• Mama Bear & Mama Wolff

Why I’ve Chosen to Breastfeed Past 1 Year

Because I want to.

The end. 

Wait, come back! I won’t really make this post that short. Though the answer is that easy

The truth is, I love breastfeeding. I really do. Is it annoying sometimes? Heck yes. Does it drive me crazy sometimes? Also, heck yes. But I love it. I am so thankful I was able to do it, and that we have (just about) reached the original one year goal. 

DISCLAIMER: I do not think that women who have reached their physical or mental limit with breastfeeding should continue through the pain. This is not at all the message I want to convey here.

As good as breastfeeding is, it is not more important to the child’s survival or upbringing as the mental health of the mother. If you decide to end your breastfeeding journey early, (or choose a different path altogether) there is nothing wrong with that. You are not a failure. You are not less of a women or mother. And (most) women who breastfeed are not trying to rub it in your face. They are simply doing what is best for their family. By knowing your limits and making the best choice for you and your child; you are setting an amazing example for them, whatever that choice may be.

I am not here to shame anyone for formula feeding. I firmly believe that Fed is Best. I am simply speaking MY truth about my life. I am only here to tell MY story about breastfeeding beyond a year. To celebrate what I have accomplished, and so that other mothers who want to do so, can feel less alone.

I owe my success to my amazing doula/lactation consultant; Michelle Bressler. Without her, I don’t know what I would have done. She really got me through the hard days. If you’re a breastfeeding mama- or you want to be- please reach out to an LC. They can be such an amazing support.

I also owe my success to my daughter. She’s truly a natural milky baby who latched the moment she was out of the womb.

I owe my success to my supportive husband. Though he never got to verbally accost someone in public (to date) for shaming me for feeding in public, I know he would in a heartbeat.

I also owe my success to the friends and family members that stood up for me when others tried to shame me. You know who you are.

And last but not least; I owe my success to myself and my stubborn nature. So many times, I was judged or shamed for breastfeeding. I was called disgusting. improper. Inappropriate. I was told to cover or made to feel uncomfortable; even in my own home. So many times mothers who chose to formula feed their littles took my choice on how to feed my daughter as a personal attack against them.

This might piss some people off to say, but I never thought to give up. Not even on the hard days. And there were some hard days.

We had a really bad teething experience, where Baby Bear was cutting 5 (yes 5) teeth in 24 hours. She bit me hard. So hard my body tried to react to defend myself. My hand had raised, the way you do when you’re stung by a bee. I was heartbroken and disgusted with myself that I could ever consider hitting my child. It’s so sharp and instant. I remember lowering my face into my offending hand and sobbing as I hugged her close. Apologizing repeatedly for something I hadn’t even done. 

In a moment like that, where I hated myself and the mom guilt was loud in my head, I could have easily convinced myself to give up. But I didn’t. I was raised to believe that the best things are sometimes the hardest. And that you don’t quit on someone or something just because of a few painful moments. After all, pregnancy and birth are not without its pain.

Maybe it’s because I’m a teensy bit of a control freak. (Understatement, I know.) Mostly though, I didn’t give up because when I set my mind to something, I do it. I was going to make it to one year of breastfeeding. I was going to earn and proudly wear that invisible badge on my stretched and saggy chest for the rest of my life. I could do anything a few more months if it meant reaching a goal I’d worked so hard for.

Not to mention the amount of money I was saving our family by not having to buy formula. It disgusts me how expensive that stuff is for the parents that need it. If I responded at all to a pump the way that I do to nursing, I would have willingly donated my milk. Unfortunately, pumps and I were not good friends. (Don’t get me started on how expensive THOSE things are...)

As proud as I was (and still am) of my amazing breastfeeding journey so far, I often found myself hiding my excitement, success and pride from other moms. Not just formula moms but also other breastfeeding moms. Especially ones that had it harder than I did. ( Even now as I write this, i wonder who’s feelings I might hurt or who I may offend. )

I felt pressured to pretend I was hating it. Or not loving it. When in reality, it truly was the most natural thing in the world for us. 

I don’t take a moment of my ‘easy’ breastfeeding journey for granted. (Partly out of guilt for the mama’s who didn’t have it so easy.) And despite the ease of it, there’s been struggle as well. Starting at chapped, bleeding nipples, meeting in the middle at two stress induced, clogged ducts.

Those were no picnic, let me tell you. 

And finally; the pressure of responsibility for every single nighttime wake & feed. A choice I made, as Papa Bear worked and I stayed home. I didn’t mind being the one that did all the wake up stuff at night if it meant he was safer at work, driving on the road and in a generally better rested mood. Of course that didn’t make it any less exhausting... Not to mention the emotional weight of being the one person who could soothe Baby Bear fully on her saddest days. 

Not every moment was beautiful. But I wouldn’t trade any of them. There is no time better spent to me, then the time I give in service to nourishing my baby girl. Breastmilk is more then just food. It’s comfort and liquid love, served on demand.

My daughter was such a natural breastfeeder that she refuses to take a bottle. When she was younger, it was possible on occasion. But now that she’s older- she knows what she wants and how she likes it. 

I will say though, that rolling over at 3am and simply popping a boob out to a rooting baby and then going back to sleep, is the coolest thing ever. No stumbling in the dark, trying to make and heat bottles. I swear I actually got more sleep a lot of the time because milk was always ‘on tap’. 

To us though, breastfeeding is not just about the nutrition. It’s bonding. It’s quality time together. It’s soothing. It kills her boredom. It provides her comfort. It forces me to sit down and take a break during the day. It’s an important part of our bedtime routine. 

Breastfeeding has also been incredibly empowering. It’s allowed me to love and appreciate my body at a time in my life where I’ve really been struggling with body issues. It’s opened doors for me to converse with women who are about to become moms and show them something that no one’s shown them before. And help them. Guide them. 

My original goal was 1 year and I’m just a few weeks away from that! But we’re no where near stopping. See, my daughter doesn’t have a breastfeeding goal. She just has her daily life. And all she has ever known is her ‘milkies’. They are there for her when she’s scared or hurting. They are there for her when she’s hungry and thirsty. They are there for her when she is bored or playful or excited or happy, or sad. I personally do not see the sense in taking that away from her just because she is 365 days old.

One year was our goal- not our deadline.

So when will we stop?

Well...I don’t have an answer to that right now. It still serves a purpose for us, so probably until it no longer fits into our life or one of us needs to beginning weaning. I am not sure if we’ll go to a full two years, as the WHO recommends. Perhaps we will only go a month after her first birthday.

I know I won’t still be breastfeeding when she goes off to college, if that makes any of the Nervous Nancy’s or Judgy Judy’s feel better. She will wean or I will tap out (or dry up) when the time is right. Everything ends, everything. And when my breastfeeding journey with Baby Bear is complete, it also means that I will be saying goodbye to one of the most empowering and proud times of my life. 

And its okay for me to be not quite ready to give that up. To end this chapter of my life.

I got to use my body to sustain another human being! I am not the first woman to say that, and I won’t be the last. But it is my badge of honour to wear. So, I’m not putting a date on it moving forward. And I will continue to do it in public, uncovered as long as I feel comfortable doing so. I’m just going to enjoy whatever moments I have left in our breastfeeding journey. Whatever moments I have left with this raw feminine power. And I’m going to enjoy all the wonderful cuddles that go along with it. 

I am proud of myself. As true as it is, it isn’t easy to say. I don’t boast well about myself or celebrate my achievements often. And I know that for some women, my celebration of breastfeeding victory triggers their feelings of failure or sadness. I wish that it didn’t. I wish we, as women would stop comparing ourselves to others, but it’s human nature, I think. The truth is though, that everyday I breastfeed moving forward, is one day closer to the final day. Any feed, could be the last feed. And I want to be proud of how far I’ve come. I want to show off my beautiful, healthy daughter and scream; “LOOK WHAT I DID!!” 

Because look: she’s freaking amazing. 

And I did that. My breastmilk did that. And I hope anyone that’s felt pressured by my journey or uncomfortable by my openness, can put that aside for a moment and just celebrate with me. Because even if you aren’t a breastfeeding mother, you do know what it’s like to see all the effort and hard work you’ve put into a passion, finally add up to something great. That’s what I’m feeling right now. And I hope you can celebrate with me. 

Here’s to over 2,000 breastfeeding sessions with my daughter, solely on my own. And here’s to...however many more days we have left on our journey. 

-Mama Bear 🐻 

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