Breastfeeding After One Year

I recently sent an email to a friend of mine who had a child about 8 months before me. I remember being pregnant and having a long conversation over email with her about what my thoughts and goals were on breastfeeding. I wrote her an email recently because I knew she of all people could celebrate with me and we could share a laugh at just how incredibly naive I was and just how incredibly patient she was with me when I informed her that I was going to stop breastfeeding as soon as Kale was on solids. I also remember telling her that (and I’m paraphrasing here) “I firmly believe that if you are breastfeeding after a year, its obviously only about YOU as a mother because doy, obviously our Super Babies don’t need that sort of coddling.”

Pardon my French here, but what an effing egotistical, short-sighted, moronic thing to say. Ah, hindsight.

So here we are at over a year, and while Kale’s voracious appetite for breastfeeding is significantly lower than it was, he still heartily enjoys nursing about 3 times a day – occasionally 4 if teething wakes him in the middle of the night. I am shocked at how much I enjoy the times we nurse (although, admittedly, I’m not particularly married to the idea of 3 or 4AM feedings, thanks), but I really enjoy the fact that sitting down for a feeding means I have a few minutes where we are cuddling, and peaceful, and not go-go-go like both Kale and I seem to be these days. I enjoy the fact that we can chill out for a few minutes and have some together time.

I have no intention of changing things. I’m working a few nights a week, and working all day at the market on market day, but Kale has adjusted nicely to the schedule which means that as long as it’s working for him, it’s working for me. I’m not sure what my end goal is anymore, either. At one point I set my sights pretty short – I wanted to make it to six months. And then I wanted to make it till a year. And a year came and went and I didn’t feel the need to “re-evaluate” because there was nothing that I felt needed evaluation. It works. End of story.

Rainbows and sugar fairies aside, I do wonder sometimes if the fact that he is still breastfed is contributing to Kale’s inability to sleep through the night. That dreaded question keeps coming up now that he’s turned one, and I was at a birthday party recently for one of Kale’s little buddies where I was asked “Is he a good boy and is sleeping through the night?” and I replied “He’s an excellent boy, but he doesn’t sleep through the night”. I felt defensive about it because it’s been niggling me that he doesn’t sleep through the night (although, weirdly, we have just gone through a incredible week-long heat wave here in the Lower Mainland, and Kale slept through the night on two occasions. What the Hecks?). Another friend is feeding her little one both breastmilk and formula and he has been sleeping through the night since 6 weeks. He’s also a chubby heifer and Kale’s such a skinny mini the thought does cross my mind that my breastmilk isn’t enough nutrition. I know that it’s all about the individual but seriously, would tanking him up on formula help? Mama would like some better sleeps, plz, kthxbai, so maybe? I don’t know. My doctor and Kale’s doctor seems to think that we’re fine as-is and his skinny-mini-ness is not an issue.

Kale’s like his Daddy (or at least, like his Daddy when he was landscaping for a living and not driving a desk or a car for a living, right Ross?) and appears to have the metabolism of a fruit fly, so I wonder if anything would keep him asleep for longer. These are questions that there’s only one way to find out and honestly, I don’t care that much to completely mess with what’s working for us. I hope that someday soon Kale will simply stop waking in the middle of the night, but if he doesn’t I keep reminding myself that this too will pass and this is just a few years of our lives and that’s okay.

He doesn’t go to sleep on his own either, and that’s a bridge that we need to cross soon but I flat out refuse to let him Cry It Out as has been suggested to me. I think if a parent makes the choice to do that, then okay fine, you’re the boss, but although both Ross and I have suggested it to one another half heartedly at 2AM when SOMEONE is wailing and crying and NOTHING is working, I can’t get on board with that for Kale so it flat out isn’t going to happen. I feel sometimes like there isn’t an alternative – like it’s one “method” or the other: Cry It Out or Baby Calls the Shots and this whole Baby Calls the Shots method is simply no longer working.

But, like so many other things when it comes to parenting, I choose the path of least resistance and so here we are. It takes about 10 minutes (on average) to get Kale to sleep, including nursing time, but he’s got to be put into his bed in such a drowsy state that he’s not with us in this plane of consciousness or he is instantly alert and will wail at the indignity of being put to sleep. He doesn’t drift off peacefully on his own but on the other hand, it’s not usually difficult. And yes, he is still addicted hopelessly to his sucky at bedtime, although we’ve made good strides in that area and it seems to only be required at bed, so now it stays put away until bed.

I’m waiting for Kale to tell me he’s done with breastfeeding, and I get inklings that he’s going to do that in the first half of his second year rather than the second half. He has not comfort nursed for about 6 months now, not even when he hurts himself or is teething. Nursing is not the one and only formula for going to sleep, but it certainly helps. Ross doesn’t need to feed him a bottle unless I am gone for great lengths of time, which is good since I have been unable to pump for ages so a bottle  = formula. We’ve started whole organic milk now, which he appears to enjoy but not demand from us.

So breastfeeding after a year, which Iused to think was only for hippies and weirdos, is where we are at. And our family is totally okay with it.

9 years ago

6 Comments

  1. Yay for enjoying your breastfeeding relationship! It’s awesome that you can admit having had a set idea blown away and happily embrace the fact. 🙂 I don’t think that formula as a top-up pre-bedtime is the only answer for filling his appetite, if that is the issue with sleep. He’s on plenty of other foods so just make sure it’s something with protein and complex carbs (oatmeal with milk or a fromage frais on the side?) I’ve also enjoyed Elizabeth Pantley’s “No-Cry Sleep Solution” books for tips in getting toddlers to get the hint on sleeping through without any gnashing of gums. 😉 Colin, at 17 months, is now sleeping through most of the time, but it took some work to get here…

  2. Hi hun, just a suggestion, but Cez bought me a great sound & light unit for Ed’s cot. One of the ones that he can kick the button himself and it plays rainforest sounds or music or both. It’s great for bed time because it entertains him as he drifts off; he rarely cries at night unless he’s teething, but he’s often awake in his cot for a good half hour to an hour before he gets to sleep. If you don’t mind him being awake in his cot (but obviously not crying) then it might help? Eddie loves his and I know the nevvies all loved theirs, too. Also we’ve found he sleeps better in the grobags than with blankets, and lavender in the bath definitely helps too. Sorry if you’ve already tried these!

  3. Glad you are able to ‘go with the flow’ and trust your gut feelings. I would not be concerned about the calorie thing. I sometimes think that maybe children who are very active need something to soothe themselves to “wind down” before they are able to sleep. For some, that means a bottle, a thumb, a soother, or a breast. If Kale needs a breast to ‘wind down’, so what? 30 years ago, it was almost unheard of to nurse a toddler, so when I got asked the question “are you STILL nursing? how long are YOU going to nurse? (as if I was the one making the decision!), I would sometimes say “Well, I have not seen a kindergarten child take a breast to school yet, so I am not really concerned” – that ended the conversation! And I found it interesting that it was the very elderly women, like my grandmother’s age, who raised their children before 1940’s, who had no issue with nursing toddlers, and in fact, commented very favorably. It seemed evoke fond memories for them. Besides, just think about this – if you nurse for 2 years, and live to be 80, you will be spending only 2.5% of your life nursing.

  4. Well, Moira & I stopped nursing for various reasons around 10 months and I did hope to make it to a year but she didn’t mind the transition (which wasn’t much of a transition because I didn’t have much milk anymore). But I have to say it didn’t help her sleep through the night all that much more – she still woke up once or twice a night for a bottle. I think it is just her metabolism. These days she will often sleep through the night but sometimes will need a bottle (she is on milk now) and really I don’t worry about it. I mean, I need a drink in the middle of the night too. We can go for a whole week without her needing a bottle and it seems the older she gets the longer the stretch is. Sometimes she wakes up and just needs to be comforted (or “reset” as we call it) and sometimes she really needs that bottle. It drives me nuts too that people ask if she is “good” and sleeps through the night. Personally she is Fan-freaking-tastic and while I could do without the middle of the night wake-up call I’m just letting her do her thing because I have way more to worry about in this life.

  5. I breastfed Wesley for just slightly over a year, weaning very shortly after returning to work. Wesley didn’t start sleeping through the night regularly until after 18 months. Part of it is hunger, part of it habit, but I think different kids just come to it in their own time.

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