Fourteen months. That’s how long I’ve been breastfeeding baby number three for. And for at least the last four of them I feel like I’ve been defending my decision to do so.
The very people who praised and supported me for exclusively breastfeeding my newborn a year ago – friends and family included – are now questioning when I plan to stop. And I just don’t get it.
The World Health Organisation is clear: for optimal health and development babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life and then receive complementary food while breastfeeding continues up to the age of two and beyond. So if you are able to do it and want to do it, what’s the big deal?
Yet, 14 months in, I find myself continually defending the fact I’m ‘still’ breastfeeding.
With a newborn in my arms health professionals were tripping over themselves to help me, but now that newborn is a strapping toddler with an impressive set of teeth there’s no support at all. Absolutely none.
And the assumption from everyone else, including some of my nearest and dearest, is that I must surely be planning to stop soon. I fed her brother and sister for around two years each and I guess I’ll do the same this time around – I haven’t really thought about it. Yet if I say ‘I don’t know’ when asked when I plan to stop people look at me with incredulity.
Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been a walk in the park – there’s been cracked nipples, tongue tie, the dreaded mastitis, days that revolve completely around your breasts, not to mention the broken nights – but on the whole breastfeeding came easily for me. You know when you’re done doing something and I’m not done yet.
I find myself getting increasingly defensive and mentally listing my reasons for ‘still’ breastfeeding, because for me it’s a no-brainer.
5 great reasons to breastfeed beyond one
1. Breastfeeding boosts their immune system. Breastfed babies have less incidences of illnesses such as ear infections and upper respiratory infections like common colds and tonsillitis compared to babies who aren’t breast fed. And the longer a baby breastfeeds, the better the immunity benefits.
2. Breastfeeding boosts brain development. Studies show that breastfeeding a baby for just three months can increase a baby’s brain growth by 20 to 30%. And just like their immune system, the longer a baby breastfeeds the greater the benefit.
3. Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of breast cancer. Especially if a woman breastfeeds for more than one year. According to the breast cancer charity Breastcancer.org making milk limits breast cells’ ability to ‘misbehave’, and women who breastfeed have lower oestrogen levels owing to fewer periods because of the breastfeeding.
4. Breastfeeding is soothing for your baby. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve consoled them after a fall or soothed them after immunisations by breastfeeding. It’s easy, it’s on tap and it works every single time.
5. It’s an opportunity for one-on-one time. Breastfeeding is the perfect chance to bond with your baby and have one-to-one time, especially when you have more than one child and one-to-one time might otherwise be in short supply. Without a doubt breastfeeding has given me more one-on-one time with each baby than we probably would have had otherwise.
I don’t know anyone else currently breastfeeding an ‘older’ baby so I have no-one to talk to about it – other than you, of course. Did you or your partner breastfeed or are you currently breastfeeding? Did you continue beyond one? I’d love to hear your experience!