Monday, June 3, 2013

Extended Breastfeeding - Guest Post by Clarissa Leigh

When I was asking for guest blog posts, I was excited to share this one on extended breastfeeding.  I've nursed my own babies anywhere from 15 months to 28 months.  I have to say, the most rewarding relationships have been the ones that were breastfed the longest.  Maybe that's a coincidence, but I like to think that breastfeeding was good for us both.  Thank you, Clarissa, for being willing to share your story.

My son has just turned one, (sob, how did it go by so fast??) and I knew from the moment I found out I was pregnant that I was going to nurse him. It wasn't even a question. I knew many in my family and many friends who had nursed. The one thing I didn't think about was how long I would nurse for. I don't think I had a goal in mind.

Our nursing relationship got off to a great start, we had no problems, and he quickly grew attached to his milkies, as did I. My favorite times in life are nursing him to sleep. As he got older, I was asked how long I would nurse for, and I started asking myself that as well. I did research, I prayed about it, and I thought about it often.

The more research I did, the more I realized that nursing past a year, or extended breastfeeding, has so many benefits. Once I determined the benefits, I knew I would be nursing longer than the norm, and average so often seen nowadays. However I found other reasons, besides the health and nutritional benefits that I would continue to nurse.

1.) It is comforting. As Wilbur gets older and starts walking, and getting more teeth, he needs comfort. The easiest way to comfort him is to nurse him. It calms him down and makes the pain less. I do not want to take away his lovey, his comforting technique, it would be unfair to him, and I like having the power to quickly calm him down.

2.) It gets him to sleep so quickly and easily. Wilbur has never been a good sleeper, even as a newborn, he just does not like sleep. When he gets really tired, it is so easy to get him to sleep by nursing him, also when he wakes up in middle of the night, we don't have to be up for an hour or more.

3.) It helps him maintain his since of normalcy. He is learning and growing so much every day, why would I want to change something else in his life? He needs something that he can come back to when he is overwhelmed by how much he is learning and changing.

4.) It is quick and easy. We have been giving Wilbur a cup since he was 5 months old, sometimes with some expressed breast milk, sometimes water, most often coconut water. He refuses to hold a sippy cup himself, he wants to drink out of a regular cup. If I stopped nursing at a year, he would still need to drink some milk, and in order for him to drink that, I would have to pour the milk in a cup, and sit and hold him for the hour or so it takes him to drink anything out of a cup. With continuing to nurse him, when he tells me he wants milk, it is very easy to let him have it.

5.) I know it is good for him. Everywhere you look, everyone has a different idea or opinion on what kind of milk is best, is it raw cow’s milk, is it whole milk, is it goats milk, is it coconut milk, is it almond milk, is it rice milk? I do not want to be having mommy guilt or second-guessing myself about another topic, and by now, I know he isn't allergic to anything in my diet, and that my milk is perfect for him.

6.) I have already mentioned this, but the health and nutritional benefits. According an article published by Fitzgerald Health Education Associates, Inc., extended breastfeeding into the second year of life provides 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 - Dewey 2001 (source). That is amazing, there is nothing else I could give him that is that nutritious, that wonderful for him. Breastmilk also contains numerous antibodies. No parent wants to see their child sick, and thankfully, Wilbur has only been sick once, and if I can prevent him being sick, I will, to the utmost of my abilities.

7.) The last reason is a selfish one on my part, and that is I love the snuggles, I love giving him what he needs, I love being the one he wants when he wants milkies, I love seeing him so happy and content while I am nursing him. He is such a big boy, and walking around everywhere, and playing by himself so much, that I don’t get many, so if I am able to do something to insure I get more and more snuggles, I will.

Have you practiced extended breastfeeding? What were the reasons that led you to that decision?  


Rachel said...

This is all so true and wonderfully said :) My daughter just turned 2 last week, and she is still nursing on demand. She also still nurses to sleep (and when wakes in the night). I'm pregnant with her little brother (due in August) and she already knows she will "share mimi Gabriel born August" ha ha! :)

Kristin Cook said...

Nursing my 16-month old baby girl as I type. Her older brother nursed until he was two-and-a-half, and it would have been longer but when I became pregnant again I was sooooo sick. He was down to once or twice a day anyway so it wasn't at all traumatic, although I will always miss that time I shared with him. We are not planning on having more children so it will be interesting to see how long this one continues to nurse since she has me all to herself! The thing I love most about extended breastfeeding is that it forces mom and baby to be in close proximity of each other. Not that either one of us need forcing, but it's an easy excuse when family members and friends keep nagging me and hubs to go away together for a couple weeks. This has been the case since we first started having children. My first baby was formula fed (not by choice - but that's another story)I went back to work when he was 2 months old. It was a nightmare. He cried all day. And he wouldn't eat. finally I had to quit work for his sake. Then when he was 5 months old I let a friend talk me into going away for a weekend. Wish I had understood how important the mother/baby attachment is, in helping an infant feel safe and cared for. My baby didn't trust me after that. Not sure we have ever fully regained an attached relationship. With my breast-fed babies, none of this would have ever even occurred to me. It's all so effortless. Baby has to eat, so baby stays with me. Baby gets hurt, baby comes to me. Baby sleeps close to me so I can comfort her at night. And the benefit is an amazing bond between me and my kids, and between siblings as well. There is enough love to go around, because there is no fear of abandonment.

abhjeet kumar said...

The most important benefits of breastfeeding are it is the main food that the baby requires after birth for its growth and good health development.

Marisa said...

Love reading stories like this, especially as I am now nursing my 19 month old with every intention of allowing her to self wean when she is ready. This might sound horribly selfish, but I have to say my favourite reason is nr 2 - easy to get her to sleep! I honestly don't know how people put their toddlers to sleep without bfing.