Monday, January 31, 2011

Extended? Really?

Gus and Jack are very close to being one year old.  It's a huge milestone. They will have been on this earth for a whole year.  We're planning a party.  A low-key family get-together kind of party, but a party nonetheless.

Also, I should wean them, right?

Isn't 12 months the magical cut off?  Isn't that when my babies transition from babies to independent kids who don't need to nurse anymore?  I mean, they will be completely different when they're 365 days old instead of 364 days, right?


In my opinion, the term "extended breast feeding" is as silly as the questions I posed above.  If I  breastfeed beyond a year, well, that's only natural.

Below is part of a comment I posted in response to another mama's questions on The Leaky B@@b's  Facebook page.

"I tend to think "extended breastfeeding" is a misnomer. I prefer "natural duration breastfeeding". Most cultures go way beyond one year... who decided that babies in Western countries don't need nursed after 12 months? (Probably formula/baby food companies, but I digress.) The average world-wide age of weaning is between 2-7 years old. The WHO recommends a minimum of two years, and beyond as long as it's mutually desired by mom and baby. 

There is the emotional aspect of it, yes. Nursing is such a handy tool to have. It fixes everything! Fall down and get hurt? Nurse! Temper tantrum from not being able to do a new skill? Nurse. Overtired and overstimulated from a crazy holiday? Nurse! Nursing gives the baby/toddler a secure place from which to figure out the world. Often nursing is a way to "touch base" and realize mommy's still here, all is well. Why take away such a valuable coping tool before the child is ready?

Another great thing about natural duration nursing is that you can be sure your LO is getting vitamins and minerals even when they're going through a picky eating stage. It may not be their ONLY source of nutrition, but your body makes milk especially for YOUR baby, so it's an excellent source of nutrition. Breastmilk most definitely does retain all of it's amazing nutritional benefits after a year. 

Finally, there's the immunological aspect of natural duration nursing. When your toddler is two, and venturing out into the world more and more, maybe to preschool, maybe to playdates, she/he gets exposed to way more germs and viruses. If you're still breastfeeding, you are still passing all your antibodies through the milk. Your toddler is protected at a very vulnerable time. "

I'm actually a little sad at the thought of not nursing my babies anymore, far down the road though that may be.  But that's ok, because by the time they're completely weaned, Jack and Gus won't be babies anymore.  I will let them decide when they're done nursing, naturally.  

I won't "extend" anything, but I will nurse my sons for the duration of their need.


  1. Hello there fellow twin nursing mama! :) I'm totally with you on this one. I actually wrote a whole blog post about it back in October:

    I think that we twin mamas are SO darn happy that we survived the first 12 months of nursing (particularly the super hard first couple of months) that WHY would we stop now? Now it's EASY! :D

  2. That's the truth! Now nursing is just a matter of lifting the shirt, the boys can do the rest on their own :-) Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I agree with it being silly to stop at such an arbitrary time as 1 year. Nothing magical about it. I used to think if I made it to 2 years of nursing that that would be really cool, something else and here my daughter is almost 2 and it honestly just seems like the most normal, natural thing in the world. When I consider not nursing her at this age, that seems so unnatural to me. It seems like it would be difficult to me to not for the reasons you mentioned. It really does cure everything! :)

  4. Visiting from Natural Parents Network and stumbled into this entry!

    Well said! I use the term "extended" but it makes sense that if could STOP using that term it wouldn't seem like such an odd thing to do. I can't imagine NOT nursing my baby and she is 16 months. I nursed my last child until she was 3½... when SHE was done. :-P

  5. I've never thought about the term "extended" being biased, but you're right, it is. My son nursed until he wanted to stop at 2 year, 9 months. He nursed through the beginning of my second pregnancy - and the few moments of quiet nursing, in the middle of morning sickness - awesome.

    I'm so glad to hear you're doing it with twins!

  6. Sam was 2.5 when we stopped, and that was because I went back to work. There were times (croup, ear infection) where it was his only source of nutrition, and we spent the time he was ill just lying on the sofa until he was better.

    Now I'm told how secure he is, how loving he is, how close we are, and I think some of that is due to feeding for as long as we did.

  7. I've always thought about "extended nursing" as after two or so. Which we did. How could it be called extended before the child eats all the food, in all the forms, that adults do?

    Stopping at 12 month is so arbitrary and silly, I agree. It just got easy (or easier)!

  8. Great post! My sister-in-law is absolutely outraged that I will let Liam nurse until he feels like stopping. She thinks babies should be cut off at a year, but that's just so silly! I can't imagine weaning Liam in a month. It's just so natural! Nothing extended about it.

  9. Thanks for the comments, everyone! I found a fabulous article by Christie Haskell on the Stir that talks about why babies are weaned from bottles at one year: It's so they don't have adverse oral development from the artificial nipple. Breastfed babies don't need to worry about that at all!