Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Are you STILL Breastfeeding?"

Just a little challenge for y'all:

When you ask someone "Are you still breastfeeding?" try taking the word "still" out of your question. It implies that they should have stopped by now. They might feel embarrassed by answering yes because of the implications of the word "still."

I was talking with a woman who had had a wonderful unmedicated birth about 18 months earlier. I asked her this question, if she was breastfeeding. The look on her face told me she thought I was insane! Her child was running around the room at the moment. She laughed and said, "She's 18 months! No." I told her that 3 out of my 4 were breastfeeding at that age. The room was silent. It was a rather humorous moment.

I want to encourage women to continue breastfeeding as long as possible and by asking if they are "still" breastfeeding, it does not sound encouraging. Just something I've been thinking about as I've been talking with breastfeeding moms lately, especially as their babies are getting older.

Just a reminder: the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until at least age 2. In my experience, those have been my most rewarding breastfeeding relationships -- the one's we went to at least age 2.


Scott and Hannah said...

I have a friend who has an 20 month old who is breastfeeding. She is having the desire to ween her daughter for personal reasons. She is a stay at home mom, but vounteers once a week for two hours while the child is at day care. They are out in public a lot together. The baby will tug at mom's shirt and stick her hands down her shirt in public and it becoming embarrassing to her.

Each morning her daughter will wake up between 5 and 6 and want to nurse and then will fall back asleep until 8. The baby also wants to nurse throughout the day.

I have been encouraging her to continue if she wants to. She feels guilty weening her and the baby shows no desire to stop. She thinks it is the comfort the baby feels when nursing that she likes.

What are your thoughts? Did you every have to ween any of your kids?

Donna Ryan said...

Absolutely not. And it sounds like this mom and baby are NOT ready to stop breastfeeding, especially for social reasons. If she does stop because she is embarrassed by the baby's outward expression of wanting to nurse, she will likely regret that down the road and the baby will not be happy. She will likely have behavioral issues with the baby if she is deprived of breastfeeding -- and isn't 20 months hard enough as it is?! Breastfeeding is not just about nourishment (although it is the very best). It's OK to comfort your baby by breastfeeding. Sometimes we just need to be told that it is OK and we are doing the right thing.

Darcy, even though she has not breastfeed for 1 1/2 years now, still puts her hand down my shirt, especially at naptime. It is comforting to her. And that is OK.

I have never weaned any of my children. It just happened. The closest I came to "weaning" was a conversation with baby #3 when she was 2. I asked her if she felt like she could go to sleep without nursing (that was the only time of day she was breastfeeding at that point) and she asked if she could have her binky (don't say it!). I assured her she could, and that was the end.

This mom and baby that you have described, in my opinion, are no where near being finished with breastfeeding. Yea for them!

Alisa said...

I agree- there are too many women who get the "are you crazy" comment for going longer than a year.
I have not weaned any of mine either- they all just did it on their own. Funny how different they have all been.

Carmen said...

Sixteen months and going strong, but I must admit without your educational help during pregnancy I would have probably been done by now. It’s amazing how uneducated we are about this subject and without people like you we would be content abruptly stopping before a year. This past week a friend of mine was experiencing problems in production and I offered her supplements that my lactation consultant had me take when Bree was seven months old to up my supply. (With the advice to call her consultant first...)

For me it is so simple to talk about breast feeding, it’s such a natural and God given thing that it never occurs to me that some women might be intimidated if not embarrassed to talk about it openly. When I saw her later in the week she gave me the sweetest letter I’ve received in ages. She told me how hard it was for her talk about the subject, but with me I offered advice that was so comforting and such a help to getting her milk supply back up.

All I can say is that we should all be as lucky as to have a “Donna” in our life. Thanks for all the encouragement you give us extended nursing mamas!

Donna Ryan said...

I sometimes feel discouraged like I just can't reach enough people, so it is wonderful to know that the people I do reach, are sharing the information with those around them. Carmen, you are a wonderful example to all those around you. Keep talking and encouraging other mothers and mothers-to-be. Together, we can all make a difference.

Stephanie said...

At Ben's first birthday party this weekend I had another mom ask me if I was going to cut him off at a year (a mom that has given birth to both of her children). I told her no and she went on to say how ready she was at a year to cut her son off, but that really he wasn't very interested anyway.

I found it humorous that she asked me this since Lucy is still nursing as well (she is 30 months old). Of course, I hate admitting this, but I didn't bother to tell her about Lucy still nursing. It's not that I am bothered or embarrassed by it, I just don't go there unless specifically asked. My mother-in-law nursed my husband until he was 32 months, and told me she just did her thing and didn't listen to the flack she got from friends and family. Thankfully my family doesn't say anything to me.

What was the longest you nursed one of your kiddos, Donna? I don't remember. Was there a point where you didn't just put it out there, or am I looking at this the wrong way? I have a few friends at church that are very supportive, but that is about it.

Donna Ryan said...

Ooh, what a great question. I never made a "secret" of nursing Darcy, who was my longest, at 28 mos. I would have gone longer, but I had an MRI and couldn't breastfeed for 48 hours afterwards. Right after my 48 hours was up, I had to do another one! So, we went 4 days without breastfeeding. She never asked and I wasn't in any pain at all. She had just transitioned into the other girls' bedroom right before this, and since she was just breastfeeding to go to sleep, she didn't miss it. It was perfect.

I think the more we talk about it -- and do it -- the more accepted it becomes. A lot of people might think, "Yuck, nursing a 2 1/2 year old!" But then they see it and realize that it's no big deal.

You are in a unique situation, nursing 2 toddlers. Don't be ashamed or embarrassed -- flaunt it! What a wonderful mother you are. And how wonderful it is that you have supportive in-laws. Remember, when you breastfeed in public, you are doing everyone a favor around you. People need to be exposed (no pun intended!) to breastfeeding more often! And not just to babies, but toddlers as well.

Christina Pond said...

I was at Joann's fabric today, and Chaylie wanted to nurse, so we nursed right there, at 18 months old, we still nurse a lot.

I got some funny looks, but I really don't care. I was properly covered up, so no one can claim I was 'offending them'. ha!

Chaylie enjoys the closeness, and often she just puts her hand down my shirt and holds my breast! I just let her, because for her she emotionally benefits from breastfeeding a lot still, as well as physically.

She is so healthy I can't help but wonder if that nursing she gets keeps her body in tip top condition!!

Stephanie said...

Thanks, Donna. And I meant to say that the other mom gave birth to both of her kids at home...that is why it surprised me.

Donna Ryan said...

Stephanie, I have learned over the years that women and their husbands are driven to homebirth for all sorts of reasons. You and I were driven because we are informed and know that birth is safer, at least in North Texas, outside of a hospital. A lot of homebirth midwives will tell you that they have a hard time getting paid, as a lot of people choose to birth at home because it is so much cheaper. These couples didn't have the money in the first place.

I know someone who birthed her last 2 babies, unattended, at home because she couldn't find a doctor willing to do a VBAC, even though she'd had VBACs since the C-section. She felt trapped, and yet knew her body could birth vaginally. Naturally, you'd assume she breastfed her babies, right? Wrong. These were babies 6 and 7. I don't know if or how long she breastfed the others, but when I asked her about it, she said she just didn't have time. This was definitely one of those "banned from baby showers" moments for me, as you can imagine.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Donna for calling me back the other day about nursing. I left the next day for Greenwood, IN. The volume of my milk inreased as I added 1-2 feedings on average a day and added water into her diet. Come to find out my cycle was kicking back in and I've read that can change the taste of milk. This would account for her strange nursing disposition for a few days. Breast feeding for 7 months and going strong!!! Alayna and I are doing great!