Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Parenting Decision #3: extended breast feeding

The decision of whether or not to breast feed, how long to breast feed (if you do), and where to breast feed are all very personal decisions. 
Breast feeding is not easy, it's not a walk in the park.
It is extremely time consuming. Especially early on and during growth spurts.
It can be uncomfortable when you are just beginning & getting the hang of it, and again later when the child decides to be a acrobat while latched in.
With the down sides, it also has some great up sides that (I feel at least) far outweigh the down sides.
The nutritional superiority and special connection that I felt were & are amazing.
I'm not saying that someone won't feel a connection to their baby while bottle feeding. You definitely will. Bottle feeding won't ruin your relationship with your child, nor will it scar them for life.
Take it from a bottle fed child who's mom is one of her best friends.

Once you decide to breast feed, how long do you do it for?
Making sure baby gets colostrum is super important, but after those initial weeks how long do you go?
At first, I thought 6 months was good. Breast feed until he started eating baby food. Then we could wean him and I could have my body back.
After reading a little, I realized that it would be pointless to wean him at 6 months when breast milk is free and formula isn't. If I'm going to be home with him, why not continue it? I had fought to keep going that long. What's 6 more months?
Then I started reading more and researching more. 
I discovered that in some cultures it isn't uncommon to breast feed until well into childhood and that the WHO (World Health Organization) recommends at least 2 years due to the benefits for growing, developing children.
I had a new goal! After all, my baby at 12 months was just that, a baby.
 Why would I stop breast feeding my baby?
I wouldn't. So why not wait until 2 years when he isn't a baby anymore?

It hasn't been an easy journey getting to 16.5 months if breast feeding.
I struggled through the first few weeks with supply issues and recommendations to supplement with or switch to formula.
Then Moose started having tummy issues. Recommendations to switch my diet, or switch to formula (again).
I refused to stop breast feeding and worked through the problems with the support of my husband and kellymom.com (a great resource for all things breast feeding!)
Then came the long days and nights, where sleep was scarce.
Watching my little bit growing up bug and healthy gave me the push I needed to keep going.
Once he got teeth, a new struggle showed itself. Occasionally he would (and does) get careless and will bite. It's painful and has been difficult at times to prevent the behavior.
I thought about throwing in the towel in more than one occasion, but then I'm reminded how happy and healthy he is and I couldn't imagine quitting on him yet.

At 16 months, it's less of a problem to go out now that he nurses less often, although he still nurses at bedtime so being out too late or a mini baby less vacation isn't in the cards quite yet. We know it will be soon enough since they grow up too fast.

So why extend breast feed?
Nutritonal value
Added connection
And most important:
Let them be little.

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