Friday, June 10, 2016

"Your child is too big to be breastfed"

When my son was two months old and I was breastfeeding, everybody told me, “that’s great. Breast is the best.” When my son turned two years old and I was still breastfeeding, everybody told me, “your child is too old to be breastfed.”

Breastfeed a baby beyond age one is known as extended breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months after birth, and breastfeeding in combination with solid foods until at least age one. Extended breastfeeding is actually recommended as long as the mother and her baby wish to continue, but, still, mothers decide to nurse their babies beyond age one often face unwelcome opinions and judging looks. Here are some questions I've heard and how I responded.

Aren’t you tired of watching your diet for such a long time?
“In fact, you don’t need to have the perfect diet to breastfeed. Of course, we need to take a bit more precaution when nursing, and we can’t be completely reckless with our bodies. But no breastfeeding mom should feel bad about eating the occasional doughnut or burger or drinking the once-a-while cup of coffee or tea.”

How long are you going to breastfeed?
“A lot of the time, women don’t know how long they’re going to breastfeed. Maybe a few years, maybe a few days. A lot of the time, extended breastfeeding is not planned, it just happened because both the mom and her baby enjoy the relationship.”

You’re still breastfeeding? Why?
“Yes, I’m still breastfeeding. I’m doing this because my baby and I wish to continue the relationship, also because of the many health and emotional benefits of extended breastfeeding.”

Once you give your baby solid food, you should stop nursing. Breast milk over 6 month is not nutritious. “This is a common myth. The truth is, breast milk is the gold standard for infant nutrition. As your baby gets older, the composition of your breast milk will continue to change to meet his or her nutritional needs.”

Aren’t you afraid your boobs are going to get stretched out? “I’m not thinking about what my boobs are going to look like in the future. I’m thinking about feeding my baby. My breasts are for babies, not a sexual organ or an object of fetishes.”

I never breastfed my kids, and they turned out fine. When I asked for lactation accommodation upon my return to work after giving birth, a supervisor told me “Just give him formula. We feed our kid formula and he went to Harvard.” I told him I think it’s great that his son went to Harvard, “But your kid is your kid, mine is mine. And breastfeeding is a human right.”

Your child is too old to be breastfed. “The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively until my baby is six months old and then to continue breastfeed until they are two years of age or older. That’s two years of age OR OLDER.”

Breastfeeding a toddler is a controversial topic, as any mom who’s done so publicly can attest. When my son turned 18 months old and was still being breastfed, I stopped nursing in public. When he turned two years old and was still being breastfed, I let both my mom and mother-in-law believe that I had already weaned him. By so doing saved me some arguments. But in an ideal world, every mother chose to continue breastfeed her baby beyond age one should be able to proudly nurse her toddler!

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