A new pattern has emerged. I realized I am doing something not many people do. In fact, sometimes it elicits stares and questions or comments from those brave enough to inquire.
I’m extended breastfeeding. What does that mean? I think it is a term that came about due to women having a nursing relationship with their babies past the one year recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics. I’m not sure if other countries would call it extended because the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years. Irregardless, I am still breastfeeding my (now) almost 16 month old son.
Is it what I want to be doing? Hell no. In fact, I’d love to have my body back. I am tired of always being touched, including at night. When I’m tired and want to rest, it isn’t an option. I am sleeping with my seven-year-old nursing tank undone, boob exposed, and a baby boy pressed up against me or curled into my side. If I have a headache, I cannot take Tylenol before bed for fear I would roll on him and not know it.
My son is very high needs. He is demanding. We know what he’s thinking, how he’s feeling, and what he thinks about us. We’ve never not known what he’s feeling. Many stores and restaurants and friends know just how verbal he is. (That’s putting it lightly. He screams. Plan and simple, it’s screaming.) If nursing is what makes him calm, relaxed, and comforted, I will continue to nurse him. Even if I have scratches on my chest from the Hot Wheels being run across it or the toy tools he practices using on me, I will continue.
Another pattern I’ve caught myself in recently is:
I apologize for nursing my child. The first time I recognized it was when my friend from Texas came up and I was visiting with her for a little bit. My son walked up to me to be nursed and I said, “I’m sorry. He still nurses,” or something very similar. She was very understanding and told me her daughter went a little longer too. The fact though, is that I felt I had to apologize.
I probably apologized before that and I know I have after. Why do I feel the need to apologize? Or maybe I should be asking the question, why do I feel like I have to apologize?
This past weekend the kids and I went out of town to cross off some more summer bucket list items and it was refreshing to see in a smaller city all the moms out nursing their little ones. There were teeny tiny ones and bigger kids. It felt almost tribe-ish.
There are many benefits to nursing past a year and can be found fully on Kelly Mom, but take a look at these nutritional statistics:
In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:
- 29% of energy requirements
- 43% of protein requirements
- 36% of calcium requirements
- 75% of vitamin A requirements
- 76% of folate requirements
- 94% of vitamin B12 requirements
- 60% of vitamin C requirements
I’m not sure about your family health history, but mine is riddled with heart disease, early heart attacks, early onset Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and cancers. My children are at high risk for all these things because I was obese when pregnant, I had gestational diabetes with the boys, and the babies were all three large for their gestational age when born. If I take another angle with this extended breastfeeding, I could say if I did force weaning on any of my children, I’d be selfish and not provide them a better start than the rest of my family had, due to lack of research back then.
Thus, I will nurse for as long as he needs. The stares and questioning or condescension from friends, family, and strangers will continue to come. I cannot control those responses. What I can control is what is best for my child(ren). I don’t jump for joy knowing he wants to nurse still. I’m so over it. Been over it since he was six months old. Nursing isn’t just about me, though. It is also about the emotional, physical, and mental well-being of my child. He will wean one day, hopefully sooner than later, but not because of societal pressure saying he should be weaned by now. After all, this is a relationship we will never have again.
Did you nurse your babies? How long did you nurse?