Thursday, May 12, 2011

Why, Yes, I AM Still Breastfeeding My 18 Month Old-- Here's Why!

Aias recently turned 18 months old. Since birth, Aias has been breastfed. If you are curious about our reasons for choosing to exclusively breastfeed Aias from the get go, here's a list of 100. No, really, you should read those!

But seriously, I don't want anyone to read this and feel like I'm attempting to be smug here; I'm not.  As much as I'm a lactivist, and in a lot of ways I am, the only life I have to lead is mine.  The only child I'm responsible for here is Aias.  Whether you personally nursed your own children for 1 day or 5 years, good on you.  I really believe that we all do our best as parents and we follow the signals our bodies and our children give us. I know that sometimes when people who were unable to breastfeed or people who chose not to breastfeed enter into a discussion about breastfeeding, they can sometimes  get defensive about their own experience or decisions.  This is for good reason too, I'm sure, as there's a lot of arguing that happens about this stuff everyday.  That's not what this is entry about, however, so don't worry.  I'm not here to judge anyone.  I'm simply here to address some judgment that I've been facing lately regarding nursing a toddler. 

I'll continue on to say that we are 100% without a doubt incredibly pleased to have had such success with our breastfeeding relationship.  We know that in a lot of ways we are lucky; not everyone has a reality or life situation that is as conducive to breastfeeding as we do.  I'll be completely honest here in saying that the first 4 weeks of breastfeeding sort of sucked.  It hurt, I was tired, I was nervous he wasn't getting enough milk, it felt awkward because it was something entirely new.  Not to mention that newborn babies eat ALL. THE. TIME.  When I say he had a few stretches of literally eating for 6 hours straight I'm not exaggerating.  Of course, we are very fortunate to be living in Canada where I was able to take 1 year of paid parental leave and Morgan was fortunate enough to be able to take 3 months paid off of work.  During that first 3 months, we mastered breastfeeding.

For the first 6 weeks after Aias was born, Morgan literally took over every responsibility in our lives so that we could master breastfeeding and make sure Aias was growing.  He walked the dog, he cooked all the meals, he did all the cleaning, he did lots of the diapers, he sat with Aias when I was showering or using the washroom, he went grocery shopping, he did EVERYTHING.  My job was basically to sit through hours and hours of old tv shows and movies while Aias nursed.  We watched all of Twin Peaks, Dexter, Glee, The Office, and Arrested Development during this period of time.  Possibly more shows that I can't remember, seeing as this was such a sleepless and exciting time.  All of our devotion paid off, because here we are at 18 months, and Aias is still nursing.

Which brings me to the point of my post, which is why, YES, I AM Still Breastfeeding My 18 Month Old-- Here's Why!

I know a lot of people find it bizarre for someone to still be nursing a toddler.  Looking back at a childless past version of myself, I absolutely would have been uncomfortable with the idea of someone nursing a toddler.   I would have been uncomfortable because not only did I know nothing about babies, but nursing wasn't something I was exposed to in my daily life.  I grew up surrounded by babies and toddlers drinking out of bottles, not boobs.  If you had asked me before I was pregnant if I would ever be nursing an 18 month old, I would have said "no way," and I would have been absolutely confident of that answer.  Even a year ago I was confused as to the logistics of how to nurse a toddler, and I guess I figured that surely at some point between then and now Aias would have just given it up on his own.  As we now know, that didn't happen.  I guess what makes it easy for me to accept is that I didn't pick up an 18 month old walking and talking toddler and start nursing him for the first time; I picked up a newborn and started nursing him, and in the last 18 months that newborn grew into the toddler I'm nursing today.  Nursing Aias has been something completely normal, healthy, and as days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, and 18 of those months passed, there was never a point where nursing him seemed normal and acceptable one day and then suddenly ridiculous the next.  Time just... passed!

There are tons of reasons to continue to nurse your child right up until 24 months and beyond, so here is some information you may want to have a peek at before saying things like "If they can ask for it they are too old" or "That's really weird" or any other number of things I have already heard or will likely hear between now and the time Aias weans.  Check it out, you may just learn something!

The facts below have been copied and pasted directly from the article on Breastfeeding Past Infancy.  Please read more if you are interested, especially if you are interested in judging toddler nursing.

Breastfeeding your child past infancy is NORMAL

    * The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that "Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child... Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother... 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." (AAP 2005)

    * The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that breastfeeding continue throughout the first year of life and that "As recommended by the WHO, breastfeeding should ideally continue beyond infancy, but this is not the cultural norm in the United States and requires ongoing support and encouragement. It has been estimated that a natural weaning age for humans is between two and seven years. Family physicians should be knowledgeable regarding the ongoing benefits to the child of extended breastfeeding, including continued immune protection, better social adjustment, and having a sustainable food source in times of emergency. The longer women breastfeed, the greater the decrease in their risk of breast cancer." They also note that "If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned." (AAFP 2008)

    * A US Surgeon General has stated that it is a lucky baby who continues to nurse until age two. (Novello 1990)

    * The World Health Organization emphasizes the importance of nursing up to two years of age or beyond (WHO 1993, WHO 2002).

    * Scientific research by Katherine A. Dettwyler, PhD shows that 2.5 to 7.0 years of nursing is what our children have been designed to expect (Dettwyler 1995).

So why am I still breastfeeding my toddler? Why not!

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  1. I think this is ABSOLUTELY wonderful! Good for you and Aias :) Your son is lucky to have such a great mommy!

  2. I'm still breastfeeding my 2 1/2 year old :) My oldest who's now four stopped when he was a little under two and a half. Good for you for keeing up with breastfeeding for so long!

    P.S. I lived in seattle for most of my life and miss going to Vancouver to go shopping :)

  3. Do you nurse at night or just during the day (or both!)? My daughter is 14 months old and breastfeeds, although I would love to give up the middle-of-the-night nursing (usually once, sometimes twice) and just nurse during the day. Not sure if that's possible or not! Great article!

  4. Great question! Right now we nurse both at night and during the day. He's 18 months old and only nurses about once or twice a night now, except if he's teething he does it a bit more often. When we decide to night wean, we will use the Dr. Jay Gordon Method =D

  5. I am still breastfeeding my 18 month old and get told all the time I should stop!


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