The Tragic Optimist

Nursing past a year

Before Zoe was born, my goal was to breastfeed for at least a year. I knew that a year is what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, and I knew that breastfeeding isn’t always easy, so I figured I’d set that goal and see what happened. We were lucky, both in that Zoe was a good nurser, and that I didn’t have any supply issues. The first few months weren’t easy, and it was more painful than I’d expected, but we persevered. The next couple of months were great and then I headed back to work. Enter my new best friend, with whom I’ve spent countless lunches and other quality time over the last 8 months, my pump. Pumping at work was not fun, and it took a lot of time. While I read, and doing a little typing while pumping, it was not time that could be spent working with others, which happens to be a big part of my job. Plus, I was deathly afraid of forgetting to close the blinds on my office window, thereby exposing me and my new best friend to everyone in the reference room.

So while the nursing was going well, the pumping was getting quite old. Again, I was lucky, and was able to pump enough to supply Zoe at daycare, but I looked forward to being done with it. So when Zoe turned 1, we started weaning her from breastmilk at daycare. She took to it quite well, but it took a full month for me to be able to make it through the day without pumping or exploding. And a little part of me kind of misses having time set aside during the day to specifically daydream about my girl. But really I’m quite happy to have that time back, and to be able to leave my blinds open and look into the reference room again without fear.

We haven’t weaned Zoe from nursing, though, and currently don’t really have plans to do so. As much as I may have found nursing boring in the past, I’ve also found that I’m just not ready to give it up. Last month, things went great – on the weekends and days I was home, I would only nurse first thing in the morning, before naps, and at night. These last few weeks, though, Zoe’s been wanting to nurse all the time. All. the. time. I had been planning to follow the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” plan of only nursing when she asked for it. This worked all right at first since Zoe hadn’t really been asking to nurse that much. But then she learned, and has been celebrating her newfound communication skills as often as possible. And by “asking to nurse” I mean pulling the neck of my shirt, sticking her little hand down my shirt and then pointing to a breast. She’s not subtle, and it’s just not quite as endearing as her early ways of indicating hunger. The thing is, my supply is down now from not pumping, and her little teeth are sharp, and I’ve been enjoying the ability to go out and not have to nurse, so I sometimes want to refuse.

I went looking for information on weaning from the pump, but still nursing otherwise, and didn’t find a whole lot that was specific to our situation. There’s all sorts of good info for mothers starting to nurse, and those who are headed back to work, but not a whole lot on continuing after a year. Most stuff that’s written for Zoe’s age is all about weaning. It’s like they figure if you’ve gotten this far you either want to stop, or you don’t need help, but this is where I’m feeling the most at a loss. I did find a few places that mention that babies will want to nurse more often when sick, teething, or when there’s a disruption to their routine. All of which have happened in the past couple of weeks, so I’m hoping it’s just a phase and she’ll cut back on the number of nursing sessions soon.


  1. Eve

    ok, I do have some experience with this one. I am thankfully done with pumping (which I did til 15 months) but am still nursing an 18-month-old and have no intention to quit anytime soon (her sister wasn’t completely weaned til she was older than 2 1/2).
    for us, we pretty much had routine times when someone wanted to nurse (first thing in the morning, once home from daycare, midevening, bedtime, is what we’re at right now–with more on weekends), so it was easier to try to skip just one session (I’m trying to get out of that midevening one right now, with mixed success). hmm, not much advice there other than maybe be out of the house or otherwise completely unavailable if you want to space things out a bit more. But at least you know you’re not alone in nursing past a year (it was a HUGE help in getting eleanor to sleep while we were visiting relatives over thanksgiving!)

  2. If you surf the “weaning” wordpress tag there are a lot of women blogging about it. As you know, I cut my son off last month. We was getting really agressive about insisting on nursing and that whole “don’t refuse” theory was draining my sense of self. He nursed a lot on days that his throat or tummy hurt or in a situation when he felt insecure (which confirms what you’ve read and noticed yourself). Breastfeeding waxes and wanes, so you are right about this phase Zoe is in and I wouldn’t sweat it.

  3. “he” not “we” 😉

  4. AJ

    My friend nursed until 28 months but stopped pumping at 12 months. They just nursed first thing in the morning, after day care and at bedtime, sometimes in the middle of the night around the 12 month age. The other feedings they did milk.

    I nursed until 14 months and will go longer with this munchkin.

    I don;t think there is a big problem in saying to Zoe not now. putting limits on their children is what parenting is all about. She’ll get the idea after a while.

    Take care–

  5. Ann – I remember when I was little and my mom was breastfeeding my brothers, that she would talk about the health benefits of mother’s milk . . . so I asked my dad what resources she used and he recommended La Leche League. I found their website and they seem to have a selection of links which might be handy:

    My mom nursed me until I was two or two and a half, I think. I know that biting became a bit of an issue, and I think that was part of the natural weaning process. If a child couldn’t learn not to bite, they were weaned earlier than a non-biter. Seems reasonable to me 🙂

    One other little anecdote: when my sister was little I was 13 or 14 years old, and I remember my step-mom breastfeeding quite vividly. Suzanne used to ask to nurse too: she couldn’t quite say ‘nurse’ though when she started talking, so she said ‘uni’ and ‘want uni’. It was *the cutest* thing! Strangers wouldn’t quite know what she was asking for. I think Martha weaned Suzanne fully at about a year and a half. Then again, Suzanne had three older siblings whose food she dearly wanted to eat, so she was rather self-weaning as well.

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