I've been debating for awhile about this, but I can't ignore it anymore. You may call me weird, you may call me crazy, you may call me gross, you may call me a mommy who doesn't want to face the fact her baby is growing up. I am weird, I am a little crazy, not so much agreeing on the gross part, and only partly agreeing on the last statement. Munchkin turns 16 months old this week and she's still nursing. No sign of stopping. No desire from either of us to quit and no reason to either. The World Health Organization recommends children breastfeed until the age of 2. America is one of the worst countries when it comes to breastfeeding, and it goes downhill the older the child. A lot of people quit at 6 months, most people's goal is 12 months when cow's milk is allowed in a child's diet, and then there's us "crazies" who keep going. Also, just as a note, "extended" breastfeeding is the norm in most non-western societies, so really we're the weird ones who wean our children so early!
Let me stop a second and let you know where I stand in all of the crazy name calling you may have seen going around. Breastfeeding is an intensely personal choice. Everyone has different circumstances and situations, so some feel that breastfeeding is not right for them. I'm glad that there is another option for them, but I am sad that a lot of women just aren't educated on the subject.
Here's our nursing story:
I have ALWAYS said that I would breastfeed my children unless there was a medical reason to do otherwise--as in I couldn't produce enough milk or the child had an intolerance to the milk (which is rare, but happens). When I got pregnant, I read what I could, talked to mom's who had nursed...but still, nothing prepared me! I was done a great disservice at the hospital that Munchkin was born in, they have absolutely zero lactation consultants. They have a couple lactation counselors, but they just spouted the same information that I had read in books and online, so they weren't much of a help to me. The nurse that helped deliver Munchkin is the one who first helped me feed her. I didn't like her at all, but didn't have a choice in the matter, so we went with it. She showed me how to hold her and get everything going...except it was extremely awkward. I am not exactly lacking in the breast department, so we were battling the fact that they were bigger than Munchkin's head and she was having difficulty latching on. I finally got someone to show me a different way to hold her--and that was magic. Even still, her tiny mouth had difficulty getting a good latch. I'm as stubborn as a mule, so I never even let the word formula be thought, let alone spoken. Our hospital had no nursery, so Munchkin was never away from both of us at the same time. If I couldn't go with her, Daddy did. Thankfully that meant we didn't have to deal with well-meaning nurses giving her anything we didn't want her to have (pacifiers, bottles of formula, or bottles of sugar water). I was in absolute agony for the first week of her life when she nursed, but I wasn't giving up. It got better (and my memory has gotten fuzzier) and by 4 weeks, we were good, by 6 weeks, we were absolute PROS! We introduced a pacifier when we got home from the hospital because if we hadn't, I would have been the paci!
When Munchkin was about 2 months old, I wanted to go see a movie, I arranged for a friend to babysit Munchkin, worked like mad to get enough milk pumped into bottles for the time I would be gone and went. She took the bottles well, but that was the last time she took a bottle from anyone but me. Don't get me wrong, we tried--I would stay up all hours of the night to pump milk into bottles so that Daddy could take her places without me, or so that I could get out for a little bit, but just wouldn't take them. He was so good at recognizing her hunger fussiness and getting her the bottle before it turned into a full fledged fit, but even still, she'd take it a second, look up, see it wasn't me, and refuse to take anymore. As soon as I would come around, I'd give her the exact same bottle and sure enough, she'd eat it up! So at that point, I quit wasting my time pumping. I was spending too much time, effort, and spilled milk out of the pump to make it worth anyone's while!
I've nursed in public without incident, no rude stares or comments, let alone any issue of being asked to leave somewhere. 99% of the time I did use a nursing cover, simply because I wanted it. I didn't feel like I HAD to have it, and at times it came in very handy to keep Munchkin on task! Now that's she's been getting bigger, it's been more of a hindrance than a help, but we're good enough and she's big enough that everything stays covered. Now Munchkin nurses sometimes in the mornings--most days she just goes straight for her breakfast without her milk appetizer, occasionally once during the day, sometimes to go down for her nap (that one is getting rarer and rarer--all her doing), and almost always for bed. It's comfort, extra food to keep her full, an immunity boost, and a love-drug boost.
She signs "milk, please" when she wants it--and will reach for the bottom of my shirt if she's sitting in my lap, but doesn't really lift it. Most of the time during the day, if she's near me, she'll ask whenever she's thirsty. I offer her water and we're good. We haven't given her cow's milk as a drink yet, but she gets her dairy in other things. She's healthy, a little on the low side for weight but definitely not malnourished, happy, and most importantly, we're happy!
One of the things that pushed me to really get this out was my experience at Curves last week. Somehow we got on the subject of breastfeeding and the calories it burns, and I mentioned that I still nurse Munchkin. The lady was shocked and appalled. She couldn't understand why I still do it--she said I should have quit at 6 months, and at the very least I need to give it to her in a cup or bottle, not actually nurse her. I told her the recommended age of weaning is 2 and she asked who told me that (fully expecting me to say "a friend" or something like that) and when I replied "The World Health Organization" she had nothing left to say on that front. She still kept trying to attack my decision, but I don't really care what she thinks. I got through to her a little, but I doubt that she'll share anything that I had to say about why I do it.
Another is a friend who is a new mommy--she posted in her blog wondering why nursing was so difficult, when it was supposed to be so easy. That right there is one of the biggest disservices we do to new moms. We make them think that breastfeeding should be easy because it's natural. Yes, women's bodies were designed to carry, birth, and nourish babies--but it is in no way easy. It takes hard work and education. Reading a book and looking at a couple drawings aren't good enough. There are resources out there, unfortunately they're hard to find, especially when you're a new mom who is still recovering from delivery, sleep-deprived beyond your wildest imagination, and worried about your baby getting enough to eat or not being in agony for your baby to get enough to eat. Moms shouldn't have to search out this help, it should be given to them from the start. I think we're starting to get there, but we're still a long way off.