Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Extended breastfeeding - Part 1

I can't tell you how wonderfully tandem nursing has been working for our family. I understand that not everyone makes the same decisions regarding extended breastfeeding, and I fully respect the need for each Momma to make a decision that is right for your family (and in some cases, the decision is made for you!).

That being said, I love it :-) I decided to continue nursing through pregnancy, figuring Graeme would probably naturally wean as my milk dried up.

Well, he had different ideas! He continued to nurse even once my milk was gone (by around 20 weeks). With Mark leaving for OCS, along with our impending move, it didn't seem like the right time to wean. We both treasured the closeness while Mark was gone.

As I contemplated the concept of weaning, doing much reading and thinking about it, I couldn't really find a reason to stop nursing. If mother and child are both still enjoying the experience, why stop? It is the most natural form of comfort, security, and quiet (all of which are in high demand during the toddler years). Of course, a Mother can still offer those without nursing. But since Graeme continued to want to nurse, and I continued to enjoy it, we kept going.

I kept waiting for him to get tired of nursing and getting no milk. However, I think he knew that surely, eventually, it would come back. And did it! The first week after Cole was born, once my milk came in, Graeme was enthralled with the bounty :-) In fact, that was probably the most challenging period, as Cole was nursing, I was recovering, and Graeme wanted to nurse very frequently - who wouldn't, all that wonderful rich milk that he'd been holding out for all these months!?

We made it through that one challenging week, setting a few boundaries and getting settled with how to handle two nurslings. I tandem nursed several times (nursing one on each breast) - once I got the hang of it, I truly enjoyed it. I would look down at my two little ones contentedly resting their heads close to one another, and I believe that there are few things so sweet as being a Mother at a time like that. I praised God for giving me the opportunity to provide nourishment, both physical and emotional, to both of my children in this way.

So here we are, Graeme is 26 months old, and still nursing! He is showing some signs of weaning independence, as I've read is common between 2-3 years. Up to this point, he has nursed to sleep almost every day of his life. Now, he'll often sit up and want to read a few books before going to bed...I figure, if I get pregnant in the next year and wish to wean, this will be a natural way to do it. We'll continue to cuddle, and gradually shorten the nursing session and lengthen the reading time. (At least, that's what I have in mind...we'll see what actually transpires!)

Yes, I plan on nursing until either Graeme seems ready or I am ready to wean. I believe we will know when it is time.

What is it like? Why do it? What kind of boundaries do you set? Do you make enough milk for both children?
Well, I'm going to do 2 (or 3 :) more parts to this "series" and hope to answer some of those questions, and point you to further resources if you're interested. I'm not trying to convince all of you dear readers that this is the "only way" to go, or make you feel bad if you don't nurse beyond X point - but most of us don't run into tandem nursers every day, so if I can help clear up misunderstandings or misconceptions by sharing my experience, I hope to!

Feel free to leave a comment with any questions you've always wondered about tandem/extended breastfeeding - I won't mind answering, if I can. I'm not an expert, but I've done my share of reading on the topic :)

Do you nurse? How long have you nursed? What do you love about it?


Myra said...

Amanda! I'm facinated and can't wait to read more! :)

Desiree Fawn said...

Beautiful post -- I am currently nursing my 14 week old daughter and hope to continue for a long time.
I can't wait to read more of your stories ^_^

Laura said...

Statistically I've had to quit nursing around 3 months. Does that mean I'm doing extended breastfeeding now at 4+ months with Noah?!? :) Probably not, huh? Oh well. I have a feeling that I will never tandem nurse unless I have twins, and I don't know how in the world my milk supply would keep up with twins.

I'm eager to read your other posts on this subject, as well as what your readers have to say!