So why does the AAP recommend exclusively breastfeeding, or formula feeding for at least 6 months? Babies under 6 months have open gut, which means germs go directly from their stomach to their blood stream. This could prove to be quite dangerous for such an under-developed immune system. It also plays a big role into food allergies if foods are introduced to babies before 6 months. Many pediatricians recommend rice cereal starting about the age of 4 months, but this is really, an outdated recommendation.
Rice cereal has no real nutritional value. It's full of preservatives, filler and empty carbohydrates. Studies are now showing that babies that are spoon-fed are more likely to end up obese, and a babies stomach is not able to properly digest grains until they are closer to a year in age. Solid foods before a year of age is really just for fun and exploring. It's best to introduce foods that are easy for baby to eat, but are also packed with plenty of nutrition, (avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes and steamed carrots to name a few). The nutrition a baby receives before a year old is meant to come from the breast milk or formula. (Cited)
So now that we've established that breastfeeding for at least a year is really what's best for baby, let's talk about extended breastfeeding. I've personally seen women verbally attacked for breastfeeding their toddler that was over a year old, mostly from people that have no experience in breastfeeding what so ever.
The World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend breastfeeding your toddler for a minimum of 2 years. Just as with babies, toddlers continue to receive health benefits through the breast milk. Breast milk continues to provide immunities and vitamins, and can help protect your child against illnesses and allergies. Breast milk does not have a shelf life, it does not expire. As the toddler ages, the breast milk will become more nutrient rich and include more antibodies. (Cited)
I've actually heard people say that once the baby gets teeth, the mother should stop breastfeeding....You do realize that some babies start getting teeth at 3 months, right? Or that "once that babies teeth come in, she won't be able to breastfeed anymore"....way to be supportive, not to mention you sound absolutely ridiculous!
When a baby is properly latched, his lips are flanged and his gums land far back on the areola. His bottom teeth are covered by his tongue and don't even come into contact with the breast. So a baby that is latched on properly is not able to actually bite. If the baby is latched on to the nipple only, he would be able to clamp down, which could be quite painful for the mother, but has nothing to do with the teeth. Some mothers come across this challenge while the baby is actively teething. Because a baby can often experience a lot of discomfort, a baby may reposition his latch to avoid sore spots on the gums. This can cause the mother temporary nipple soreness or discomfort, but nothing that would force a mother to prematurely wean her baby. (Cited)
Although there has been little research on breastfeeding benefits past the age of two, the information that is available indicates that breast milk continues to be a valuable source of nutrition and disease protection, for as long as breastfeeding is continued.
In the second year of life (12-23 months) 448 ML of breast milk 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
"As recommended by the WHO, breastfeeding should ideally continue past infancy, but this is not the cultural norm in the United States and requires ongoing support and encouragement. It has been estimated that a natural weaning age for humans is between two and seven years. Family physicians should be knowledgeable regarding the ongoing benefits to the child of extended breastfeeding, including continued immune protection, better social adjustment, and having a sustainable food source in times of emergency. The longer women breastfeed, the greater the decrease in their risk of breast cancer." (AAFP 2008)
The part of that quote that sticks out the most for me is when it says extended breastfeeding requires ongoing support and encouragement. We shouldn't be bashing our society for doing what's best for their children. We should be supporting them 100%! If you're one of the people that says, "I support breastfeeding, but...." No. You are NOT supporting breastfeeding.
This is the article that got me thinking about doing my post. I support women breastfeeding in every sense of the word. Whether it be for a short time, for years, in public, in private, covered, uncovered, I support it. I do not however support the naysayers that ridicule a woman for choosing to nurse in public uncovered.
"If you don't support breastfeeding in public, you don't support breastfeeding". To ridicule a woman for breastfeeding in public is to inhibit mothers who only only want to do right by their child. If a mother is bottle feeding, we don't give them the same disrespect. To give a separate set of rules for a nursing mother and child is nothing short of discriminatory.
I get extremely upset when I read on message boards someone comparing nursing to going to the bathroom or masturbating. Believe it or not, it does happen, and it's ridiculous. Saying this, implies that nursing is private, or worse a dirty or sexual act. But as it states in the article above, "no body else eats a hamburger under a blanket." How true is that sentence? We expect a nursing mother to cover her feeding baby with a hot, stuffy blanket, while you're free to stuff your face with all the food you want? While all of us get to watch you. If one were staring at you while you were eating, and saying how gross and offensive it was, one might suggest for that person to look away if they don't like it....ehem...works both ways. (Cited)
So why doesn't the nursing mother just go to the other room? Being a mom is already a hard job. You can often times feel alone and isolated, why should we banish women for doing what is only natural? If you're shopping for diapers and your kid is hungry, are you suppose to drop everything you're doing and go lock yourself in a room to feed your crying baby? Oh no, you should just make the baby wait to eat, right? And then get dirty looks for having a screaming baby in a store. In the same article as above, she mentions people getting upset about nursing in church. I personally am not a religious person. I don't go to church, and I don't know a lot about it. I am pretty sure however that God made man in his image. If you believe in it enough to find it offensive to nurse in church, you should also understand the He made woman's breasts to feed their babies. It's a beautiful thing, and I would like to think that God would support it.
So after all of this ranting and raving, one might think that I plan on breastfeeding Sweet Pea. That however, is not the case. While I support breastfeeding 100%, I am not going to be able to do it. I'm very heartbroken about this, and I too need support.
I'm on a medication for my bipolar disorder, that passes through the breast milk. Thankfully, it's not known to pass through the placenta, so I've been able to stay on it throughout the pregnancy. We've looked into donated milk, or milk sharing, but it's not the right fit for us. Mister isn't comfortable with the idea, and I'm going to support him in this.
Furthermore, I've done my research on this topic. I know that my medication is not safe while breastfeeding, so instead of second guessing me, support me. I've had a few people imply that I don't know what I'm talking about, and that most medication is safe through breastfeeding, "really the only one that isn't safe is chemo therapy". While it may true that most medications are safe while breastfeeding, mine is not. I've read all the special books, I've read the manufacturers stance on the subject, I'm very well researched. Thank you. We have decided that it is safe to give colostrum, so at least Sweet Pea will be getting her first dose of antibodies right after birth. I'm hoping to have a few ounces from a family member that we can give her as well.
What I guess I'm trying to say, is even if you don't breastfeed, never have, and don't plan to, you can still be supportive to mothers that are. Help normalize what is natural.