Many of us are aware of the many benefits that breastfeeding offers, both to our nurslings and ourselves. We know that breast milk is a complete food for our babies which sets the stage for lifelong health. We also know that breastfeeding helps our bodies fight off PPD (Postpartum Depression), reduces our risk of developing feminine cancers, and forms a bond with our children that will last a lifetime.
The WHO (World Health Organization) advises breastfeeding to continue at least until the 2nd year and many studies show that breast milk continues to provide immune support, vitamins, and enzymes to the developing child. Breastfed children are also sick less often and have higher I.Q.’s than their formula-fed peers.
With all this evidence, breastfeeding sounds like something we would want to continue as long as possible to ensure the health of our children, right? After all, we wouldn’t deliberately subject them to disease, junk food, and death metal. Would it not seem natural that breastfeeding would be the obvious choice? Yet the debate rages on.
Breast milk doesn’t suddenly expire when your child turns one, and your child doesn’t automatically give up the only thing he’s ever known by his first birthday.
We may struggle with the preconceived notions regarding breastfeeding beyond the first year and may feel a huge social pressure to wean after our child’s first birthday (or even before). We may even feel ashamed when our child asks to nurse in a social situation because we feel the need to defend our actions.
“If you even suspect you might end up nursing into the toddler years, start using a word for breasts or breastfeeding early on that you’ll feel comfortable hearing your two-year-old yell across the room at a family reunion or grocery store.”
Some suggestions include: “milkies,” “nummies,” and “nursies.”
Many women may be entirely comfortable nursing in public. Babies have the right to eat, like anyone else! Others, may feel the need to cover up or feed their baby in private. It completely depends on each woman’s preference and comfort level, although no one should ever feel ashamed to feed their baby.
Tips for extended breastfeeding success:
Sleeping with your baby.
Co-sleeping is a great way to keep your milk flowing and reconnect at the end of the day, especially if you are a working mom. It can also guard against painful plugged ducts which can occur after an absence from your child.
If your toddler is eating regular meals and snacks throughout the day, you may want to limit breastfeeding to times of comfort, such as nap or bedtime. Limits may be essential, especially in the case of tandem-nursing.
Go out and have some fun!
The beauty of extended breastfeeding is flexibility! Your tot is eating at regular intervals, and that gives you the time to go out and pursue your own interests.
Buy a good pump.
Women who are facing a return to work, may feel a huge pressure to wean completely and unnecessarily. Pumping at work may seem less than desirable, but if you make the commitment to keep breastfeeding, you can find a schedule that suits you best. Perhaps you could have your child’s daytime caregiver visit you on lunch hour with your baby so you can nurse while you eat. Talk to your boss and work out a spot where you can nurse or pump quietly without interruption. Your workplace may be more accommodating than you think.
Ignore the nay-sayers.
They may be family, friends, neighbours or that little old lady in the grocery store, but they are not YOU. They have no right to make a judgement call on your own personal decisions. You can either choose to ignore them, or think of something witty to say back.
Some great books on the subject include:
Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond, by Hilary Flower
And, Mothering Your Nursing Toddler, by Norma Jane Bumgarner
Enjoy it! It won’t last.
Nursing doesn’t go on forever, but your fierce love and enduring bond will stand the test of time. You’ll never regret the time you spent with your child in those quiet moments when you were all they could see, and you were the source of their comfort.
During my personal nursing journey with my 6 children, each experience was different and each shaped my perception a little more. It wasn’t until I had my last 3 children that tandem nursing occurred to me. My 3 year old daughter and I just ended our nursing relationship, but she still asks to sniff my breasts to fall asleep. My one year old son is still nursing full time.
I had many a sleepless night (still do) and more frustrating moments than I can count, but I would not trade those sweet moments of my son and daughter gazing at each other and laughing while at my breasts.
Any women who have tandem-fed their babies can relate, and I salute you! In those moments, I would sometimes step back and think of all the women who had done this before me, or who were doing the same thing in that moment. It’s all about perspective.