Welcome to Part Two of the breastfeeding discussion...EXTENDED Breastfeeding. If you read the first part (the post before this), you know the drill. Be nice. No debating/bashing. No rights or wrongs. This is just about sharing what we do/think/feel/etc.
When I had my first son ten years ago, I was 19 years old and just went along with the mainstream parenting methods. I thought it was great to nurse until the first birthday if you could, but I (like most that I knew) thought that was enough and you should stop then. I never got to the year mark because my milk went away, so I don't know how I would have felt when that year was up. This time around, I am a very different mama. I expect to nurse Aiden until he is two years old or to let him self wean. Who knows - he may wean himself before then. I'm not so sure I would EXPECT that the way he nurses now, but it could happen. I haven't thought much about breastfeeding past that point. As one of my teachers long ago (as in elementary school) used to say...we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. At this point, I am not sure I would be comfortable nursing a child past the age of two, but I realize that could change. I am on an online group where a soon-to-be-mama started a conversation about extended breastfeeding, saying she didn't think she could nurse past one year because she didn't think she would be comfortable with it. Someone else had a great point...those babies don't get to be a year all the sudden. It's gradual. And when it's so gradual in that way, you don't think of your babies as being older...you still see them as babies. So, nursing a two month old and a year old baby aren't all that different when you get there one day at a time. And that is so true. I don't think about that kind of thing when I nurse Aiden now. Whose to say I will feel one way or another as that TWO year mark approaches.
So, why two years?? Why not stop at one? There are a number of reasons.
For one, why wean at a year? Who says that is the right age and why should we just buy into that? First of all, each baby is different and has different needs (same goes for the moms, I would think, too). There are benefits to baby (and mom) with nursing, and they don't suddenly STOP when that baby hits twelve months old.
One benefit from nursing is how the breastmilk works with brain growth. They say that breastfed babies grow to be slightly more intelligent than their non-breastfeed counterparts. Research is now showing that there is a time of brain growth in the second year of life and that these children could benefit even greater from being breastfed during this time.
Attachment. Is your child suddenly ready to stop nursing at the age of one? Maybe he/she is! But maybe not. In my case, I want Aiden to wean when HE is ready to stop nursing. If it is important to him to continue, I am comfortable with that. He won't nurse for the rest of his life or for that much longer, when you look at the big picture. For those of you that think babies that continue to nurse into their toddler years will turn out to be clingy, dependent children, research shows that these children turn out to be more independent and self-confident. These children feel safe and are more trusting and, therefore, feel safe being more independent.
Nutrition. There is more fat and energy content in breastmilk from a mother nursing more than a year than earlier on. Interesting. Here is some more info along those lines... 448 ml of breastmilk during 12-23 months contains:
- 29% of energy requirements
- 43% of protein requirements
- 36% of calcium requirements
- 75% of vitamin A requirements
- 76% of folate requirements
- 94% of vitamin B12 requirements
- 60% of vitamin C requirements
Did you know that the WHO recommends breastfeeding up to two years? Here is the statement from their website: Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.
There is some other great information at kellymom.com. Here is a section on breastfeeding - there is a heading for nursing past the first year and one on weaning, if you are interested.
Honestly, I only recently read some of this info. I've heard a lot of it for a while now, which made the decision to nurse past the first year an easy one for us. But I haven't done a ton of research on the topic and just recently discovered the kellymom website. I don't need a lot of research or stats to convince me to continue to nurse Aiden. It is what I feel comfortable doing as a mother. I want him to self-wean, if at all possible, because I feel that is what is best for HIM.
Someone (I don't know who it was because I wasn't told and I didn't ask) recently had a short conversation with someone else that I know... This someone was surprised to find out I was still nursing Aiden when he was about to turn a year old. Well, he's just nursing for comfort. I assure you, the child nurses for nourishment, for the milk. Yes, sometimes it is for comfort, but the majority of the time, the child is hungry. Well, she's just nursing him to sleep. No. I don't nurse him to sleep. Sure, he nurses before naptimes and bedtime, but AFTER nursing, he gets a story and other parts of his routine before going to sleep. And even if he is nursing to calm down and prepare for sleep, what's wrong with that? Other questions were about baby food and him eating other things. Trust me, the boy can eat. But if he wants milk, nothing can substitute, as far as he is concerned. He will tell me (by signing) when he wants milk...and he wants it right then, too, whether it's naptime, whether he just ate lunch, or regardless of where we are. He wants MILK. And I can tell he is getting plenty of it. I still let-down (and I have a very active let-down) every time he nurses. If he misses a feeding, I can tell, if you know what I mean.
Now, I don't feel the need to become defensive with my discussion. I don't feel defensive about this person asking questions, even though they were clearly trying to say that Aiden did not need to nurse at this point. I said in the last post, though, that I had not yet experienced the dirty looks or comments about nursing or nursing in public. I know that might change once Aiden is clearly older than a year old. I know more people have an issue with nursing a toddler than nursing a baby. So, I'm trying to prepare myself for this. I would love to hear how some of you have dealt with this, are planning on dealing with this. How did you handle or do you plan on handling it? What about those of you that think it's unnecessary? Why do you disagree with it?
Ok, it's late, and I'm off to bed (sorry if this post seems scattered - I'm exhausted!). After I eat some cake that my mother-in-law brought us (she came today to visit for the week). Then I'll nurse Aiden and bring him to bed with us, once he wakes in an hour or so. :) And yes, we'll continue to co-sleep and nurse at night, too. But we're working on not nursing to sleep at those times (per the No Cry Sleep Solution methods...seem to be helping so far!).
Share what you want! Just remember the rules. :) Comment on blogger, be nice, no debating. Thanks!!