With my son, I had a heck of a time with
nursing. Part of it had to do with me not being mindful of how he was
being bottlefed when he was not in my care. His feedings were rigidly
scheduled, and he received more in one sitting from the bottle than he
would normally get while nursing.
To keep myself motivated, I kept setting targets for how long I would
nurse. What started as 3 months, turned to 6 months, and then 12. By
the time we hit 9 months the bottles won, and I was left to sort through
my conflicting emotions regarding the experience and failure to meet my
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I
decided to take a more natural approach. To keep a healthy perspective,
I didn’t set any expectations or goals. I decided to simply nurse when
appropriate, and for as long as needed.
Now that my daughter is approaching her
first birthday, I’m starting to get a bit uneasy as we chart into
unknown territory. I have been noticing that my usually confident
manner is a bit shaky when people ask about when we are going to stop.
Even though I fully intended to nurse beyond a year all along, I have
not been able to articulate clearly why I feel convicted to do so.
Whenever this happens, I know it is time to arm myself with knowledge.
Fortunately, I purchased The Womanly Art of
Breastfeeding for my lending library a while back. I am finding it to
be a wonderfully written book that encourages nursing, all while
respecting the autonomy of women. The other night when I was
contemplating the issue at length, I picked up the book and turned to
the chapters dealing with extended nursing and weaning to learn more.
Benefits of extended nursing
A newborn’s demands are in the here and
now. When new babies are hungry we feed them right away. The dynamic
of the nursing relationship changes as older babies start transitioning
into toddlerhood. Despite the lessened need, there are still benefits
to continuing the nursing relationship as it remains a powerful
mothering tool that makes parenting easier in a lot of ways.
Nursing beyond a year remains a means of
nutrition. I have thought on many occasions, that my picky eater of a
son would have benefited greatly from extended nursing. It is very
reassuring to know that our bodies produce such a complete supplement
for our children…and for free! I find it especially important since
small babies and toddlers are at a higher risk of colds given their
close contact with the floor, and given their tendency to put their
hands and other objects in their mouth. Nursing helps to shorten the
duration and intensity of a cold in instances where they can not be
In addition, nursing can be used as a
natural pain reliever when a child becomes hurt. It is a general
comfort measure for a child who is upset. The hormones and enzymes that
are released also help sooth a fussy child to sleep. It is an all
around great tool when a need arises.
After reading the chapter on weaning, I
realized that my understanding of it was limited. I had been defining
weaning more along the lines of a defined stopping point. I had this
idea that weaning was a conscious choice; a point in time when mom and
baby decide it is time to end the nursing relationship.
learned that while weaning can be structured like this, it can also
occur at nature’s pace. That the weaning process really begins once
solids are introduced into the diet, and continues as the baby develops
more independence through the next few years of life.
The child gradually learns to use other
forms of nurture, such as story time and/or cuddling, in place of
nursing. As the child finds other ways to cope, nursing may be put off
until a later time more often. Eventually, the nursing relationship
tapers off without much thought or effort behind it.
I definitely feel better now that I have a
deeper understanding of extended nursing and weaning. In our culture,
where nursing is no longer the norm, it is completely understandable why
so many doubt the benefits of continuing beyond a year. That is why I
personally choose to seek out information sources that are not biased by
What about you? Were you prepared mentally for venturing beyond a year?
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