My personal goal with my first was 1 year. She self weaned at 18months old.
With my son i didn't set a goal, but i assumed he'd self wean around when my daughter did... he didn't self wean a few months after turning 4years old.
I nursed mine until she was almost four years. It definitely was not a plan that I would nurse her so long, it just kind of happened and seemed like we both(!) needed it. She was an incredibly busy, active, and independent toddler, so nursing was often our only time to connect quietly. She would look at me, smile while nursing, and stroke my hair while I sang to her. It was such a sweet time, and I really miss nursing a toddler/young child. I was surprised how much I missed it when she weaned.
I recommend reading "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding" and seeking out your local chapter of La Leche League. It's a great place to meet breastfeeding moms who can support you and help you. And how amazing that your husband is so encouraging!
It's so great that you're asking for feedback on this - there's been a lot of great feedback it looks.
In my situation, I had to wean DD1 at 1 year because we were doing IVF and they wouldn't allow me to start working on DD2 until I'd been weaned for at least 3 months. After birth I got the "failure to thrive" feedback from Ped, so I had to pump lots and use bottles then. I went back to work at 3 mos, so all during her pg I had to pump to keep my supply up and to create some back stock. Also, since I knew we had to wean her, and I wanted her to have milk for as long as possible, I pumped around 600 oz for her stash for when she was weaned. It was a lot of pumping. I was glad for every bit of it. She never had an ear infection, about 6 colds so far (even being in preschool for a couple of years) and she's 4 yo.
With DD2 I was SOOOO looking forward to having a more "normal" nursing experience. I want to nurse her for as long as she wants to nurse. She's 19 mos now, and nurses about 3x/day. It's mostly about the morning and evening sessions, but she'll ask once or sometimes twice during the day to nurse as well. She's not night nursed since she was 6 mos., so it's only been throughout the day. I encourage these daytime sessions because I've always had issues with production (not a common problem) and if I give that up I'll dry up real fast. It's been so much more convenient to nurse when she's hungry/thirsty and I've nearly put the pump away. Of course, like the other posters mention, there's no substitute for nursing when she's scared, bruised, etc. It's also been interesting with DD2 - she started getting very non-interested around 14-15 mos. but I kept her at the breast for these 3 sessions and lately she's liking to nurse a bit more now. So I think it was more of a phase (which is common) than true non-interest. In fact, she's never been interested in giving up her morning sessions but mainly her daytime nursing. But my philosophy is, if she "needs milk" for nutrition, whether it's at 1 year or 3 years, then her milk should be mommy's milk.
Both daughters have been good solids eaters, starting at 6 mos and they both eat a varied diet. By one year they were eating more than "drinking". So I've not needed to worry about the milk being their primary food source, but I have approached it that mommy's milk is the appropriate milk to provide and that other sources are substitues (if necessary, then so be it).
I have to say, with the 2 experiences, nursing has been so pleasant. Have there been times when I'd rather be doing something else other than nursing? Of course! But I wouldn't trade the closeness for the world. I'll always remember both of my daughters' "kitten paws", when they'd kneed me with their hands while they were nursing. Completely adorable. And I would sing or read to them while nursing, and I love watching them enjoy the stories, turn pages, even comment on the pictures while nursing. I also taught my daughters sign language from an early age, so they were "speaking" from early on. Sign language is great because even while they're nursing, they can still talk to me.
I have to say I'm prejudiced on the subject (can't you tell? :-> ), but there are so many pros for nursing and how many pros are there for a formula substitute?
At least 1 year at the VERY minimum!! I hope so much that I can do it til 2 or longer this time tho, I had to wean DD at 16.5 months. BFing is so amazing for the mother and child, their bond, and all the health benefits to BOTH of you(both in the short and long run!)! Here is a quick article that I think you will find interesting http://www.healthychild.com/child-nutrition/should-your-child-drink-milk/
And OP, you have NOTHING to be afraid of! BFing is a completely natural, normal thing, and is what your body was made to do! The breastmilk is also what your babies body was MADE to live off of. BFing is also much easier and more convenient than bottle feeding. All you have to do when baby wakes up at night is whip out the boob and you can both fall peacefully back to sleep together, rather than getting up with your baby crying, preparing the bottle, warming it, feeding it to baby, rinsing it or putting it back in fridge. The formula fed baby often has issues with gas and BMs so they are often much fussier in general. And I think it is awesome that your DH supports long term BFing!! Most women have the opposite problem where they want to BF the child as they get older, but their DH is embarassed by it or does not like it for one reason or another, so you should feel very fortunate. It is heartbreaking for those women who have to go through that with their DH.
I have not read this book, but I have heard that Ina Mays Guide to Breastfeeding is a good one to read. I have read her Guide to Childbirth which I HIGHLY recommend, it is what I always wish I would have read when I was pregnant with my first, it has given me SOOO much confidance this time around!
Not to mention the chemicals and hormones found in both the formula, the can that the formula comes in, and the plastic bottle that you feed the baby out of.....
My lil guy finished self weaning around 18-19mo. The only feedings I conciously weaned him from was like, the 4am one around 10-12 months,, which he didn't need nutritionally, and I was starting a new job in a couple months, so I wanted more sleep. From there, he was eating table food and having a cup so a couple months later I stopped pumping at work, and just breastfeeding on days when I was home and after work and at night. I'm sure my supply dropped, but he was getting more active and demanding less too.
6 months is a good goal to have, and then from there, make another goal. If you quit before 1 year, you will definately have to supplement with something. From a year on, you could get by with other regular milks if they are eating a diverse diet of solids, but a toddler formula might still be beneficial.
I have found raw goats milk(pasture fed) to be very beneficial and would certainly recommend it over toddler formula. I have a friend who mixes in some cod liver oil, vitamin A oil, and molasses to her DDs goats milk. I have also heard of 6 month old babies who can no longer breastfeed and who did horribly on formula being given raw goats milk by naturopath's recommendation and thriving. I think that baby had a few mix ins as well but not sure what.