“You’re still breastfeeding?”

Very recently, I have encountered several situations in which I was asked (perhaps “asked” is the wrong word, it was more like a statement), “You’re still breastfeeding?” I was quite surprised, considering my son is only just about to turn one. I was familiar with people’s discomforts regarding a two- or three-year-old nursling (although I don’t share the discomfort), but never a (almost) one-year-old. These interactions have caused me to take a good (albeit saddened) look at what is considered the “norm” for modern breastfeeders (that is, for those who are even willing to go the breastfeeding route).

I find that the term “extended breastfeeding” usually helps others to understand one’s plan to breastfeed beyond a year (I use this term quite often). However, after doing some research on the subject, I’m wondering, is it really extended breastfeeding? Isn’t it just regular, natural breastfeeding? In my head, the term exists solely for the purpose of explaining my ideals to someone who can’t/doesn’t relate, or perhaps believes that I ought to simply breastfeed one year (or less) and be done with it.

Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers breastfeed “at least until one year of age and then as long as baby and mother mutually want to.” Unfortunately, most women will not go on to breastfeed longer than a year because of several varying reasons – going back to work, pressure from family and friends, inconvenience, the desire to “take their bodies back,” and the assumption that the baby no longer benefits from breastfeeding (to name but a few).

I came across an article by Dr. William Sears, titled Extended Breastfeeding — Handling the Criticism. In this article, Dr. Sears pointed out that “the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recommends mothers breastfeed until three years of age.” I also found an article on weaning on Ask Dr. Sears, where the author says, “While weaning is a personal decision, nutritionists and physicians advise breastfeeding for at least one year because by that time most infants have outgrown most of their food allergies and will thrive on alternative nourishment. We urge mothers to think in terms of years, not months, when contemplating how long to nurse. Breastfeeding is a long-term investment in your child. You want to give your baby the best emotional, physical, and mental start.” Not only is breastfeeding a sweet way to bond with your child, it is also the best way to ensure that they are healthy – emotionally, physically, and mentally! In an article titled Extended Nursing: Is It for You? on Babycenter, the author gives similar advice, and notes a very important advantage of extended breastfeeding. “Even though your child is now getting most of his nutrition from solid food, breast milk still provides calories, valuable immunities, vitamins, and enzymes. In fact, studies have shown that breastfeeding toddlers get sick less often than their peers.” Nursing toddlers have less ear infections, better vision and hearing, and are at less risk for becoming obese. These are only a few reasons – among many, many more – to opt into extended breastfeeding. 

Personally, I have always known that I would like to breastfeed for an extended amount of time. It always just seemed right to me. Jack didn’t begin eating solid food on a regular basis until he was 8 months old, and after that, we even cut back on his solid food intake because I didn’t want him to wean prematurely. I’m still considering what I will do if I become pregnant in the nearer future – I’d like to continue to nurse Jack as long as he’s willing, but I don’t necessarily feel called to tandem nursing.

I’m continually surprised by how controversial breastfeeding can be. God designed our bodies to nourish and comfort our children – it seems only right to partake in this beautiful act of mothering. As for the concern over nursing for “too long,” why is it anyone’s business but the parent’s? When a mother chooses to nurse until two or three (or even one!) years of age, she shouldn’t have to defend herself.

What do you think? 

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13 Comments

Filed under Jack, on being a mama, tea-timing

13 responses to ““You’re still breastfeeding?”

  1. Lindsey

    Nursing. Hmm. I nursed Eli until he was 9 months old. I stopped because he was biting me like crazy and just generally uninterested. Up to that point he had only had like 2 bottles in his whole life too! So it’s not as though he preferred the bottle. But, I think it ended up being totally God that I started weaning him when I did because soon after we (John and I agreed on the weaning) decided to wean Eli, I found out I was pregnant. And while I realize that it is okay to nurse while pregnant, my body would not have handled it very well because at the time I was working 50+hours/week. Eli had started waking up in the middle of the night again to eat too! Oh Lordy, being in the first trimester was hard, I cannot begin to imagine how it would have been had I been nursing! PHEW! But, with this next one I would LOVE to nurse until a year at least! But, I do realize that I won’t think any less of myself as a mother if I chose to stop before this next one is a year old 🙂

    To be honest, the only time I have ever been freaked out by the nursing past a year thing is when I was the park one day for a Mom’s Group I am in and this little girl walked up to her mom and VERY CLEARLY said, “I want some of Mama’s Milk, now please.” And proceeded to try to lift her Mom’s dress up! Her Mom tried to quietly tell her 3 year old that that time spent having ‘Mama’s milk’ was a special time they spent together at home. Not at the park. She was kind of embarrassed! This was before I was pregnant, I think maybe before I was married (took the little boy I used to Nanny). Anyways, that is the one and only time I was ever freaked out by it!!!! I think people assume TOO MUCH authority over other people’s lives with comments made about personal, family decisions. It maddens me when people overstep their boundaries and think they have the right to comment on your decisions as a Mom! ARGH! I could write a longer novel about it, but I will stop! I think you should nurse until you feel like you can stop! Or until Jack doesn’t want it anymore 🙂

  2. Amen! My little girl turned 13 months old yesterday, and we are still breastfeeding frequently. We haven’t even cut back, although I have quit pumping at work; I only work half-time so it isn’t a big deal. I don’t know when we’ll quit, but I think I’m going to let her self-wean.

    Most people are surprised I’m still bfing her, and I know there are several who would like me to wean her (my in-laws have been saying they’d like to take her for a long weekend, and that can’t happen until she weans). I don’t want to stop because it’s just too easy to feed her this way! Instead of running to the kitchen to get her some milk, I just sit down in the recliner and relax. Most importantly, it’s kept her healthy. She has NEVER been seriously sick–only little colds here and there which didn’t require medical attention. Once I got a horrible 24-hr stomach bug and, praise the Lord, she didn’t! I breastfed her through it. My husband’s family has a history of bad allergies and I don’t want her to go through frequent allergy shots the way he did. One more thing is we tried her on cow’s milk at one year and a little rash popped up on her face. We give her goat’s milk instead, but it costs 5.50 per half gallon! That would add a bit of financial stress for us, and we are not giving her formula (which would be cheaper) for several reasons.

    Suzi is quite petite, so luckily I am able to easily bf her in public and, although I am ready to spout off the laws protecting my right to do so, no one has said a word to me. I am pretty good at bfing so no one can tell.

    Wow, sorry for the long reply! One more thing… I found so much support in my local babywearing group. If you don’t already go to one, you may want to check and see if you can find a group in your area. This is the link to our local group: http://upstatebabywearers.wordpress.com/
    And here’s the link to my post on “extended” bfing: http://babyfingers.blogspot.com/2008/06/this-is-what-would-happen-if-i-tried-to.html

    Good luck!

  3. Julia

    I have nursed both of my sons until my milk dried up, first one nursed until two and second until just now he is 20 months old- my milk dried up probably because I am 19 weeks pregnant with my third son. Fortunately by the time my milk dried up both of my sons were not interested in nursing anymore.

    I am blessed with being able to provide my sons with superior food during this most importand time of development, my mom’s milk dried up when I was only one month old, so she and my grandma were surprised I had milk for so long.

    The benefits of extended breastfeeding that I see in my boys are- they rarely ever get sick, they love healthy foods, they are not picky eaters, we can buy less expensive health insurance plan because they are not on any medications (and that’s a big deal of difference in price here in CA about $500-900 per month for a family of four) and we do not have to go to the doctor’s office frequiently.

    As for people offering advice- they always will do that especially now that you are a mom, everyone seems to know what you should do and how you should feed/raise your kids 🙂

    Blessings,
    Julia

  4. Yeah, don’t you love the remarks people make? I am still nursing my 22-month-old although he has cut WAY back now that I am pregnant. I used to get a lot of comments, but most people assume now that I must have weaned! It is sad that breastfeeding is now the weird thing instead of the natural thing that it is.

  5. Excellently written! The child of mine that nursed the most/longest is the one who gets sick the least. And when he does get sick, it is usually not as severe nor does it last as long. I’m convinced it’s from nursing.

    I’m finding funny questions now that I’m nursing Shiloh differently. I’ve been asked several times “How’s she liking cereal/baby food?” Of course after I say she’s not eating any people look at me as though I’m cruel! However, her chubby little thighs beg to differ 😉

  6. I started writing a lot of stuff to about this, and I came up with SO much, I decided to just post an entry on my own blog regarding this. Anyway, for the sake of actually commenting on your site… I was told by a well meaning relative several months ago “Well, if you keep letting him nurse he won’t wean for a VERY long time!” “Yes, I know, and I’m actually okay with that.” Was my reply. I didn’t really know what to say. Of course that would happen, and I didn’t really see why it was such a bad thing not to wean for a VERY long time. Gideon was 10 months when she said this. It’s not like he was 4 years old. I think a lot of people think that if you let your child nurse when they desire to, or do child led weaning, you’re giving them some sort of unmerited power over your life that they ought not to have. I wonder what they would say if they knew I was 21 weeks pregnant and still breastfeeding my 17 month old. Hmm…

    And by the way, I think my milk is almost dried up, but Gideon mostly likes to pacify anyway. Our usual routine is to sit down before bed, he snuggles one of his stuffed animals (usually monkey) and holds his sippy cup, and nurses, sips from his cup, nurses, sips from his cup… It works well for us. The other night though, we sat down and he refused the breast, he just snuggled into me and drank from his sippy cup. “So this is how child led weaning really works” I thought, it was a little sad, but mostly pleasant. The next day in the early morning he lied down with me in bed and nursed for a good 25 minutes, and was more interested in nursing throughout the day than usual. But it was just encouraging to know that child led weaning is working for us, and that even if Gideon does feel the need to increase his nursing time once his baby brother comes along, it’ll be okay.

    I think many mothers over analyze every single step of motherhood to the point that there’s not much room for just reacting naturally to their children‘s needs. Breastfeeding, which is so natural; within the principle of design, is just a part of mothering. God has naturally given woman an ability not only to feed their babies, but to care for and nurture them as well. The best parenting advise that I EVER received was from my mom, “Just be led by the Holy Spirit, listen as God guides you. He cares for every aspect of our lives, certainly for parenting decisions.” It’s so nice to see the positive evidence of following Gods lead as I raise Gideon. Mothering, it’s a wonderful job! 🙂

  7. My DD just turned 13 months, and a few people have remarked about her “still” nursing, but only my older sister has been negative about it. I didn’t plan on bfing this long when she was born, but we both enjoy it so much. She’s been healthy – only a small case of the sniffles – and I’ve also been doing research on extended bfing and the benefits.

    I know that everyone is entitled to their opinion. But why do moms get attacked for their parenting decisions? Breastfeeding vs. formula, SAHM vs. WOHM, etc, etc. The biggest lesson I’ve learned thus far in my parenting journey is that everyone needs to make decisions based on what’s right for their family. I may not agree with their choices, but I would never bash another mom for choosing differently than I do.

  8. Jen

    This was a wonderful article, Marissa! Thank you! I recently weaned my 7th child at 17 months as I was 6 months pregnant w/twins and believed that tandem nursing 3 would be too difficult. I have now exclusively nursed the twins for almost 6 months and it has been a wonderful experience. (Plus we calculated that we save over $300 a month on formula!)

  9. Kristen

    I started getting those “questions” just before Caleb’s first birthday (7-10-07). They would remind me that it’s been a year! Like I didn’t know. A year ago I couldn’t imagine making it to 6 months and now I can’t imagine stopping at 12 months. Nobody that I know has nursed passed 7 months (most only made it to 8 weeks). I get asked at least once a week if I’m STILL nursing by my mom. Hey mom don’t you think I would have told you if I had weaned him? Stop asking already.

    Thanks for the great post by the way!

  10. jen belt

    I’m with you. No one has questioned me yet as Maya is just still 7 months old, but I don’t have plans of stopping breastfeeding at any specific date. I used to say I would breastfeed until she was a year old, based on AAP recommendations, but now, I’m more interested in continuing until Maya is done. Granted, I don’t know about breastfeeding a three year old… 🙂 But, I imagine we will continue beyond one year of age.

    P.S. I know I’m late in commenting, but I just found your blog & I love it!

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  13. mommysjibberjabber

    Thank you for posting this. I’m in the process of weaning just the day feedings with my nearly 13 month old son. This is more my decision, but I’m happy to keep nursing him first thing in the morning and last one at night. I got that very comment yesterday from a co worker. It made me feel guilty at first, then mad. My original plan was 6 months, then a year. I know now that it doesn’t really matter my plans, I’m going to do what’s best for him and what is also keeping me happy to. It’s my decision to drop the middle feedings as it makes me happier and more willing to keep going with the other two. Plus my son still benefits. Seriously, what’s wrong with people who put pressure on us to wean? What does it have to do with them anyway? I appreciate hearing about your story, it helps to support me and my decision I’ve made for my son. Kim

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