drive, my persistence, and my desire to give my baby the best start in life ultimately allowed me to make it this far. I knew that I wanted to breastfeed from the moment I found out I was pregnant, with both boys. The first journey didn’t work out how I wanted it to, but it allowed me to meet every single goal I set the second time around. Whatever goal you set in the beginning, keep that same energy when baby is in the middle of cluster-feeding.
Being informed and researching can empower you to reach your breastfeeding goals.