16 November 2010

Extended Breastfeeding

As my son's third birthday looms nearer and nearer, I've been thinking a lot about extended breastfeeding.  You see, I'm still breastfeeding my son, as well as breastfeeding my daughter (aged 7.5 months).  I never expected to still be breastfeeding at this point.  In fact, my original goal was to breastfeed for one year.  When I hit that milestone, he was still breastfeeding much more than eating, and neither of us had any inclination to stop.  In fact, he still breastfed more than ate solid food until 19 months, when I fell pregnant. 

During my pregnancy, I dealt with various people criticising my choice to continue breastfeeding.  There seems to be a myth that you cannot breastfeed whilst pregnant.  Yes, my milk dried up at one point, and I thought my son would stop, but he didn't.  He still needed that comfort, and so I let him have that, even though it was painful to dry nurse and I hated every second of it. 

That leads to another myth - that those of us who breastfeed our children past the age of one or two are doing it for ourselves and not for the child.  I suppose that may be true of some, though I doubt it.  It certainly isn't true of me.  While it will be bittersweet when my son weans himself completely, I won't truly be sad about it.  I wouldn't mind if he stopped breastfeeding now, but he's not ready and so I won't push him.  Some days he still breastfeeds in public, and I'm glad that he isn't bothered by that.  I've learnt to ignore any looks I may get from those around us. 

So why do I still breastfeed him?  Well, I touched on that already - he needs it.  Sure, he could probably figure out another way to be comforted by me when he's sleepy or not feeling well, but why should he?  It's an easy way to comfort him, it helps him to not be jealous of his sister, and it boosts his immune system.  He's still well within average age for weaning, as far as I know (the World Health Organization recommend 2 years or beyond).  He's quite capable of interacting with adults and children in various scenarios, and he's fine if I'm out all day, or gone for a couple of days, or if he wants to spend the day at a friend's house, so he's obviously not overly dependent on me.  But he sees breastfeeding as a special time with me, and while I'm not sure I actually enjoy breastfeeding him any more, it is nice to have that time to just slow down and enjoy my firstborn. 

I know he'll stop when he's ready, and it'll be easier weaning if we wait for him to be ready.  That's not to say that I don't have any say in it - I do.  I have imposed some limits for my own sanity, but I won't take it away from him completely.  He's only young for a little while, after all. 

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