Monday, August 17, 2009

Breastfeeding: My changing views

World Breastfeeding Week was two weeks ago and I never got around to writing a post about it. But I have a lot to say on the topic and I don't think it needs to be confined to just one week out of the year.

My view on breastfeeding has changed dramatically in the year and a half since Peanut has been here. Before I gave birth to that sweet little bundle of joy, I was totally one of those women who made statements like these:

"Once a baby has teeth, it's time to stop nursing."

"Once they can ask for it - time to cut them off."

"Breastfeeding past a year is just gross."

At six months, Peanut cut her first tooth. We kept breastfeeding. At around 10 months, Peanut learned she could pat my chest, say "nur-nur", and I would know what she wanted. We kept breastfeeding. Peanut turned a year old 6 months ago. We are still breastfeeding.

Did you know that I have still not even reached the minimum age recommendation by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF? Both organizations, which are widely accepted as the authority in worldwide health matters, recommend exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months (that mean NO food of ANY kind except for breast milk until a baby is 6 months old) and then continued breastfeeding "for two years and beyond".

I'm absolutely not saying that women who don't breastfed until the age of two are doing something wrong. I'm just saying that women who do breastfed until the age of two or beyond are not wrong either. The longer a woman can breastfed, the greater the benefits to her child. If you could only nurse for the first three months - awesome! That tiny baby got the good stuff early. If you can nurse for a year, way to go! That's great! If you nursed for 3 years, hats off, momma! Ultimately, it's a woman's choice how long she chooses to breastfed. Even if it's a length of time that you wouldn't personally be comfortable with, I think it's important to show respect for other mothers and their choices.

For example, I've never been big on nursing in public. Sure, I did it when it was necessary when Peanut was an infant, but if at all possible, I'd find someplace private and quiet to fed my child. I'll never post a picture of me breastfeeding on this blog. But I certainly don't mind seeing other women breastfeeding in public. Or seeing pictures of other women nursing their children. In fact, I think it's great. Just because it's not something I would do, doesn't make it wrong.

Regardless of how strongly I may feel about breastfeeding, I must acknowledge that women do have a choice. I'm learning to show respect for women who don't make the same choices that I do. In the same breath, it makes me very sad to see women making choices based on wrong information or simply lack of information. Education is key.

I'm an advocate of breast milk simply because it's better for babies. It's healthy for moms. It's a smart economic choice. It's recommended for at least the first 24 months of a child's life. There is no substitute for the milk that God designed our bodies to make just for our babies. I've decided not to be influenced by the arbitrary 12 month cut-off that many people feel compelled to follow. In the same breath, if Peanut decides to wean before she turns two, I'm fine with that too. I'm not in it for some sort of invisible merit badge for making it to 24 months. It's working for me, my daughter and my family and I don't see any good reason to change that just because she's now at the age that she can walk up to me and ask to nurse.

Besides all these compelling facts that propel me towards the two year mark, I've found that I love to nurse my baby. It's not a chore to me. It's a special time that only she and I can share. Not only do I love it, she really loves it too. Just the other day when she asked to nurse, I decided to see if there was anything else she'd rather have other than Mommy's milk. I was reasonably sure of her answers - and she did not disappoint.

Me: Do you want some cake?

Peanut: No, no.

Me: How about some ice cream! Yum!

Peanut: No, no, no.

Me: But I bet you'd like a lollipop!

Peanut: Mommy, no, no!

Me: What, you don't want to nurse, do you?

Peanut: YES! Yes, yes, nur-nur!

I mean, really. How could I purposely deprive her of something she loves that much? And that also happens to be a great source of nutrition, unique antibodies and immunity boosters?

Well, I think you know that answer to that.


  1. Oh, Peanut is so sweet!

    I wish that we were all much less judgmental on this issue. I find myself feeling less than perfect about breastfeeding, because technically I don't, even though I have been pumping for the past eight months! Sheesh! I need to give myself some credit here. I think that once we experience the joys and difficulties of breastfeeding, most of us grow much more tolerant for each other's different choices.

  2. How great is it that your Peanut prefers her mama milk to cake, ice cream and even lollipops! I nursed my first for 18 months and am currently still nursing my 11 month old and will continue for who knows how long. It is such a special relationship that nursing moms have with their babies, one that I am so proud to have with both of my children.

    That being said, I think most moms make choices that work best for their family, and sometimes formula is what works best for them. It's not a choice that I always understand or agree with, but it's not my place to judge.

    But you are right, I think misinformation is a big factor.

    And Ammie, way to go pumping for 8 months. That's awesome! You definitely need to give yourself some credit!

  3. I think that's awesome! I was the same way. I thought people who breastfed beyond a year were slap dab out of their minds. But here we are. Levi is nearing 2 very quickly, and he's still nursing. I don't anticipate him stopping anytime soon. For now we're just going with the flow and loving every minute. :)

  4. I too nursed my toddler until he was two. He and my second are 16 months apart so I tandem nursed for a while - something I never thought I would do!!

    I find it desparately sad that there is so little support for nursing mothers, especially in the first few weeks when things can be a challenge. A skilled breast feeding consultant can make things so much easier.

    Thanks for the post!

  5. What a great post! I felt the same way as you initially too. Because of supply issues, we only nurse once a day now, but we have made it 11 months which I am really proud of. We made it 8 full months nursing full time and also didn't introduce any solids until 6 months.

  6. very well written! I am not a mother *yet* (hopefully one day!) but I can't agree with you more. I did have a question for you - did you wait until after 6 months to start feeding your child baby food/cereal?

  7. Your Peanut is one lucky little girl to have a mommy like you. I had my first son 15 years ago and nursed him for 18 months until I had to have major surgery on my thyroid. I was devasted to have to stop and very few people could understand this. I went on to have two more sons and finished nursing my last son a couple years ago when I was 41. Marrying my husband, having children and nursing are without a doubt the greatest experiences of my life. I still get teary eyed when I think of them resting their little hand on me and how every now and then they stop nursing and look up at you and smile. Pure Heaven on Earth Beauty!!
    lovely post Molly

  8. I had the same thoughts prior to nursing as you did and now feel the same way also! Funny how your ideas and feelings about a subject change when you are actually experiencing them. Thanks for sharing!

  9. so cute. I just wrote about this on my blog too. I think it's really cute that now my daughter can say when she wants to nurse.

  10. My mum tried to nurse us as long as possible. Sadly, 3 out of her 5 children started biting her when they got teeth! It hurted a lot (obviously) and after a few days of trying again, she gave up. I hope that's not gonna happen for me! Though I must confess I always felt weird about 3 year olds and beyond being nursed in public...

  11. Great post! I agree that every woman has a choice - and you have no idea how you will feel about things once you have your own baby to feed (i was like you before I had kids and had set cutoff times for BF). My baby is only 6 months old now and I'm still BF and I'll continue for as long as her & I both want to :)

  12. My goal with Noelle was 2 yrs, but my milk dried up during a major move, about halfway into my second trimester with Levi. I was horribly sick with him so I'm surprised I made it that long. One day I went to nurse her and the milk was just gone. I was very sad but we made it about 19 months so I guess that is nothing to be too disappointed about. I BF through a 2 month roadtrip (camping the whole way!), a major surgery and subsequent hospital stay, and halfway through a very difficult pregnancy.

    Levi is now almost 7 months and exclusively BF. I've tried solids several times this last month but he gags and vomits every single time. So it may be a while before he gives up his milk, but I don't mind.

    I enjoyed hearing your thoughts and the non-judgemental tone you shared them in!