Most people, when they are expecting a baby (particularly their first baby), have some sort of breastfeeding goal in mind. Usually this is something like six weeks, three months, six months or one year. Of course, when you've never had a baby before and have no idea what it's like to breastfeed, a lot of people just want to see how it goes and have a target to aim for, thinking if they can get to six weeks they'll then be able to keep going for longer.
First night milk. December 2008.
Lucinda is three and a half years old today. I have reached my breastfeeding goal! I obviously like to set my sights higher than most people. It never crossed my mind not to breastfeed and I knew I would allow my baby to self-wean. Anything else was not an option. The reason I came up with three and a half years as a goal is because that's how long my brother breastfed for. It's not really a competition thing but I thought it would be quite good if I beat my mum. My brother only actually weaned because my mum went away for four days and he didn't want it when she came home, saying it tasted different. So who knows what my goal would have been had my mum not joined my dad on a business trip that weekend!
Lucinda and I have not been without our problems. Fortunately, the early days were easy. I naturally found myself adopting the "biological nurturing" style and think that is probably why we never had any positioning or latch issues at the beginning, which affect so many other people. The first "breastfeeding ailment" we had was when Lucinda was seventeen months old, when I took antibiotics to clear a tooth abscess. This lead to us developing thrush. Fortunately, however, due to my breastfeeding management training, I was in a position to diagnose it straight-away and it was very short-lived. Our biggest challenge came when I was in hospital for a month around her third birthday. Not only was I too ill to breastfeed for much of that time, the medication I was on also affected the taste of my milk. Lucinda came to visit me every day and every day she asked for a feed. She always had a go but said my milk tasted "yacky" after a couple of suckles. When I returned home we worked very hard for two weeks to get our breastfeeding relationship back. The efforts paid off and we kept going but I was very worried for a long time that it was the end. You can read more about how we repaired our breastfeeding relationship <here>.
Shortly after we had successfully repaired our breastfeeding relationship,
after my month long stay in hospital. February 2012.
I suppose I'm lucky that I have a lot of support around me. Not only do I have my mum but my closest circle of friends have also breastfed their children for at least two and a half years and Lucinda has a playmate the same age who is still breastfed. I've never been made to feel odd because I breastfeed beyond the 6 - 12 months or so which is considered "the norm" and I know there is always someone on the same wavelength that I can talk to about it.
Only time will tell how long Lucinda will continue breastfeeding for. As it stands now, I can't see her weaning any time soon. She is a very frequent feeder and loves her "mamas" very much. The only way I can see her weaning, certainly within the next year, is if I were to get pregnant and my milk dried up. I don't think she'd continue to dry nurse through pregnancy like some children do. If there's no milk coming out she won't feed. Since I was in the hospital my supply has reduced and though Lucinda feeds frequently, they are only short feeds until my breasts are empty (she tells me). Although I would love another baby, at the moment I am putting Lucinda's needs first as I know how important breastfeeding is to her.
We both enjoy breastfeeding and the closeness it has brought to our mother/daughter relationship. I'm not saying that it is always my most favourite activity in the world - breastfeeding an "older child" can be challenging, with the nursing gymnastics, nipple twiddling and Lucinda's inability to see my breasts without pouncing and suctioning herself to them at any given opportunity! But I'm putting it down to experience. A very positive experience that I can't imagine not having in my life now. So, having reached my first goal, my next achievement will be when Lucinda self-weans. It's not something I am looking forward to at all. I will be very sad that we will have come to the end of an era, as such, but knowing that I have allowed her to wean in her own time and that she has been able to be nourished, comforted and nurtured as nature intended, fills me with an immense amount of pride and maternal satisfaction.