If you are breastfeeding for the first time or even if you are a seasoned pro, there are some stages you will go through with your nursling. Of course, not everyone will experience it the same way, but after breastfeeding two babies/toddlers I have an idea what to expect.
You have a brand new baby and no idea what you are doing. If this is your first time breastfeeding this is especially true. You may have nurses or lactation consultants grabbing and touching your breasts, you will be nursing around the clock, at the same time you are dealing with postpartum blues and hormone changes. It can be difficult in those early days when breastfeeding is new and we are adjusting to taking care of a baby. Even when it's not your first baby, we quickly forget what those newborn days are like until we do it again. It can be a shock to the system even the second or third time around.
After the first couple of weeks breastfeeding a newborn we may start to feel like we know what we are doing. Ha! Maybe your baby is starting to nurse predictably and you are getting a few hours of sleep here or there. Then all of a sudden there is a growth spurt and your baby wants to cluster feed for hours in the evening or any time of day actually. Some women get concerned that their baby is not getting enough milk, or think that they should supplement. No! It's a growth spurt and it's normal. In fact there will be quite a few of these in the coming months.
This is going well, things are getting easier
By about 6-8 weeks breastfeeding does get more predictable and hopefully a little easier. Maybe you are starting to feel like you know what you are doing and feel good about it.
You are enjoying the last stage when bam your baby starts waking every hour on the hour and nursing is the only way to get your baby back to sleep. Maybe you were enjoying nice 5-6 hour stretches of sleep at night and telling everyone that your baby sleeps through the night..oops. Well this stage is pretty normal too. Many babies have sleep regressions. Usually the first major one seems to appear around 3-4 months. Of course all babies are different, but in general try to roll with it and use the tools you have to get your baby and yourself some sleep (including nursing).
This is going well again, but will my baby ever nurse less, eat more food or sleep more?
By now your baby is about 6-9 months and you have nursing down. Your baby can nurse quickly and you are confident about it. But every so often you worry, am I nursing my baby too much during the night? Should I be nursing my baby to sleep? Will he ever eat more solids and not want so much breastmilk? Don't worry and follow your instincts, it will come with time and continue to get easier.
Calm and easy
Your baby eats, your baby nurses and your baby sleeps pretty well. This is great and now you are receiving the payoff for sticking with breastfeeding. It's enjoyable for mom and baby.
Baby can ask for "it" and some believe you are weird for nursing a toddler
I am in this stage right now. My son is 22 months old and demands "boobies" a few times a day. I don't mind 99% of the time, but it can feel annoying and demanding when I don't feel like dropping what I am doing to nurse my toddler.
Do I care what other people think though? Nope, and neither should you if you are in this stage. All kids wean when they are ready despite the looks or comments you may get. Luckily nursing is easy and quick now and for the most part still enjoyable.
I have been through weaning once. You may be ready to wean, you may know the time is right and it's the best for you both moving forward. But, it still can be sad. It is the closing of a chapter. The end of a special moment in your relationship. Or maybe you are not ready at all and it's especially sad or hard. No matter how you feel about weaning the emotions you experience may take you by surprise. I try to remember that even if I'm not ready for weaning I will always have my memories of my time breastfeeding.