Well, it’s that time now. That point in time when everyone thinks that they need to ask me how long I will be breastfeeding. The time when people- even the ones who had been supportive up until now- start giving me disapproving looks, etc. For some reason, after baby turns one, things seem to change in other people’s minds and they decide that breastfeeding can no longer be desirable.
The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine, who has a little one just a few months younger than E. She also breastfeeds, so we were casually discussing our little’s nursing habits. Then came the inevitable question: “So, how long are you going to breastfeed for?” She wasn’t prepared for the answer I gave her: “As long as he wants to.” My poor friend was utterly taken aback and, for a few moments, entirely speechless. She just couldn’t understand, asking me what I meant by that. I explained that I would like to breastfeed at least for another year, but ultimately for as long as he wants to. My friend’s reaction was to ask me- in a very bewildered fashion- why? Unfortunately, our children demanded our attention and the conversation moved on to another subject, but I know that it will come up again the next time we see each other.
My answer is quite simple: why not? I can give you a long list of reasons to continue breastfeeding beyond the first year, mostly health related and scientifically proven. I can also tell you that both the WHO and UNICEF recommend breastfeeding until the age of two or beyond. However, I feel like the critics and cynics won’t care about these cited benefits and recommendations. Breastfeeding a toddler is a taboo in our society and it is frowned upon, especially when done in public.
My reasons to continue breastfeeding are not hard to explain. For one, children do not have an inner calendar that determines when one stage in their life ends and another begins. To stop nursing on a particular date or at a particular age makes no sense to me, just as expecting my child to start walking on a particular date wouldn’t.
People say that the baby’s nutritional need for mother’s milk is no longer existent after the first year of life. However, it has to be replaced in the child’s diet with cow’s milk. This makes absolutely no sense to me. Either there is a nutritional need for milk or there isn’t. If there still is a need past the first year (which there is) it will be met by the milk my body produces- it is custom made to meet the needs of my child.
The world over, children completely wean themselves from the breast between the ages of two and seven. (I’m sure some of you are in utter shock right now. It’s ok, I promise you!) For some reason, in our culture it has become something that only young infants are supposed to do, even though there is no logical reasoning behind this opinion.
Lastly, I wish everyone would just mind their own business. I’m making an informed, conscious choice for the health of my child. I don’t run around commenting on what other mothers are doing and asking them questions regarding their methods, be it related to feeding or other things. I would never walk up to a mother and ask why she was allowing her one year old to drink a caffeinated soda, for example. Yet, everyone seems to think that they have the right to question breastfeeding behavior (which they mostly know nothing about) and give their unwanted opinion on the subject.
I am going to continue breastfeeding. My goal is to get to around two years of age and I will be happy if there is nothing that prevents us from getting there, such as sickness, etc. You can tell me that you think I am disgusting, that I am harming my child, etc. and I will take it, but it will not change my mind. Ask me how long I will be breastfeeding and I will tell you the truth: As long as he wants to.