One Year of Breastfeeding…and Beyond

by Lara on July 29, 2013

One Year of Breastfeeding...and Beyond

I’ve written about breastfeeding a lot, it seems.  More than I ever thought I would write in a public space.

But as G’s first birthday approaches, I am surprised by the number of people who are…surprised…that he is still nursing.

I find this pretty, well, surprising.

We spent two weeks this month visiting family in California.  In those two weeks, no less than five people (two medical professionals while visiting a hospital, one stranger on the airplane, and two relatives) asked me if my son “needed a bottle” when he started to get fussy.  Each time, I politely replied that he nurses.  The responses ranged from, “Wow, good for you!” to “Really?  STILL?”

It seems silly to defend nursing a not-even-one-year-old, but many people (even people who are parents themselves) remain ignorant about normal human nutrition and guidelines outlined by little-known organizations such as, oh, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization.  It seems silly, but I’m going to do it.  And I’m going to do it with one simple sentence:  breastfeeding is normal.

You see, there’s this slogan floating around that “breast is best.”  I don’t like that slogan.  Does that surprise you?  I don’t like it because it implies that breastmilk is somehow superior.

You guys, breastmilk is not superior.  Formula manufacturers LOVE that campaign.  Do you know why?  Because it implies that formula is normal and breastfeeding is just extra credit.  The truth is:  Breastmilk is normal.  Formula saves lives, and it’s amazing that we can imitate human milk well enough to sustain life.  But that’s what it is: an imitation when the original food source is not available.

My objective here is not to fuel the breastmilk-formula war.  It is merely to make known that somehow we have become such a bottle-centric culture that breastfeeding an 11-month old infant now raises eyebrows, and I would like to call bullsh*t.

(Incidentally, I recently stumbled upon this post about feeding your child with love, and I think it is one that any mother will enjoy reading.)

A natural question that seems to stem from these conversations is, “How long do you plan to continue doing that?”

I don’t have an answer to that.  I was committed to breastfeeding for at least one year, and I will be very proud to reach that goal.  Beyond that, I hope the weaning process will be largely baby-led.  When it comes to basic needs, I believe that babies are highly intuitive little creatures who know what is best for themselves.  I also know that there are considerable benefits to extended breastfeeding, and I want G to receive these benefits for as long as he wants.

I hope I won’t encounter nastiness.  I hope I will have the strength to gracefully and confidently respond to questions and criticism.  But most of all, I hope the next year of breastfeeding will be as wonderfully rewarding as the first.

Further Reading

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacy K. July 29, 2013 at 12:52 pm

I hate the “breast is best” campaign, it puts so much pressure on women to breastfeed that when it doesn’t work you feel like a failure (at least I did for awhile!).

You are amazing (and lucky) to make it a year, and hopefully beyond. Breastfeeding is not easy and I think it just surprises some people that you are able to make it work for so long. Also, I think there’s a big part of nursing moms who pump and give their babies pumped breast milk while traveling and in public spaces so people just assume when a baby is given a bottle it’s formula.

Congratulations Mama & G, I know it hasn’t been an easy journey, but it is a very rewarding one!


Lara July 29, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Thanks Stacy. Yeah, I get the objective of “Breast is best,” but I’m not convinced it really does either camp (bf or ff) much of a service.

I hope you guys are well! You’re a great mama!


Sarah July 29, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Thanks for posting this! I’m a new mom (2.5 months) and I’m already getting asked how long I plan to breastfeed (“Only 3-6 months, right? Then you switch to formula”) like it’s some burden that I get to be free of in a certain time period. Breastfeeding was really challenging and stressful for us at first, but I have worked too hard and come too far to let other people’s opinions or misinformation bother me. Easier said than done though. I originally told my husband a year was my goal (which he supports) but it’s not like some magic cut off date. It could happen sooner or later than that, we just have to wait and see. It is weird though to get those sorts of questions, especially from strangers.


Lara July 29, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Congratulations, Sarah! It’s great that your husband supports you. I’m pretty sure breastfeeding is challenging and stressful (in varying degrees, for sure) for all first-time moms, but the beauty is that (at least in my experience) after a certain point, it is so much easier than the alternatives! Good for you!


glidingcalm July 29, 2013 at 1:20 pm

love you and this post.

im pretty sure my Mom breastfed both my bro and me foreeeever. I’m going to get back to you on the exact age, but I know it was a LONG LONG TIME.


Lara July 29, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Ha! That’s awesome, and it doesn’t surprise me in the least because your mom is awesome.


Lisa July 29, 2013 at 1:29 pm

You’re amazing, Lara.

More than anything it’s incredible to me how many people find the need to involve themselves in the lives and choices of other people. You (and all mamas) are doing what’s best for you and your family. Period. No explanation necessary!


Lara July 29, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Thank you so much, Lisa!


Kim July 29, 2013 at 2:15 pm

First of all, I just need to say that that pictures is gorgeous and breathtaking and amazing.

Next, I believe every individual child is different, as is every individual mother. As a society we generally need to learn to keep our crass opinions to ourselves and worry about our own familes, our own choices.
My mom couldn’t breastfeed, she didn’t produce enough milk (I think that probably has something to do with the fact that I was born three months early and her body wasn’t primed yet) and it was a huge point of sadness for her. Formula kept me alive–yay formula, but it was definitely an experience she felt like she missed out on and the Le Leche women at the hospital used to make her feel TERRIBLE that she couldn’t.

The point is, the main goal is healthy babies. How we get there is our own business.


Lara July 29, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Thanks Kim. Gosh, from reading your book and what you wrote here, your mom is basically a superhero. Sounds like the circumstance of your birth were so traumatic. It’s awful that she was made to feel that way by LLL, etc. That’s not what being pro-breastfeeding is about.

You’re definitely a testament to how good parenting is more important than what and how we feed our kids.


Kaycee July 29, 2013 at 2:39 pm

My little one just turned 1 last week. My goal was also to AT LEAST breastfeed until she was 1 year, which I did!

I get asked all of the time how long I plan to breastfeed. I also often hear, “Well I can see up until 2, but then it’s just gross.” and similar comments. It’s upsetting that so many people find the need to push their opinions into other people’s business about how they choose to feed their child and how long they choose to breastfeed. It shouldn’t concern anyone besides mother and child.

I have to disagree that the slogan “breast is best” implies that breast milk is extra credit. I also have to say that it is a fact that breast milk is superior… although the decision to choose either is equal in my opinion. The reason I say it is superior is because it is 100% made for human babies, while formula comes from milk made for calves. Like you stated, formula is a life saving alternative, and I think it is great that it exists. I know some may take offense to my last few sentences, and I don’t mean it to. I think overall it is important to respect a mother’s decision to feed her baby however she chooses, whether breast milk, formula, a mix, and for however long she chooses.


Lara July 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Thanks for your comment. I think you misunderstood my (perhaps poorly worded) reasoning about “breast is best.” When it comes to breastmilk vs formula, there is pretty much zero argument that breastmilk is nutritionally better. My critique is in the marketing of it: breastmilk has come to be seen as going above and beyond what a baby needs instead of what is naturally intended and made for baby. It makes formula seem like a “good enough” alternative when, I believe, it should only be a last resort.


Anonymus March 8, 2014 at 10:02 am

Is this some kind of thing to make mothers that have trouble breastfeeding feel better? Lol seriously such knowledge..
Im sorry you feel like theres zero argument towards the differences of breastmilk and formula. You should educate yourself better. Theres nothing wrong with formula, i agree with that. However, breastmilk is more benificial under so many circumstances. It helps babies fight infections, it reduces risk of allergies, diabetes, and obesity. It also is better for the babies digestive system than formula. Babies have less difficulty digesting when breastfed. Breastmilk NATURALLY contains vitamins that an infant needs to grow and develope.not too mention the benifits for the mother of course.. Brestfeeding helps mothers lose weight and be healthier ad it helps them save alot of moneynotbonly from not buting formula but less doctor visits cause if course babies whom are breastfed do t et sick a often as one that drink formula..


Lara March 8, 2014 at 10:29 am

Hi Sarah, wow, I think you really misunderstood the message of this post. Did you read it in its entirety? The reason why I don’t like the slogan “breast is best,” is because it normalizes formula, which, to me, should only be a last-resort alternative. You don’t need to explain the benefits of breastfeeding to me.


Jen@HealthyFoodandFamily July 30, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Out of my 3 children, the only one who was breastfed was the youngest and my plan was to breastfeed him for one year and then go from there. He self-weaned at 14 months, it was tough, but worth every minute.


Lara July 30, 2013 at 7:05 pm

That’s great! Gosh, I think of G as nursing for another year but I guess he could very well self wean in the next few months…


Kellie July 30, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Great post! (and although i’m old LOL, I shared on my FB page… i know a few pregnant people 🙂


Lara July 30, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Thanks Kellie! I always appreciate your support 🙂


emma August 2, 2013 at 12:08 pm

As my daughter gets older I get the same comments. The “really?!”, the surprise and many compliments too. I am happy people are happy for us but I wish it were just “normal” to breast feed your child. I don’t need praise, for me, breast feeding what is the usual. It never occurred to me before I had a child that formula was “normal” and that what I wanted to do was something not all did. I don’t need praise and I do love the support for sure. I guess I wish that as a culture breast feeding was normal and assumed.
I write about breast feeding more than I ever thought as well, it is such a big part of what I do (it is less now that she’s bigger but still, it takes time!) and for us the bonding has been really great.
As CBJ gets older I realize more and more she will wean one day and I want to continue breast feeding as long as she wants. Makes me sad to think your time will come to an end. :/
I hope your breast feeding journey continues for quite some time. 🙂


Lara March 8, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I’m late responding to this comment but wanted to say thanks for sharing 🙂


Aline August 9, 2013 at 6:13 am

Congrats on your good nursing relationship and not getting intimidated by other people’s comments! Well, we made it to 28 months. Linnea more or less self-weaned about a week ago. I hadn’t really enjoyed it in a while, so I was kind of glad when she stopped (she didn’t ask for it at all for a few days and then when she asked for it, I said “You are a big girl now and don’t need the boobie anymore” and she was all proud) but now I am also really sad. She is a lot more cuddly though and instead of nursing for half an hour every morning, she now just cuddles.
After she turned a year old, I stopped talking to people who don’t breastfeed about still breastfeeding and I stopped nursing in public (except for a few times on a plane). I wish I could be like those strong women who don’t care what people think but I decided that my decision to keep on breastfeeding until Linnea self-weans was a private thing.


Lara March 8, 2014 at 1:06 pm

I think that’s great. I’ve cut down on how often we nurse in public now as well. If I’m not comfortable for whatever reason, I say no. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, and I actually think it’s a great way to teach respect and boundaries. I totally have moments/days when I want to be done with breastfeeding but know I will miss it like crazy when we are actually done. 28 months is fantastic–way to go!


Jayme McClure August 12, 2013 at 8:38 am

I’m right there with you. My little guy celebrated his first birthday on Saturday and we are still breastfeeding. I have come to find out that we are in the minority. My goal was one year and I’m proud that we have reached that goal. I too get asked how much longer, but I can’t give a definite answer and then I get jokes about him being school age and nursing. It can be frustrating. Ultimately, this works for us really well and when something works in this parenting journey, I’m going to continue.


Lara August 12, 2013 at 11:47 am

Happy Birthday to your son! You should be proud. Good for you.


Katy March 8, 2014 at 7:53 am

I’ve never thought of “breast is best” like that, but I like the way you explained it. I’m an exclusive pumper and have encountered some of the same responses from others as you have. I personally admire moms that nurse for extended periods of time and wish my son would have taken better to nursing. You’re awesome! 🙂


Lara March 8, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Thanks Katy. Wow, I’m so impressed with exclusive pumpers. I can only imagine the dedication that takes. Good for you.


Kassia Buzanowski March 8, 2014 at 7:58 am

I just want to say thank you for writing this – I get asked on a daily basis about when I will be weaning my 14 month old. I get weird looks when people ask if I am still breastfeeding and i say we are still going strong. I have found courage in my self for the first time in my life to stand up against family and friends for something I believe in – breastfeeding. It has made me a strong woman and the bond with my son is awesome!! Keep up the good work – Kassia


Lara March 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Good for you! I definitely have moments of feeling judged or like I could use a little support with extended breastfeeding, but overall I am really happy and proud that we are still going strong. Thanks for your comment.


Sarah March 8, 2014 at 9:47 am

It was my goal to make it breastfeeding for a year when I was pregnant and reading all of the benefits. My daughter turned 2 last week and is still nursing. It is the easiest and best tool I have for all of life’s problems at least as far as a toddler is concerned. I have no idea how long we will continue, I never thought we’d make it this far. My mom told me in the beginning it takes some effort and then it will become way easier than a bottle. I’m so glad we made it through those rough days in the beginning, I’m thankful for the support of a wonderful community, as well as the support of my family. Many have changed their mind about what is “normal”. I support the right for moms to feed their babies in whatever way works best for them. Thanks for sharing


Lara March 8, 2014 at 1:01 pm

I can really relate to this comment 🙂


Theresa March 8, 2014 at 11:11 am

When I got pregnant I decided I wanted to breastfeed, I was under this misguided impression that when baby got to 6 months you just switched them to food and that was the end of milk. How wrong I was. My little girl arrived and she was a natural to feeding I on the other hand took a bit longer to catch on I couldn’t hold her to feed I was too caggy, so we had to feed lying down. She taught me how to feed sat up so going out was no longer a scary prospect. I went through the phase of formula being the work of the devil and as I have been lucky enough to not need formula I could stick with that idea. My little girl is 17months old now and still feeding, my understanding of all food sources has now balanced out and whilst I choose to stay away from formula I understand better there are a multitude of reasons why others don’t. Like you Lara in your blog I am now getting asked if I am ‘still’ feeding and when I plan to stop and I am hoping my girl will decide herself and we can both be happy in the knowledge of our breastfeeding journey. Yesterday a colleague likened it to sheep and basically suggested I should do the same as the ewe, when she decides her lamb no longer needs milk she pushes it away. I tried to explain how breastfeeding is so much more than just food it is about an emotional bond as well. I’m happy to feed as long as she wants me to


Lara March 8, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience! Yeah, the further along I get into this motherhood thing, the more I realize I really don’t have the time or energy to care what anyone else does with their kids. I care about public health and believe that women who want and are able to breastfeed have the support to do so. I wrote this post to remind everyone that nursing to and even past one year shouldn’t be judged any more than formula feeding should be.


Michelle March 8, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Congrats on hitting this milestone. You are lucky. One thing I have learned over the years is that it is none of anyones business how we choose to feed our babies. My daughter was formula fed for two reasons. 1. I had seizures and was taking some hard core medication. Three doctors all told me they would not breastfeed if they were in my shoes. 2. Even after trying to breastfeed my milk never came in.
My point is this: I do not care how you feed your baby and you should not care how I feed mine. You need to do what works for you and I do what works for me. I have a former friend that made rude comments about my lack of breastfeeding and needless to say I am no longer her friend. My formula fed 5 year old reads at a fifth grade level, is incredibly intelligent and rarely sick. I am tired of the moms out there that make us formula feeding moms feel guilty. To each their own.


Lara March 8, 2014 at 12:53 pm

Thanks. I agree with you. My point is just to say that there is certainly nothing to be ashamed of in nursing past a year, and that it’s actually something I’m proud of because it wasn’t always an easy road. I don’t think being proud or supportive of breastfeeding means that you judge someone who formula feeds. At least not to me. You certainly don’t need to explain or defend yourself and I’m sorry if reading this made you feel that way.


Candice March 19, 2014 at 1:22 pm

I was determined to make it to the one-year mark with my fourth and final child, who I ended up weaning at 2.5 years. I guess I thought we would shake hands and toss the nursing bra when she turned one, but she had no such intention! After 18 months, there was obvious discomfort when I nursed in public and I didn’t (and still don’t) get it. Fortunately I didn’t (and still don’t) give a flying leap! We MUST get this practice out in the open and normalized. Keep writing and talking about it – thank you!


Lara March 21, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Honestly, currently at 19 months, I sometimes get nervous when we do nurse in public. I know it’s silly and I shouldn’t care, so I do my best not to. Thanks for your comment.


Maggie [The Freckled Citizen] August 2, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Oh, I love this post. And… hi! I found your blog when googling BLW and dropping breastfeeding – my little gal is 8.5 months old and definitely starting to drop some feeds in favor of her chowhound sessions at the dinner table :-). At any rate, I’ve enjoyed reading your posts and find that we agree on quite a bit. Adding you to my Feedly now!


Lara August 2, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Thanks Maggie! I’ll be sure to check out your blog!


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