Embracing “Beyond”

Those readers active on TLB Facebook page know that {Laura} is one of our admins there offering balanced support, information, and a reasonable but caring voice to our community.  I’m so grateful for all our admins and thrilled to bring you a guest post from Laura, sharing where she is in her breastfeeding journey.  Though we are separated by an ocean, I can related to Laura and feel as though she is indeed one of my breastfeeding sisters.  I hope you enjoy this post and please, take the time to leave a comment sharing your thoughts and where you are on your journey.

The World Health Organization recommends that “infants start breastfeeding within one hour of life, are exclusively breastfed for six months, with timely introduction of adequate, safe and properly fed complementary foods while continuing breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond”.

When we started out, and for the first few weeks of M’s life, our goal was always “tomorrow”. We overcame initial difficulties (which I won’t go into here), tomorrows became todays became yesterdays,  and soon our goal was 6 months. In the blink of an eye 6 months came and went and we revised our goal to 1 year. This in turn passed, as did 18 months, and now we find ourselves a short few weeks from 2 years!

So, what next? Well, that would be “beyond”. Beyond is defined as “at or to the further side of”. Beyond can be something that women aspire to, and would love to reach. Beyond can be something that elicits negative reactions. Here in Ireland, beyond is RARE.

About 47% of infants here are breastfed on discharge from maternity care, and this already low figure drops to 22% at 3 months and less than 10% at 6 months.  I cannot even find statistics after 6 months!

A recent interview with a breastfeeding mother on national TV highlighted the often skewed public perception of “extended” breastfeeding.  This included the interviewer reading out the wrong HSE (Health Service) guidelines on breastfeeding! Friends of Breastfeeding (an Irish charity who can be found on Facebook) have details of this incident, and are also lodging an official complaint. When mainstream national media spread blatant misinformation, and barely stop short of ridicule, it’s no wonder that “beyond” is beyond comprehension for many.

So, we know that (here at least) “beyond” is rare, and not without controversy. Outside of the 2010 and 2011 breastfeeding challenges, I’ve only ever seen 2 other women NIP, and both of the children were infants. “Beyond” started off for me as an ideal and something we would most likely never attain. If pushed, I still could not answer why I thought that way, but I did.

However, there’s something about 2 years of tomorrows filled with closeness, love and nourishment that can change a girls mind. Not to mention the copious health and emotional benefits for both Mammy (n ; an Irish Mom,  pl mammies)  and baby that are *obviously* too numerous, complex and amazing to mention here!

At this stage, beyond does not feel like the big, gaping chasm it had seemed to be in those first few “tomorrow” weeks. It doesn’t seem much different to the transition from Tuesday to Wednesday. Each day my little lady is but one day older than the day before, and each day that she continues to find nourishment and comfort at my breast is a gift to us both. I feel so grateful to have made it to 2 years of breastfeeding my little girl. Here’s to beyond!

 

Laura Griffin lives in Limerick, Ireland with her partner of 10 years Keith and MooMoo (23 mos). She is a nurse and a student midwife who hopes to be an IBCLC one day.  She is a passionate advocate for breastfeeding and support for families, currently volunteering as a TLB admin on the Facebook page.  She dabbles in crochet while listening to Dream Theater in her limited spare time.
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Comments

  1. You had me at Dream Theater! haha Anyhow when I had my son, I didn’t even think about how long I was going to nurse. Three and a half years later (granted it’s mostly night nursing). :)

  2. I too am soon to reach the 2 yrs. mark. I’m proud of what we are doing and proud to have overcome many struggles and negativity. It is a beautiful thing what we do for our beautiful babies*or in this case….not so much of a baby any more.

  3. My daughter is 16 months old. When I look at her, she still seems like my little baby. But more and more I am becoming aware of the general public perception that she is getting too old for other people to accept that I breastfeed her. So do I lie? Do I hide in my house and make excuses? I love those quiet times she cuddles close to me and stares in to my eyes and becomes still. She is so busy. I wonder if she would ever settle down to be held if I didn’t nurse her. Would she? I imagine that non-nursing moms also have cuddles. They must. So then, she would, right? But would I want to risk losing that? The answer is no. Not just for me, but also for her. It feels like our most basic connection, a place to tie our moored boat of independence, a place to be home.

    • I had the same concern with my son. I nursed him for a year, then on his birthday found out we were expecting DS#2. Shortly after that my milk dried up. He stopped trying to nurse shortly after that. But I think bf him for a year helped him learn to be still, and made him want to be close to me. Every night after he quit, I would sit and rock him while holding him close to my chest. I never missed nursing him because I still get to be close to him. Now that #2 is here, I get that time with him also. They sometimes just have to share mommy’s lap. :)

  4. I am still nursing my 21 month old and expecting my second any day now. I was worried my milk would dry up or he’d self wean but neither happened and so we continued to nurse and will continue when the new baby arrives too. In Canada many are very supportive of breastfeeding a baby but a toddler or tandem nursing is alien. However, it baffles me how nosey people are about breastfeeding and I have gotten some of the most rude comments, even though I wasn’t even breastfeeding in front of them! I had one woman ask if I was going to still nurse my oldest when the new baby arrived and then said “Eww, that means you are going to have kids hanging off each side of you!” I have been called a “dirty hippy” by a member of my husband’s family and that I need to “stop shoving my boobs in my child’s face so he won’t want to any more.” Despite all the negative comments, I pity these people more than I get offended, because of how close minded, uneducated and rude they are. I also feel sorry for their children and grandchildren because that attitude carries on for generations. I am thankful that I have a very supportive and educated husband and I hope that some day breastfeeding your own children will be seen as the normal way to do things.

  5. So agree with all of these comments. I breastfed my daughter until she was 21 months. My son is now 25 months. I can’t believe we made it past 2 years. To be honest, I’ve been “trying” to wean him for 6 months now. He’s not interested and asks for his “Makookooda” often. I have managed to wean him down to the nighttime and morning feedings (as well as any middle of the night ones…he sleeps next to me). I have my own reasons for wanting to wean him, but I know he is not ready and I don’t want to upset his little world right now. I, too, have put up with people’s judgement and comments. I wish this world was a bit more accepting of breast-feeding, especially past 12 months. What these people don’t seem to realize is that drinking milk from a cow’s breast is way more weird that breastfeeding a toddler!

    • “What these people don’t seem to realize is that drinking milk from a cow’s breast is way more weird that breastfeeding a toddler!” Thank you!!! This is exactly what I’m saying! :D

  6. My daughter is still nursing at 28 months old. Even though here in Argentina breastfeeding is more common than it is in North America or Europe, beyond is rarely seen, at least not in public. I never had a personal goal to get here, it just happened naturally, and now the thought of unilaterally breaking this bond just breaks my heart; so I’m hopping she’ll self-wean. The only thing that is a bit “weird” is that she is particularly articulate and speaks like a 4 year old, so when she asks to nurse in so many words it feels a little awkward. At least she now knows not to ask for it in certain places, and we have limited it to at home or at relative’s homes, but if it were for her shed nurse in the middle of the street! I don’t want her to feel like it is wrong, so I just tell her it’s me who doesn’t want strangers to see my boobies.

  7. decaturmamaof2 says:

    Yay for you and MooMoo (Molly)! Thank you for sharing your story and thoughts. You can reach “beyond” if that is what you both want. I was lucky enough to nurse my first (a boy) til about 25 months, and am currently nursing my 15 month old who is showing no interest in stopping anytime soon. Your family sounds wonderful! Maybe you and your story are even now giving hope and inspiration to another mama in your community.

    @Rachel – I love your description of how your daughter becomes still. Mine usually is fidgeting and goofing off, but I still love the cuddle and closeness time. And YESSSS , you still get that after weaning (I promise)! But no need to wean if you and she want to continue.

  8. Thanks for this. At 7 months I’m already regarded as being quite odd by all the grandparents. My parents know better than to say anything – but my MIL said 3 months ago that “its about time he learnt to get by without mommy”

    He has taken to weaning very well and is now on 3 solid meals a day. He has naturally cut back his milk without any effort from me. He takes milk from me first thing and last thing at night, with occasional nursing sessions in between. I go back to work in 2 months time and I intend to continue as much as possible.

    I work shifts, so I wont always be there at bedtime but I will be there first thing every morning so he will have that feed for as long as he wants it and I will no doubt add in an extra feed on those days when I know he wont get anything from me later. When will I stop? I dont know. But I do know that this is our business and that I will follow my instinct – just like I have with everything else.

  9. This story really touched my heart. How unfortunate that mothers in Ireland generally wean so soon! With my first, I was very uneducated and ended up drying up after 5 short months. I was so determined, but with virtually no support and early supplementing, it just didn’t turn out the way I wanted. So when i got pregnant with number 2, I did lots of research. That nursing relationship lasted until he was just about 16 months old! The only reason we quit was because i was *surprise* pregnant with our third and nursing made me extremely nauseous. I still regret the early weaning. Poor guy stuff asks for mama milk occasionally a year later! But on a happier note, my 4.5 month old daughter is currently nursing despite our rough start. So glad to be able to give my babies the best start to life!

  10. Laura Griffen Garrels says:

    First of all, love your name! : ) I’m nursing my 4th baby. He’s 6 months old. My other children all nursed almost 3 years a piece. I wasn’t even sure about nursing before my first child was born, but I quickly realized the benefits. I don’t know anyone that nursed their baby past the first year and I received less than positive reactions, even from my immediate family. Still, I’m very glad I nursed my children as long as I did.

  11. When I was pregnant, I had mixed feelings about breastfeeding…I knew I would try, but it seemed like so much work. I ended up loving it as much as my son loves it and have no plans of quitting. My son is 13 months old and I love the way my busy little toddler still falls asleep nursing like a tiny newborn. :)

  12. I just hit 9 months with my daughter and I hope that she will want to continue until “beyond”. My short term goal is 1 year but everytime I reach a short term goal I make another!

  13. What a lovely post :)
    (My [Irish!] BIL calls my mum ‘mammy’ – we have Irish heritage so she loves it!)

  14. Thanks for raising awareness of this topic. I’m the mother who was interrogated live on national tv, still upset over it to be honest. As someone said to me recently, no one sets out to breastfeed for 3.5 years, it’s just your baby, just another day, and your comfort zone extends. Thanks for the great post, and power to all the mothers out there, don’t let anyone bully you outof doing what’s right for your baby.
    Niamh x

  15. I’m at 7 months now with my twins. People are amazed all the time that I’ve “lasted so long” with nursing. I’m actually really scared about starting solids! Nursing is just so much easier. DD does take a bit of ceral, but DS shuns it like the plague!! Guess I’ll just keep going and totally confusing my in laws!!

  16. Makes me want to come to Ireland and nurse in public my one year old son! (I have always dreamed of coming to Ireland because of my husband’s heritage). I just made it to a year with baby #2 and that was seemingly effortless, so I know we will quickly make it to my second goal of 18 mos! Thanks for your post!

  17. Michelle Wei says:

    My son is nearing 16 months old and no where near is there an end in sight!! He nurses every 3 hrs during the day and 1-3 hrs at night. When I take him to the area mall where they have an indoor playground, I test him by cradling him in my arms and turning his mouth toward my breast. If he opens it, off to the side we go, and I nurse in public!! This is the first situation i’ve ever really done it. I saw one woman.. she was using a cover. I went up to her and said “i’m so proud of you .. and to see someone other than myself nursing in public. it makes me almost want to cry!” Her son was 11 months old. I don’t use a cover. I discretely nurse him. Here in New Jersey, you can’t legally tell a woman to cover up. Nursing moms have rights and I have the cue card printed and kept in my purse to let people know ! I have cousins who have nursed their sons up to 3 and 4 years old. I am from Canada but live in the United States. I know few others who are at the same point as me.

  18. sarah pritchard says:

    What an amazing story. Good for you for setting your goals, achieving them, and making more! I recently decided to not have a stopping point in mind. I think she’ll know when she is done, and until then, I’m going to savor these quiet moments.

  19. d'Arcy Montague says:

    My sons will be 15 months tomorrow, and have never had a drop of formula. I never set a time or age goal, just a no formula goal. Breastfeeding is such a huge part of our days and nights together, I can’t imagine having weaned at a year or 6 months. I have no Idea how long we will continue, but here I am with both boys asleep at my breasts, full of peace, comfort and closeness. I’m proud of us!

  20. My son is 27 months old and we still breastfeed. My sister views this pretty negatively and when I challenge her with the WHO recommendations she says ‘that advice is for women in third world countries not the UK’. I find it odd she is so dismissive of the large body of research regarding the many positives for mother and child of extended breastfeeding as she is a senior scientific reseacher herself. My partners family are also less than enthusiastic about my choices , telling my son, ‘you don’t want that’ when he asks for ‘boobie’.

    I do wish we had given another word for it but when we started out I didn’t know we would be doing it for a month never mind 27 months and that my two year old would enthusiatically be shouting ‘Boobie, Boobie!’ whenever he felt like a feed. I’m so happy we persisted with it in the early days despite conflicting advice. Thanks for raising the issue.

  21. Thanks for raising the awareness of this topic. I am the Irish mother who was ridiculed on live national tv and made to defend myself, completely unprepared for the tone of the “interview”, to think of it still makes me feel sick. I’m really aware of people’s attitudes when I NIP, but will still feed my 3.5 yr old if he really wants it, it happens so discreetly no one has ever commented. I’ve actually had a harder time with family, who think they’re doing you a favour by making judgemental comments. I’m continuing to feed my 3.5yr old for the health benefits and because he still wants to. There’s nothing like the closeness, and we got through the terrific twos with minimal tantrums. I’d say to everyone, follow your heart, don’t let anyone put you off doing the best for your child. http://www.themamashipblog.com

  22. I am still feeding my 24 month old son despite a lot of pressure to wean him from friends and family. I am also feeding my 3 month old son. I never expected to tandem nurse but it’s working out the best thing for my sons. I’m lucky to have a very supportive husband. Whilst pregnant it was agony to feed my son at times, but he wasn’t ready to wean and I wanted to continue as a source of comfort (my milk supply pretty much dryer up whilst pregnant but he continued to nurse).
    My older son has been Ill (just childhood coughs and colds) but the breastfeeding has been a saviour for a toddler who refuses to eat when ill. The few positive words of support I’ve received have been from my gp! I’ve received so much negativity about breastfeeding beyond (6 months) I try not to get into discussions, but I refuse to lie if anyone asks me out right.

  23. I nursed #9 the longest. He was 2 when my last baby was born, and for about a couple of weeks I nursed them both. I had plenty of milk, but was so exhausted it was hard to keep it up. I wish I could have gone longer nursing them both, but I cherish the memories I have of the two of them snuggled together with me in bed. It’s been a little over four years since #10 was born, and I’ve had two miscarriages since then. I really, really miss those days, and long for just one more. I feel like there’s a part of me missing because of the miscarriages, especially the first one, in which I was far enough along to see that he was a boy, and to hold his tiny body. I missed so much, that I don’t really feel like I’ve had that sense of “closure” that most moms seem to have when they *know* their family is finished and they’ve had their last child. I really miss that closeness that comes from nursing.

  24. I absolutely never expected to be nursing a 30 month old, extremely articulate toddler. We just sort of ended up here. But nursing has helped my girl never to lose weight during serious illness and three subsequent surgeries. The doctors all comment on how healthy she is considering her issues (and they rarely seem to relate it to nusing, though I sure do). At this stage of the game I am ready to move beyond ou nursing relationship and we have been gently weaning for months (maybe even longer than that). I’m thankful that my family hasn’t been too judgmental (at least to my face) and my husband has been downright supportive across the board. I am proud of my breastfed babies and am excited to move into the next phase of our relationship. Yes, I’ll be sad when that physical connection is over but knowing that I’ve done the absolute best I can for my kids brings me peace. Thanks for writing a post on “beyond” since there are so few of us out there!