5 Tips to Breastfeed Your Child Beyond their First Birthday

extended breastfeeding

extended breastfeedingBreastfeeding Wasn’t Easy at First

If you’ve visited Fresh Milk Mama before, you already know that breastfeeding was a struggle for me. Those challenges are what inspired me to start this site with the hope of helping other moms breastfeed successfully. If this is your first time here, you can read a bit about the breastfeeding challenges I faced.

I wanted to quit breastfeeding many times, and I’m still surprised sometimes that I managed to make it well beyond 12 months breastfeeding my son. Very early on, it was often my stubborn personality that kept me going another day when I wanted to quit. As my son and I developed a better breastfeeding relationship we still had our challenges, but a few key things beyond being stubborn really helped me keep going. Read on for my suggestions if you are struggling but want to continue breastfeeding.  

 

5 Things that Helped me Breastfeed my Son into Toddlerhood

1) Learning to Breastfeed Lying Down

After the first few weeks of night feedings I was very eager to figure out how to breastfeed lying down so I could get more rest. While it works very early on for some mamas, it wasn’t until my son was about 3 months old that I mastered this skill.

Once I could breastfeed lying down, it changed everything! Night wakings were much easier to handle because I didn’t wake up as much from being in a sitting position, so I got more sleep in total. We could also have restful breastfeeding sessions during the day. And, this alleviated the arm and shoulder cramps I would get from breastfeeding sitting up.

Ultimately, my doula had to show me in person how to breastfeed lying down. The best tip she gave me was to position my son so he was eye-level with my nipple. I had been positioning him much too high so he couldn’t latch. The other tip was that I could breastfeed him from both breasts without flipping over to my other side! She recommend feeding first from the breast that was on the bottom. Then lean forward slightly to offer the second breast! This was much easier than turning over and re-positioning my son.

If you are struggling to breastfeeding your child while laying down, see this page from the Australian Breastfeeding Association for guidance.

2) Learning to breastfeed in a carrier

This was another thing I was desperate to learn. I like to go for walks with my son for exercise, and I also mostly carry him when we go out since we don’t have a car. Again, some mamas master this somewhat early, but we couldn’t manage it until my son was over 6 months old. Once we could do it, though, it was another game changer. I was free to breastfeed on the go!

I think this was difficult for us for so long because my son had trouble latching and also I couldn’t seem to manage putting on a nipple shield and then getting him latched in the carrier. I have had the most success now feeding him in my ergo – I just loosen the straps a bit so his head is level with my breasts and he helps himself. When he was younger I would hold my breast in place for him to latch and support the side of his head while he was feeding.

how to breastfeed in ergo carrier
Breastfeeding in the Ergo Carrier

There are a lot of great tutorials out there about feeding in a carrier. Here is one that I like. Also, I generally feed my son in the ergo, but this works with a lot of carriers/ woven wraps/ ring slings, etc.

3) Joining Breastfeeding Support Groups (Online and In Person)

Outside of La Leche League, I had no idea breastfeeding groups existed. However, I found several really supportive group on Facebook as well as a local group of breastfeeding moms with a chat group. These were amazing resources – anytime I had a question I could be guaranteed an answer within minutes thanks to facebook and the chat group. Plus, monthly La Leche League meetings let me connect with other moms and realize I wasn’t the only one faced with breastfeeding challenges. It was hugely motivating to know other women struggled like I did and also to have access to so much helpful advice whenever I needed it.

If you are looking for a breastfeeding support group, you can search for your local La Leche League chapter as a start. Also check with your hospital as they may be associated with a support group. Facebook is another place to search for online support. You can also see my article about breastfeeding support resources.

breastfeeding support group

4) My own sense of stubbornness (didn’t want to ‘quit’) + cheapness (didn’t want to pay for formula)

Early on, I cried daily over the pain and unexpected difficulty of breastfeeding. My family was supportive but reminded breastfeeding was not something I had to do. To this day I’m not sure exactly what drove me so hard to stick with it. I am stubborn by nature but I clung to the idea that I could successfully breastfeed very fiercely.

A secondary thing was the cost of formula and bottles. While this was only a small piece of my decision making, I did keep wondering why I would pay for formula if I had perfectly good breastmilk available. I don’t have anything against formula and I did buy a canister when I thought I would supplement a bit to give my aching nipples a rest. I never did use the formula because I opted to express some milk and cup feed instead when I needed a break from direct feeding. That allowed my nipples to heal and helped my vasospasm pain reduce a bit.  

breastfeeding beyond one year
My Back-up Formula Canister

5) A supportive employer so I could pump at work

I returned to work full time when my son was three months old. He was exclusively breastfed so I had to pump enough milk each day for the feeds we missed while I was working. My employer was very supportive and I was able to spend as much time as I needed to pump each day.

Without their support I’m not sure if I would have had the will to fight to pump because I was exhausted between motherhood and working. I eventually developed a good routine and came to look forward to pumping each day. See my tips for pumping at work here. You can read about the best breast pumps for working moms here

If you are living in the USA, your employer must provide you with the time and a place to pump. I was living abroad but working for a company headquartered in the USA, so I was able to take advantage and pump in a private room. What worked for me was to bring my laptop with me so I could do work while pumping. This wasn’t necessary but it kept me from getting bored and also helped me leave work punctually each day. I also had a tendency to eat lunch while I pumped. This was a little lonely but it helped me make sure I finished my work each day because my priority was leaving work on time.

I’m grateful to be breastfeeding in toddlerhood

I’m so glad now that I’ve continued breastfeeding my son. For example, it has been an excellent comfort for him while he’s sick. And it’s reassuring to me to know he’s getting good nutrients from breastmilk when he won’t eat his meals. Plus, we travel a lot, and breastfeeding him on the plane is a great way to either keep him quiet or help him fall asleep.

extended breastfeeding
Breastfeeding my 17 month old on the train

I do still get frustrated some days and feel like it’s time to think about weaning, but my goal is to breastfeed him to natural term when he weans on his own.

How long have you been breastfeeding? Do you plan to go longer than a year or until natural term? Share your experiences in the comments below.

See my other tips on breastfeeding older babies:

toddler breastfeeding tips    breastfeeding and teething tips to prevent biting

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Why I Wanted to Quit Breastfeeding

quit breastfeeding

Never Quit Breastfeeding on a Bad Day

Before I started breastfeeding, I heard “never quit breastfeeding on a bad day”. I filed this advice away, not because I thought I would need it, but because I thought it was odd so it stuck out in my mind.

You see, pre-baby, my knowledge of breastfeeding was really limited. I’d only ever really seen breastfeeding in pictures. And of course, in those pictures the baby was snug at his mother’s breast as she looked down at him in peace.

I had a pretty harsh wake up call when my son was born and I started breastfeeding. I had so many misconceptions, the biggest of all being that it would be very easy! It turns out my vision of breastfeeding was really idealized. I didn’t grow up around breastfeeding women and not many of my friends breastfed, so I didn’t know any better.

quit breastfeeding

Breastfeeding isn’t Easy!

Breastfeeding is a learned skill for moms, and for many, it is not easy to learn. I struggled a lot with latch issues and pain. Beyond that, since my expectations were so out of line with breastfeeding reality, I also struggled with behaviors that are actually normal, like prolonged cluster feeding, difficulty with overactive letdown, or frequent night wakings. 

But Don’t be Discouraged….

I don’t want to discourage anyone from breastfeeding by writing this list – and I don’t want to be interpreted just as a complainer (but maybe that’s a fair assessment). My aim here is to share a real perspective on breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is on the rise and I hope it returns to being the norm so we can be better prepared to breastfeed our offspring. Had I understood breastfeeding and had realistic expectations, nursing my son up to this point would have been more pleasant and saved me a lot of tears. (If you haven’t begun breastfeeding, I recommend reading 5 Things I’d Wish I’d Known Before I Started Breastfeeding.)

Following is the list of my toughest times with breastfeeding. As I look at the list I realize each item sounds pretty inconsequential, but in the moment I was thisclose to giving up breastfeeding. I was struggling with pain and latch issues on top of the typical sleep-deprived-new-parent feeling so each of these difficulties merited a very teary call to my doula or a sob on my husband’s shoulder. I’m lucky I was surrounded by supportive people.  

quit breastfeeding

11 Reasons I Almost Quit Breastfeeding

  1. When it felt like he was feeding for hours on end, and he actually was
  2. When the pain was so bad I cried each and everytime time he latched on for a feed
  3. When two different lactation consultants told me our latch ‘looked good’ but the pain was still unbearable
  4. When I would wake up in the middle of the night so hungry I would eat an entire pizza (see my healthy snack alternatives)
  5. When I sweat uncontrollably and experienced hot flashes at the start of each feeding
  6. When we went through the phase where he’d claw at my breasts while feeding and actually draw blood
  7. When I pumped at 3am, got enough milk for a whole bottle, and then spilled it all on my bed
  8. When I was frustrated with pumping daily at work
  9. When he started teething and bit my nipple for the first time (and second, and third)
  10. When he continued to wake up several times per night to nurse after his 1st birthday 
  11. When I had to be sure I was wearing clothes that I could breastfeed in every time we went out together

I Have Continued to Breastfeed!

16 months into breastfeeding my son, I can say the benefits and positive moments certainly outweigh the challenges, but it wasn’t an easy journey. I am amazed at myself sometimes – I’ve gone from actively telling people how much I hate breastfeeding to actively telling them how much I love it.

I am proud of myself for sticking with breastfeeding. My own stubbornness was a big factor, as well as willingness to seek help and learn. But, I truly believe more education and information up front would have set me up for better success, and kept me away from the brink of quitting so many times.

natural term breastfeeding
Breastfeeding my Toddler

This is the main reason I created this website – to help share information on breastfeeding and offer support to anyone else who is struggling. There will always be challenges, but the more we talk about breastfeeding the more we can normalize it and ensure everyone is better informed.

Have you struggled with breastfeeding? What made you want to give up? Share in the comments below!

Just getting started with breastfeeding or working on it long term? These articles may help…

breastfeeding benefits breastfeeding positions breastfeeding support

extended breastfeeding manage breastfeeding pain 5 Things I Wish I'd Known About Breastfeeding

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11 Easy & Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms

snacks for breastfeeding

breastfeeding snacks

Breastfeeding Makes you Hungry!

I was so hungry after my son was born and I was getting started with breastfeeding. So hungry. Breastfeeding hunger made my pregnancy appetite feel like nothing. I became obsessed with breastfeeding snacks. 

Aside from huge meals, I snacked at regular intervals. I tried to be healthy with my snacking because I wanted to lose my baby weight quickly (and I did! Read about it here).

Of course, it was also important to be able to eat things one handed and quietly, so these breastfeeding snacks also fit this criteria. Here is a list of my favorite snacks to satisfy my ravenous appetite in the early days of breastfeeding. (Disclosure, this post contains affiliate links – all opinions are 100% my own)

11 Easy & Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms

    1. Trail Mix – possibilities are endless here. Make your own, buy a bag at Costco, etc. I kept a ziploc baggie full of trail mix in bed with me for the first couple of months because I would wake up so hungry in the middle of the night. One note – especially if you’re going to be eating trail mix in the middle of the night like me, try to choose one without chocolate since the caffeine and sugar might mess with your sleep.

    2. Cottage cheese with fruit – another great source of calcium along with protein. I don’t like cottage cheese that much but I was so hungry that it tasted delicious. Plus, you can dress it up with virtually any kind of fruit so it tastes even better and you get extra vitamins and fiber.
    3. Hard boiled eggs – maybe this isn’t for everyone, but I love hardboiled eggs and they were really easy for me to snack on if I peeled them ahead of time. I would boil them up a dozen at a time because they keep for a while in the fridge.
    4. Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches – easy to make ahead and for me these are somehow a total comfort food. It is easy to add variety with different types of bread and jam flavors, or you can experiment with different nut butters (almond butter is amazing).
    5. Lactation smoothies – I would mix one of these up after breakfast so I could sip on it during one of my son’s morning feeds. Check out my berry smoothie and green smoothie recipes for ideas. Do note the recipes contain galactagogues – foods that can help maintain or increase your milk supply.
      very berry lactation smoothie                 green lactation smoothie
    6. Yogurt – Calcium and probiotics. Lots of flavors for variety. It was easy for me to eat yogurt with one hand (ok, I occasionally dripped some on my son but he didn’t mind). Yogurt is also a good snack because you can add toppings (fruits, nuts, etc) for more options and also to make it more filling.
    7. Hummus with vegetables – I tried to avoid chips because they are salty and generally unhealthy. Plus the chip was really just a vehicle for me to eat more hummus. So I switched to dipping carrots and cucumbers in hummus and felt very satisfied. Chickpeas are packed with nutrients and protein… great for lactating women.
    8. Frozen grapes – super easy to prepare! My son was born in the summer so these were very refreshing to snack on. They also helped quenched that crazy breastfeeding thirst a little bit.
    9. Lactation cake – yes, it was hard to find time to make this in the postpartum haze. My very kind mother made me this for me, sliced it up, and froze each portion so I could pull out a piece to snack on whenever I needed it. Click below for the recipe.
      lactation cake recipe
    10. Bananas and peanut butter – this works with other nut butters, too! The sweetness of the banana tamed my sweet tooth a bit and helped boost my energy. You can also try peanut butter on an apple… might sound odd but it is SO delicious.
    11. Lactation cookies – ok, not the healthiest item on this list, but when I was struggling with breastfeeding there was nothing like a delicious cookie to lift my spirits. I ordered from a local baker because I was too stressed to make my own. You can also find lactation cookies online.

Have Fun Snacking!

I hope this list of breastfeeding snacks inspires you a little and helps you satisfy that crazy breastfeeding hunger. Your body needs a lot of extra calories each day so you can nourish your little one. Don’t be afraid to eat! 

Let me know your favorite snacks while breastfeeding in the comments below.

You might like these lactation recipes:

Lactation granola recipe Lactation Granola Bar recipe no bake lactation energy balls


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No Bake Lactation Energy Bites Recipe

lactation energy bites

No Bake Lactation Energy Bites

Wow. I have seen energy bites and energy balls around for ages now, but I had no idea that they really are THAT easy to make. I even dragged my feet trying recipes because I thought it would be difficult and messy and blah blah blah. I’m full of excuses these days, but that’s a story for another time.

no bake lactation energy balls

These bites are effective at boosting milk supply!

So, lactation energy bites. Let me tell you, these little buggers are effective.  One day I made a batch, sampled the batter as I was mixing, and then ate more than a couple of the completed bites. Big mistake!

I have been breastfeeding for 16 months and engorgement and leaky breasts are pretty much a thing of the past. But, I woke up totally engorged the next morning! Maybe it was a fluke and my son nursed less in the night than usual? I’m not sure, but I’m not going to eat a bunch of these again to find out! Take my advice and stick to the serving size of just 2 bites or so, unless you are really trying to build your breastmilk supply!

And the recipe is sooooo easy!

Back to the recipe and how easy it is. Whipping up these lactation energy bites is incredibly easy. You just need one bowl and a bit of time in the fridge at the end for them to set. My recipe below is for my favorite basic bite – of course, you can add in any extras that you want… chocolate chips, raisins, other dried fruit, chopped nuts, the possibilities are endless.

lactation energy bites

Two notes. First, this recipe is to make 12-14 one-inch size balls/ bites. You can very easily double the recipe if you want to make larger bites or just a larger quantity. Second, my recipe only calls for ¼ cup of honey. To me this sounds like it won’t make the bites sweet enough, but they definitely taste plenty sweet with just the ¼ cup.  (Disclosure: this recipe contains affiliate links) 

No Bake Lactation Energy Bites:

no bake lactation bite ingredientsIngredients:

½ cup rolled oats
½ cup almond butter
¼ cup honey
2 tbsp warm water
⅓ cup ground flaxseed
2 tsp Brewer’s Yeast
½ cup dried coconut

Method:

Mix everything up in a bowl, roll into balls, and coat in dried coconut!

A few tips, though. First, the almond butter was really hard – I mixed it with the 2 tablespoons of warm water to soften it, and then added the honey. Once I had these wet ingredients combined, I added the oats, flaxseed meal and Brewer’s Yeast. You can combine all the ingredients by hand, or use a food processor. The food processor will give you a smoother texture because it will chop up the oats. 

The batter was really sticky, so I coated my hands in a drop of coconut oil before I rolled it into balls. Roll each ball in the dried coconut and you’ll have your final product… lactation energy bites! It is best to refrigerate them for at least 30 minutes so they can set, but they are still delicious to eat immediately.

They can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks, and they also do well frozen.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Not sure where to get Brewer’s Yeast? You can order it on Amazon!

Liked this recipe? You might also like these lactation recipes:

Lactation Granola Bar recipe very berry lactation smoothie green lactation smoothie

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Exercise & Weight Loss While Breastfeeding

safe weight loss while breastfeeding

Getting Back to Pre-Pregnancy Weightbreastfeeding and weight loss diet

I was really eager to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight and size as soon as possible after my son was born. I think that breastfeeding ultimately made my weight loss easier because I was burning so many extra calories. In fact, I returned to my pre-preggo weight without following any diet or exercise program. (Beyond walking a lot, I didn’t exercise at all – read about it here).

The trouble with getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight was that the number on the scale might have been the same, but my body was not the same as pre-pregnancy. I wasn’t quite the same shape. I felt flabby and lethargic. So, I embarked on an exercise and diet program (BBG) and learned a few things about exercising while breastfeeding along the way.

Weight Loss While Breastfeeding

Before you read on I’d like to remind you I am not a healthcare professional – these are personal tips from my own experience and I strongly advise professional advice if you have any questions or concerns when trying to lose weight postpartum. 

safe breastfeeding weight loss

My tips for exercise and weight loss while breastfeeding:

1)   It can be hard to do high impact activities when your breasts are full.

Some of my breastfeeding friends can go for a run without pumping or nursing first and not have a problem. I’m not particularly large-breasted, but I find it incredibly uncomfortable to do any high-impact cardio unless I have pumped or nursed immediately beforehand, even while wearing super-supportive exercise bras.

To avoid the full breast problem while exercising, I would often nurse my son before naps and then workout while he was sleeping.  I also wound up storing a manual pump in my gym bag to make sure I could be comfortable for high impact workouts.

Whether you empty your breasts before a workout or not, remember to make sure you have a well-fitting and very supportive bra. This is important not only for comfort but also to avoid issues like clogged ducts due to pressure from bra that doesn’t fit properly.  Click the image below to browse high impact sports bras. (Affiliate link)

2)   Very intense workouts may temporarily impact your milk supply.

This is a scary one! I did a really intense high intensity interval training session and then tried to nurse my son about 20 minutes later. Although it had been about 3 hours since he last nursed, I couldn’t seem to produce any milk! I had not fully cooled down and I was maybe a little dehydrated, so I attribute the temporary lack of milk to the combination of a really intense workout and not enough water. In the moment, it was really frightening because I had never had a supply problem before.

I have since heard anecdotally from other moms that they have had this same problem, but a bit of research online didn’t yield much information. After fully cooling down and ensuring I was very well hydrated, my milk did return. Since then I haven’t tried nursing immediately after an HIIT session but I also do shorter sessions because of the lingering fear of impacting my milk supply.  

safe weight loss while breastfeeding

3) You will be really hungry – and you need to eat enough!

The hunger I felt post-workout was like no hunger I’d experienced before! A 30 minute cardio session left me starving. This is pretty normal – my body was burning extra calories to produce milk. The important thing is to eat enough to make sure your body can still produce milk while you stay healthy.

On days I didn’t eat enough I would feel exhausted. No amount of coffee could get me going, and regardless of how healthy the food I ate was, if I didn’t consume enough calories I really dragged all day long. Restricting calories too much while breastfeeding is not healthy – I felt like crap and my milk supply suffered for it.

Read my suggestions on healthy snacks for breastfeeding moms and check out delicious, natural, whole-food treats like Go-Chews Whole Food Energy Snack. They are delicious and healthy for anyone, but formulated with breastfeeding moms in mind. (Affiliate link)

4)   You will be really thirsty – stay hydrated to maintain your milk supply.

Every breastfeeding mom knows how thirsty she gets without exercising at all. Add in a little sweat and you feel like you can drink a river! Staying hydrated becomes even more important if you are an exercising and breastfeeding mom so you can produce sufficient milk.

Do remember, though, that the advice on hydration is to drink to thirst. You don’t need to drink excessive amounts if you don’t feel thirsty. I fell into this trap early on and I was running to the bathroom more than once an hour. As long as you drink to thirst your supply will be fine. Based on what I pumped, over-hydrating did not translate to more breast milk.

If you are trying to lose weight, I strongly recommend avoiding high calorie drinks and focus on water as your main source of hydration. If plain water is boring, add a twist of lemon, or make up a pitcher and soak some cucumber, or mint leaves, or lemon, or anything you like to make drinking water more enjoyable so you aren’t drinking empty calories from soda, juice, or sports drinks.

And remember…

You gained weight slowly over the course of your pregnancy and the weight loss will also happen slowly. Crash dieting isn’t healthy while breastfeeding – you are sustaining a tiny human with your breastmilk and you want to maintain adequate supply!  

Looking for healthy, lactation-boosting snacks? Check out my some of my lactation recipes!

green lactation smoothie lactation granola bars recipe very berry lactation smoothie no bake lactation energy balls

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