Friday, 1 August 2008

Why I still breastfeed

So, it's arrived - August 2008. The month that, in all of my great human "wisdom", I planned to get pregnant with our second child, thereby making our children two years apart.

Instead? I've yet to see even a hint of the return of my post-partum period.

15 months and not so much as a hint.

And here I was secretly ready to get pregnant again pretty much as soon as I gave birth.

*sigh*

It hit me hard in April, when my son turned a year old. Suddenly I was Ready. Yes, that's ready with a capital 'R'. But, sadly, no period.

A month later, my son started sleeping through the night (of his own volition). And still no period.

Now, having reached the month we "planned" to get pregnant in - and still no period - I'm having an even harder time with it. Yes, I am fighting the selfish desire to wean my son so that my fertility will return.

No, of course I won't wean him - but I can't pretend I don't find the idea horribly tempting right now.

And so - partially for the sake of my dear readers, but even moreso for my own sake - Why I Choose to Breastfeed my Toddler:

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least the first two years of life. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least the first one year of life, and states that "there is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer." The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that children weaned before two years of age are at an increased risk of illness.

Nursing a toddler has numerous benefits.

For toddlers, these benefits include (but are not limited to)
complete nutrition,
fewer allergies,
stronger immune systems,
increased cognitive achievement,
reduced risk of excema,
reduced risk of diarrhea,
reduced risk of respiratory infections,
reduced risk of ear infections,
reduced risk of childhood diabetes,
reduced risk of heart disease,
reduced risk of pneumonia,
reduced risk of Vit A deficiency,
reduced risk of future autoimmune disorders,
and numerous psychological benefits.

For nursing mothers, these benefits include (but are not limited to)
a delayed return of fertility,
reduced risk of breast cancer,
reduced risk of ovarian cancer,
reduced risk of uterine cancer,
reduced risk of endometrial cancer,
reduced risk of bone disease and arthritis,
and easier post-partum weight loss.

And those are just the benefits related to extended nursing (nursing beyond a year), nevermind the many benefits of nursing in general.

Another reason extended breastfeeding is important to me is because our son remains entirely unvaxed at this point. The extra immunity he receives from me is integral.

Also, it is reassuring to me to know that on those days when he doesn't eat much, he is still getting an optimal balance of vitamins and nutrients that he wouldn't be getting from regular milk.

Finally, we nurse because he still wants to nurse. The comfort and bonding aspect is of huge importance to us. Nursing helps my little one fall peacefully asleep each night. Nursing makes owies better. Nursing allows an overwhelmed toddler to seek a few minutes of solace at his mother's breast. And on grumpy days, when my son and I find ourselves feeding off each other, nursing allows us to take a breather and quietly snuggle and reconnect, walking away a few minutes later in much better spirits.

How could I even think of giving that up?

And so I find myself, once again, acknowledging before God the folly in even thinking my life is mine to plan. I've seen it said recently - write your plans in pencil, then hand God the eraser. So, God, here's my eraser.

I know, truly, that natural spacing of children through extended breastfeeding is the ideal. I've long thought so. I just had no idea that it would work quite this well.

But hey - Jesus was breastfed, right? And during a time when weaning didn't occur until three years of age or later. According to that standard, we're not even halfway there!

Here's to another 20 months or so of cozy nursing snuggles.

Psalm 22:9
Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother's breast.

1 Thessalonians 2:7
But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.

16 comments:

  1. A lot of women find that it takes a few months after their LO starts STTN or after they day wean (e.g. to go back to work) before their period comes back. It took 2 to 3 months for me with both kids.

    With regards to spacing the kids, I decided to wait until I knew my son would emotionally and nutritionally be able to handle my milk disappearing. It happens quite early in the pregnancy for a lot of women, so if you want to nurse to 2 years and have milk that whole time, then you might want to wait a bit more.

    I ended up getting pregnant with my 2nd the first month that we tried. My first trimester ended as my son turned 2 which is about when my milk dried up for the most part.

    My daughter was born when my son was 2.5 years old and we find the spacing great!

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  2. I am jealous I do have to say. I didn't intend on Daniel to stop nursing so soon. I couldn't help but put him on the bottle b/c of him not gaining weight. But I don't understand why it happened how it has. There's a lot I don't understand. I miss Daniel nursing badly! It was so sweet to see him nursing. I just read that verse in Psalm 22. My period came back really soon. Maybe when Jacob is through nursing yours will too.

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  3. I've learned more from you than you know. :) I'll probably copy/paste this for the future.

    C

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  4. I was going to say almost exactly what Christina said.

    *chuckles* It's so strange how differently I view things now than when I first did in the beginning of my marriage, when I first became pregnant. I am so glad that God has put people like you and information into my hands to learn about how to naturally care for my future children and myself. It is a great blessing.

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  6. (I just realized you don't seem to be using his name, so I edited this comment, just in case.)

    I am still so, so jealous that you were able to keep nursing your baby this long. Neither Raiden nor I are ready to wean, but my breasts just sort of gave up on producing any milk. For weeks if not months now I've barely been able to squeeze out a few drops of goo, let alone anything of substance, and it makes me so sad when Raiden will tug on my shirt, find a breast to nurse, then look confused and sign "more please." I wish it were that easy.

    So, I know you want another baby and quickly, but I'm proud of you for what you're doing for yourself and your son.

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  7. Thank you for your comment. I'll have to read Ecclesiastes. There's a lot I don't understand about life,but I do know God knows best. I've always struggled with letting people know if I am struggling. I really had to during the pregnancy or I felt I had too. I held SO much in due to all the decisions we were having to make and after I had Daniel it's all just coming out. I know it's not good to bottle stuff up,but I do it a lot. I'm glad someone else can relate to me.

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  8. Those are some wonderful reminders. I know I struggle sometimes with still nursing Hannah, as I dream about how she would stop wanting at my breast all night and would just SLEEP, but it's such a special bond that we have that I don't want to give it up. I'm still very unsure about how it's going to work out with a new breastfeeding baby in 5 months, but I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

    And I can understand your feelings, definitely, about wanting to wean so your fertility can return. I think if I were in the same place I'd be having the strong temptation as well. But I admire you for continuing to do what is best for your son and just let things run their course. :)

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  9. This was great to read. Lots of info to take in. I know this will help me seeing as I plan to breastfeed.

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  10. Well, not having a period because you are breastfeeding doesn't necessarily mean you don't get pregnant. I never got a period between my last two who are 13 months apart.

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  11. I hear ya. 13 months over here and still no AF.

    Just yesterday two poeople told me there was no reason to me *still* nursing my baby. Silly mainstream people.

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  12. I found this entry very interesting. I believe my mother breastfed my brother for two years. I, like Christina and Melody, will be storing this information for a later date.

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  13. Just to let you know… A while back, I started looking up some of the references that I kept seeing as to the benefits of nursing a toddler, and discovered that there is very little evidence for *any* of the grand claims being made about the benefits to toddlers of continuing to nurse. Study after study, when I looked them up, either proved to be about nursing babies rather than toddlers (of course, the same benefits *might* well apply, but we can’t assume that that’s the case), or just plain didn’t say what the webpages I was reading on the subject claimed they said, sometimes even saying the opposite of what they supposedly said! I haven’t been able to find one single study that shows benefits for nursing a toddler in the Western world. (I found one that shows survival benefits for severely malnourished children, but that wouldn’t apply to yours.)

    Now, of course, there’s a saying in science that absence of evidence isn’t the same as evidence of absence. Or, in plain English, just because there hasn’t been a study done to *prove* something’s true doesn’t mean it isn’t true. It isn’t that studies have been done that prove there *aren’t* any benefits of toddler nursing - just that, for the most part, the studies haven’t been done at all. So there may well be some benefits. After all, we do know that mother’s milk is chock-a-block with immune factors and antibodies, and it’s perfectly possible that this might be of benefit into the toddler years. I’m certainly planning to nurse my one-year-old for several months to come, purely on the off-chance that it might help her fight infections. But I’m not planning to get pregnant, and, if nursing her was the only thing stopping me from conceiving when I really wanted to, I’d probably feel very differently about continuing to do something that has absolutely no proved benefits.

    That certainly isn’t to say that you should stop nursing if you’re happy to continue. As I say, it’s possible that it may be of benefit – and, if you’re enjoying it and your son’s happy with it, then that’s a good reason right there! I’m just a bit concerned that the information given out by advocates of extended breastfeeding is grossly overhyped and incorrect in terms of the available evidence for benefit, and, while this doesn’t really make a difference to a woman who’s continuing to nurse into toddlerhood because she wants to do so, it might be making a difference if you would rather stop but are basing your decision to keep going entirely on information you’ve read about the supposed benefits. So I say this not because I have any opinion on what decision you should make on this matter, but just because I feel it only fair that whatever decision you do make is based on accurate information and not misinformation from people with an agenda.

    I’d be happy to talk further about what I’ve read if you want any more information.

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  14. Thank you for that information, Sarah. It's interesting that you found that, considering the stances of the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

    "...just because there hasn’t been a study done to *prove* something’s true doesn’t mean it isn’t true." I think that really sums it up for me. I can see it being very hard to *prove* that a breastfed toddler has a decreased chance of ___, but even just the common sense approach seems to indicate that everything contained in breastmilk will continue to provide benefits to the nursing toddler, rather than becoming useless as soon as the child reaches a certain age. I know I get great comfort from knowing that my child's nutrition is rounded out with breastmilk - and he gets great comfort from nursing in general!

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  15. Thank you for linking this post on my blog. <3 It was a great comfort and reminder for me!

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