Monday, June 23, 2008

Why Keep Breastfeeding?

Posted by Mandy at 3:06 PM

Since the anniversary of my baby boy's birth, I've started getting the "are you still nursing" and "when are you going to wean him" questions. Often times it's from simply curious, nursing their babies still, mommies. Other times it's from people that are obviously thinking I'm some sort of pervert, sicko, weirdo, or over-protective-one-of-those-kinds, mom. Many do not understand why anyone would continue nursing past the nutritionally necessary one year mark. I'd be happy to shed some light on the topic.

First, to answer those controversial questions:

Are you still nursing? Yes

When are you going to wean him? I have no idea. I do believe in child led weaning, though I've never been in a position to nurse past 15 months since that is when Carter weaned himself. I can easily see us making it to two years. GASP I know... I told you I was a sicko. But, only time will tell.

Now, the more important question is, why continue nursing past a year?

When you breastfeed past your infant's first birthday, you are entering the time known as "extended breastfeeding." I'm guessing that's a term only used in America... I can't imagine how old a child would have to be in other countries for it to be considered so out of the ordinary that it needs a special title like extended.

One of the big reasons to continue nursing is purely emotional. Why take away what has been your baby's complete source of nutrition and comfort since the moment he or she was born? Just because a book says to? Because people look at you weird? (maybe they just look that way all of the time... they may not be directing that weird look at you at all...) One of my favorite quotes, from I can't remember where, is "the baby hasn't read the book.." This can be applied to labor and delivery, sleeping, eating, sitting up, crawling, walking.. anything! Breastfeeding is no different. Your one year old doesn't understand that there is some wacko societal reason that he can no longer breastfeed... and even if he could understand, I assure you he would not care. So, taking my cue from my new toddler, I am choosing to also not care.

The second reason to nurse past a year is medical. Breastmilk changes its makeup EVERYTIME you breastfeed your baby. It changes in water, calorie, and fat content depending upon what your baby needs each feeding of the day. As your baby grows and ages, your body sends different signals to the milk factory to change it more. No matter how old your baby or toddler is, your breastmilk is still being produced to be the most optimal source of nutrition.

It is probably not new news that breastmilk is packed full of antibodies. (especially colostrum - babies first milk that is produced in the days before actual milk production begins in new mothers. It typically takes 3-5 days for a new mother's milk to "come in.") These antibodies do not go away just because your baby turns into a toddler. Your 16 month old that contracts a stomach virus will benefit just as much from being a nursing tot as your 4 month old would. You can even prevent your toddler from catching those nasty virus's by continuing to offer mamma's milk to them.

A nursing mother will actually reap more health benefits the longer she breastfeeds. Uterine, ovarian, and breast cancer risks can all be reduced simply by breastfeeding. The longer you do it, the more you cut your chances down. Many women can keep the "old hag" away as long as they breastfeed. No PMS? Isn't that a reason to keep nursing? Moms that breastfeed, especially to and after one year, also reap vanity rewards. All of that maternal fat you store up during pregnancy is stored for one purpose: making milk. The more milk you make, and the longer you make it, the more of an opportunity your body has to burn the stored fat to take the rolls off of your tummy and put them onto your baby's thighs. Combine this with a healthier eating plan and a bit of exercise.. and you can be one hot mamma! (it's definitely one of my diet secrets. Guess the cat's out of the bag.)

So, call me what you will... but with all of the benefits to mother and baby that extended breastfeeding has to offer... I just can't think of a single reason to stop!


The Brown's on Monday, 23 June, 2008 said...

Go for it! I only stopped for selfish reasons. I was tired of his teeth. Once there were 6 of them rubbing I decided that was enough and he was one and could now have milk. Both of mine did fine when I decided when to wean them. I think if it would have been a struggle I would have put it off a little while longer. I don't think mine would have ever told me no. But gradually taking a feeding away didn't seem to bother them.

Mandy on Monday, 23 June, 2008 said...

Gentle weaning is definitely possible. Good for you for doing it in a gentle way!

Brittany on Monday, 23 June, 2008 said...

I let Cayson wean himself and it was such an easy transition for both of us. I wish he had gone a little longer, he made it to 13.5 months.

Ana on Tuesday, 24 June, 2008 said...

AMEN Mandy! I bfed my first child until he was 3years 4 mos and did I ever get the "when will you quit". I so agree that every Mama needs to search her soul and respond according to what she feels is best for her child. I started to gently wean my first around 3 yrs. In other words I encouraged him to use the sippy cup in the day (he never used the bottle) and only nurse at night. Eventually, he made the decision to wean himself around 3.4. He was extremely happy, very healthy, and has never had any dependency issue despite what some critic claim happen to babies of extended bfeding and co-sleeping. Phooey on them! lol

I plan to do the same with our second baby as well.

Ana on Wednesday, 25 June, 2008 said...

I wanted to share about a post on my blog regarding the AMA's push to outlaw home births. Thought you might be interested.

Shelley on Wednesday, 25 June, 2008 said...

I believe in keeping people's 2 cents to themselves on issues like this, and I can imagine you are willing to tell people to stay outta your business if necessary!

I think it's kind of funny that I could get Sam to bottle feed in the nursery when no one else could, because my niece Kennedie only had ONE bottle in her entire life, and I gave it to her, haha. I got the bottle touch :)

He is obviously thriving, but yet still totally okay and not "overly" attached to you in some bad level because he let me and Blake love on him and rock him very easily, without any distress. Keep up the good mommy'n!

Isis on Thursday, 26 June, 2008 said...

Hi Mandy. Been reading in stealth on & off, LOL ! But now I must speak up & agree ! Hanna and I made it to 26 months before she called it quits and I never regretted it ! Keep it flowing...
Hugs to all of you from Belgium ! (Kim, aka missbelgium to you).

Mandy on Thursday, 26 June, 2008 said...

Hey Kim!! You should definitely come out of hiding more often! :) I had forgotten that you guys had nursed that long... glad to have someone else to talk to about EBF!

Jennifer on Thursday, 26 June, 2008 said...

I breastfed Kennedie until she was 14 months and she did wean herself and like shelley said, she had one bottle, one day for a few secs and it was shelley that gave it to her. Kennedie would NOT take a bottle, which made me so special(lol) But, I was 4 months pregnant with Kadie when Kennedie weaned and when I had Kadie I didn't have enough milk but for about 2 weeks (sniff sniff) I was very disappointed at first. I admit I didn't try with Stratton and I did try with Trenton, but again I ran out of milk in two weeks! I don't understand how that happens exactly because I did everything the same (so I think)! Gook luck to you and don't worry what people say. But I will say that a kindergartener probably don't need to be breastfeeding, but "professionals", not ignorant people, not ignorant people will tell you to do it as long as baby and mommy are comfortable with it!

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