Last week was world breastfeeding week. I love that Alexis was born during world breastfeeding week, even though I didn’t know it at the time. Even though I took a breastfeeding class before she was born, and knew that I would breastfeed, I really was clueless about the whole thing. I didn’t realize how little I knew until I had this new little person who needed to be fed!
I’ve written before about our bumpy start with breastfeeding, and about some of the grief I was given for daring to nurse my daughter in public. Now, right along with with World Breastfeeding Week, Alexis has turned one, and passed that age of socially acceptable nursing. Of course it’s fine to nurse your baby for 12 months. But, as I have been told by more than one kind person, after a year it has to stop.
When your baby can ask for it, she’s too old!
I saw a mom nursing a toddler in the airport. It was disgusting!
So she’s still going to be nursing when she’s 9?
I never really know what to say when someone offers one of these gems to me. Before, it was friendly advice, offered conspiratorially about other moms, because I was still nursing an adorable baby and who would even expect that I would ever turn into one of those weird hippie moms that just keeps on nursing past one? That’s crazy, right? Alas, it’s happened. We have entered the world of “full term breastfeeding” (or “extended breastfeeding,” or just plain, “still nursing.”) As long as it’s working for both of us, I see no reason to stop arbitrarily. We’ll be done when we’re done.
Breast milk is still an amazing source of nutrition, antibodies, and comfort. It’s handy and portable. And as my wonderful supportive husband points out, “it’s free! Why would you stop?” To the people who would potentially take issue with our choice (and I hope I never meet you), I offer you these cool science facts about breastfeeding:
- The composition of breast milk changes as your child ages. Your body knows what a 2 day old and a 2 year old need, and it isn’t the same thing.
- When you are busy giving your baby kisses and nursing, your body is figuring out what germs your baby is ingesting or is about to ingest (because they are smeared all over her kissable face), and is manufacturing the perfect antibodies to help keep her healthy right now.
- The longer you breastfeed, the more health benefits you accrue for mother and child. Risk for cancer decreases for both parties. Kids who are breastfed actually gain a few IQ points, and it’s positively correlated with the length of time they were breastfed.
- Babies who are breastfed have enhanced brain growth, and this continues to be true for babies who are breastfed beyond a year, particularly in areas of the brain dealing with motor function.
Kelly Mom has an excellent, easy to read list of the benefits of breastfeeding past age one. Another good article about it is Dr. Jack Newman’s, “Breastfeed a Toddler? Why on Earth?“