Friday, October 26, 2007
Breastfeeding a 15 month old - Part 2
Mother in law "jokes" that if he can ask for it...he is too old. Casual acquaintance ask, if we are STILL nursing. Godmother wonders...when it will end. Its kinda hilarious...kinda distorted how the general american culture negatively views breastfeeding beyond infancy. Whats the big deal? Guess because my tits are supposed to be for implants and commercials...not the evolution of the species.
Nursing beyond the first year is considered "extended" or "sustained" breastfeeding. I believe the nutritional, immunological and emotional benefits continue for as long as the child nurses. Children do require solid food for additional nutrition after the age of 1. I consider breastmilk as a major nutritional bonus - even after solids are the primary source of nutrition. The fact that Grant is still getting as much mothers milk as he wants, makes me feel more confident in his overall nutrition. Especially considering that toddlers tend to be picky eaters and most days he doesnt eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. So the fact that he is getting a " mama health shake" is comforting, and another great reason to continue nursing.
So what is it like to nurse a 15 month old? It sure is different from having a little lump passively suckling away. Instead I have a mini contortionist wiggling about. Sometimes he stands (while im seated), sometimes he sits on my lap and leans forward, sometimes he laying on top of me etc etc. He prefers variety! Sometimes he nurses for thirst, sometimes for hunger and many time for comfort or a combo. What is certain, is that he loves to nurse. It is very meaningful to him. I can tell this by the way he looks up at me with adoration and love, his since of urgency when he needs it bad hehe and the way a nursing session re energizes him and soothes all wrongs. Bottle feeding seems SO difficult compared to the ease of whipping it out :).
He signs for it so I know exactly what he is requesting. Of course there is the occasional shirt pulling, which I discourage (its rude - especially when you have the ability to communicate with sign language). The only time I wont nurse him is if we are in transit (believe it or not i did nurse in the car till just recently! not when driving of course. it is ridiculous i agree).Im fortunate in that he doesnt request it when we are out to eat or generally in public. This is very nice bc its so much more convenient for old mom. However, I am not at all opposed to nursing in public. Its just not something I solicit (hey want some of this :)) I guess because he is an active toddler, he just doesnt have time for it, or need it when there is so much to do and see. My 15 month old definitely nurses less frequently than he did as a baby.
Since I work - he doesnt get much milk during the day. I do have the luxury of spending my lunch with him. So he nurses then...somedays a lot, other days hardly at all. I gave up pumping at around 13 months (hooray). Evenings are sprinkled with nursing sessions...lasting from 10 seconds (hi mom you are still here and i love you so much )to 5 minutes (man i needed that) to 20 minutes (im so sleepy). We certainly reconnect through our nursing sessions. It also forces me to take some down time and focus on my son. This is a huge benefit of nursing...slow down, enjoy the simple pleasures and this brief point in time where your child is but a babe. I have found nursing to be perfect for me as a working outside the home mom(wohm)...because you are with them even while working (through expressed milk) and it jump starts your connection even after long separations.
We are a co sleeping family. Little guy does wake frequently to nurse still (from gasp...2 - 6 times a night) but i just get us comfortable and go back to sleep. Im usually only awake for a few minutes total. YES he does wake a lot. YES i would prefer to sleep uninterrupted. BUT it feels right to me. He can grow up when he grows up. He knows I am close, sometimes he just reaches out to touch me. He is secure, confident and attached. Many folks worry that I am spoiling him or reinforcing bad habits. Whatever. This is a tried and true method that has been bad mouthed for oh about 200 years. Before then...it was what people did. Co sleeping is natural for me. It is working for now, and when it stops working we will transition into another arrangement. But nursing at night is when grant gets the majority of his milk and I am not putting an end to it. It is the best thing in the world to cuddle with your baby, see his cherub face in the night light and wake up to big smiles, kisses and hugs! Its so delicious.
I will add that Hathor said it best when she equated nursing a toddler to being a rotisserie. Grant is an equal opportunity nurser...he likes both sides the best. So he tends to go back and forth. Its kinda funny...kinda annoying depending on the situation. Toddlers can be bossy, so I make sure and set limits so that I stay happy and comfortable. One thing he does that drives me INSANE...is reaching over to the free boob and playing with it. "Hi over there...sure do miss you...dont be sad though..i still love you". If he would just caress I might be able to handle it...but no..he insists on tweaking the nipple. Sorry boy...no can do! It is like someone running their fingernails down a chalkboard! So yes we must set limits. Unfortunately he is very stubborn. Its like he has eyes in his head, bc he knows when i have my guard down and goes in for the tweak. Argh.
Even with the annoyances, Im still so glad we are nursing. Its been quite an adventure. I have learned so much! One thing I recommend to all pregnant women who want to nurse, please line up your support network before the birth. Fumbling around for contact numbers while your baby is screaming, you are exhausted and bleeding profusely is not the time to do your research (i can tell you from experience). Please call your local hospital and see if they have a breastfeeding support group. This was a godsend to me! Unfortunately I didnt know about it till 2 weeks into the challenge, but when i arrived i knew i was home. Tears were shed as i saw a dozen other new mothers with their boobs out asking questions of the guru (lacatation consultant)and supporting each other. Also, start attending La leache League meetings to ask questions and just be around the culture. Have your LLL phone numbers handy just in case you need advice from someone who has been there before. Know what your options are if you end up needing a private lacation consultant. My insurance company ran me around in circles till I finally gave up. If I had done this work prior to giving birth, I would have had more energy and fight in me. If you do your homework and plan ahead, the challenges that nursing can pose, will be handled with less stress and more success! Even though nursing is natural, it is still a learned behavior.
I love nursing my 15 month old. Knowing that I am giving him that extra UMPH makes it all worth it. Get a grip people. Nursing is good, haters are bad.
"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)