Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Another Breastfeeding post (I know, I know)

Yes I am sure that people are tired of reading about breastfeeding, but It's my blog and I'll write what I want :)

Seriously though, this whole extended breastfeeding thing is hard for me.  I knew I wanted to breastfeed for a year, but I didn't picture myself as a person who would be breastfeeding a toddler.  I actually struggle with it sometimes.  Very few people I know breastfed past a year, so I feel sometimes like I am way out of the loop and question myself a lot.  I try very hard to just roll with things and trust that BBZ won't nurse forever and just like his thumbsucking and just about everything else I have worried about with him, things will just work out.

But every now and then I seriously question myself and my reasons for continuing our breastfeeding relationship.  I worry that I'm not encouraging him to wean, that I shouldn't want to nurse him anymore, that the limits I put on when and where we nurse aren't strong enough, and that I should have weaned him sooner.  What's funny though  is that no one has ever said to me that they don't agree with what I am doing.  I have never had anyone criticize me for any of my decisions as a mom.  What I hear from many people are their criticisms of other moms who make certain choices, then when I make those same choices when my time comes, I remember their comments, which are suddenly criticising me.  Does that make sense?  This is something I struggle with and reach out to my Le Leche League moms for support with.

I was perusing the LLL International website and found this artice.  It's kind of long, so I've taken out the part that means a lot to me.  It talks about other ways to look at some of the issues people have with extended breastfeeding.

"If a child can ask to nurse, there's something wrong with doing so."
Interestingly enough, it's deemed appropriate to hug and cuddle children, while nursing -- something that is also an act of love and affection -- is seen as inappropriate past a certain age. Giving children bottles, which were designed to imitate the breast, is also acceptable. As stated in The Nursing Mother's Companion:
"Many toddlers are dependent on a bottle, pacifier, thumb, or blanket, and this is quite accepted, but a mother who is nursing a toddler may have to deal with veiled or point-blank suggestions that her child is too old for it."

Why is this? It is indicative of a culture that has made the human female breast solely into a sexual object instead of its primary and original role as an organ that supplies nourishment. There exist some cultures where the sight of a female breast in public does not turn heads or raise eyebrows. It is just another body part. In cultures where the breast has been sexualized, many become uncomfortable seeing a nursing child who is over one year old.

In the US, the image of a bottle is largely associated with the birth of a new baby and standard feeding practices. This sets the backdrop for a culture that judges those who practice extended breastfeeding. As Stephanie Ondrack points out in her article, "Taking Down the Almighty Bottle," from advertisements in magazines, to mothering icons on the doors of changing rooms, to gift cards and wrapping paper, images of bottle-feeding far outweigh images of breastfeeding. She also describes her experiences of teaching breastfeeding classes to new, expectant parents where they often begin holding the doll with its body and head facing the sky as opposed to the mother's chest. "The bottle-feeding position has become the default definition of feeding position." A woman who has breastfed knows that just turning her baby's head toward her chest does not work -- baby's entire body has to be facing her chest (when using the cradle position), or breastfeeding just doesn't work.

"Once a child no longer needs mother's milk solely for nutritional purposes, there's no sense in breastfeeding."
 In truth, a mother's milk is just as nutritious and continues to provide immunities to a toddler while being a source of comfort.

We seem to believe that the only legitimate excuse for breastfeeding is hunger and that anything else is a misuse of the goods...we see the need for comfort as not only inferior to the need for food, but as requiring suppression. (Ondrack 2006)

"After a certain point, the nursing relationship is more for the mother than the child."
There's no denying that breastfeeding provides emotional and physical benefits to a mother as well as a child. However, if there weren't anything in the relationship for the child (comfort, nourishment), he simply wouldn't nurse.
No matter how evil some people may make mother's enjoyment sound, a woman's enjoyment of breastfeeding is a good thing -- one of the many wholesome pleasures available in life. (Bumgarner 2000)

And conversely, if a mother thinks she might stop nursing her toddler for whatever reason, her feelings need to be factored into whatever decision is made about weaning. Bumgarner explains, "To continue to nurse an older baby and hate it tends to become martyrdom -- a poor basis for any family relationship."

"Extended nursing will spoil a child," also known as, "He'll nurse until he goes off to college."
This myth touches on peoples' fears that nursing into toddlerhood spoils children and doesn't teach them independence. In reality, it's not breastfeeding, which meets many needs, that spoils a child -- rather, it's the absence of teaching acceptable behavior that causes a child to "spoil." Bumgarner comments:

"It is without closeness and loving, and without sufficient attention to the business of teaching good behavior that children are spoiled...things which are spoiled are things which have been left on the shelf to rot."

It's interesting to note that parents can't force a child to crawl, walk, or talk before they're ready, and yet they're encouraged by professionals and others to impose early weaning on these same children without recognizing it as one of the more significant events of their lives. "Few of us understand weaning as the great and dangerous passage it is known to be in most of the world's societies. But when we ignore the dangers and difficulties of weaning, we risk our children's well-being and sometimes our own" (Huggins 2007).

Dr. William Sears, who wrote The Baby Book, states:
"We have studied the long-term effects on thousands of children who had timely weanings and have observed that these children are more independent, gravitate to people more than things, are easier to discipline, experience less anger, radiate trust...[after] studying the long-term effects of long-term breastfeeding, the most secure... and happy children we have seen are those who have not been weaned before their time."

Encouraging autonomy and teaching children how to be independent is a very important life lesson. It is the role of parents to teach a child the skills he needs to care for himself, whether that be cooking, laundry, or changing a spare tire. As Huggins (2007) writes:

It is not our job as parents simply to take care of children, but to help them learn how to take care of themselves. So, rather than fretting over toilet training or weaning in the toddler years -- these things which will take care of themselves -- it is more constructive to help children learn to do the things they want and need to do.

I love this.  I love that this information is available to moms like me, who often feels doubt about the decisions I am making.  There is a reason for this post.  BBZ is sick, again.  I sent him to school today on my day off to do some serious cleaning and simplifying to my house and they called at about 10:30am and said he had a fever.  I picked him up and took advantage of all the hugs and snuggles he gave me all day.  The fever was pretty controlled until the evening.  After dinner it spiked at 102.8!  Poor baby.  I gave him some more tylenol and put him to bed.  I called the nurses exchange and filled the very kind nurse in on the situation.  She recommended motrin, but only if he had something in his stomach since it can upset tummies.  I told her I am still nursing and her response was a very exuberant "GOOD!"  I explained that while he had many ear infections and 2 surgeries he has never had a high fever.  She says back, "that's because of all that breast milk!"  What a wonderful feeling this is, to know that he is in a better postion because of this choice.  When he wakes up crying tonight because he doesn't feel good, he will find such comfort in my arms, nursing.

There are so many questions about raising a child, and so much f it is just winging it.  I know I need to trust myself and BBZ and know that this, like everything else so far, will just work itself out.