Thursday, June 7, 2012

Extended Breastfeeding

The Time magazine article has no doubt crossed your computer screen.  While this is a hot topic I wish to add my two cents.  I love nursing.  It amazes me that I can grow a 6.6lb boy into 20lbs of chub in a matter of 6 months.  It amazes me that my body will change the milk to fit the needs of my baby and that I produce every vitamin, mineral, fat, protein, etc that his body needs for at least 6 months.  I wish that all women could experience the joy of nursing.  I know that because of adoption, low milk supply, no support from spouses, etc, some women will not get to find the joy in nursing.  I also know there are common problems that cause some women to flee as fast as they can.  There are many wonderful support groups and SO MUCH information online.  KellyMom is a wonderful website and La Leche League has helped numerous women find the strength, and sometimes courage, to start or continue breastfeeding.

While I think the article on Attachment Parenting is great, I did think the sexualized cover was over the top.  BUT, they are selling magazines!  Would we expect anything less?  Rico still nurses, mainly in the morning, sometimes during the day, and when I ask him if he thinks he'll be ready to stop drinking my milk soon, he shakes his head no (he may not know what I mean completely, but he is a pretty sharp boy).  He will be two in a couple of weeks and I have attained my breastfeeding goal.  Dr. Christopher states (and I'm paraphrasing) "The baby was inside of you for nine months, you should nurse for at least twice as long!"  In ancient times, families would hold a weaning party to signify that the child was no longer a baby and these were held at about 18 months.  We haven't decided if we will do this for Rico, but it sounds like a wonderful idea and something that has meaning for the whole family.  Also, our birthing instructor counseled the class that we should try to nurse until 2 years old.  After that class, J and I knew we probably should.  There have been a couple of times that I have wondered if our nursing relationship needed to be over, but I pressed on.  He still needs the comfort and he still gets wonderful nourishment when he doesn't eat the best and antibodies when he is sick (which isn't often!).  I have learned that I only have this stage for such a short period of time and it isn't doing either of us any harm.  When I have questioned all I have to do is look into his eyes while he nurses and feel his hand rubbing my arm and in those moments I know he needs me.  He needs my milk and it only adds to his well-being.

I'm glad the article has highlighted that extended breastfeeding does happen.  I do believe it to be somewhat of an intimate affair past a certain age, but I wouldn't judge a woman who chooses to do it publicly.  It is her prerogative.  There is a wonderful documentary that can be viewed on YouTube about extended breastfeeding.  If you have a little time, it is worth watching.

A few other fun facts about breastfeeding these are pulled from Dr. Sears website:
  1. Reduces the risk of breast cancer. Women who breastfeed reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 25 percent. The reduction in cancer risk comes in proportion to the cumulative lifetime duration of breastfeeding. That is, the more months or years a mother breastfeeds, the lower her risk of breast cancer.
  2. Reduces the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer. One of the reasons for the cancer-fighting effects of breastfeeding is that estrogen levels are lower during lactation. It is thought that the less estrogen available to stimulate the lining of the uterus and perhaps breast tissue also, the less the risk of these tissues becoming cancerous.
  3. Lessens osteoporosis. Non-breastfeeding women have a four times greater chance of developing osteoporosis than breastfeeding women and are more likely to suffer from hip fractures in the post-menopausal years.
  4. Benefits child spacing. Since breastfeeding delays ovulation, the longer a mother breastfeeds the more she is able to practice natural childspacing, if she desires. How long a woman remains infertile depends on her baby's nursing pattern and her own individual baby.
  5. Promotes emotional health. Not only is breastfeeding good for mother's body, it's good for her mind. Studies show that breastfeeding mothers show less postpartum anxiety and depression than do formula-feeding mothers.
  6. Promotes postpartum weight loss. Breastfeeding mothers showed significantly larger reductions in hip circumference and more fat loss by one month postpartum when compared with formula-feeding moms. Breastfeeding mothers tend to have an earlier return to their pre-pregnant weight.
  7. Costs less to breastfeed. It costs around $1,200 a year to formula-feed your baby. Even taking into consideration the slight increase in food costs to a breastfeeding mother, the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that a breastfeeding mother will save around $400 during the first year of breastfeeding.

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