Today when baby nurses for over a year we use the term extended breastfeeding. But is it really â€˜extendedâ€™? By todayâ€™s societyâ€™s standards, yes it is. Itâ€™s quite common for mothers to feel proud to nurse for any length of time from 4 months to one year, as they should be. Breastfeeding is hard work. But when it crosses the one-year mark itâ€™s common to hear a lot of questions.
â€˜Youâ€™re still feeding!!?â€™ â€˜When do you plan to stop?â€™ â€˜Are you still getting milk?â€™ â€˜Is it normal?â€™
But when breastfeeding is aÂ regular part of your mothering, when you donâ€™t schedule it and use it to your advantage for long flights and to heal hurts and for everything in between, you canâ€™t pull the plug when your baby turns a year just because some societal milestone has been achieved.
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Taking into account the child’s needs:
When you nurse for over a year or even two and you follow your childâ€™s lead to drop breastfeeding at a stage that matches the childâ€™s developmental need, it becomes a conversation between mother and child and a mother can stop nursing taking into account the childâ€™s needs as well as her own.
Breastfeeding has been a big part of my life as a mother. I went into motherhood knowing I wanted to nurse for two years. My first son nursed until 3 years and my second at 2 years and 4 months is still going strong though we both know itâ€™s going to end soon, more so because I donâ€™t want to nurse anymore. We talk about it and he says he will be sad and miss nursing and I tell him I will be there to hold him and cuddle him whenever he misses nursing. But I feel that taking into consideration my childrenâ€™s feelings about something so important to them is the best part about natural term weaning.
I prefer using â€˜Natural term weaningâ€™ over â€˜extended breastfeedingâ€™. Thatâ€™s becauseÂ extended breastfeeding is not really extended at all. Breast milk changes as children grow and can be a great boon to a toddler as well as a baby. Before infant formula gained popularity and before the industrial revolution it was not uncommon for children to feed for a few years. So what we see in todayâ€™s times as â€˜extendedâ€™ is more of a norm for the major part of human history.
Why is breastfeeding over one year considered extended?
- Women are leaving their children for extended periods for work. Staying at home and feeding on demand for months let alone years is a luxury. It simply isnâ€™t practical anymore. However, plenty of families make it work by nursing when the mother is available.
- Infant formula is big business. Thereâ€™s definitely more money to be made by MNCâ€™s if babies wean sooner as compared to if they are breastfed.
- Myths about breastfeeding are abundant. Doctors, paediatricians, well-meaning relatives, and others, raise eyebrows and ask you to stop nursing. Many paediatricians feel that breast milk isnâ€™t nutritious once the child crosses one. Though how something so jam-packed with good stuff can lose all itâ€™s nutrition over-night puzzles me.
- The hurry to make children independent. Many new parents feel nursing on demand or giving into the babyâ€™s needs will â€˜spoilâ€™ the baby or make them dependent. The truth is, babies are dependent and continue to be emotionally and physically dependent on the parents for a long long time. Efforts to push children away prematurely, before they are ready many times back fire and result in a clingy child as opposed to one who has all her needs met at a developmentally appropriate pace.
- Thinking that breastfeeding is purely about nutrition. Itâ€™s not. The need for a baby or toddler to nurse is way more than pure nutrition. The breast is the babyâ€™s home and the toddlerâ€™s safe haven. Toddlerhood and childhood are difficult phases and giving them this support may just be what they require.
The bottom line is, breastfeeding is a very personal and beautiful relationship between mother and child. There is absolutely no reason to stop unless YOU or the child is ready or wants to. There is no one else who should have a say or should try and come in the way of this relationship. However, if it isnâ€™t working for the mother and you really want to stop then nothing should pressure you to continue either. The important thing to realize is that it is a two-way relationship between two people and both of your decisions matter.
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