This past Thursday, I finally made it to the five-year mark with nursing - counting both our children, I have now breastfed for a full 60 months (33 months with our eldest, and 27 months - and counting! - with our youngest). Pretty exciting!
We've been through a lot with breastfeeding - blocked ducts, milk blisters, tongue tie, pumping, exclusive bottle feeding while dealing with problems, you name it. Thankfully, we have been surrounded by a very breastfeeding-supportive community (husband, doulas, midwives, lactation consultants, pediatrician, birth community) that has given us the encouragement to work through these problems and continue on.
If there was one thing that I'd say I have learned about breastfeeding, it is that breastfeeding (as a cultural phenomenon) really does take an entire community to support. Sticking a mother out on her own, surrounded by critical or undermining support people (the usual situation for most mothers today), is a sure-fire way to destroy or prevent successful breastfeeding relationships. It's really no wonder that a huge majority of American babies receive formula by six weeks post-birth, because the support just isn't there, though the formula companies are ever-eager to take up that slack.
Thankfully, I have not had the challenge of dealing with hostile family members, as many unfortunately do. My mom has been (mostly) fine with our decision to nurse long-term, and my mother-in-law, though doubtless horrified by our hippie-ness (her babies were all formula-raised), is so sweet that she has never said a word. Have I mentioned how blessed I am to have such a wonderful mother-in-law? She's been great.
Our current breastfeeding challenge is trying to nurse through a pregnancy. It is not easy, my friends! Nursing has gone - throughout the course of the pregnancy - from "mildly uncomfortable" to "moderately uncomfortable" to "ouch-ouch-ouch-ouch! uncomfortable" to "YEEEEEEOOOOUUUUCCCHHHH!!!" uncomfortable over the past few weeks. Yikes!
If I was not quite sure that our little one wasn't ready to stop, I would definitely wean - which is what happened during our last pregnancy. Our eldest was ready, I was ready, and nursing hurt, so we stopped. If I hadn't been pregnant, we could easily have continued for another six to twelve months, but as it is, it was a painless process. With our current little guy, I am determined to do the best I can to continue on so that I can tandem nurse after this new babe arrives. Whether or not I'll be successful is anyone's guess! Though I can always reintroduce if I don't make it the last few weeks - I'd like to get him to at least age three or four before stopping. With his developmental delays, weaning right now would be like weaning a six-month-old - not good.
But anyway, five years is something to celebrate! Here's to breastfeeding!!