It is world breastfeeding week and I’ve been reflecting on what this really means to me for several days now.
Breastfeeding means giving up a part of your body to grow another person. It means losing a good portion of your day to just sitting (or laying) next to your child. Breastfeeding means that you must take care of your body and eat well because all of your nutrients are being passed on to your child. It means always being available to feed your baby or taking a cruel and unusual device with you to “pump” if you must be away. Breastfeeding means that you are constantly tired and always starving as your body works overtime to produce food for your baby.
It is truly a labor of love. It is a full time job all on its own. So you may be thinking, “why would you put yourself through that when you can just give formula?”
For me, I was lucky because I had a choice to begin with. To breastfeed or not to breastfeed? And if so, for how long? Not everyone is fortunate enough to have that option.
This is why I chose to breastfeed and why I continue(d) to breastfeed well into toddlerhood:
- Breastfeeding is natural. We are mammals after all. The definition of mammal from the Cambridge Dictionary is “any animal in which the female gives birth to babies, not eggs, and feeds them on milk from her own body.”
- Breastmilk is magical! While its composition is mostly known, scientists continue to find more than just vitamins, proteins, and fat in breastmilk. Aside from the constantly changing mixture of nutrients that reflect the mothers diet and environment, recent studies have found that breastmilk also contains antibodies (1), stem cells (2), and microRNAs (3).
- Breastfeeding is ecofriendly and cost effective.
- Breastfeeding is easily transportable! As long as you are near, baby will always have food. No need to worry about how many bottles to pack or whether milk will spoil. If you learn to nurse in a baby carrier (see reference 4 and more on this soon in my babywearing section) you don’t even need a place to sit and nurse. You can literally do it on the go, anywhere you go with no planning or preparation involved.
Reasons I chose to breastfeed past 1 year of age:
- It is good for both mama and baby’s health. Studies have found increased IQs with longer durations of breastfeeding, improved mental and emotional development, as well as protection against ovarian and breast cancer for mom when nursing occurred for more than 18 months.
- Toddlers can be picky eaters. Nursing as a compliment to solids provides more adequate nutrition. Plus there are probiotics in breastmilk and other gut healing properties. As toddlers eat more and more foods and grow their inner microbiome, breastfeeding can help promote early gut health which can have life long ramifications.
- Again, it’s natural! Other mammals nurse their young into the equivalent of early adolescence!
There are many other important reasons why I breastfeed, but my tired mama brain needs a break. So with that, I leave you with our #worldbreastfeedingweek #normalizebreastfeeding #brelfie
My baby boy and I breastfeeding at 19 months and counting. We’ll try to get to 2 years of age and then take it from there. For us, this is what is best.
1. See http://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/ebf-benefits/ for several references
2. Hassiotou F1, Beltran A, Chetwynd E, Stuebe AM, Twigger AJ, Metzger P, Trengove N, Lai CT, Filgueira L, Blancafort P, Hartmann PE. Breastmilk is a novel source of stem cells with multilineage diffrentiation potential. Stem Cells. 2012 Oct;30(10):2164-74.
3. Alsaweed M, Hartmann PE, Geddes DT, Kakulas F. MicroRNAs in Breastmilk and the Lactating Breast: Potential Immunoprotectors and Developmental Regulators for the Infant and the Mother. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Oct 30;12(11):13981-4020.