Sunday, November 14, 2010

Full Term Breastfeeding: Why I Refuse to Force Wean

Lydia is still nursing. She will be three in January. This is not something I broadcast to family, since I fear some of them may be uncomfortable with it. I'm sure they all know since she often asks to nurse and I will tell her, "later" or "when we get home." I have family and friends who are supportive, which is great and I appreciate thoroughly. I've decided that this is too wonderful of a relationship between my child and I to keep it "hush hush" anymore.

It's very important that every family choose to wean when it is right for them. If you are sick of weaning and despise the child's presence at your breast, maybe it's time to look into some gentle weaning. (La Leche League can help with that). If your child is done nursing, of course pushing them to continue is not a good idea. There are many reasons I have decided that self-weaning or child-led-weaning is best for our family.

The top reasons are:

1. It's a pick-me-up for both of us.
This weekend, Charlotte has been fighting an awful case of croup (she's on the upswing as I write this), and Lydia has been left to Daddy. They both enjoy this time together, but since every day is usually the three of us girls for most of the day, she understandably starts to miss me. Yesterday, she got very weepy for a while and was throwing a fit. I handed the baby off to Don and picked Lydia up to nurse. Her mood changed almost immediately. This has been a great mood booster for both of us many times over.

2. Pain relief and much much more during illness for the child
When Lydia had this bug that we've all passed around over the last couple weeks, she nursed a ton, but didn't eat much solid food. She didn't lose weight or get dehydrated. Breastfeeding is a natural pain reliever for nurslings, even the AAP recommends using breastfeeding during small procedures to provide analgesia to your child.

3. Less sibling jealousy
We have yet to have an instance of sibling rivalry or jealousy displayed from Lydia. She has not had her comfort taken from her. We do have etiquette rules, or nursing manners, that we expect her to follow. If she's latching lazily, she has a few tries to not hurt me or she's done. She has to stop if the baby is done and needs to burp.  The mere fact that she hasn't had to stop completely has made her accept and love her new baby sister tremendously.

4. Quiet time
It is so nice with two kids to have a few minutes here and there that we all just sit and rest. Toddlers are very busy and sitting down for a while to nurse can be as good as a long nap.

5. Nutrition
Most toddlers are picky eaters. There are products made by companies like PediaSure on the market to "fill in the gaps" of your child's nutrition. The commercials talk about how picky kids are. These are great products for kids who really need the extra boost. Luckily for us, my milk has everything Lydia needs in it. The beauty of breastmilk is that it's been proven to not only provide tons of nutrients, but to change as your child grows and to be specifically formulated for each individual child.

6. It's NORMAL!!
In most of the world, the average age of weaning is four years old. The World Health Organization recommends nursing until 2 years of age MINIMUM.

7. Reducing my risks of cancer and other diseases.
Every month a woman breastfeeds, she lowers her risk of breast, uterine, ovarian, and endometrial cancers. This of course does not mean women will be in the clear, and should not keep you from doing self exams and having regular mammograms. It helps to prevent osteoporosis and much more.

8. It's good for her social development.
 Nursing promotes bonding. It has been proven over and over again by psychologists such as Erik Erikson that trust and bonding in the early years are imperative to future social and emotional development. If a child is given the bond and nurturing they need for as long as they are asking for it, it stands to reason they will benefit socially in the long run. There are studies to show this as true.

9. She doesn't get sick as often
Statistically speaking, children who are breastfed have higher levels of immunity. When a mother is exposed to an illness her body begins producing antibodies. These antibodies are put into her milk and work together with the antibodies that the child is already producing to prevent and treat illness. When she does get sick, it is usually less severe and for a shorter duration than her weaned peers.

10. It makes us both happy.
We really enjoy our time together and she's going to grow so quickly, she's already grown so quickly, that I'm savoring every moment of the bond we are creating. Oxytocin floods each of our brains while we nurse and it lowers our stress levels. It's not a picnic every day and, as in every relationship, there are ups and downs, but it's more good than not and we are completely happy.  After all, a happy family is all that matters in the end.

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