Thursday, July 14, 2016

breastfeeding after the first year

There's so much talk about breastfeeding a newborn but not so much about feeding a one-year-old. It's presumed that it just gets easier and there's nothing much to discuss but considering I'm writing this after clearing a three-day-long blocked milk duct, I'd say it's a conversation worth having.

I'm heading into my fifth (not consecutive) year of breastfeeding. It doesn't deserve an award or recognition - it is what it is, it's just what I've done. I've been comforted by the connection of breastfeeding my babies and frustrated by the relentlessness of it. Indeed, it's often an all night affair and it takes its toll, especially when newborn hormones are long gone and nipples are tweaked and pulled and bitten. 

Percy is now 16months and while he doesn't feed as consistently as a newborn, he'll still feed at least eight times in a 24hour cycle - sometimes more, sometimes less. Lately I've noticed that the late night, long feeds are starting to irritate me; I often feel agitated when feeding him, especially if I'm tired. It's a potent reminder that breastfeeding really can drain you of your stores and leave you feeling depleted and exhausted. 

But still, I'm not ready to wean just yet. And if I'm honest, I'm feeling a lot stronger and healthier at this stage that I did when feeding Che and Poet (who didn't really gain an appetite for food until I weaned them). Percy is and always had been a food lover - he only really seeks breastmilk for comfort, even though I'm well aware of the fact that he's getting so much more than that every time he feeds. Studies show that breastfeeding toddlers provides them with 29% of daily energy requirements, 43% of protein requirements, 75% of Vitamin A requirements and 60% of Vitamin C requirements. 

Every time he feeds I think of it as a big immune boosting cuddle and I admit, it comforts me to know that it's the perfect remedy when he's unwell. Indeed, breastfeeding can heal sore hearts.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • wear supportive bras : I find that supportive maternity bras are just as important now as they were in the first few months of feeding. My essentials include this sleep bra (this is all I wear in the first few weeks after birth and continue to wear it at night now), this Esprit bra, this design from Hotmilk and this sports bra (because there's nothing wore than inadequate support when you're exercising). 
  • eat well : it's easy to forget just how important a good diet is when we're breastfeeding but we really do need to keep ourselves nourished so we don't end up completely depleted. For me that means lots of good fats and proteins as well as a top-up from Franjo's Kitchen cookies and a seasonal visit to my naturopath for some immune + energy boosting tonics. 
  • stay hydrated : breastfeeding = dehydration unless you drink lots of water and herbal teas. I drink a big glass of water before I go to bed at night and first thing in the morning and take my water bottle with me everywhere. But still, I find it hard to stay hydrated, especially at this time of year. 
  • release tension : movement is so important at every stage of breastfeeding to make sure there's no unnecessary tension in the upper back, shoulders and chest. When your prana (vital energy) is flowing freely, your milk will do the same! Movement, massage and non-restrictive clothing is also key to relieving blocked milk ducts. A simple technique that I always use to release tension and encourage energy to flow in and around the chest:  

Flowering Lotus

Stand upright and bring your fingertips to the centre of your chest. As you exhale, take your arms wide, bending your elbows and gently pushing your chest forward. On the inhalation bring your fingertips back to the centre of your chest. 

And when it is time for me to wean, Daniel will take over settling at night time, I'll cry because it's just another metaphorical cutting of the cord (bye bye babyhood) and I'll drink sage tea to dry up the milk. 

A few breastfeeding posts that may resonate:


  1. I'm starting to feel agitated feeding my 12 month old. Going into the next year really is a big ask and definitely just as draining. I felt encouraged reading the stats about the nutrition and benefits they get from their feeds. That is a good enough reason for me to continue not to mention the mending of broken hearts.

  2. My daughter is 15 months and has been busily walking for about 4 months. I find myself offering her a breastfeed just so I can sit down for 5 minutes! I flick between feeling drained and enjoying the convenience it offers.

  3. Lovely post, breastfeeding beyond the first year definitely comes with it's own challenges and i'd add the one of dealing with friends/family that question that decision. My first self weaned at 17 months when I was 5 months pregnant. It was both freeing and heartbreaking. I still miss those moments.

  4. My daughter just weaned herself this week at 22 months old. It's definitely bittersweet for me! I loved knowing that I was able to provide that comfort for her and I'm thankful that it lasted that long :) Breastfeeding can heal sore hearts indeed.

  5. I've just (almost) night-weaned my 23 month old, and reduced the day feeds a lot. (She LOVES her milk and always has and will happily hop on and off all day and all night.) When I weaned her brother at 17 months he magically started sleeping through, but she's still waking three or four times a night, and I sing Twinkle Twinkle until the 4.30 wake up when I cave in and feed her (just read your post about weaning Poet, and it resonated). I'm not ready to stop feeding her but was definitely ready to cut it down a bit.

  6. your post couldn't be more on point for me this week. I've been having a few milk duct issues my 12 month old was sick last week & fed around the clock and now it seems my supply is having issues adjusting. I fed my eldest for 18 months and was thinking I'd aim for the same and your statistics have provided me with the encouragement I need to get through these cold nights of waking & feeding. I had tears in my eyes reading your post about poet, that's how I felt with my daughter, it was such a hard cord for me to cut. M x

  7. That picture of Percy perched on the chair with his sweet little curls and his card is just the cutest photo ever.

  8. It's a very personal thing for each mom, and with each child. I think if breastfeeding is "easy" then maybe it goes longer- or not if you are returning to work outside of home. I nursed both mine till 3, just at bedtime at that point or if we were having a difficult emotionally stressful time. They both stopped easily. and i always loved the intimacy of it. It was a handy comfort tool.


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