Friday, 29 March 2013

You're still breastfeeding? And other Toddler Myths


It is official. I am nursing a toddler and I love it. He is still my little man. Other people including family make comments like “Your still breastfeeding” or “you will have to stop soon”. People are almost offended when they see your breastfeeding a toddler. In our culture toddler hood is synonymous with independence. There is also a lot of misinformation floating around. Pediatricians to family members hold to strong opinions about breastfeeding a toddler.  Most of these are not based in scientific fact or anthropological history. Here are a few of the top myths.
12 months of breastfeeding! 

You must switch to cow's milk and you don't produce enough of nutrient A B or C. 

Breastmilk contains plenty of nutrients and antibodies. Isn't it a little stranger that we recommend drinking the milk of another species? Also,  there are continued benefits for nursing at toddler. Breastmilk is adaptable and quite capable of meeting your toddler's nutritional needs. It is also great for physical, mental and social development. Save the Children: Says that children in the developing world can be saved by supporting breastfeeding. Think about that for a second. What if you existed in a world where there was unsafe water? How would you feed your babies? I am not completely against formula. I was given formula as an infant. But I think we all deserve this information. Once you start breastfeeding, it makes the journey to nursing a toddler so much easy. (Not withstanding the possibilities of thrush, mastitis and food sensitivities but as mothers who have gone through childbirth it is indeed possible for nursing to endure through the journey from infancy to toddlerhood.  That leads into the next myth: 

That baby is too dependent on you! 

Hmm no. My son is being a baby. That is is his job. It does not mean he doesn't have other coping skills or won't learn them. It is a way to reconnect with his mom or for comfort after he is hurt.  Again, this develops trust and social capabilities. Globally, the average age of weaning if 2.5  to 7 years old. ( Katherine A. Dettwylerhttp://www.iamnotthebabysitter.com/wordwide-average-age-of-weaning/ )Why do so many North Americans think 6 months should be the cutoff (if not younger). Breastfeeding is misunderstood. 

It is disgusting! 

This is a cultural phenomena  North Americans have a strange view about nursing. We have moved from seeing women as a symbol of fertility and natural motherhood to symbol of pure sexuality. It is ridiculous. Just because women “can” be sexual does not mean that breastfeeding is inherently sexual.  The WHO says, "Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond." http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/.  There is nothing sexual about this. I think because breastfeeding can trigger the same hormones the two have become convoluted, but it is not the same.  Breastfeeding is healthy and natural. 

Summary:

Let's reclaim our bodies and end this myths. Most are social assumptions. As we are members of society, it is up to us to educate, inspire and transform. Breastfeeding can be a positive experience. Let's highlight the good stuff instead of the negative: the bond between mother and child, a reduced incidence of disease for both mother and child and it is very accessible and free. Don't be afraid to nurse as long as your little one wants to and you are able.  I feel blessed to still be breastfeeding and so should you! 

Recommended Readings:
Kelly Bonyata "Breastfeeding Past Infancy: Fact Sheets http://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/ebf-benefits/ 2011
World Health Organization "Breastfeeding" http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/
Kelly Bonyata "Breastfeeding Past Infancy: Myths" http://kellymom.com/ages/after12mo/ebf-myths/ 2011
Kelly Bonyata "Handling Criticism: http://kellymom.com/bf/concerns/mother/criticism/ 2011
Save the Children "Breastfeeding Saves Lives" http://www.savethechildren.ca/page.aspx?pid=1065

Katherine Dettwyler, "Worldwide Average Age of Weaning"  http://www.iamnotthebabysitter.com/wordwide-average-age-of-weaning 2012

7 comments:

  1. Breastfeeding is such a great bond..If that bond is still strong why not continue it?? Good for you, I was only able to nurse my kids till 5 and 10 months respectively.

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  2. All those myths make me roll my eyes. Saying that breast milk somehow stops being good for toddlers is like saying that veggies somehow stop being good for adults. My daughter is 15 months and still a breastfeeding champ.

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  3. Agreed! I'm still nursing my 13 months old and wouldn't change it for the world. I've also been given the "breastmilk has low iron" spiel and even though I'm always anemic, my daughter's iron levels are strong.

    http:www.thepierogiemama.blogspot.com

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  4. You rock mama! It makes me so proud to see toddlers nursing.

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  5. Thank you all for your kind comments! Tara, breastfeeding for any time period is awesome~ :) That bond is what I love about it most. Parenting Patch< I agree, who ever came up with them> Bianca That's great! I am anemic as well and so far my son is fine. Thank you TreeHugging Mama!

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  6. i hope i can breastfeed my son/daughter that long.

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    1. I hope so as well Samantha. It is an amazing bond. But if you can't that's okay too- trying to breastfed in this age is amazing~ I suggest finding people who support 'toddler' nursing, it really helps!

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