I’ve started a little mini-series where I’m going to post 5 reasons why I’ve chosen something uncommon from the mainstream regarding birthing and mothering. I started off with my post on 5 Reasons Why I Chose Home Birth, and today I’m going write about something that makes me a little uncomfortable to admit publicly; 5 personal reasons why I’ve chosen to “extend” breastfeed, or breastfeed full term as I like to call it. I’ve also written a post here about the benefits of extended breastfeeding.
Before I became a mom, I remember having a conversation with a friend about breastfeeding. I told her there was no way I’d ever breastfeed! So the fact that I’m breastfeeding my 2.5 year old right now in addition to my baby would’ve shocked my former self into unconsciousness! Here’s how I came to this point:
Breast milk doesn’t stop being beneficial at one year – There are some people and even doctors who believe this crazy idea that breast milk doesn’t do a child any good after the age of 1. That really couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a little snippet from KellyMom on the benefits of breast milk in the 2nd year:
- In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:
– Dewey 2001
- 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
And in fact, they haven’t researched the benefits of breast milk past 2 years, and seeing as how breast milk continues to adapt to the child’s needs in the second year, it very easy to assume that it would continue to do so even after 2, 3, and yes even 4 years. Breast milk is pretty dang amazing! So in conclusion – I want him to have the healthiest possible start in life!Breastfeeding confers significant short and long-term health benefits for both the mother and her infant, which go beyond the period of breastfeeding itself. ~ National Health Service of Great BritainBreastfeeding is nature’s health plan. ~Author UnknownBreastmilk: the gift that keeps on giving. ~Author Unknown
- The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that children weaned before two years of age are at increased risk of illness (AAFP 2008).
- Per the World Health Organization, “a modest increase in breastfeeding rates could prevent up to 10% of all deaths of children under five: Breastfeeding plays an essential and sometimes underestimated role in the treatment and prevention of childhood illness.” [emphasis added]
I wanted to foster security for later independence – It may seem as though breastfeeding past infancy would create a clingy, babyish child, but it actually creates quite the opposite. Breastfeeding instills security, and a secure child is an independent child. Elizabeth N. Baldwin, Esq. in “Extended Breastfeeding and the Law” states “Breastfeeding is a warm and loving way to meet the needs of toddlers and young children. It not only perks them up and energizes them; it also soothes the frustrations, bumps and bruises, and daily stresses of early childhood. In addition, nursing past infancy helps little ones make a gradual transition to childhood. Meeting a child’s dependency needs is the key to helping that child achieve independence. And children outgrow these needs according to their own unique timetable.”
And can I just say…breastfeeding has helped me out so many times during Piggie Smalls’ toddler meltdowns! When nothing else works, offering to nurse him has been a way for him to calm down, reconnect to me, and reorganize himself.
There was never a reason to stop – Among my breastfeeding peers, I started watching everyone around me drop like flies once we got to the one year mark. I definitely couldn’t fathom stopping at one year because Piggie still got most of his nutrition from breast milk (he wasn’t a fan of solids until around 10 or 11 months). Once we got to 2, I had a couple friends still hanging in there but there was mostly talk of weaning. It made me nervous to admit I was still nursing him, but I just never (and still haven’t) gotten to an honest place of feeling the need to wean him. I’ve for sure fantasized about it when I’m touched out, but I still really feel like he needs it. I just know he’s not ready yet. I don’t really know when we’ll stop…I didn’t think I’d still be nursing at 2.5 and here I am, still very much feeling that Piggie is too young.
It kept us close after the birth of my second child – Oh, if I could count the times I felt my heart break right after I had the Dactyl. That week, I remember sitting in my bed with the Dactyl laying next to me while I watched Piggie being carried away so I could rest. He just sadly stared over Luis’ shoulder at me and his eyes said so many things to my heart. He was scared, nervous, sad, jealous, hurt, and he wanted his mommy. And how do you explain all of this to a 2 year old? I was so thankful that I could take him in my arms and nurse him like we’d always done. It was our special time together to reconnect and my way to show him how much I loved him and that the new baby hadn’t changed that. That in itself has been the number one reason I’m happy I’m still nursing my toddler.
Baldwin, EN. Extended Breastfeeding and the Law. Mothering 1993 (Spring);66:88.