Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Extended breastfeeding, Part II

photo by Serlunar

Did you know...

.....that the WHO recommends breastfeeding continue at least until 2 years?

.....that a woman's risk for osteoporosis and breast cancer goes down significantly the more years she nurses? takes between 2 and 6 years for a child's immune system to fully mature?

.....that all of the research available (only up to 24 months) shows increasing benefits the longer you breastfeed?

Why I nurse my toddler

1. Nursing provides the most complete nourishment for an infant, and continues to be the best supplemental nourishment for a young child.

In addition to the facts I shared initially, there is a growing body of evidence that supports breastfeeding in general, and extended breastfeeding in particular. You can read more about those studies and facts in the resources I'll list at the end of this post.

Nursing offers me a peace of mind during this picky-toddler-syndrome. My oldest loves most any fruit, spaghetti, breads, mac 'n cheese, yogurt, crackers, dried fruit, etc....but he diligently avoids vegetables. At times, it has driven me crazy. I fear that he will never be a healthful eater, I worry about whether he's getting a sufficient supply of vitamins and minerals, I wonder if he'll develop a sweet tooth, I wish that he wasn't so addicted to dairy, and on and on. For me, nursing answers these dilemmas. While my son learns to eat his vegetables, nursing continues to "fill in the gaps", offering the perfect balance of vitamins and minerals, along with antibodies which boost his yet-immature immune system.

2. Extending the nursing relationship into the emotional toddler years provides both Momma and Child with a needed place of security.

If you're a Mother of a toddler, you know how difficult this period can sometimes be for your little one. I've found nursing to be such a boon - for both of us! There have been several occasions where he was having a meltdown and nursing rescued us. On his trip to the dr. in October, Graeme was horrified by them sticking the thermometer under his armpit. Oh my, he truly was *terrified*! Traumatized by the whole experience, he asked to nurse after the dr. left - in fact, he kept repeating "Mama Do" (which is his word for mama milk) over and over like a mantra to reassure himself.

There have also been moments when *I* was having a meltdown (yep, does happen occasionally!) and nursing helped me recover and gave me a chance to relax and remind myself of what mothering is all about.

Granted, nursing is not the only way to comfort a young one, definitely. However, for us, it has given us opportunities to re-group, re-vive, and the glances we share at these times (Kinda like "Whew, okay, we're going to make it") speak for themselves.

3. Nursing is a "miniature" of Mothering.

It requires all the attributes that Motherhood demands - patience, forgiveness, gentleness, setting boundaries, giving of oneself even when you don't feel like it. And I'd say this is more pronounced the longer you nurse - especially if you nurse through pregnancy and tandem nurse.

4. Nursing my oldest greatly helped with his ease of transition to being a big brother and "sharing" Momma.

I definitely attribute much of that success to his continued access to nursing. Graeme nursed a TON the first week after Cole came home - which, while I did feel like all I did was nurse for awhile, it actually did me a favor when I got engorged!, and, it seemed to be just the ticket to remind Graeme that I'm still the same Momma and I'll still be there for him, now there's just another baby for us to love.

I'll do a separate post on the benefits and fun of tandem nursing!

There you have it, my "top-4". I've got one more post planned on the myths surrounding Extended Breastfeeding...and I'll combine some aspects of Tandem nursing in that one as well.

It works for me!

LLI - Breastfeeding Toddlers
LLI - Extended Breastfeeding Resource Page
An interview with Katherine Dettwyler, Ph. D - Extended nursing: The human norm
Peggy O'Mara on the recent "The Case Against Breastfeeding" article in The Atlantic Monthly - Case Closed: Breast is Best
KellyMom - Nursing During Pregnancy/Tandem Nursing
Adventures in Tandem Nursing


The Book Lady Online said...

Great post!! I nursed both of my children into toddlerhood.

Desiree Fawn said...

Great post -- I plan on nursing my little one as long as she'll let me!

Christine said...

I love this post. I am nursing my 3rd child, my 22 month old still, and am loving it! Many blessings!

IF said...

Great Post. I am still nursing Olivia (1 year old) and never thought I would be nursing a baby this long! It is so easy with her. Except now she has started pinching and biting me when she wants to nurse. I have tried several things to get her to stop and nothing is working. Do you have any ideas that may help?

Amanda said...

Ivy - It is fairly common for the little nurser to go through stages like that. When you are at home, you can establish boundaries and teach her either a sign (please) or a word (num-nums or something like that - does she have a word for nursing?) and tell her she may not nurse unless she asks in that way. It will take some training, but after a few times of your refusing to allow her to nurse by the pinching, she'll get the idea.