This post was originally written in 2012, but I’m now on my second “extended nursing” experience and loving every bit of it.
I’ve been wanting to talk about extended nursing (nursing beyond the first year) for a while. Brooklyn is the first baby that I’ve attempted extended nursing with and I loved every minute of it. She will be turning two in about a month and I’m proud to say we just barely quit last week.
I really enjoyed every bit of time I had nursing her. So much snuggle time that I will forever cherish. I felt like I was really able to enjoy her baby stage. We all know how fast they grow, and I felt like I was able to extend it just a little longer. I also enjoyed the convenience of nursing. Never once had to make a bottle in the middle of the night like I did multiple times with Olly. I loved that I was always able to soothe her no matter what. She actually never even had rice cereal or baby food either. She nursed for 9 months and went straight on to regular food. I of course tried feeding her baby food multiple times starting at 5 months, but she didn’t want anything to do with it. I figured as long as she was healthy and growing then I had nothing to worry about. I actually felt pretty proud that my body was solely producing all the nutrition she needed to grow up until that point. My goal was to nurse her for 2 years and I basically reached that goal. Just shy one month but only because being pregnant has made my milk dry up.
Extended nursing is quite foreign here in the U.S. I didn’t even consider it with my first two for this reason. I never heard of anyone doing it, so I didn’t bother reading up on it. Since taking a more natural approach to things, I’ve become quite educated on the benefits of nursing past the first year.
Some of the benefits include:
info from Babycenter.com
•Even though your child now gets most of his nutrition from solid food, breast milk still provides calories, valuable immunities, vitamins, and enzymes. In fact, studies have shown that breastfeeding toddlers get sick less often than their peers.
•Breastfeeding is good for your health, too. According to the surgeon general, exclusive breastfeeding for longer periods is associated with a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers in women.
•As your child becomes more independent, breastfeeding can be an important source of reassurance and emotional support. The strong connection your child feels with you while nursing will foster independence, not make him overly dependent or clingy as some may have you believe.Our culture tends to believe that pushing children away helps them develop a strong sense of self-worth and independence, says Kathleen Huggins, author of The Nursing Mother’s Companion, when in fact, the opposite is true. Forcing a child to stop nursing before he’s developmentally ready won’t necessarily create a more confident child – rather, it could make him more clingy.
•If your child is sick, breast milk may be the only thing he can keep down. You’ll feel better too, knowing that you’re helping him fight off the illness.
•If you travel a lot, breastfeeding is a lot easier than carrying around formula or worrying about having to buy it at your destination. And when you stay overnight in a strange place, the comfort of your breast may be the best way to ease your child’s fears and make him feel more secure.
•You may be able to put off getting your period for a year or more, an advantage for anyone who dreads the thought of dealing with cramps and bloating again. But keep in mind that nursing isn’t an effective form of birth control, especially after your baby is 6 months old (when you’ve introduced solids and you might not be nursing as often). It’s a good idea to use a backup birth control, such as a condom, every time you have sex if you’re not ready to have another baby.
•Continued breastfeeding may help to keep your weight in check. Some research shows that breastfeeding combined with a healthy diet and exercise may keep you trimmer for years to come. Other research shows that extended breastfeeding protects against excessive weight loss in women at risk of being extremely underweight.
•Weaning your child when he’s ready is more natural and less abrupt than picking an arbitrary end point. Nursing a child beyond the first year was common around the world before the invention of formula and still is in some cultures.
I noticed many benefits with Brooklyn. First of all she hardly ever gets sick. She’s had a few colds here and there, and did get the stomach flu once, but I was grateful that I was still nursing her since that was the only thing I could do to comfort her. Plus, she obviously didn’t want to eat anything else, so I felt good knowing that she was getting nutritionally hydrated through my milk. I’ve never had to take her to the doctor once and I’m pretty proud of that.
The ONE downside to extended nursing, which really wasn’t that bad, is that it was harder to wean her. I never had trouble with that in the past. I weaned Lily at 8 months (and I really don’t even know why I did), and Oliver sadly weaned himself at 3 months :(. So when I tried to wean Brooklyn, I had a hard time. I hated telling her no more “boo boo”. I admit, I gave in several times, even though I wasn’t even producing much milk. I just felt bad withholding something that brought her so much comfort. Not only that, but I was having a hard time letting go myself. I was sad that my nursing time with her was coming to an end. It’s a fact that holding and snuggling babies releases endorphins, and once babies reach a certain age, they don’t want to snuggle as much. They are just too busy :(.
I’m still amazed with how much I DIDN’T know when I first became a mom. Thank goodness I still have time to put into practice what I’m learning:).