The only reason I breastfed my younger twins past their first birthday was simply mom guilt. I felt like I had cheated them by returning to work so soon after their arrival, unlike the first set of twins, for whom I had more time.
However, the bad case of mom guilt I had couldn’t even let me reach 18 months with them; I weaned them when they were 17 months. I mean, I just couldn’t go on any more. The thought of breastfeeding them brought up all sorts of symptoms, that I knew it was time.
Maybe it was the unintended bites (who else feels like babies can sometimes knowingly bite, just to see your reaction?), or the fact that I sat down for what seemed like hours, while those two lil human beings took over my time and attention, or the fact that they seemed to be so into everything, pushing, bumping into everything and then they would curl up in my laps, sucking like innocent folks. I don’t know, but I just knew I couldn’t do it anymore.
When I weaned the younger twins, which was a whole lot better experience than the first time, I listened to several days of lectures from their nanny, who constantly shared the number of years she spent breastfeeding her nine children. She birthed nine children; unfortunately, she lost one daughter several years ago. She would tell me about how she would be breastfeeding one child, and get pregnant with another and end up breastfeeding them together.
And when I would tell her that what she experienced could only have happened back then in the olden days, she would ask me, “So, what’s different now?”
My answers were never good enough for her.
Like a Yoruba adage says, “This is how I want to run my own show has never changed since the beginning of time.” My nanny could say what she wanted but really, I was the one breastfeeding and who decided to stop. I love her, I love my children but breastfeeding just had to stop…and so we did.
Breastfeeding has always been one controversial topic. You just cannot talk about it and not court controversy. It is either you are breastfeeding too much, not enough, or you are complementing with baby formula. Even with all the controversy surrounding it, some moms are going the extra mile to breastfeed for more than a year, and while I may not know their own reasons, there are some realities that are common to us all. This piece is for the moms who want to or are considering breastfeeding beyond the 12th month.
Breastmilk continues to provide immunological protection
xThe main reason nurses and doctors are so voracious in talking about breastfeeding is simply the fact that science has proven that breastfeeding helps to ensure you don’t take your babies to the hospital often.
Yes, even doctors don’t want you knocking on their doorstep ever so often.
That boost that breast milk gives in the first 12 months of a baby’s life is still very much present in the months afterwards, and perhaps much needed now, as your baby is more active and can get into a lot of things, thus is more exposed to germs that can cause illness.
It doesn’t matter that your baby is eating a lot more solids and breastfeeding less, the reduced amount of breast milk that baby gets gives a considerate amount of immunity.
Breastfeeding can be a handy parenting tool
This is why breastfeeding is such a handy parenting tool, even for a baby who is over 12 months old. I have a niece who is 3 years old now, and till this moment that I write, she still puts her hand inside my sister’s blouse to soothe herself to sleep.
With a toddler, breastfeeding can help to bring an end to a tantrum, or help a tired toddler go off to sleep.
Breastfeeding can also provide toddlers with closeness and a sense of security at a time when they’re developing and growing rapidly. It is reassuring to know if your toddler gets sick, it’s likely he’ll still breastfeed even if he refuses other food and drink. That alone can save you plenty of worries.
Breast-milk provides enhanced cognitive development
Research continues to demonstrate a dose-response relationship between higher IQ scores and breastfeeding.
For example, one study tested children who were breastfed up to 2 years of age for IQ and school grades. The results showed a dose-response relationship between higher scores and duration of breastfeeding.
It’s likely that the close physical and emotional contact between a mother and her child, as well as the breastmilk itself, positively influence a child’s cognitive development.
The Emotional needs of the child
As children grow older, breastfeeding becomes less about food but more about emotional connection and regulating of their emotions.
During a study, children described how breastfeeding make them feel happy, good, warm, loved or cuddly. And most moms would want to give those feelings to their children, if all it takes is to breastfeed them.
We have talked about the benefits for children; mothers too have been shown to experience quite a number of benefits from extended breastfeeding.
For one, it has been shown that extending breastfeeding can cut the risk of breast cancer. One study compared women who breastfed for a lifetime total of 11 months with women who breastfed for 12–23, 24–35 and 36–47 months. The reduced breast cancer risk was 66.3%, 87.4% and 94%, respectively.
Also for the mom, there has been research to show that women with a lifetime history of breastfeeding greater than 12 months are less likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, hyperlipidaemia or cardiovascular disease, compared with women who have never breastfed.
Even with all the benefits of breastfeeding, if you decided to breastfeed and when you decide to wean your baby is up to you and your child.
Let no one tell you otherwise! You are doing just great.
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