BREASTFEEDING! Eww! Look away!
Why is this the attitude that North American society has towards nursing? What is so wrong about something so natural?
I have been putting a lot of thought lately into the breastfeeding relationship I have with Avery. Will I wean, or will I allow her to self wean? Will I introduce a sippy cup and hope she will actually drink (rather than play), or should I start with a bottle? How will I get her to sleep if I wean her? Will she get sick if she doesn’t have the added immunity she gets from breastfeeding? Will I ever be able to get pregnant with our second if I don’t wean her?
At times I find nursing her incredibly draining. She is a “high needs” baby in the feeding aspect, in that since 7 weeks into her life she has refused any form of liquid nourishment that was not strait from the tap. She is a bobbie monster! She nurses to sleep for every single nap, bedtime, and night
waking. She nurses quickly, but frequently through the day. She is so comfortable at the breast. She lays there, hands splayed out, lazily kicking her leg or patting her head. She reaches for my hair, pulls on my necklace and my shirt, her hands find my tummy, fists open and close as she squeezes and pulls. I remind myself I need to trim her nails. And I try to bank as much of these moments as I can into my memory bank, because I know soon enough they will fade away into the background as she starts to walk, run, drive.
Before I became a mother, I am guilty of being someone who thought nursing a toddler was gross. That was before, however, I knew just how much it means to a baby who has been nursed since birth, and before I knew the enormous health benefits of extended breastfeeding.
Sometimes it makes me sad to think about why I feel unsure about how long I will breastfeed for. It is because I am worried about what other people will think. But then I remind myself- nursing past 1 is actually very common (and oh so beneficial)- much more than people may realize. It’s not as if
these children only nurse- often it is only at night and sometimes nap times. They eat, run, play just like other children through the day. Nearly any baby who is allowed to self wean will cut out these night time and sleep time feedings for good by the age of 2 or 3, often without any intervention from the mother.
So, I went looking to find out what certain organizations say about breastfeeding. Here is what I found.
The World Health Organization says:
"Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to six months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond."
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:
"Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child....Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother....There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychological or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer." (AAP 2005)
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians:
"Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child and should continue as long a mutually desired….If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned." (AAFP 2001)
So there we go. Right there in front of us, major players in the world of healthcare advocate full term breastfeeding. (notice I didn’t use the term extended?)
I also found a really interesting article on breastfeeding.com that had this to say.
All the health benefits of breastfeeding continue after baby's first birthday, including offering fabulous nutritional content and improved resistance to infections. Children who are still breastfeeding and attend daycare are known to have fewer and less severe infections than
Some parents worry that extending breastfeeding could hamper baby's independence, but breastfed toddlers prove the opposite. Children who wean on their own time often seem to gain confidence by taking this step themselves. (And children who are weaned before they’re developmentally ready can sometimes become extra-clingy.)
Breastfeeding can also be a sort of secret weapon for the mom of a toddler; nothing soothes a
sick, scared, hurt, or upset child (or their mom) better than nursing. Plus, mom and baby get to continue to enjoy the intimacy of their breastfeeding relationship. As Dr. Jack Newman says in his article, Breastfeeding a Toddler -- Why on Earth?,
Even though I know all of the benefits, I still find it hard to decide which way I will go. Part of me wants my body back. But I know that as she starts eating more and more solid foods and nursing more as a supplement rather than primarily, I should feel the strain less. Again, much of me worries
what others will think. Not that they really need to know I suppose. At the end of the day I need to do what I feel is best for me and my child. One day, one month, at a time. What will that be? I don’t even know for sure. Like everything else with being a parent so far, I will figure it out as I go along.