If a stranger had walked into Highland Hospital on October 3, 2009, and flashed me a picture of myself nursing a 13+ month old, 31" long, nearly 20 pound baby wearing snowman pajamas and clambering over me, I think I would have said, "Nice jammies, but I doubt I'll still be breastfeeding come next Thanksgiving."
Ha, ha. Let's pause and have a laugh, okay?
Before I had done any reading at all, I said I would breastfeed for six months. After all, it's not like I was raised in an exclusive, long-term breastfeeding world. Six weeks was more like the norm, if that. Then I did some research and found that 12 months was the minimum recommendation. So I said, I'll do 12 months. We'll start phasing it out around nine months when she really starts eating solids. That seems reasonable.
Then I met - really met, mind you, and got to know - my daughter. She was a needy baby. She is a needy toddler. In addition to wanting to be held and walked around (just being held while seated did not, does not, cut it), she wanted to eat at least every hour, while taking about 45 minutes to do so. This lasted for about four months. Then it was about every two hours, maybe three.
So at some point, I said to myself, we won't try to phase anything out at nine months. We'll do it at 12 months. For one thing, she wasn't that nuts about large quantities of food. She would try and eat anything, but not a lot of it. This is normal, by the way. Breastmilk is supposed to supply all of a baby's calories for the first six months, and the bulk of calories for the second six months. It doesn't matter how big or how small the baby is! (I love the two old wives' arguments, although I was never subjected to them: your baby is too small, she needs solids OR your baby is too big for just breastmilk. Really?)
There is also the fact that she would fall asleep with boob. Those were sweet days - swaddle, insert boob, and sleep! And of course it still works, for the most part, during the night to get her back to sleep. (No more swaddling, though).
The 12 month marker has come and gone. I have since found that two years, and as long as is mutually desirable, is actually the WHO recommendation for breastfeeding, by the way. The reality of it - something I didn't really understand - is that breastfeeding a toddler is absolutely nothing like breastfeeding an infant. We do it before naps and bed, maybe once late afternoon if she's a little cranky and needs some cuddle time and/or a snack. Overnight a few times as well, but as I rarely wake up enough to really count, I will have to estimate that at two or three very short instances. It is no longer the all-consuming task that it once was. Oversupply? Undersupply? Is she filling enough diapers? These questions disappear. Some days she hardly touches her food, and I'm glad we have this wonderful back-up full of vitamins and protein and good fat. It was great when she had a cold a few weeks ago and didn't want to eat.
I am still toying with the notion of closing the diner overnight. But, frankly, I think the new policy on the subject is that we'll be done when we're done, and we'll do it on her schedule, not mine. Also: I like to avoid screaming babies who are pulling sad faces.
The point is, you don't just wake up one day to find yourself with a giant toddler latched on. It ends up feeling perfectly normal. Now I look at pictures of us when she was just a peanut, and I think, how did I ever manage to feed someone so tiny?!