Why I went the extended breastfeeding way

For a long time, I never took my boobs seriously. Actually I didn’t have much to take seriously. I was always the flat-chested girl in the first row in school who knew all the answers, who always raised her hand when the teacher asked a question, who always finished her homework well before everyone else, who had impeccable handwriting, and whose answer sheets were passed around in class by the teacher to show fellow students “this is how a paper should be written”. I was the girl who always stood first in class (except in class nine, when a girl with boobs beat me, and that really hurt).

But all I really wanted was to grow up and have boobs.

Time passes. Youth, love, career dilemmas, conflict, angst, heartbreaks, travel, highs, lows, life happens. Somewhere along, boobs happen. I am a woman!

And then one day, I am a mother. Re is put to my breast seconds after being born and he suckles in earnest, making me come to terms with the fact that I am now chief food source. Bravo! They say. He’s latched on! You are lucky!

And Re, my boobs and I start a long and meaningful journey together. My modest 32B girls are now ensconced in a 34C and feeling pretty chuffed!

Like everyone else, I had a deadline for breastfeeding. Six months. That’s all I can do, and I will, I told myself. It seemed like a barometer for most mommies, who cleverly collaborated with their doctors to distort the WHO recommendation of the ‘minimum’ requirement to the ‘sufficient’ requirement. But then motherhood is all about bending rules to suit oneself, isn’t it? To each, her own.

When it was six months,  Re and I were just getting into the zone of sleep-nursing; it became totally okay for one or both of us to fall asleep in the act. I figured, why give up just when it has got easy? So I extended my time-limit to one year.

On Re’s first birthday, I was asked (mostly by mothers who had weaned, because they are eager to know if you had), the inevitable, “Is he weaned yet?”

I mumble, “No, still going strong.”

They gave me that look. That look of ‘why the fuck did you have to raise the bar’? That look of ‘poor you, such a martyr’. They gave Re the look of ‘you greedy child, why don’t you give your mother some respite?’

My mother-in-law had her two bits. She had nursed her son (the OPU) for six months; she felt I should stop now, as I had done my fair bit, else it would get embarrassing. “He will never leave you,” she said.

It can’t be such a bad thing, can it? He is, after all, my son.  In any case, I wasn’t looking for advice.

My mother was proud of me. She couldn’t nurse me beyond a month, and she still regrets it. She was happy for Re.

Between year one and year two, I was at the receiving end of many a concern and raised eyebrows. I know that breastfeeding is a topic that reduces most mothers to militants and I know I was a minority for choosing extended breastfeeding, but my point was: If I don’t judge you your formula, you can’t judge me my boobs.

It continued to baffle me why I was being questioned for carrying out what nature ordained, and women who didn’t were deemed ‘normal’.

By year two, I was probably labelled a psycho, but now I was beyond caring. People suddenly stopped asking me questions. Perhaps they were afraid of the answers, but I wasn’t sure.

And then my friend Yasmin sent me this article and it made me smile and feel happy about myself.

We all know the effects of extended breastfeeding; our grandmothers did it, perhaps it skipped a generation, but millions of women in all parts of the world are still doing it. It’s just something that’s talked about in hushed tones, and I can’t fathom why.  I had my little group of extended nursing friends who believed in the same things I did. We met once in a while, exchanged stories; it helped me keep my sanity.

I also had my little secret for why I didn’t want to stop, unless Re chose to. I found weaning to be too much work. Finding an alternative, dealing with a cranky baby through the transition, the sudden onset of illnesses post withdrawal of the elixir that provides the best immunity ever, tummy troubles, mood swings, aggression and other behavioral problems in your child. Plus I could diffuse any pain, any crying bout, any tantrum, any sleeplessness, any accident or injury, any mood swing just by popping the boob.

Now why would I change that?

Re finally weaned on his own at 33 months. And I can’t help thinking that perhaps, perhaps, a teeny weeny bit of what contributes to the mostly smiley-happy Re today is the extended breastfeeding?

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25 thoughts on “Why I went the extended breastfeeding way

  1. I would have continued too but the boy refused solids at 1 Year. it is a great mom-baby bonding !! I agree it was easy to handle any tantrum and I miss that tool too :-

  2. Oh fantastic Lali…thoroughly enjoyed reading this and so concur with all you have said….these girls truly need an ovation.

  3. Wow this could not have come at a better time. We are hitting close to 6 months and I already have people asking me when I am going to start weaning him! The truth is that none of us is in a hurry, and we haven’t even started him on solids yet…LOL. I plan to nurse as long as possible, he just loves our nursing time, and I feel like he is a happier baby thanks to that.

    Good for you to have stuck to your guns(err, girls?)!

  4. Lalita, I am proud to say that I din’t wean till I was 3 and my mom was not one bit frustrated by it. She fed me till I stopped. Trust me I think, somewhere a lot of mommy’s milk in the kid only makes the kid more closer than normal to mommy. And isn’t that cute 🙂

    Rashmi

  5. Keep it up Lalita.I felt & faced same as you,but cud nt express it.I breastfed my daughter for 20mnths but i still regret it n feel guilty for not nursed her enough.

  6. I nursed my son for 2 yrs 3 months. We weaned naturally, and it was completely uneventful, no engorged boobs, nothing. An easy transition, probably because we had run the course nature intended and were both ready to move on.

    Enjoyed reading your post 🙂 I had all those same reactions from ppl too!

  7. Hey loved reading your blog…I am a nursing mother but always struggle with other kids of same age who are more chubby and ‘let mom live’ at all social occasions.

  8. Hey

    I feel the same way. I had a bar at one year and my baby is 18 months old now and still going strong. Its only once but it completes both our day. He is not always entirely comforted by this mechanism only but it helps keep him soothed and a happy baby. Plus I realise that extended nursing is for us moms who are happy about being with our babies each day while they are toddlers and not regretting the fact that we dont get to go on holidays where we leave them behind.

  9. I just stubmbled across your blog while googling on Mundan…And I am loving it…I am a full time working Mom to a 6 month boy…I live in the US…I pump milk during working hours (not sure how common it is in India yet) and nurse my son when I am home…It is the most rewarding thing I have done…The whole pregnancy and breastfeeding thing has given me a whole new perspective and respect for my own body…

    • Hi Mithila. Sorry I am such an internet dimwit, but what is Mundan? Seems to be driving a lot of traffic here.
      Pumping is common here too. I pumped as well for the few months before i quit my job to be a full time mom. And you are so right about it making it look at your body in a whole new way.

  10. Loved your article…. brought back few memories… the tantrum checks was so much easier when I used to feed… now a simple homework and dinner tests my patience…

  11. Hello there… Love the blog… Me a mom who is trying desperately to wean her 16 month old boy who simply can’t get enough of (what now seems to be) the limited resource.. Considering my one boob is partly doing it’s job. I can understand why any mother would love to carry on, considering the “cons” of giving up. But could u explain why do paediatricians now a days ask u not to go beyond a year? My well known paed. mentioned that it could lead to behavioural issues as well as it could affect his growth. Would u happen to know of anything that could affect my baby because of prolonged breast-feeding.. Talking ’bout ” meddically”

    • I think pediatricians usually say so coz most of the times, the mommies want to hear it. U know what I mean? Plus, on a lighter note, the earlier the baby weans, the more he/she falls sick, the higher the pediatricians bills, so there is an ulterior motive too!

  12. So when did you finally stop? We are now at 18 almost 19 months..he used to nurse often daytime twice till last month and night every 2 hrs is a very eater(food), so it became too much, so I dropped it to only night times..so now he nurses like twice at night..but still keeps getting up..do u think it’s related to nursing..like everyone tells me I shud stop that’s why he doesn’t sleep and eat well! He doesn’t drink milk(cows ) as well…please reply..thanks.

  13. Hi Lalita,

    So little is written on net from extended nursing Indian moms, that its a treat to read an honest and matter of fact post from you.

    My 2 year old nursling and me are still going strong, but I just wish not to waste my breathe on replying to people’s stupid questions about him: Biting?? (NEVER), Eating habits (HEARTY eater), Cow’s Milk (Rolling eyes), Lack of Sleep(Whose??), Independence (REALLY what is a 2’s year old supposed to do? pick up brief case and go to work).

    Well all I say politely my Grand mom nursed my mom till three, and lived till ripe old age of 80 and my mom has fondest memories of nursing, so it just runs in the family.

    – Himangi

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