Some women are such huge fans of breastfeeding that it’s probably almost annoying. And it’s not like they're all brand-new moms just getting started, idealizing and romanticizing the whole thing before they've actually put in all the time and work really required.
Nope, many moms have done it quite a few times now.
My first baby and I continued to breastfeed until well into my pregnancy with my second child. It was close to her second birthday by the time we dropped that last nighttime feeding.
My boobs were feeling sensitive enough at that point that I felt ready to stop. Plus, my husband and I talked about it, and we realized that perhaps giving some gentle nudges in that direction would be a good idea so that I wouldn’t be trying to nurse a toddler and a newborn all at once. Also, I didn’t want to stop too close to when my second was born because I didn’t want one more thing to inspire jealousy in my toddler, as I knew having a new baby around inevitably would at times.
And now I’m well past the one-year mark and still nursing my second little love. I’m letting her lead the way, and I truly do love it. But it’s taken patience, creativity, and know-how to get to this point. I think it’s all totally worth it.
If you think something like this just might work for you, check out these 15 things moms will need to do if they want to breastfeed for over a year.
15 Be Prepared To Pump
Although my first baby, now getting close to being a preschooler (sob!) was exclusively breastfed (EBF, as moms on the Internet sometimes say), there were still times that I used an electric breast pump.
First of all, almost every mom I know pumps in the early weeks to help to encourage the milk supply to come in and also to relieve engorgement when it actually does.
Then there’s the fact that many modern moms want to build up a stockpile of milk in the freezer to be given when they have to be away working in the months to come. Pumping is, of course, crucial for that.
Then there’s also the fact that quite commonly a baby’s first solid food is a powdered grain cereal (rice, oatmeal, etc.) mixed with breastmilk – that’s what brought me back to pumping around the mid-year mark for my first (EBF) baby.
I really didn’t realize how important a pump would be until my baby had arrived, to the extent that I didn’t think it was a huge deal when an insurance/med supply company blunder made it so that I didn’t yet have one for the first weeks of my baby’s life. Boy, do I wish that I had understood how important it was.
14 Be Tied Down
A common reason women are so ready to stop breastfeeding or in some cases even begin to resent doing it is that it can mean giving up a great deal of freedom. That’s just sort of the way it is.
The beautiful thing is that while this may be challenging at times, it may also feel quite natural, as a new mom’s instinct is to stay close to her beloved child most of the time.
Still, as you can imagine, this takes a great deal of commitment. However often your baby still nurses will determine how long you can possibly be away from him or her.
For example, if a baby nearing the one-year mark or so nurses first thing in the morning, before going down for the morning nap, again before the afternoon nap, and one final time before bed, that’s about every three or four hours from the start of one feeding to the start of the next. So if the mom nursed the baby, it took 15 minutes, and she was able to immediately leave to get some alone time, she’d have maybe 2½ hours, including travel time, before she’d have to be back to nurse again.
13 Have Plentiful Positions
A cradle hold, supporting the baby with your arm, may work great at first. But one super practical thing to know about breastfeeding as a baby becomes a toddler is that having a variety of positions that you both are comfortable with can change everything – or even make continuing to breastfeed possible.
Some kids won’t really even fit on one of those Boppy pillows or across your body while in a nursery chair as they near and surpass the one-year mark. If they do fit, they’re probably fidgeting and kicking their legs and making it hard to maintain a good latch.
Side-lying is one that can make moms much more successful at continuing to breastfeed even from early on, as they can rest a bit in bed while they do it.
Sitting an older child straddled across your leg and upright as they face your body is one that works great for some moms.
Basically, being flexible about positioning can be key.
12 Be OK With Being Bitten
At some point in that first wondrous year, a baby will get his or her first tooth. Aww, cute, right? And also not.
In my experience, these often come in pairs, or even double pairs, as in two on top very shortly followed by two on the bottom.
Like 3 months is considered on the early end of when a baby might get a first tooth, 4-6 months is considered pretty standard, and then there are late bloomers in the dental department who don’t get teeth ’til more like a year of age, apparently (this, I have to think, is very unusual, though).
So as a mom breastfeeding past that first quarter or half of a year, to the first birthday and beyond, you have to know that you will probably get bitten. Sorry.
I guess I’ll just say that it’s not as bad as you might think…? Really, at this point, you’ll be pretty used to your nipples being messed with in various ways.
Whether it’s intentional because he’s frustrated or an accident, it’s almost inevitable. And even if it’s not an actual bite, teeth can grind on the areola as they come in and the baby hasn’t yet adjusted accordingly. Every time I feed my one-plus year old, teeth marks are left around my nipple.
11 Get Used To Some Ups And Downs
So much of the time, your breastfeeding schedule as you near and surpass that first birthday will be so set – like the most perfect and predictable clockwork.
Your body, instincts, and your baby will tell you (sometimes with real words: “Milk!” or “Mama!” with a tug at your shirt) every however many hours that it’s time to feed again. It’s great!
But then some rough patches come along. Maybe your baby is sick and has a stuffy nose and just gets frustrated that they can’t nurse because when they nurse, they can’t breathe.
Maybe it’s (ANOTHER) set of teeth coming in making nursing too painful for the baby. Perhaps it’s gassiness, a stomach bug, or a food allergy.
Whatever it is, at some point, there will be either a little or a large interruption to your normal routine, so be prepared to deal with the following: engorgement, needing to pump every time you miss a feeding, stress and intense emotion/feelings of rejection when the baby refuses to nurse, feeling hormonal / mood swings, and more.
10 Get Hit In The Face
At first, your sweet (and somewhat strange-seeming, perhaps) newborn will lie rather limply in your arms as you breastfeed, or perhaps clench up tight with arms held close against the body as he or she prepares to fall asleep while settling into that rhythmic suck, suck, suck.
This is not the case as a child gets older.
Some babies walk prior to turning one year old, and if not, it often comes soon after. This is to say that if you are going to be breastfeeding as the little one advances in age, you have to be prepared for some serious moving and grooving going on while you are nursing. Although when the baby is very tired or has settled into that comfy sort of feeding trance things may be calmer than at other times of the day, quite often, there will be little hands grasping at whatever they can reach, and limbs moving excitedly.
Your bra and clothes will be tugged. Your jewelry and glasses will be snatched. You will be smacked, socked, and pummeled as that little sweetheart plays and squirms.
9 Bare All
I gave up trying to feed my first baby under one of those fabric nursing covers that you hook around your neck sort of like an apron when she was something like 4 months old.
In fact, that was the first time that I ever tried to use the darn thing. I’d inherited it from a friendly acquaintance whose wife’s children were older. They were getting rid of old baby gear, and I accepted the hand-me-down gratefully.
But the more awake and interactive my little love became, the more she thought that I was trying to instigate some sort of exciting game whenever I put the fabulously patterned drape over the top of us.
If you continue breastfeeding as you approach one year and beyond, I can’t imagine that your older baby will put up with having a blanket or cover put over his head. It’s just not practical, and will act as nothing but a frustrating distraction.
8 Put It First
In some ways, I suppose, breastfeeding is quite easy. That is, in fact, part of what attracted me to it so – and to continue to do it for so long with both of my children so far. When you are with your baby, you have at the ready hydration, nutrition, and comfort. It’s nature’s way, and it’s a beautiful thing, to be sure.
But if you are going to do it for an extended period of time, it’s probably going to take some serious commitment. Being prepared for this fact can only help you in the long run.
You may sacrifice sleep. You may miss social opportunities and freedoms that you might otherwise enjoy. There will be potential changes to your sex life (breast tenderness, vaginal dryness, hormonal changes, etc.). It’s a huge time commitment. You may have to alter your lifestyle and your diet. And those are just a few things that come to mind off the top of my head.
These are not the things I think of when I consider the idea of breastfeeding, though, because the closeness, beauty, and straight-up practicality of it are the main focus in my mind.
Nonetheless, prepare for it to be a main focus of your life.
7 Bring Bottles Into The Mix
Using bottles is certainly not a necessity – I never used the things at all with my first baby, in fact.
But almost every mom I know does use a bottle at least sometimes – and many more moms use them quite regularly.
This doesn’t always mean supplementing with formula. It can often mean simply using expressed (by pump) breastmilk to provide a feeding or some feedings during a day.
This allows moms to have a bigger break than just a few hours. They might get to go on a date night or leave town for a few days to speak at a work conference. As you can imagine, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the options that using a bottle at times can open up.
And that’s what it’s all about: limits. More specifically, lessening the limits placed on a mom and opening up the possibilities for her to be a little less restricted in her daily life.
If breastfeeding is to be sustained for a year or longer, having this freedom is an absolute must for many moms.
6 Not Expect Periods (Or Another Baby) For A While
You may see this one as a major plus, or you might be somewhat saddened or disheartened by it. It’s the fact that if you breastfeed around the clock regularly for the first year or longer, you may very likely need to accept that you could not get another period for quite some time.
For some women, it’s simply a matter of months until ovulation and menstruation resume. With prolonged breastfeeding, for myself and some other women I know, breastfeeding regularly past the one-year mark of our babies’ lives meant not menstruating again postpartum until well past that first birthday.
You might find yourself sort of wondering and wondering when the thing will return. Or maybe you hope to get your period soon because your family plan involves becoming pregnant again quickly.
Heck, maybe it’s a welcome respite from that monthly visitor you’ve had to deal with all of your adolescent and adult life.
5 Eat And Drink
If you want to breastfeed for a long time, you’ll need to have an extreme focus on taking care of yourself, in all likelihood.
Think of the physical demand that is put on the mother’s body… Certainly, it is well prepared for the task, but to provide that nutrition and hydration to another dependent human, a mother should think of the importance of providing adequate nutrition and hydration for herself.
I’m not exaggerating here when I say this is really important.
I am never out in the world or even really anywhere within my own home without a large water bottle by my side.
I’ve been nursing with only a few months break for the better part of the last four years, with my first baby and then my second.
I have healthy snacks around, and I don’t delay in eating when I know I’m going to be hungry.
To avoid draining your own body’s resources and energy, know that you’ll need to focus on self-care in order to carry out prolonged breastfeeding.
4 Prepare For The Worst
Moms who breastfeed for a long time get used to the process becoming a comfortable part of their everyday lives. It’s a time of bonding and a time of emotions and hormones, as well.
That’s why, especially if you do it for a year or more, I think it’s wise to be prepared for how hard it might be when the time comes that it ends.
Plus, you may need to accept that your baby is ready to stop sooner than you are or simply sooner than you expected.
Even when moms lead the weaning process, they can find themselves very, very emotional and even depressed as they do so or after the fact. It’s hard!
Although they can often then adapt and find other ways to be close and connected with their children, it’s tough to say good-bye to what you’ve become so accustomed to after all those months (or in some cases years).
3 Dress For Success
As you’ve probably realized by now if you’ve gotten this far in this little exploration of extended breastfeeding, I like to consider both the big and the small, the emotional and the practical, matters of the self and the family.
That’s just the way my brain works, I guess.
And I think, after my almost four years of breastfeeding so far, that it really is very important to realize that if you want to be able to breastfeed for a long time, you can only help yourself out by having the appropriate tools to do so.
And your tools are things like comfortable nursing bras, comfortable nursing pads, clothes for your lifestyle that allow you easily and comfortably nurse, and other things in this vein.
Having enough variety and clothing that you feel comfy and confident in can only make it easier for you to persevere through the months or even years of continuing to nurse your child.
2 Secure Some Support
In the early days, he manually pumped my engorged breasts with a hand pump for me while I sat exhausted in my rocking chair amid trying to care for my first newborn. (My electric pump hadn’t come in the mail yet due to an insurance / supply company blunder.)
After that, he brought me water at all hours, carried snacks and toast and sandwiches up the stairs at all hours of the night and morning, and generally was there to be my hands and legs when I was confined to a nursing chair.
He understood how important breastfeeding was to me, and that I needed him to do anything he could to help me succeed at it and continue with it.
And so I think what new mothers will need to do if they wish to achieve extended breastfeeding, as well, is to secure the intense and committed support of those around them, perhaps their husband but maybe also their other children or extended family in some capacity.
Even my toddler knows to play very quietly or leave the room when it’s time to nurse her baby sister.
1 Never Go Far
My older child is 3½ years old. My baby is older than one year. The only night I’ve ever spent apart from either of them was when I was in the hospital for one night following the birth of my second.
For me – and many other moms – this is the reality of committing to extended breastfeeding.
Sure, you can work around it. There are bottles that can be substituted for some feedings, and things like that.
But the reality is that it’s hard to make yourself interrupt the pattern of breastfeeding at the set times that you always do (not to mention hard to leave your sweet baby for any very long amount of time). You have to pump enough – when you would normally nurse – that it’s a heck of a lot of work and hassle to be apart from your breastfed baby.
And when you are apart or are preparing to travel without your child if you need to, it’s easy to worry (a LOT) about how the disruption to the nursing routine will affect your baby.
In reality (mine and other moms I’ve heard from, anyway), moms taking on long-term breastfeeding may not travel anywhere without the baby, or only take very short trips if they do.