83 months. For the last 83 months of my life, I have been pregnant or nursing. Now, as of Monday night, my streak has ended, and I can come clean. I nursed my first, a girl, until she was 27 months old, and I nursed my son until he was just over 38 months old. That is 65 months of breastfeeding. I can hardly believe it myself, even typing out the number. When my daughter was born, I wasn’t planning to be the rare mom to be doing any extended breastfeeding. I was overwhelmed, not always the most supported, and a little naïve as to how much work it could be. But I am also a REALLY stubborn person. So while those weren’t always the easiest 65 months, I did make it through all of them. And I learned a lot in the process.
I learned that, despite the “Breast is Best” message, there are a lot of things you have to fight against to make it to that one year mark. No, forget that. It’s hard to make it to 6 months in most circumstances. My daughter was born nursing well, but I had useless support in the hospital after that. Most of the nurses shrugged at me when I asked questions. One nurse was outright hostile. I did have one nurse, a new mom herself, who was passionate about breastfeeding. She sat with me for an hour, helped me figure out what to do, and got me back in the groove. I met her again last year. I thanked her, through tears, for that little bit of time she spent with me. For her, it was another day’s work, but to me, it was exactly what I needed. I was blessed over the years to have other wise women guide me, but she was the first to show any confidence in me.
I leaned that many care providers really don’t know a lot about breastfeeding. Every check up, I would answer my daughter’s doctor’s questions about her feedings as he furiously would scribble notes. As the months wore on, he grew more and more perplexed that I was still breastfeeding. He wasn’t ever negative, but he grew less positive as the months wore on. (“You’re still breastfeeding? Ah, Okay.”) Finally, after she turned a year, I kept mum about her still breastfeeding. So after we moved and after my son was born, I specifically chose a pediatrician who had “Breastfeeding” listed under her interests. She was great. I probably wasn’t going to need her help (I became a Certified Lactation Counselor while pregnant with my son), but I WAS NOT going to have a doctor that I had to hide breastfeeding from.
I learned that social pressure makes a difference. There were a couple of other women in my pre-baby life that had their first kids a couple months before my daughter was born. By the time she was born, one mom had already given up breastfeeding, and the other just complained a lot about it. My co-workers, other friends without kids could be very hostile to my feeding choices. My work environment became so hostile to my need to pump, I eventually quit before she was a year old. There was one mom, though, whom I met in my childbirth class (really the ONLY good thing to come out of that class) who was also breastfeeding, and we hung out. We made it through all the hurdles together. I can honestly say that without her I never would have made it past a year. We even cheered each other on to the 2 year mark! Extended breastfeeding is often quite lonely, but it was a journey we walked together.
I learned that second babies are easier, but no guarantees. My son was a breastfeeding gourmand. He LOVED to eat, and it showed. He was all fat, it seemed! So while we never had latch or supply issues, we did hit other problems. I had mastitis TWICE. Though I knew exactly what to do, it still wasn’t fun. He had 2 huge nursing strikes, one while we were away from home (and away from my pump). That was interesting, but we made it. And weaning was also harder this time—it took the promise of a new bike to get my preschooler to stop nursing.
The most important thing I learned is that, for all of its troubles, breastfeeding two children was hands down my most cherished part of being a mother. I hate pregnancy. I don’t mind birth, but I love, love nursing babies. I so miss the closeness. I miss their tiny little hands holding the straps of my bra. I miss the smiles they gave me when they looked at me during a feeding. And while we will always have that bond all mothers have, I will never again be able to look down and know that my body was their sole source of nourishment and life. No part of parenthood is easy. There are no shortcuts. But for 60+ months, I was a breastfeeding mom. I am not anymore, and I will eventually be OK with that.
Veronica lives in the Twin Cities with her husband, two kids, and a dog. She has been blessed to walk the parenthood path with many, many families over the last 5 years as a Certified Birth Doula, Lamaze Childbirth Educator, Certified Lactation Counselor, and Child Passenger Safety Technician. She is also the co-owner of BabyLove, a Childbirth Education studio in Eagan that offers a variety of classes to parents, both new and experienced. She believes every parent deserves great information and fantastic support through pregnancy, birth and beyond.