Mom Speak : On Extended Breastfeeding
This picture (below) was otherwise meant to be a late post from a recent trip to continue documenting our nursing journey. I normally let some amount of naysaying slide and don't preach the virtues of extended breastfeeding to an immature audience. Something happened a couple of days ago that kicked in my protective instinct for a bond very close to my heart. I went to a doctor for a small infection and was prescribed some broad spectrum antibiotics. I forgot to ask earlier so called her up from home to ask if the meds were breastfeeding friendly. Here's a snippet from our unpleasant conversation: Me: Doc, I'm breastfeeding and wanted to know if it was safe to take the meds you prescribed. Doc: (incredulous, because she had met my son earlier in the day) How old is your child? Me: 2.7 years old Doc: Then you can stop feeding him now. They say it's useless to feed a child that old and you should stop now. Me: I do not agree and even if I did, I can't stop tonight which is when I need to start the antibiotics course. Doc: No but it's useless and yes the meds are safe. Me: Thank you and good bye!
Now I know that not all of the anti (extended) breastfeeding brigade goes around giving unsolicited "useless" advice to nursing mothers and not all doctors are morons. But the most basic facts of life have become so mangled and mired in hate or ignorance that right now I feel compelled to put in my two cents across to whoever is listening.
It is perfectly normal and natural to nurse a child until they self-wean (that is around the age of 6 or 7 years when they lose their baby teeth and along with that also their ability to latch). It is recommended to breastfeed for a minimum of two years - this has proven benefits for both the mother and the child. Beyond that age, breastmilk does not become useless overnight. A child nurses because it needs milk but not only for that. A mother's milk is better for the child, even nutritionally, than another animal's that is meant for its own young one. Human bodies are dynamic - under normal circumstances, a mother will continue to produce milk for as long as her child nurses. As the child grows, it finds emotional stability and security in its nursing bond with the mother. This is the most underrated and the least understood aspect of a breastfeeding relationship. The same people who encouraged me to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months later told me that breastfeeding after a certain age is "addictive" and I'm spoiling my son. If you hug your child 20 times a day, every day, you're not spoiling them, are you? You're also not cultivating bad habits to last a lifetime. To use the oft repeated yet meaningful line - children don't spoil, they just grow up.
While I'm proud and thankful to be nursing my child for this long, I wouldn't say it's been easy. Another reason to be supportive of extended breastfeeding rather than discourage mothers by saying all the wrong things. Just as in any other relationship, the success of this one depends on the well-being of both the mother and the child. A mother may want out at any point and lead the way to a gentle and peaceful end of the relationship. Abrupt weaning can cause a lot of grief to both the mother and the child. There are support groups to help mothers in their breastfeeding journey - Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers is one such group and I've had the good fortune of meeting some amazingly strong and committed mothers (even fathers) here.
This post is about extended breastfeeding and nursing in public is a natural progression of this extension. You can't feed behind closed doors for three years, you should never have to.
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