Thursday, January 21, 2010

More on "Extended" Breastfeeding

It appears that this is the current hot topic, though I wasn't aware of it. It just happens to coincide with the fact that now I am nursing an "older" baby.

I would like to share a link to an article from The Mommy Files from earlier this month.

Moms who breastfeed until their kids are 4, 5, 6...

"Breastfeeding a child until he is age 4 is unusual in the United States. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months and support for nursing for the first year and beyond, as long as mutually desired by mother and child. But only 23 percent of women in the U.S. make it until age 1, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It's simply not part of American culture to nurse a toddler."

"If you are old enough to ask for it, you are too old for it."

"that insane. kids that are 2-5 years are too old to be breastfed."

"Sounds like Social Services should investigate!"

"When exactly does it stop being necessary and start being weird and borderline abuse?"

"Sounds like the mothers are putting their needs to be soothed and close to their kid above the kid's own welfare."

"I think when the kid is old enough to climb up on Mommy's lap and help himself or herself with no assistance from Mommy, it's enough."

" Show me somebody breast feeding past 1.5 years old, and I'll show you a parent who will overindulge their child for life."

"yes, are these moms addicts or what? unsuction the teat and seek professional help."

"As this article shows, late breastfeeding is mainly to meet the emotional needs of the mother. yuck."

Many comments were directed at the mother in the article who felt it was necessary to only nurse her older child in public and tell him to not discuss it in public. These people, perhaps due to the slight undertone of the article admonishing extending breastfeeding, perhaps due to illiteracy, didn't seem to understand that the mother was not keeping the breastfeeding secret because she was ashamed of it or that it was wrong, but because she feared the social backlash. Based on the comments following this article, it sounds like she was right... they only proved her point!

I have felt the same way about co-sleeping, afraid to admit it to my son's former pediatrician who insists babies should be isolated in a crib in their own room. I would also refrain from telling him that I fed on demand, since he insisted babies must be on schedules. His outdated parenting advice conflicted virtually everything I believed in about bonding and attachment, hence the "former" title.

The fact that she felt she had to hide is supposed to point out how American society is messed up, not that the practice of extended breastfeeding is messed up. I do agree with some of the comments that her doing so, telling her son to keep it a secret, was probably not the healthiest decision in the world for her son. But I've made plenty of mistakes with my kids, and I'm sure I will make more. Hopefully she has the knowledge now that she will explain to her son why she felt that they had to hide, and I have a feeling that the kid will understand when he is older and won't be as "harmed" by it as some people posted.
As far as the concerns about extended breastfeeding being unhealthy from a psychological standpoint, perhaps we should be researching this. It appears that there are many redundant studies which waste resources trying to prove that formula is just as good as breastmilk. Maybe more focus should be on the benefits of extended breastfeeding, an area where it is obvious America needs to improve in order to increase breastfeeding rates, which is supposed to be our national goal. I believe that American society is pretty screwed up, with mental illnesses increasing exponentially in the last generation. The rest of the world doesn't seem to be as screwed up as we are. In fact, the cultures with the highest breastfeeding rates extending over the longest periods of times seem to be the most emotionally sound societies. Would studies prove my theory sound?

Zane, 6 months & 13 months

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What "Extended Breastfeeding" Looks Like

Firstly, I do not agree with the term "extended breastfeeding", as if there's some magical time where breastfeeding goes from "normal" to somehow "unnormal". It does have a negative connotation the more you think about it. What's even more sad is that to many people, "extended" breastfeeding starts at 6 months, perhaps due to a misunderstanding about the "exclusive" recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics. To some, it is a year. To others, it means "walking & talking", after they have teeth, "if they can ask for it, they're too old for it". I regret thinking that way, misinformation, and lack of support with my first two children, whom I weaned around nine months.

My son Zane is 13 months old today. And this is what it looks like when he's nursing.

Here are some other videos of him nursing:

What "Extended Breastfeeding" Looks Like

Adventures In Nursing a One-Year-Old: Boobie Bongos

Adventures In Nursing a One-Year-Old: The Ham

The Le Leche League offers a variety of information about nursing beyond one year, one of my favorite articles being:

Breastfeeding Beyond a Year: exploring benefits, cultural influences, and more by Jen Davis.

One thing that strikes me when watching my videos is the fact that my son is still a baby. How could any one think that it is wrong to nurse a baby? And I am curious about how the next year will unfold for us. I can't wait to hear what words Zane will use when asking to nurse. I am anxious about the negative response when I "indiscreetly" nurse him in public.

Perhaps one of the most helpful resources I have found online about breastfeeding is, particularly the articles there about extended breastfeeding.

My husband has been supportive about my lactivism, but has expressed concern about still nursing when the child is, well, not a baby any more but ready to go to kindergarten. I have never imagined myself being a mother that nursed at that age, though I have nothing against it and support those that do so (admittedly, this was not always my belief, but in my entire life I have only actually seen 3 women breastfeeding besides myself, and they were all under 6 months old). I can find the words to express my thoughts about how my son is the only baby I have EVER seen nurse beyond the age of six months. On the rare occasion my older children (9 & 7) happen to get sick, I do express milk for them to drink (YAY BOOBIE MILK!). My goal at this point is at least 2 years, though I am planning on leaving the decision up to my son this time around.