One of the primary pillars of Natural or Attachment Parenting is that if you needed something to survive, nature provided that to you. And one of the best examples of this that I witnessed was breastfeeding. When I was pregnant I had very few positive stories about breastfeeding. In fact people tried to convince that I would not be a bad mother if I gave formula or animal milk to my infant. I did not have one person encouraging me about breastfeeding or its possibility. But I soon found 20,000 people in a Facebook support group for mothers called ‘Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers.’
My entire perspective on breastfeeding changed. Not only were women breastfeeding effortlessly (pushing past the early demons) but they were also breastfeeding their toddlers and preschoolers. I will admit that before I was a mother I sometimes thought poorly of women who breastfed non-infants or in public for that matter. But it’s only when the motherly hormones kicked in did I understand that milk is for nutrition and when a baby is hungry – wherever he is, home or outside, he must be fed.
This brings me to the topic for today’s post for the #AtoZBlogging challenge, long term breastfeeding. It is also more known by the terms extended breastfeeding, prolonged breastfeeding (which makes it sound like a pain-in-the-rear to be honest.) Most mothers and lactation experts and believers in the concept of breastfeeding prefer the term “Full-term” breastfeeding for being more reflective of the natural phenomenon that a mother can feed her child as long as the child “needs” it. This term also seems to have a more positive tone to it.
But breastmilk is for babies
The number of times I have read and heard and been told that breastmilk is nothing but water after the baby turns 6 months old makes me mad. And it is not just ignorant old aunties who tell you this (it is in fact the old fogies, bent double with age who will tell you that breastmilk is liquid gold.) It is the educated masses, those medical professionals (who by the way did not study an ounce about breastfeeding or babies) and the ones who don’t have kids of course (they always have opinions about raising babies don’t they. I was one too) who will tell you how much you are ruining your own life and your child’s mental and physical well being by breastfeeding him beyond the baby stage.
This could not be far from the truth. Don’t take my word for the virtues of breastfeeding. Believe in the numerous scientific experiments that have been conducted on breastmilk which has showed that breastmilk is full of nutrients. Breast Milk is alive. It is not just sugar, proteins, fat, minerals, calories and water, but a lot more. Here’s a list.
Can’t read that? Neither can I, unless I zoom. But it’s a huge list and a very tested, researched and proven list of the composition of breastmilk.
Breastmilk has the power of adapting to the needs or requirements of the child. Mothers and research has shown that when a child is ill or going through physical/ mental growth spurts the composition of mother’s milk changes to suit the needs of the child. This implies that breastmilk is not “useless” after the infancy stage.
Toddlers and older kids too who breastfeed continue to receive vital immunity and nutrients via their mother’s milk. Just like the breast milk that a newborn receives consists more of water and a mature infant’s contains more fat, older children receive the right dosage of nutrition that their body demands at that stage of their lives.
And of course we know, it’s more than just milk
Along the way as children grow up, they go through teething, growth spurts and (immunity building?) illnesses. At times like these it is very common to see distraught mothers lamenting about how their child won’t touch a morsel of food. Breastfeeding comes to the rescue at such times. Apart from the hydration and nutrition, it also provides them a lot of comfort to tide by the hard time.
I heard of a case once where a 4 year old was hospitalized for a fairly serious condition, I think it was leukaemia, and the mother luckily was lactating for her younger, second child. Although the sick child had been weaned off, he was fed breast milk in the hospital. It did help him find the vital strength physical and emotional to fight his disease.
How long is long term breastfeeding?
As long as the baby wants really.
Although breastfeeding is a less discussed topic in circles, once people know you are a breastfeeding mom, you will suddenly get to hear many tales of how the old grandma in your neighbourhood or your maid fed her kids till they were sometimes 3 or more. Someone once told me that her grandmother actually got pregnant almost every year and she was always breastfeeding more than 1 kid at the same time.. whoever fancied a drink just came up, had a sip and quenched their thirst. It may seem rather uncivilized to do this, but in essence it was only a child who still felt the need for breast milk.
So long term breastfeeding was actually very normal. Breast milk provided valuable nutrition to children till they were ready to wean off. This was also a much gentler way of weaning off, rather than using bitter tasting potions and using coercive methods of convincing the child that breastmilk is dirty, yucky or using statements like “Are you a baby to drink mamma’s milk?”
This is why breastfeeding advocates don’t prefer the term extended breastfeeding, but like using “full-term” breastfeeding instead.
Note – I breastfed my boy till he was 23 months old. I wish I could continue to feed him for longer, but had to due to certain medical conditions, which I will someday find the voice to write.
This blog post is part of a series for the #AtoZBloggingChallenge where my theme is
New Age Parenting: Parenting in 201x.
Read my theme reveal post here.
To read all the posts for the #AtoZChallenge go here – #AtoZ2018
You may particularly enjoy reading about Baby Led Weaning