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I Never Knew This Breastfeeding Milestone Would Mean So Much

Photograph by Twenty20

Every day I nurse my baby is a blessing.

It’s one more day of a custom-made meal, one more day of amazing antibodies. Not to mention the snuggles—those are priceless. The middle of the night wake-ups are not so priceless, but still kind of special.

With my first baby, I charted breastfeeding goals. I hoped and prayed to make it through those first few days when my milk came in (brutal!) ... and then a month ... and then six weeks. We fell into a rhythm after that, and I bumped up my goals, month by month. We overcame my transition back to work when she was four months old and weathered oversupply, plugged ducts and one close call with mastitis. She grew in size and I grew in patience as I fulfilled my nonstop, all hours of the day milk-making role.

And then a year came. One whole year of nursing—365 days. So. Many. Nights.

With my first, and now with my fourth, that one-year mark means so very much. A whole year of nourishment. A whole year of my body continuing to work around the clock for their well-being.

I’ve always thought that pregnancy is simpler in the fact that my body automatically takes care of my baby. It’s after they’re born that the real work begins. Once they’re out of my tummy and in my arms, I have to play a much more active role in their warmth, nourishment and care.

It's no easy task, especially when life is so demanding. Sitting to nurse. Sitting to pump. Eating to maintain a good supply. Drinking water. Taking supplements. It all takes time and thought. Breastfeeding is always on my mind. It has to be. My body is on a clock, and my baby expects the connection and a full belly of mama milk. Breastfeeding is the one parenting task I cannot hand off. I cannot take a break.

And it's that moment, when they grow into the next stage, that feels so meaningful to me—more than the first weeks, more than their actual birthday.

When it comes to breastfeeding, it's true that every day matters, but there is something about the one-year mark. At a year, little ones transitions from baby to toddler overnight. And it's that moment, when they grow into the next stage, that feels so meaningful to me—more than the first weeks, more than their actual birthday.

Nursing a baby is one thing. They fall asleep feeding and rest their soft cheeks on your breast like a pillow. They ferociously guzzle when your milk lets down, and about the time they learn to crawl, they attempt nursing acrobatics. When they transition to toddlerhood though, that's a whole new ball game. It’s no wonder there are books written specifically for nursing toddlers.

At a year, little ones are talking. They’re nursing less for their main source of nutrition and more for comfort. The acrobatics are at an all-time high and the composition of Mom’s milk is adjusting to fulfill toddler needs. It’s truly an amazing milestone, to transition from breastfeeding mom of a baby to breastfeeding mom of a toddler.

So, to all you mamas who are breastfeeding in the second year of your baby’s life, cheers to you! This milestone means so much for you and your not-so-baby baby. More than ever, your intuition will lead you to care for your little one as only you can. Maybe you’ll nurse for another week, maybe another month or maybe another year … or two! Just like that first year, take it day by day. There is no right or wrong answer. Embrace the new kind of communication you have with your child. Be grateful for this new season—there is truly nothing like it. And, most of all, nurse on, for as long as you determine is right for you and your child.

You’ve got this.

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