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Don’t Call it Extended Breastfeeding; It’s Just Breastfeeding

Extended breastfeeding sounds funny to me. In my mind extended breastfeeding would just be adding 10 more minutes to my typical breastfeeding session with my lil guy. Extended breastfeeding? It’s just breastfeeding.

Me and my fourth child, jack of the shit latch people.

Mom and baby should nurse as long as it’s mutually beneficial to both. Some moms just can’t breastfeed. When I say that I mean, maybe they feel so uncomfortable about it for whatever reason, that if they fed that sweet baby that way they would be resentful to that baby. That’s not healthy. It’s just not and so I GET why some moms choose not to. And some really just physically can not make milk! That’s a thing.

Personally, my journey with my 4th and last baby, has been fraught with hardships; tongue and lip tie, which made for the WORST latch ever! Then there’s the DYSPHORIC MILK EJECTION REFLEX ( I wish this on no one!), and a travel schedule that made nursing so hard. I almost quite a million times. This journey my son Jack and I have been on has been humbling and I am grateful for it, as it has made me rethink all my old judgements. Breastfeeding can be hard, hell it can be nightmarish. If a mama screams, “Let me off this ride!” I think we need to be compassionate and let her off.

No judgement. If she asks for help staying on the ride we should do EVERYTHING we can to help. It’s a lot like birth, if mama wants an epidural, call for one and help her while she’s waiting. She might just need that time between asking and getting and SOMETIMES, with support a mom finds she has that baby before the epidural comes. I wish more breastfeeding moms could get a safety word like my doula clients get. My client’s safety word allows her to scream, and cuss and cry in labor and we don’t offer her an epidural, NOT UNTIL..we hear that safety word. This allows her to deal in all the ways she wants that lets her express herself in her HARD WORK.

We want to quit because it’s hard, but I would never not let a woman have an epidural. And I would never make a woman feel bad for choosing to stop breastfeeding.

All this said. Sometimes breastfeeding works out. Mom and baby are both enjoying the set up and they go 6months. Then that turns into a year and then two. With my first I only planned on nursing for 6 months. I made it to 6 months and thought whats another month? Before I knew it we were at one year! One year sounded crazy. I had been to a La Leche League Meeting once and some gargantuan 2.5 year old toddled up to his mom while we were talking and pulled up her shirt to nurse. She swooped him up in one move and breastfed that big ass kid, right in front of me. Gross.

Or so I thought. I had never seen anyone breastfeed, growing up or in public. I thought you only nursed wee tiny brand new kids.

Nursing a 3yr old at the Grand Canyon got me all kinds of reactions, good, bad indifferent…Still I persisted

Fast-forward a year and there I was, at my daughter’s first birthday party, we took a family photo and the photographer said “here’s to the Birthday girl!” And I said “here’s to one year of breastfeeding!” Everyone stared at me blankly, but there I was grinning like an idiot. I had gone from thinking, “if they have teeth you need to stop!” to celebrating nursing a walking little human with a maw full of chompers!

My old self thought it was weird, but I just didn’t know. It wasn’t modeled in my life so it was weird. Until I did it. My baby was still liking it and I was too. Well this mama who thought La Leche League ladies were hippies, weird hippies, went on to breastfeed for THREE and a HALF YEARS. Ava quit rather abruptly one day. She said, “No more milk!” And she was right. As it turned out I was pregnant! Three and a half years! What? Me!? Yes and I would like to clear some things up that everyday normal educated people think are true that just aren’t.

1. Once they can eat solids they should quit. 
and I quote from one of my favorite Kelly’s:

“This recommendation is not supported by research. Research does indicate that in situations where breastfed toddlers have an increased risk of malnutrition, this appears to be due to inadequate complementary feeding or reverse causality (the mother is more likely to continue breastfeeding a child who is ill or growing poorly). In one study of 250 toddlers in Kenya, solid food intake increased after weaning, but not enough to replace all the fat, vitamin A, and niacin that the child had been getting via breastfeeding (Onyango 2002).  According to Sally Kneidel in “Nursing Beyond One Year” (New Beginnings, Vol. 6 No. 4, July-August 1990, pp. 99-103.):  Some doctors may feel that nursing will interfere with a child’s appetite for other foods. Yet there has been no documentation that nursing children are more likely than weaned children to refuse supplementary foods. In fact, most researchers in Third World countries, where a malnourished toddler’s appetite may be of critical importance, recommend continued nursing for even the severely malnourished (Briend et al, 1988; Rhode, 1988; Shattock and Stephens, 1975; Whitehead, 1985). Most suggest helping the malnourished older nursing child not by weaning but by supplementing the mother’s diet to improve the nutritional quality of her milk (Ahn and MacLean. 1980; Jelliffe and Jelliffe, 1978) and by offering the child more varied and more palatable foods to improve his or her appetite (Rohde, 1988; Tangermann, 1988; Underwood, 1985)

2. Women with small breasts produce less milk than those with large breasts.
This is just redonk/silly/and eyebrow raising. That’s like saying a dude with a smaller size penis can’t make a baby! Please, just no.

3. There is no nutritive value after a year.
Certified Lactation Counselor Robin Elise Weiss says ”

“That is just simply not true.” Regardless of how old your baby is, he or she will continue to benefit from the protein, calcium, fat, vitamin A, and other nutrients in breast milk. Weiss compares the nutrition benefits to a vegetable, like spinach. The amount of spinach you eat doesn’t take away from its nutritional value. Spinach, whether it’s your first serving or your 1,000th, is still good for you.”
The above quote is from PARENTS

4. That’s gross.

As Amanda Low says,
“You’re Gross.”

Every time I read her blog I die laughing. She’s the best. Regarding what “extended” breastfeeding might “DO” to your child she says,

“I blame a culture that sees breasts foremost as sexual playthings rather than feeding tools for babies. I think breasts are beautiful, and can play a fun role in sex just like bellies or necks or hips or feet.

But culturally isolating breasts as purely sexual is what causes Oedipal confusion, not the breasts themselves. So what if my daughter remembers it? If anything, I think that will help her understand the inherent strength and purpose of the female body, which will shift her focus away from thinking of her body as merely a toy for a man’s use. You may wonder if it’s different for a toddler boy, and although I don’t have a son, my point remains. If your son remembers his nursing experience, and his first introduction to breasts involves nurturing and feeding rather than perceiving them as sexual, I think he’ll also grow up with a greater respect for women.”

Read more here

Look, “extended” breastfeeding is normal. It just is. It just may not be normal for you, and that’s ok. But there is a shift coming as more and more people are seeing women breastfeed in public.

SO, to sum up; Breastfeeding is normal, but it can also be hard. You wanna quit? I GET IT. You want help? GET IT. You and junior wanna nurse till 4? Nothing wrong with that. Want to know even more? PLEASE listen to the show below. I had a great conversation with Kathleen Kendall Tackett* about the realities of “extended breastfeeding” why it’s called that and why we should stop calling it that.


Sabrina Joy Stevens breakdown is the most satisfying to me.

“According to the latest Breastfeeding Report Card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 81 percent of new babies in the US have been breastfed at some point in their lives, a figure which drops to just under 52 percent by six months (with 22 percent being exclusively breastfed to that point). Given that, I understand that moms like me, who plan to nurse until our kids self-wean (or until I get sick of it, whichever comes first), are definitely in the minority.
Numerically, in our society, we are nursing for an “extended” amount of time, though the not-extended amount of time is not exactly clear or readily agreed upon.

That strikes me as odd. After all, if we’re going to define something as “extended” anything, there should be a clearly defined (and preferably, scientifically defensible) norm to compare it to. It also strikes me as problematic for a number of other reasons, mostly because it’s hard enough living in a female body without another cultural concept floating around that makes other people feel like they’re entitled to tell me what I should and shouldn’t be doing with my own body.”

BAM! Word and thank you.

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