One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my almost two years of motherhood is to never say never.
Before marriage, my anxiety told me I’d never want to carry or birth children. After marrying the man of my dreams I said I’d love to carry a child but that I’d never birth a child without drugs. Then once I was carrying my precious little man, after years of infertility, I did everything in my power to bring him into the world naturally, and I succeeded in my goal. After bringing him home, listening to outside advice, I uttered the words that I would never nurse past a year because of the judgment against moms that did. That was until I learned about all of the health and emotional benefits that come in the second year of life from a healthy nursing relationship. It was these large moments in my life, as well as many little instances peppered in between, that taught me to get my proverbial foot out of my own mouth and stop saying “I’ll never…”
As we approach my sons second birthday this summer, the opinions on my nursing relationship have grown stronger from outside family, friends and those I reach through my job as an influencer. I will always do what’s best for my family, regardless of outside opinion, and I wanted to let other mom’s out there know, that if this is the choice you make, I am cheering you on 1000%.
Through my extreme ups and downs of this breastfeeding journey, I have wanted to throw in the towel quite a few times. And there are still many days and nights where nursing him is the best part of my entire day. As I get feedback daily, wanted or not, I felt the need to share five big myths when it comes to extended breastfeeding.
- He will nurse / co-sleep with you FOREVER – I had to get this one out of the way because this one is RIDICULOUS. When people throw this one at me, I’m always tempted to ask them to name one teenager still nursing or co-sleeping. He will nurse and sleep with us until he is developmentally ready not too. Or if my husband and I decide it’s time to gently help him move to his room or wean. But never do I worry he will be attached to me when he’s ten, so I soak it all up. It’s all going so fast already.
- They Don’t Need to Nurse Past Age One – This one. This one is closest to my heart, as a mother and as a nutritionist. The emotional benefits include a closer relationship, comfort in situations where a child would turn to other material sources of comfort and less or diffused tantrums. The health benefits are also wide – 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
– Dewey 2001
Breastfeeding toddlers between the ages of one and three have been found to have fewer illnesses, illnesses of shorter duration, and lower mortality rates.
- It Will Stunt the Child Socially – My son plays with others wonderfully. He is not dependent on me or nursing while in social situations. Two studies conducted in 1984 and in 2010, both showed a positive relationship between longer breastfeeding duration and social development. Meeting a child’s dependency needs is the key to helping that child achieve independence. And children outgrow these needs according to their own unique timetable. Children who achieve independence at their own pace are more secure in that independence then children forced into independence prematurely.
- It’s Not “Normal” to Breastfeed After Your Child Can Talk – This uneducated statement unfortunately was directed at me from a close family member. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that “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.”
- They Will Bite – I saved this for last because it’s the one I hear most. “I stopped nursing when my baby got teeth.” Or “doesn’t he bite you all the time?” First off, I have to say SOME babies ARE more oral than others and I have heard tales during my time in the La Leche League that some kids bite more often than others to test out their newfound teeth. However, there are ways to deal with this that can end the behavior quickly. In my two years of nursing, I believe he has bitten me a total of two times. When you think about the nursing connection, the child is instinctually there for comfort, for sleep, for nutrition. These aren’t times where biting is a normal behavior and in the mechanics of the way a child nurses, the teeth are not felt.
Everyone needs to make their decision based on the needs of their family. This works for our family, and if you decide to make the decision to breastfeed beyond a year, know that there is support. Fellow moms, the La Leche League and KellyMom.com are all safe places to find support, facts, and information.