******************For the squeamish, this may be TMI*********************
Okay, now I remember what I was planning on blogging about all day. This week is World Breastfeeding Week. I know a little bit about breastfeeding because I did it for about 32-33 months. With one child. Why yes, that is just a few months shy of 3 years old. In the attached parenting (AP) and breastfeeding circles and maybe in others it is called extended nursing or now long-term nursing. There are many bloggers I follow who have done a great job of explaining what it is and why they still breastfeed their toddler or preschooler. One is the Crunchy Domestic Goddess. La Leche League is also an amazing resource for breastfeeding help of all kinds.
For those of you who may be freaked right about now:
World Health Organization
"The vast majority of mothers can and should breastfeed, just as the vast majority of infants can and should be breastfed. Only under exceptional circumstances can a mother’s milk be considered unsuitable for her infant. For those few health situations where infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, the choice of the best alternative–expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother, breast milk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breast-milk substitute fed with a cup, which is a safer method than a feeding bottle and teat–depends on individual circumstances.”
The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, after which "infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond."
American Academy of Pediatrics
"Extensive research using improved epidemiologic methods and modern laboratory techniques documents diverse and compelling advantages for infants, mothers, families, and society from breastfeeding and use of human milk for infant feeding. These advantages include health, nutritional, immunologic, developmental, psychologic, social, economic, and environmental benefits.”
The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Furthermore, "breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child."
I copied the above from the wikipedia page.
The average age of weaning worldwide is 4 years old. Lilly would have been in heaven!
I did not start off with a plan to breastfeed a preschooler. I was always a little on the crunchy granola side without the "no antiperspirant" aspect and I was raised by a mom who was a La Leche League leader, and nursed all of us. Breastfeeding was part of my normal everyday life with young babies. I also can be very determined. Sometimes that is a good thing, and sometimes (like when arguing with my husband and I know I am wrong but can't admit it) it is not. But I had decided that I would be co-sleeping and breastfeeding exclusively, even before I was pregnant. I also had planned on giving birth with no medical intervention but that's a whole different story.
When Lilly arrived, my milk came in beautifully. I actually was an over-producer for a while until we got in sync with each other. We had some issues with thrush that did not resolve easily or without pain on my part. She cluster nursed. She used me as a pacifier. But we made it through those first few crazy weeks, not without some significant support. My mom called La Leche League and asked them to call me because I could not. Speaking to someone else helped. I do regret not getting involved in a regular meeting. I was involved in my local Mothers & More chapter and received so much support from them. I had told my husband that he could, under no circumstances, suggest I give up because I needed him to be strong for me.
I am not sure exactly how old Lilly was, but she was about 6 months old when I was nursing her (covered) in front of someone. Someone who I am close to, even. She asked me how long I was planning on doing that. Something inside me snapped. I was so angry that someone would suggest, in tone if not in words, that what I was doing was not acceptable or right. Especially when the opposite was true. I was doing what was best! Even if I weaned at 6 months, she would need formula. WTF??? I flippantly, without even thinking about it, said about 2 years old. HA! That shut her up rather quickly. I am sure my mother was questioned about it and my mom, of course, supported however long I was planning on BFing.
So that is basically how I started off but really, Lilly and I chose it together. Lilly loved nursing. She loved everything about it and when I first tried weaning her, she became so upset that I realized it was not the right time for her. I would say after 20 months or so it truly became an act of love for her. Before that I think I got out of the experience as much as she was getting. At the 20 month point, I was still getting something out of it (snuggle time, closeness and bonding) but she was really getting so much more. There were other factors that played into the longevity, as well. I was thinking maybe 18 months would be it and then I got a full time job and she was in daycare for the first time. I did not want to take this away from her. She has febrile seizures at very low temperatures and we have had many ER visits. Getting a lethargic-from-seizure toddler to drink is difficult. I could nurse her while she slept (and when she awoke it comforted her) and we were able to not have IVs, etc. It seemed every time I was thinking I would start the process she would have a seizure and so I wouldn't.
I hit one point last fall where I really just did not want to nurse her again. I was tired of being awakened in the night. I wanted my body back (HA!) for me. Lilly would not go to bed without nursing first. I decided it was time to wean. I gradually cut back on how long, etc. We talked a lot about it. A lot. Every time I mentioned it, she would cry. Hard. She was truly sad about the thought of not nursing. I decided the time was not right. One day, I think it was in February, (I can't believe the date is not ingrained in my memory) she nursed a lot during one afternoon after work. This was unusual and then I was basically empty still at nighttime. I knew if I let her, she would make more milk but I decided against that. She tried and told me there was no more milk. She was sad and cried. I distracted her by singing about 10 songs. She fell asleep. The next day, and the day after that I gave her the same story...it was all gone. I had been prepping her for weeks with the same line...that it would be all gone when she drank it all. I slept with sports bras on so that she could not come in during the night. And then she stopped asking but only for awhile. To this day, 6 months later, Lilly asks about nursing and if she could put milk in my nursies. She has come up with some very clever ideas of how we could get milk into them. She likes to lay on my chest now as her comfort. Even after more than 32 months of nursing I was still a little sad when she stopped.
One of the hardest parts of long-term nursing for me is the stigma attached to it in our society. I felt that if only I could talk about it with someone, then maybe the other hard parts (night nursing, for one) would not be as hard. I had strict boundaries about nursing once she was able to ask for it. We did not nurse in public, in part because it was not necessary at that point and also because I was sick of nursing bras. A lot of my friends did not nurse, or at least not for longer than a few weeks. I was lucky to have a few friends who did nurse through the first year, but not much longer.
Anyway, now that I have rambled on a bit, I really just wanted to write something for World Breastfeeding Week. So if you are out nursing in public and you see me looking at you (mom at the library or the music festival), I am just sending "good for you" vibes your way!