Breastfeeding Beyond a Year

Hailey Andresen from Household Mag contemplates her own breastfeeding expectations.

When I was pregnant, I knew very little about breastfeeding or what it would entail . I knew that not everyone is able to breastfeed and I could very well be one of those people. So I set my expectations accordingly and thought, “hey, if I make it to six months that would be fantastic.” When we got closer to that mark, I began to realize that six months would not be a realistic end date. Not only do babies rely on breast milk or formula as their primary source of nutrients for the full first year of life , but I felt we had just truly found our rhythm with it all.

The first month or so was painful and a little stressful. I was doing what I could to get him to latch, getting accustomed to having a human being feeding himself from my body and coming to the realization that my boobs would need to be out and about whenever I was going to be out and about. At six months, it finally felt like second nature: it was no longer painful; Owen became more efficient with his feedings; and I had become completely comfortable with nursing wherever and whenever. So I bumped that goal to a year, and I’m not entirely sure what will happen then.

If I’m being honest, I’m ready for breastfeeding to wind down. At this point, I feel unbelievably connected to Owen and don’t feel as though stopping breastfeeding will change that. By the time we reach a year — and if you count pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding — it will be almost two years that I haven’t had my body to myself.

As we get closer to Owen’s first birthday, I’d like to think that he will be sleeping through the night  and weaning himself off the breast. I would also love to take a trip with Zack while Owen soaks up some grandparent time. Or have a few drinks without calculating whether it will affect my milk. Wouldn’t it be great, too, for Zack to soothe Owen at night, so I can get a full night of sleep? Yes, selfishly, I’m ready to take back a little independence. But we all know that when you are a parent, there’s not a whole lot of room for selfishness. Ultimately, whatever it is Owen needs is what I will do; and if he needs more of my milk, more of my milk he’ll get.

Letting go of control has been one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned as a mother. When I think I have it figured out, my kiddo likes to up and change it all. So “will I stop breastfeeding when Owen turns one?” I don’t know. And just like most things, I won’t know until we’re there, and I’m okay with that. I realize keeping things open ended may not be for everyone. But for me, it’s the only way I can be fully present and in tune with Owen to figure out what he needs now.                                                   

Photography by Amy Frances for Well Rounded NY. 

Hailey Andresen

Hailey Andresen

Hailey Andresen moved to Brooklyn from Phoenix this past March where she had built her passion for community and food in the restaurant and hospitality industry. After ten years she is taking a break from all of that to start a family with her husband, Zack. She is the founder and voice of Household Mag. where she shares her love for food, New York, family, design and her experiences as a first time mother.

Comments {29}

  1. I don’t understand why your husband can’t soothe the baby until you wean. I have nursed all my children past their first birthdays and my husband and I alternated the night shifts. I worry people will read this and assume that if they nurse then that means their husbands won’t be able to help out at night until they stop nursing and that’s misleading. Expectant moms already have enough reasons to fear nursing and they don’t need one more.

    Kaya
  2. Beautiful article. Thank you for sharing!

    Courtney
  3. Thank you for the great article. My son just hit 1 year and I am in same position. It is helpful to hear of another mom keeping things open ended….and just seeing what baby needs. That helps me adapt to having hit my one year goal (which also started as a 6 month goal) and us both still not being ready. We may be slowing moving in the direction of weaning but it is a good reminder to stay present and feel it out.
    To the other comment…Just because a baby is nursing doesn’t mean they don’t sleep through the night. That’s probably more of a concern to BFing moms. My baby blessedly slept through night very early, but that isn’t something you can predict. It’s not a sentence to no sleep for you or the other parent if you BF. In some families the mom will always wake, and in others they will take turns – again nothing to do w BFing and more to do with the dynamic of the couple. I don’t think any of these situations are pro or anti-breastfeeding. Sleeping through the night is more behavioral and coachable (in many cases), or physiological (in some cases) than strictly a result of BF vs formula. That’s one myth I hope gets debunked soon. Thank you again.

    Charlene
  4. Love it! This is my second time nursing for a year (and maybe last). I thought I’d be sad but really, I’d like to be done. My baby just turned one two weeks ago and we’re slowly starting the process. Doesn’t help that he’s cutting his first three teeth right now and needs the extra comfort but the best part of being a second time momma is knowing that everything is a phase.

    Janice
  5. Nice read 🙂 I just nursed my 16 month old her very last nursing session this morning 🙁 it was a bit emotional, but we “talked” about it, and we were both ready! Good for you, nursing this long isn’t always easy, but it’s really all about them…you’ll have your body back for the rest of their lives. The best thing to remember, always, is nothing lasts forever when raising these little babes..we must give it our all at every stage, because at some point their stages won’t be dependant upon us 🙂

    Brandi
  6. I’ve been nursing for over 7 months and had the same thought – I’ll do this until 6 months and re-evaluate then. And you are spot on – at 6 months, it was working so well, we figured we ought not mess with something that is working. But after trying to conceive, pregnancy, an unplanned c-section, a surprise gallbladder surgery, and now mastitis – it’s hard not to feel a bit desperate to have my body back. It’s something I’ve been wrestling with daily – I love the closeness it has given us, but I selfishly wish I could regain some of that independence and autonomy. We are still going forward, but I just wanted to say thank you for sharing. It helped me to know that I’m not the only one feeling this way! Best wishes to you and your little.

    LG
  7. Nursing past 3.5 years here. Average length of breastfeeding worldwide if you take out the abysmal us numbers is like age 5. While there are things nursing puts a damper on, it’s truly a matter of mere months to go as long as baby is interested in, both in baby’s total lifespan as well as mom (& dads). I encourage everyone to let baby lead the weaning for long term satisfaction in all kinds of relationships for everyone involved!

    Katie
  8. Great attitude, Hailey! I never thought I’d nurse my son as long as I did – over the age of two – but I just did what worked for us. He had a nut allergy when he was a baby, but I believe nursing helped him overcome it in a year. We had our last nursing session a few months ago when it started to become painful and problematic for bedtime, but he was ready and I was oh-so ready 😉

    Good luck to all the moms out there, whatever you choose to do!

    Christina
  9. This is exactly where I am at right now. Turning a year in August and I don’t think he will ever give up on his own, although I’m ready. Hoping he decides he’s done soon!!!

    Erica
  10. Nursing on occasion an almost 5 yr old and nursing full time with a 7 month old. I figured I would let them dictate when to stop completely. Although with my older child I can explain about waiting for the baby & sometimes say it isn’t a good time. It’s mostly a little before bed here and there, not even every day. If I didn’t have a 7 month old I probably wouldn’t even have a supply. When I tell people in the U.S. I get a lot of eye rolling or people straight out telling me I need to stop. It’s disappointing. I don’t judge moms who stop nursing or choose not to nurse, so it kind of sucks to hear those comments. I’m doing what is best for MY family. That’s all that matters.

    Nik
  11. Great article! My son is 15 months and I have had the same experiences. I have been struggling with weather to wean or not but he still wants to and I don’t feel I can deny him something that gives him comfort while also being so good for him.

    Meredith Jones Coleman
  12. I found myself nodding along to all of this – you’ve written exactly what is on my mind. I’m 4 months in and originally had a goal of 6 months, but have changed it to a year. Like you, I’m leaving things open ended. I’ve been very fortunate that my little one was a nursing natural and, by following her lead, nursing became second nature very quickly. I’m looking forward to our journey through breastfeeding and beyond.

    Emily
  13. Love this piece! You put in words everything what I have been feeling and going through! My daughter is almost 1 year old and although I am so ready to be finished breastfeeding, I don’t think she is ready to give that up just yet. And she gets what she wants. Just like you, letting go off control is one of the valuable lessons my daughter has taught me already. Motherhood is not easy, but going with the flow in most cases these days seems to be the most adecvate thing to do that lets you actually enjoy the moment instead of stressing out the whole time, thinking about whether you are doing something right or wrong and what others might say or think about it.

    Lena VanderPlaats
  14. Absolutely love the read! Coming up on 9 months and I could not agree more with what you wrote. At 6 months I was not ready to stop something that was working so well. Lord knows how much I struggled to get my milk flow going and when the 6 month mark hit I think I was the one more attached. We will stop breastfeeding once she is ready. My baby girl will soon be a 1 year old and if she’s ready to stop then, so be it. I’m just paying close attention to her cues. Thank you for sharing!

    Celia
  15. Thanks for the great read! I approached breastfeeding with my firstborn the same way. It was something I was passionate about, yet approached with an open mind. My initial goal was six months, until a friend casually stated one day “why not go for a year.” Everything was going so well and my daughter nursed like a champ from day one. At the one year mark she did not show any signs of weaning and I was fine to let her take the reigns. She nursed a little past the age of two when her new little brother took over. She handled weaning very well and even tries to help him latch on when he is fussy . I only encouraged weaning, because although she was sleeping through the night, she refused to sleep without nursing for comfort. Bedtime became very taxing with the demands of a newborn, but amazingly she was a trooper. We talked about it with her openly and I think this helped ease the transition. My little guy is now two months old and this time around I do not have any goals in mind. I am following his lead and enjoying these fleeting moments. Best wishes to all along your journey.

    Cheers!

    C_Matt
  16. This is an amazing read! Completely true! You’re amazing and you will know what you want to do!! So far I’ve made it 15 months and while he is a pro at now he takes me shirt off whenever he wants public or not

    Haley you are amazing! Thank you for sharing this story! I couldn’t have said it better myself

    Kassie
  17. My baby boy is almost 9 months now and what you’ve written here is largely what I’ve been feeling lately. Cheers to letting go of control and keeping things open ended.

    Erin Kersse
  18. Thank you for sharing. .funny I feel the exact same way. .son turns one next week and everyone always asks when will I stop…never put too much thought or expectations on myself with breastfeeding. .I have enough pressure from live and work…I try to take it day by day cause you’re right it goes fast. .I live in az too!

    tanya
  19. I am a believer in letting baby (or babies, in my case) decide. I have 14 month old twins and they happily nurse away whenever they can. It is truly beautiful. And absolutely exhausting. But to see them hold hands, nurse, and look up at me with a contented smile at the corner of their mouths, I could never tell them that there is a specific time line they must adhere to. But I have also let self care go out the window for sure. Ah motherhood, great teacher of all things we never thought we could do. I support you in leaving yourself open to what feels right. Babies and timelines do not mix, in my opinion. Enjoy your nursing moments while they last!

    EB
  20. I was the same way! I ended up pumping a lot more towards the end of a year so that he still got milk, but less connection with the breast. I started with breast only first thing in the morning and if I was out and about. I eventually got him onto all bottles (as much as a pain as that sounds). It’s easier when they only do 3-4 milk feedings a day. He’s one year now and does a bottle in the am and one right before bed. Turns out he’s allergic to cows milk, but I mix soy milk with my breastmilk bottles instead. I only have to pump once a day with this and he likes the sweet taste of the soy. Whatever you choose to do, good luck!

    Taylor campbell
  21. This made me a little teary 🙂 I feel like I’ve gone through all those stages as well. My baby is only 6 months and as much as I want my body back and to sleep all night….I mostly want her happy and healthy…whatever that takes. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Ashley
  22. I feel the same way!!! 10 month old boy is loving it especially for nap and bedtime and when having a fussy fit.. But I am ready to wean soon although its emotional. But I want to try to reduce a feeding every two weeks to get my body back, try to lose 15lbs I gained and get my periods back so I can have another baby. I am 38 and worried about the ticking clock as it can take up to 8 months to get fertility back post breastfeeding. I am hoping I can do this next mom challenge & to wean him by max 18 months if it proves slow progress. I love nursing of course, but I am wanting to get him onto cow’s milk and be able to leave him at Grandmas for a night once in a while…hopefully a cup of milk and lots of cuddles before sleep will work out… Would like to hear more from others who have done it this way?

    Isy
  23. Thank you! I’m at 10 months now and have felt the same way. I was hoping for 18 months but will hopefully be able to just let nature take its course over the next few months!

    Jenn
  24. That’s awesome that you could make it that long! I never planned on breastfeeding but it’s what ended up being best and needed for her so I did for 6 months till she was on a good amount of solids along with her formula and felt comfortable stopping… I read a few of these comments and to thoes who still breast feed a 7 year old and wonder why ppl roll their eyes or feel uncomfortable is baffling to me! At some point or age it has to be detrimental to a kid in the way that they should be learning about bodies and being curious about them and shouldn’t want or need that at all anymore! Think about it from another point of view and know if a kid can tell you to give them the boob your prop going too long with it… That’s a sign!!

    Whit
  25. I’m in the same boat. My son is 15 months and still nurses for naps, bedtime, and if he needs some comfort in between. I’m letting him have control on this. Hoping he is ready to wean soon, but if not, that’s ok. Great read!

    Laura Chernushkin
  26. @Kaya I think she means overall independent from mom at night my husband gets my son at night also but it seems like if I don’t comfort him he won’t go back to sleep, definitely don’t think I could ever go a whole night without me(waking up)

    Ariel Soliz
  27. Great article! Thanks for sharing. I’m currently pregnant and I have little knowledge of breastfeeding. I’m planning of 100% breastfeeding when my baby arrives and I hope that I will be able to have the opportunity to do so. One of my worries is that I won’t be able to produce milk or my baby won’t latch and since this is my first child I have no idea what to expect. It’s encouraging to know that other women out there have the same worries about breastfeeding as I do. Thanks again for this encouraging article and shinning more understanding about breastfeeding.

    MS
  28. The World Health Organization actually recommends breastfeeding until two, which needs to be more publicized. I wish women knew that those who CAN breastfeed greatly outnumber those who cannot. Women fear not being able to breastfeed and that is only a small percentage. Not to say it doesn’t take hard work and patience above all else. Not to mention the great resources out there to help those who are having difficulty.
    Best of luck, and keep on trooping.

    Thesthart
  29. This is me. Same. My little girl will be 1 year in November. I’m looking forward to getting some independence back but I will be so sad to give up those special breastfeeding moments and are so sweet.

    Jennifer Sloat

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