Saturday, July 10, 2010

Guest Post: How do you know when you'll stop breastfeeding?

I'm pleased to present a guest post today by Karen Angstadt about what happens when you reach your original nursing goal, but you and your baby want to continue nursing. Did you originally think you'd breastfeed for 6 months, then go on to enjoy breastfeeding for two years or more? How did you feel, and when is the right time to stop?

When I was pregnant, I hired a doula. She was a very warm woman who knew a lot more than I did about birth and breastfeeding. She had a big impact on my breastfeeding success because she was available by phone to help with questions and even came to my house to help me correct my daughter's latch.

What was less obvious to me was how her actions impacted how I viewed breastfeeding. When we met, she was "still" breastfeeding her nearly-3 year old son. I liked everything else about her, so I didn't voice my discomfort with the idea of nursing a toddler. But I "knew" I'd never be OK with that.

My plan was to breastfeed for a year. It was a challenge, especially after going back to work when my baby girl was only 10 weeks old. But that year of breastfeeding and responding to my baby changed me. I understood in a whole new way that weaning at the one-year mark wasn't as obvious as it once appeared.

My baby girl had no sense of weeks and months. She lived in the moment. And when I was with her, especially during breastfeeding, I lived in the moment too. It was time away from deadlines and hurry. It was a comfort for both of us to reconnect and cuddle.

So when her first birthday arrived, it just didn't make sense to stop. We were connected and both our needs were being met. We continued through toddlerhood until past the midpoint of my next pregnancy, when she told me the milk "tasted funny" and I had been encouraging weaning due to breast tenderness. We agreed when the baby arrived and the milk returned she could nurse again.

She is now five and her sister nearly three. Little sister is still nursing two times daily, and appears to have no interest in stopping soon. Big sister will occasionally ask to nurse alongside her sister, and although I understand in a way that I never thought I would, my old prejudices about age still sometimes creep in at these moments.

Do I let her? Sometimes. Either way, I do my best not to let my old way of thinking, since proven incorrect, be the leading voice in the decision. 

Karen Angstadt is a birth mentor, wise woman and mother of two. Karen is the founder of Intentional Birth  and the host of A Labor of Love radio show on VoiceAmerica. 

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