Nine Hundred Thirty-Nine Days: Child-Led Breastfeeding

939 days, 134 weeks, 31 months, 2.5 years. Its been a long road, and its one that was not easy and took a lot of work, education, and commitment. I've been waiting to post this...but it has been a little over a month since Isla last asked to nurse, and I think she is officially done.

We did it, our goal for her to peacefully wean on her own, in her own time, finally met.

What better time to reflect on our journey than World Breastfeeding Week?

I'm not sure when I decided that child-led weaning was the path that felt right for us. Being entirely honest, I'm not even sure when I started thinking about breastfeeding at all. My first pregnancy was a tumultuous, emotional time in my life - a lot of it is a blur! But I knew by the time she was born that I hoped to breastfeed her to a year minimum, and by the time we hit that mark, my goal had shifted to two years old. Beyond that? When she was ready to stop. It just felt right. It felt natural. It felt like what my child needed from me.

There are wonderful, evidence-based benefits to providing breastmilk through toddlerhood! The World Health Organization even recommends breastfeeding until a minimum of two years. Why? For toddlers, 15oz of breastmilk per day provides:

▪ 29% of energy requirements

▪ 43% of protein requirements

▪ 36% of calcium requirements

▪ 75% of vitamin A requirements

▪ 76% of folate requirements

▪ 94% of vitamin B12 requirements

▪ 60% of vitamin C requirements

Once you add in those naturally occurring tumor fighting properties, antibodies, and unique immune factors (that actually increase in concentration during a slow weaning process!) - things that cannot be replicated artificially - breastmilk is a beautiful composition!

There's a fine balance to tip toe when talking about feeding your baby - every mama wants to do what's best and its a sensitive subject to even talk about because of that. I support every mother in the decisions she makes for her unique family! I also think that its okay to be proud of whatever choices or paths you've taken because you've walked them, and faced the challenges that come with them - its okay to talk about experiences you've had without it meaning anything about anyone else who has had a different path: your experience belongs to you! Our journey is ours.

For me? I'm just really, really proud to have reached this goal with my daughter. I absolutely believe it was worth it and made a difference for my child. For us, breastfeeding meant overcoming both oversupply AND low supply at different points. It meant navigating an overactive letdown and reflux. It meant a very strict elimination diet for me while we determined her food allergies as a very young baby, and the full elimination of dairy long term. It meant learning to pump for her just as I was getting the hang of nursing, and continuing to do something for my daughter that I believe she really benefitted from even though it was really challenging at times.

Only 17% of working moms are breastfeeding at a year old, and I overcame the odds as a single full-time working mom...it was hard and took a lot of dedication. I pumped in weird offices, cars, closets for 15 months. I meticulously packaged and stored milk for my girl each night when I came home from work.

I was able to be a part of three other mamas' breastfeeding journeys, helping to feed 3 other sweet babies as a milk donor.

Breastfeeding provided instant comfort through long nights and boo boos, and nourished her when she was too sick to want any other food or drink. We nursed through a full set of teeth coming in and creative toddler gym-nursetics.

Those sweet early days of feeding my tiny baby, holding her close, slowly evolved into the days with a toddler insistent that "milkies" be shared with whichever toy had her attention - we certainly couldn't leave anyone out!

I will always advocate for normalizing breastfeeding in western culture - where women have been conditioned to view our own bodies and their natural functions with a sense of shame. Normalizing the sight of children eating in the way every other mammal on the planet feeds isn't about making other people uncomfortable - it's about feeding children when they need to be fed, and making a sight that no one batted an eye at until as recently as the 1900s commonplace again.

A woman's choices in feeding her baby are always her own, but they should never be fueled by fear, shame, or embarrassment: I'll always be a voice advocating to end that societal shame and help mamas make informed decisions (no matter the ultimate decision). I hope to see a world someday where every woman confidently feels like her decisions were made solely based on her own wishes - not insecurities or lack of support: no regrets.

So here we are. Nearly three years of hard work, sweet moments, and lessons learned. We did it. It was a long journey, and it was a challenge, but we did it.

Breastfeeding is beautiful, it has wonderful benefits, and I only hope that I'll be able to share this experience with the rest of my children some day as well. Here's a bittersweet farewell to one of the last milestones of my girl's babyhood, and so many sweet memories I'll always hold close ❤