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Monday, August 3, 2009

The Great Thing About Parenting...BREASTFEEDING Part TWO - Extended Breastfeeding

As Aiden nears his first year mark (THIS Thursday!!), I know one issue at the forefront (for some other people) will be...when are you going to wean him??

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
Less illness and fewer allergies for nursing toddlers. The immune factors in breastmilk increase in concentration during the second year and also during the weaning process, according to the kellymom.com factsheet. Toddlers that nurse are sick much less often than non-nursing toddlers. Asthma is also less common.

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!!

11 comments:

Leigh Ann said...

Kaelyn self weaned at 15 months. I think she was just getting to be more independent and found that she was loving "big people food" more and more. As far as NIP - by that time she was only nursing a few times a day. She was on a pretty set schedule, so I could always plan my days around that and if I needed to nurse while out I could usually find a private place since I knew ahead of time when she would want to eat.

Kaelyn is now 23 months and now that I am nursing Evie, Kaelyn seems so big. Honestly I can't imagine still nursing Kaelyn at this age. I don't know if we could have made it to two years if she hadn't self weaned already. She is so independent now and seems so much like a little girl. Like you said though, the changes are gradual and if she hadn't of self weaned and we just kept going then I might not even think anything about it. I think now just having an infant again makes it seem different because in comparison Kaelyn seems so much older. Does that make sense?

I absolutely have nothing against people bf'ing as long as they want, but I think for us the 15 months was a perfect amount of time.

Oh, and I wanted to add that Kaelyn was a lot like Aiden - very very attached to nursing. It was a little surprising that she self weaned when she did. I think after the year mark it started gradually happening as she became more and more independent. You never know what might happen...these babies keep us guessing! :)

Daisy and Ryan said...

I totally meant to ask about how others that kept nursing changed their nursing schedules....and that sort of thing. Aiden can go longer sometimes now. There seems to be no "set" schedule. Sometimes he'll go a few hours, maybe even four (though that's not too often), and sometimes it's every two... I'm mostly just waiting for him to tell me he wants to nurse at this point, except at naptimes/bedtimes and if we're getting ready to go out for a good amount of time (I'll see if he wants to nurse before we leave - sometimes he'll take a few sips and then be done...so he clearly didn't need to nurse and let me know after trying some.)

I can see what you mean about comparing Kaelyn now at 23 months and Evie at just a few months old and it being hard to imagine nursing Kaelyn! I'm really not sure what to expect from this point on, to be honest. I'm just going to see how things go and see what Aiden does. You're right, these babies do keep us guessing!! I know I can't predict how it will happen. I try not to say I'm going to nurse until he's two b/c I know it's really up to him, and he might stop sooner. I'm not sure what *I* even want out of it, other than for him to be happy and well-adjusted throughout the process. I'm happy knowing there will be at least one more child, though, because I love nursing! It was one thing I looked forward to the most when pregnant, and it's by far one of my favorite things now. I know when I nurse that last baby for the last time...THAT will be hard (for me). Who knows what the next year brings with Aiden..... He is very attached, but...we'll see....

Becky said...

It sounds to me like Aiden is a classic 'nibbler' and I think it is pretty rare for that to go on as long as it has with you guys. Colin started going more than 2 hrs on a regular basis somewhere around 6 months or so. All on his own, with no pushing from me, he set his own schedule. I think when I broke his nurse to sleep association that was the beginning of the end for us. The only time I pushed him to wean was when it was a habitual nursing session and not a hunger/comfort need. That said, I was ready to start weaning at a year. I want to have another baby sometime in late 2010, and I need to let my body recover before that. It was really starting to get difficult for me to keep up with the calorie needs of a bfing mama. I've definitely lost all the pregnancy weight now.
Unlike Aiden, I had trouble getting Colin to eat solids, so cutting back on bfing was necessary to get him to eat more (particularly overnight feedings, he was getting most of his food overnight!)
My motto lately is "whatever works" all my parenting ideas got reset a bit when I actually became a parent.
I'm not sure I would have gotten much support for extended bf-ing. Colin was 3 months old when my B.I.L asked how long we were going to keep up nursing. My own mother stopped bf-ing us at 3 months and my husband was never bf-ed, so it was a bit different to have a baby go all the way to a yr + and still be nursing.

Amy said...

Oh yeah, my current plan is for Micah to nurse "until it is no longer working for both of us". My original goal was self-weaning, but I think sometimes I will get tired of it before he does (egads! I will now admit that I do not "love" it, I don't MIND it and I definitely don't resent it, but I can't claim loving it right now. But I love Micah and he loves it, so maybe by extension...). So I hesitate to declare how long I will go, but I'd like to think it's a long time, 2+ years.

Also, I have no problems with NIP, either me or other people with me. I have nursed all sorts of places and no one has ever given me a dirty look, any reaction has really been wanting to help me be comfortable, and I appreciate it.

And finally, toddlers get tons of nutrition from nursing! Micah is a week shy of 9 months, but it is really obvious he gets most or all of his calories from ME.

Susan and Melissa said...

I mentioned this in the earlier post, but I am not feeling like I am comfortable past age 2. Up until that point, I am happy to let Theo direct what he needs and hope that he can be gently weaned at that age. I have no problem with women going beyond that, but my work schedule and everything else has meant that I have scheduled my whole life around breastfeeding and I will be ready for a break. Also, our kids will be pretty close together and I think my body needs a rest before gearing up for the next one.

As I mentioned before, for me, one year is the finish line and anything beyond that is a victory lap.

Becky said...

Amy I so HEAR you with the 'not loving it' aspect. I sorta kept waiting for the light bulb to go on start loving it but it never happened for me. I don't resent it, or hate it but I don't love it like some people report. About the same way I felt about being pregnant.. didn't love that either.

Daisy and Ryan said...

Becky - I think Aiden sounds like a nibbler b/c he nurses so often and for short periods. If I were someone else, I would think the same thing. But I don't think he is, and here's why... I have SUCH an active let down. I mean, when my milk lets down, it POURS out of there! It does this today just like it did when Aiden was just a month or so old. I have talked with some friends and discovered this isn't how any of them are experiencing breastfeeding at this age... I still have to wear nursing pads all day/night long. When I let down, it still comes out of both sides, too - and BIG TIME. I can hear Aiden gulping as fast as he can just to get it down and not choke (and he still coughs sometimes b/c there is so much at once). He can empty one breast in five minutes or so. He used to only nurse from one side, but now it can go either way. I'll offer both, and he usually takes it. But it still takes him no time to eat everything. Even when I have pumped, in five minutes, I can get a full five or more ounces of milk (often less than five minutes, really). Sometimes I feel bad that it comes out so quickly when he's nursing!

Now...nighttime is a different story perhaps. But we're working on that. I'm using the techniques from Pantley's No Cry Sleep Solution to get him to not nurse to sleep once he's in bed with me. He does not nurse to sleep at naptimes or going to bed, but once he's in our bed, I'll admit that I often fall asleep while he's nursing b/c I'm just so tired - and lazy. But I'm having to stay awake to do her techniques, which are helping during the night..though I'm even MORE tired for now b/c of the staying awake part!

Thanks for sharing ladies! :) Sorry I didn't reply any more until now - we were out of town all day yesterday and have family visiting, as well.

And yes, I do have all those warm fuzzy feelings about nursing. And pregnancy. I see maternity stores and can't wait to be pregnant again (which is surprising with how difficult it is on me...). I just love it all. I won't deny it. I know not everyone else feels that way, and some may think I'm odd b/c of HOW MUCH I love it (it's a LOT!), but that's ok. To each his (or her!) own. :)

Amy said...

Wow Daisy, I definitely think that is a massive amount of milk production, especially given how old Aiden is.

Melissa, I am committed to one year. After that is when the "as long as it's working for both of us" kicks in. We're actually not preventing pregnancy right now, and we want kids close together too. I am currently OK with nursing through pregnancy and tandem nursing if I need to, but I am not sure how 100% committed I am to it.

Either way, my deciding factor is "what is best for Micah". I won't abruptly and traumatically wean, but I also think there is something to be said for not having an exhausted, cranky, resentful mother, you know?

Kevin A. Puckett said...

I nursed Benjamin until he was 16 months. I had relatives from day one asking when I was going to wean him. I got the "are you still nursing?" question all the time. At 16 months I was hoping to go down to a few feedings a day, because it was really wearing on me physically and my husband and I were both in college full time so it complicated many situations. (Daisy you know the craziness I am talking about!) Unfortunately he was unwilling to reduce feedings. I honestly think he felt like I was rejecting him. If I were to do it all over, I would have never out right said 'no.' Aside from that, I did a lot of redirecting and trying to assess what was really going on for him. Was he bored? Nervous? Hungry? Then I tried to offer him a fitting solution, (like reading a book or singing a song, or even talking about what may be making him nervous). After he got to be older and walking and talking we did have a nurse only at home rule. He seemed fine with that. I would hope with Silas that we would be down to only 2 or 3 feedings a day by the time he is 18 months. I don't want to wean him in the fall or winter. Benjamin stopped nursing in September and he stayed sick all fall and winter :(

Melissa Rife said...

I only breastfed for 3 weeks. I had a really hard time. I felt very pressured to breastfeed. I worked full time during my pregnancy and I knew I would return to work shortly after giving birth. Knowing that, I realized that my daughter would have to learn to eat from a bottle. My original plan was to be very flexible with feeding methods. I wanted my daughter to get the best nutrition that I could provide. So, I thought I would nurse her whenever I could and pump when I was working. I even went out and bought an insanely expensive pump. I also thought about supplementing with formula. However, once my daughter was born, when I would talk to anyone about my decisions, I was met with disgust. Nearly everyone I came into contact with felt as if I was all but abusing my daughter by not exclusively breastfeeding her. While in the hospital, after the 3rd day that my milk was still not in, I asked for some formula (that may be normal --or maybe it's not, I have no idea-- but I was a new mom and very nervous)and they all but told me 'no'. I was distraught. I had to demand formula. It was very upsetting.

My boyfriend was great. He left the decision to breastfeed or not to breastfeed up to me. He fully supported whatever I chose. Thank goodness for him!

But what did my baby want? I had no idea. I was sure I should try to breastfeed but it seemed so hard. We had a hard time latching on...I was always worried that she wasn't getting enough milk...I had cracked nipples...and pumping, ugh...pumping was so time consuming (set up time, pump time, clean up time - it could take 30 minutes or more).

After 3 weeks (I know this doesn't seem like a long time, but it sure felt like one), I decided to just go with formula full time. It was a heartwrenching decision. I felt like I had failed my baby, the person I loved most in this world. I felt like I was dooming her to a life of allergies, obesity, and lower intellect. However, I couldn't deny the ease of preparing a day's worth of formula and knowing that she was getting enough to eat, no more cracked nipples, no more pumping, and her dad could share feeding her more often. I could still feed her and bond with her. I could still feed her while rocking and singing to her. I could still feed her and stare into beautiful baby eyes.

My daughter is now 2 1/2. She is as happy as a child could be. She is loved and cherished. I wish the decision had not been so difficult. I wish I had more people around me at the time to say that whatever feeding method I chose will be ok. She is super smart and her body weight is healthy. However, she does have allergies (even the dreaded peanut allergy).

I admire those who breastfeed for any length of time. It is a huge commitment (even if it is easy for you). I think each mom and baby should do what works for them. These past 2 1/2 years, I've learned so much from my daughter. The most important is that each family has to do what works for them. The most important thing a mom can do is to let their child know how loved they are. I think you and every mom reading your blog is doing just that.

Melissa Rife said...

Wow, I just re-read my comment. It is very long and rambling. I apologize. It's getting late and I guess I'm too tired to edit. lol.