As always, thank you to Perpetua from Our Lady of Perpetual Bread Crumbs for hosting ControverSundays and Accidents from Accidents will Happen for the amazing badge!
Participants this week:
Fearless Formula Feeder
Oh goodness. I don’t know where to go with this. First of all, sorry to anyone who read my past posts on breastfeeding where I promised I was done with the topic on my blog. But I can’t turn down a ControverSunday topic. For those of you who didn’t read those posts, here is a brief summary:
I breastfed, unsuccessfully, for 3 1/2 months, until I finally came to my senses and figured out the kid was just not getting enough and was never going to get enough. (She weighed the same at 3 months as at 2 months, just in case you think I am exaggerating.) In those three months I was miserable, sad, and yet still determined that my baby HAD to be breastfed. But despite the ridiculous amount of time, effort, drugs, herbs, galactagogues, pumping, breast massage, switch nursing, Supplemental nursing systems, cluster feeding, ect. ect. to try and get my milk production up…. there were just too many odds stacked against us. So A happily sucks back her soy formula and I have finally come to peace with that ‘choice.’
So I kinda feel like I have ‘no comment’ on this topic. I can only speculate what I would have chosen if breastfeeding had worked out. And I really have no opinion when it comes to others choices on the matter. Knock yourselves out. (And I really don’t mean that in a sarcastic way or a ‘I’m jealous of you’ way or a ‘your crazy’ way. I just mean that I really have no opinion on others choices in the matter.) Despite this, I will continue to discuss the matter for about an other 800 words. I know, I have amazing abilities to ramble on about a topic.
First of all, I will define. Because, well, I do that. To me, extended breastfeeding is longer then two years. Why two years? Because:
1) WHO recommends breastfeeding for 2 years
2) Alberta Health Services (who rule the land where I live) recommends breastfeeding for 2 years (with the minimum recommendation being 6 months)
3) I read somewhere that the world wide breastfeeding average is 2 years
So the number 2 seems to come up a lot, therefore it makes sense to me to be the cut off where beyond is ‘extended.’ Quite honestly, I think anyone who figures out how to breastfeed successfully for six months (or 1 day or 1 week or 1 month or 3 months…. you get the picture) deserves a standing ovation. I take that back: Anyone who gives it try deserves a standing ovation. (And anyone who chooses not to try…I am sure you get a standing ovation for something else…. I support you too. It’s just, well, breastfeeding is hard.) I know that it can also be wonderful but easy it is not. I don’t know anyone, successful or not, who told me it was easy, at least at first. Anyway, I digress. Extended breastfeeding definition a la amoment2think: Two years.
When the nurses first asked me what my goal was I said I wanted to breastfeed to two years, but would be happy if we made it to a year (ha! That turned out to be a bit ambitious for my body!) And if all had gone well I might have very well have done that. But I do wonder….. My daughter doesn’t exactly like to sit still. By 6 months I couldn’t cuddle her when giving a bottle, she would squirm and scream until I sat her up and faced her out to drink. You see, a bottle is a lot easier to move around to suit a squirmy baby then a boob is, I assume. (And while I know there are Mom’s out there that have successfully managed breastfeeding squirmy baby/toddlers, I am not sure if I would be so tolerant of the antics.) Now I can’t keep the kid still for any length of time. This week she started refusing our long honored tradition of cuddle in the glider reading “Goodnight Moon” before bed. I could read the book if I wanted, but staying on my lap she was not. Anyway, my point is: When I said that I wanted to breastfeed to two years I had only been a Mom for a couple days and I really didn’t know what a 6 month old or a 11 month old or a two year old was like. So what I would have actually ended up doing…I don’t know.
What would I do if/when we have baby #2? Honestly, I would be pretty darn happy if I could breastfeed exclusively for 6 months and have the little monkey gain weight. Anything beyond that would be icing and totally optional in my books. (If that didn’t work out I sure wouldn’t put myself through the guilty I felt this last time around. Whatever works is fine with me.)
But beyond two years? I don’t think I would do that. Why? I don’t actually know. Because I think I would be ready to say goodbye to that stage? Because I would feel like I have met my WHO obligations and therefore had ‘done my time’? I don’t know. I just wouldn’t. I don’t think. Cause I wouldn’t.
I know some people that think any child that can articulately request to breastfeed is probably too old to breastfeed. (You know, like “Mother I would like to nurse now” versus “Mama, milk?”) But whatever. I don’t see the harm in it. If a family feels it is to their benefit or their preference- go for it!
I can’t say I wouldn’t look twice if I saw someone breastfeeding a four year old…. I mean that is not something you see every day. But would I disagree/be bothered by it/ judge it… no. It might be worthy of notice, but none of my business. And if the international average is 2 years, there must be a fair number of Mothers breastfeeding 4 and 5 year olds in other parts of the world to make up for the prevalence of under 3 months and under 6 months in North America. So I see nothing wrong with it. I just don’t see what the benefit would be such that I would consider it for myself/my child. And, as I said, I would be so happy to just make it to 6 months… so 3 years just doesn’t even make it to my radar.
What I will say though, is that I wouldn’t follow any advice to leave the decision totally up to my child. Why? Extended breastfeeding or not, the decision to continue or not continue that arrangement should be mostly up to me. I am the adult, the parent, and the one with the boobs. I know there are those out there who talk a lot about things should be ‘child-led’ and I agree that paying close attention to the changing needs of your child and not pushing them too hard, too soon. But only if it is working for you. If somethings ISNT working for you then I don’t think you should have to wait for your kid to take the lead. As the parent, I want to be leading the situation in the direction I want it to go and think is best for them. So -aware of where my child is at and the impact on them of a transition- yes. Tailoring the transition to a rate at which your kid feels comfortable and recognizing if they are struggling with the transition and being flexible -yes. Letting the kid call all the shots and being held at “booby ransom” by my kid- no. But that is just me.
Lastly, I don’t think I should end this post without acknowledging that the practice of extended brestfeeding is linked in North America to the general parenting philosophy of attachment parenting. And while I agree that forming a strong bond to your child is important and I think the attachment parenting tool kit has some good ideas that both make life easier and promote a strong bond (like babywearing and co-sleeping) I disagree with elements of the philosophy, especially practiced at its most ‘to the letter’ form. (Not to mention some very strong claims and polarizing discussions by AP ‘experts’, particularly online.) But I am not going to go into it. Because, as I said on an other blog recently, I think most parents pick and choose methods and practices from a wide range of philosophies based on what suits them best. Even if someone is practicing one philosophy or an other in a “to the letter form”, I believe that no matter what philosophy we follow, some kids will grow up happy and well adjusted and some kids will grow up messed up. This is more about how someone applies their choices and preferences, rather then certain choices= messed up kid. And so, instead evaluating extended breastfeeding as a part of attachment parenting, I am choosing to not go there and just look at it as an isolated practice. Ask me about attachment parenting an other time. The topic has come up a lot lately, so I may just have to take that one on.
Oh- look- I did have an opinion!