Extended Breastfeeding

Saturday, June 30, 2012
Now that Abby is nearing 13 months, we've entered into "extended breastfeeding" territory. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it.

While most of the world would not bat an eye at a still-nursing-one-year old, here in the U.S. people tend to raise their eyebrows at a mother breastfeeding her toddler.  Somehow in the United States, breastfeeding for more than a year is seen as longer than "normal," despite the fact that the World Health Organization actually recommends that mothers breastfeed their children for two years.

Toddlers continue to benefit physically, emotionally and psychologically from breastfeeding. They still receive nutrients and immunological benefits from their mother's milk and some studies even show that children who are breastfed grow up more secure and self-reliant than their bottle-fed peers.

Mothers also benefit from extended breastfeeding. Risk of cancer decreases for women who breastfeed and some lucky women even experience continued weight loss into the second year of breastfeeding.  There are also the added benefits of a delayed return to fertility as I've written about here.

But I'm probably preaching to the choir here. 

Since Abby shows no signs of giving up her beloved "boo-boo" anytime soon, I imagine we'll sail through 18 months and possibly even make the two-year mark of sustained breastfeeding. I'm not so sure how I feel about that.

Despite all the benefits I've just listed, I'm kinda ready to begin the weaning process, or at least decrease the number of times Abby nurses a day. She still nurses at least once in the middle of the night (and every few hours during the day) and I'm over the middle-of-the-night feedings. I'm so over them. I'm ready for a full night's sleep.

Perhaps I need to try to feed her more solid foods during the day or maybe we should try the recommendation that Matthew take her in the middle of the night when she wakes up to feed. I just don't know where to go from here since Hannah pretty much weaned herself (at around 11 months) no problem.

Any suggestions?


  1. When I first tried to night wean Sadie at 15 months she cried non-stop until I gave in. When we tried again at 18 months she cried for a couple minutes and went to sleep and started sleeping much more soundly. Mae, on the other hand, was night weaned at around 15 months and never really fought it, so I think the process really differs from baby to baby. I would think that since she's already down to one feeding there's definitely a possibility that it will go really smoothly!

    So far I've made it to 21 months with both our girls, but never to my goal of 2 years. I think I've had an easier time than some of my friends who have boys who nursed the same amount of time and were hassled by others.

    Good luck with night weaning! It's such a relief when it's finished!

  2. I nursed my daughter until she was 16 months old. For us, weaning through the night meant having my husband tend to her needs for a few nights in a row. She wasn't really hungry and was just waking to nurse out of habit at that point. He would give her a drink of water and check her diaper and put her back to bed. She night weaned and eventually completely weaned w/o any problems or major protests.

    Best of luck!

  3. Cam~ 21 months~ that's awesome! I think you're absolutely right that each baby is different. Hannah pretty much weaned herself when I was pregnant with Abby- no problem. And I definitely think you're right that nursing boys is looked down upon a bit more than nursing girls. What a shame.

    Sarah~ Thank you for those suggestions! I really think I'm going to have my husband take her in the middle of the night. It's definitely out of habit and not for hunger that she's waking up. I just hope it's not too much of a struggle for my husband.


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