2 Years of Breastfeeding: A Journey of Magic and Exhaustion
I never thought I would make it one year, let alone two years, but here we are.
Just because breastfeeding is “natural” doesn’t make it easy, nor does it mean it comes “naturally.” It’s a learned skill for both mom and baby. I've felt like I know so much, and yet know so little throughout this journey. But even still, as a third-time breastfeeding mom of a now two-year old toddler, I have many lessons and perspectives learned that can help your mindset along your own breastfeeding path.
No two of my journeys have looked the same. This time around probably looks the most different considering it’s been two years, versus the 13 and 17 months of my first and second time breastfeeding. Even though it’s never easy, it can get easier to reach your breastfeeding goal. I want to share what I've learned from this marathon two years of breastfeeding my youngest daughter. From the ups and downs to the joys and struggles, I hope that my story can inspire and encourage other moms who are on this journey.
How it started: Lilah nursing after delivery
What I’ve learned in the two years:
The path isn’t linear.
Having a rough start doesn’t have to set the tone for the entire journey.
It wasn't easy, but it got easier. Then there are some ways it got harder. When I first started breastfeeding my daughter, I struggled with latching, pain, oversupply, and engorgement. My oversupply meant Lilah would gag and choke, and eventually refused to nurse so I had to almost exclusively pump for the first 3-4 months. Then, my supply dropped. It took us about six months to normalize supply and demand. I loved the convenience of nursing on demand, anywhere, anytime. It was great.
There’s no right or wrong way to wean (or time frame).
Then we entered the weaning phase, which has brought many ups and downs hormonally for me, and frustrations for her. I’ve Googled so many tips on sleep training and weaning toddlers. She’s more dug in now, and more attached. My advice: Go at your own pace, and follow what works for you and your baby. With my other two, my supply dropped because of my work outside of the home and travel schedule. With my second, my third pregnancy caused my supply to drop and she lost interest. Now with my third, I’m with her day and night so she has more control of my supply, and she isn’t giving up “mine bubbies” anytime soon. My advice, this won’t last forever. Regardless of your breastfeeding goals, so much is out of our control, including weaning.
Take one day at a time.
I found it daunting to sit and think about "how much longer" I had to make it to my one year goal. I would be dealing with one obstacle or another, thinking, "I can't do this." I dealt with each challenge bit by bit, day by day, one for in front of the other. I hated traveling with. my pumping gear and milk, I've been so sick of night wakings turned into feedings, looking forward to us both one day sleeping through the night. The season is one foot in front of the other, and that's how I made it to one year, and then another.
Comfort nursing Lilah after coming in from the bitter cold winter weather
You don’t have to love breastfeeding. You can have mixed feelings and those feelings are valid.
Here's what I HAVE enjoyed or valued in this journey:
What I LOVE about breastfeeding is that stress can melt away from the oxytocin. It naturally calls my anxious mama brain and body. That doesn’t mean that I don’t begrudgingly drag myself out of bed to nurse at 11pm, 2pm, and often 5am almost everyday.
Nursing Lilah at 9 months old
I cherish the times when my daughter gazes up at me, reaching her little toddler hand to my face while nursing. However, there are also times when I feel touched out and drained. It's okay to have mixed feelings about breastfeeding. You don’t have to love it all. We're moms, and of course we will bond with our babies, but there will always be something special about the interdependency of these days.
The instant soothing effect
I’ll miss the magic calming effect of nursing, day or night. Lilah has a strong nursing sleep association, and will instantly go down after having the briefest nursing session (although lately she asks for "otherside" on repeat turning our 5-minute sessions into 25-minute sessions). I’m amazed by how quickly my little one melts in my arms and calms down nearly immediately whether she’s sick, skinned her knee, or is simply sad or tired. There's something about the warmth and the rhythm of nursing that seems to work like a magic charm. Even now, at two years old, my daughter still finds instant comfort, and often restfulness, in nursing. I’ll miss having that effect.
That liquid gold isn't just for infants. The stomach bug just ripped through our family, and I was so grateful I could give her the comfort, immunoboost, and nourishment completely designed for her. Pedialyte can’t do that! Breastmilk has a unique composition that adapts to a baby's needs, especially when they are sick. When my daughter has a cold or a fever, I would increase my nursing frequency and offer lots of fluids. It helped her stay hydrated, resilient, and protected. While she’s still little and her immune system is developing, I’m happy to give her that little boost.
In these two years, I have learned more than I could have imagined about breastfeeding, motherhood, and myself. I think it should be on the resume, because it shows incredible resilience, commitment, sacrifice, and the ability to see things through! This has been a journey of growth and connection. And for that, I am grateful. So, wherever you are in your journey, whether you breastfeed or not, whether you struggle or thrive, whether you love it or dread it (or all of the above), know that you are not alone. You are doing great, mama. Keep nourishing your baby and yourself, in your own way, at your own pace. You've got this.
Mom to Addie, Ellery & Lilah + OAO Founder