As we approached his first birthday, the “are you still nursing?” questions began. My goal has always been two years, though it is a goal that has been harder to see now that I am pregnant. And yes, nursing through pregnancy is totally a thing – and yes, it is safe. But it definitely adds an extra layer of challenges: feeling touched out and experiencing pain being the two biggest setbacks.
As they say, “Don’t quit on your worst day!” This little tidbit has kept me going, and I am confident that we will wean when the time is right. That may be next month or it may be next year, but when it happens, it will have nothing to do with his age like so many people falsely question today.
- It is powerful stuff. Nothing magical happens after 12 months that deems nursing less beneficial. It is the easiest way for me to fill him up with needed nutrients. In year two, my milk is providing him with one-third of his energy requirements, 43% of protein; 36% of calcium; 75% of vitamin A; 76% of folate; 94% of vitamin B12; and 60% of vitamin C requirements. What gets me more excited is knowing that I’m still helping to keep his immune system strong. At 12 months, his immune system is still only functioning at 60 percent.
- It actually gets even more powerful with age. My milk literally grows with him. It is not the same as when he was born. It gets more rich in nutrients and antibodies parallel to the evolving needs of his body. After a year, breastmilk specifically bulks up in calories and omega acids for his muscle growth and brain development.
- It’s so much more than a vitamin. We’re not just talking short-term nutrients. We’re talking proven long-term benefits like reducing risk of cancer, obesity and other illnesses.
- It promotes independence. This is a big one for me. People falsely assume that nursing after year one creates an unhealthy attachment. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When you nurse your toddler, you are helping them to feel secure. When they feel secure, they are more confident to pursue their independence. The statement that a breastfed toddler is coddled is based on pure judgment, not fact. As a dear friend of mine always jokes, “No kid ever went off to college with a tit in his mouth.” Seriously, it’s not a thing.
- Because I’m still in it. While these health benefits still fascinate me every time I read up on them, the biggest motivating factor comes down to me. I firmly believe that the decisions we make in motherhood have to be mutually beneficial; don’t breastfeed solely for your baby, but do it for you, too. The day that I lose myself in my breastfeeding journey is the day that it is no longer a healthy journey. This isn’t selfish, it’s knowing that I am a person too. It’s listening to the needs of my baby while ensuring I’m still taking care of me in order to best continue caring for him.
Instead of asking a nursing mother why she is “still breastfeeding,” just try asking her how it’s going. Asking a mom why she is still breastfeeding is kind of like asking a career woman why she is still working – or why any of us do anything towards our goals, really. The fact is, there are many reasons why a mother would nurse past infancy, but she only needs one – because she wants to, and that is the best answer that you’ll get because it’s a decision between her and her child – not you.