Here’s why I choose to breastfeed beyond 12 months


(Photo: Courtesy of Rebecca Alwine, Sabrina Maree Photography)

This post is sponsored by The Breastfeeding Shop.

I don’t consider myself a lactivist. I’m all for breastfeeding if that’s what the mom wants to do. I’m all for doing it in public, using a cover or not. I’m all for extended breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, and donor milk. Heck, if it came down to it, I’d nurse someone else’s baby if that was the best option. I successfully breastfed two out of the three of my babies–one until 15 months and one–Baby G–who is approaching the 16-month milestone.

At about 10 months with Baby G, I was done. I wanted to be finished with breastfeeding. He wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t sleeping; it was bad. Then we moved across the country and weaning wasn’t in the cards. Yesterday, he only nursed once. It was great! I said to my husband, “I could to this once a day for another six months!” (Then he was up twice in the night nursing. It seems like this may never stop!)

Aside from weaning cold turkey–which no one wants to do–I’m stuck. But I’m not disappointed or upset. I’m grateful for this opportunity to nurse my last baby as long as I have. I saw no reason to cut him off just because he turned one. There are several reasons why I think breastfeeding past a year is important.

Health benefits

We all know that there are health benefits to breastfeeding, so let’s get those reasons out of the way first. Breastfeeding boosts the baby’s immune system. Both of my breastfed babies never had ear infections and Baby G has only had a few minor colds so far. Plus, breastfeeding reduces my risk of breast cancer, as well as ovarian and endometrial cancer.

Breastfeeding helps boost brain development, soothes babies, and provides nutrition. Even after babies start eating table food, breast milk can provide them with protein, calcium, fat and Vitamin A. While it isn’t their only source of nutrition, it’s balancing out all those goldfish and Cheerios they’re eating.

Babies love the time they get cuddling with mom and they love the feeling of being held. That doesn’t go away just because they can crawl or walk. They know that they are safe in mom’s arms and they don’t suddenly stop needing that once their birthday comes. Now, I know that safety and cuddling can come from dad and from auntie or a sibling. And I know that bottle-fed babies also get that sense of safety and cuddling without breastfeeding. But if you’ve ever breastfed, you know that special feeling I’m talking about.

Personal reasons

When I started breastfeeding each baby, I set a goal of six weeks. Then three months. Then six, nine, and 12 months. At that point, I had achieved my goal and I was ready to wean whenever. My daughter weaned herself but my son, at 16 months, is showing no sign of giving it up.

He’s comfortable with it, he likes the time he gets with just me, and it soothes him. You know what? It soothes me too. It forces me to take a break from what I’m doing, to spend some time just with him, and to relax. That’s worth it.

At this point, he wouldn’t need formula, so the ease of nursing isn’t the same as it was at nine months. But it’s certainly not any harder. Especially as he goes down to once or twice a day, it means I don’t have to plan my outfit around nursing him in public.

Is it realistic?

Of course it is. But it’s just as realistic to stop. There are days I just want to be done. I want my body back. I want to ditch those ugly nursing bras. I want to go away for the weekend and not spend the time anxiously thinking about how he’s doing without me. Of course that feeling never goes away, I still worry about my nine-year-old without me.

But breastfeeding past 12 months works for us. My older children and my husband are very supportive of it. My extended family and friends are as well. There’s been no reason to wean my son up to this point. Did I plan on nursing past 15 months? Nope. Do I think I’ll be going until 18 months? Who knows? At this point, I’m along for the ride, enjoying the time I get to spend with my baby. They grow up fast enough; I don’t need to rush it.

The Breastfeeding Shop provides name-brand, high-quality breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies. Catering to the military community, the Breastfeeding Shop’s quick and easy service ensures that TRICARE beneficiaries can receive breast pumps and supplies at no-cost to them.

By Rebecca Alwine