Breastfeeding wasn’t really something I’d given much thought to before I became pregnant. I knew I was breastfed, and that it was better than formula milk for babies, but other than that I was clueless. During the pregnancy, I was very worried about breastfeeding. I was worried that I wouldn’t know how to do it, that it would hurt and that I’d feel like a failure.
I soon found that, after the first few tricky weeks, I really enjoyed breastfeeding. It was amazing to me that my body could produce something that could nourish a baby. I planned to breastfeed until Ebony was one, thinking that by that time I’d be heading back to work and would have to give up anyway.
During the first few months of Ebony’s life, the only time I ever got to myself was in the bath. So I had a bath everyday. Admittedly, most of them were interrupted by a hungry baby wanting a feed, but at least I got a chance to relax a bit. I spent these precious moments reading parenting books, because I’m the kind of person who really knows how to relax.
I read The Attachment Parenting Book by Dr Sears, which I would strongly recommend if you haven’t read it. In the book, he talks about the importance of natural parenting instincts such as breastfeeding and babywearing. I was already doing all of the things he talked about, but reading his book helped me to see the importance of these practices. In the book, he talks about how attachment parenting methods can be used to ease the process of returning to work. He explains that many women find breastfeeding a good way to reconnect with their child at the end of time apart.
I already knew that the benefits of breastfeeding do not suddenly disappear at the baby’s first birthday. Stronger immune systems, higher IQ and, of course, all the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding are noted in breastfed toddlers. The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding until the child is two or more. And the global average age of weaning is four years old. In this country, we actually have quite an unusual culture of breastfeeding with many women choosing not to do it, or stopping when the baby is still very young.
When I read Dr Sears talk about the bonding benefits of extended breastfeeding, I realised I might like to continue after my return to work. It seemed like it would be a nice way to reconnect with Ebony, and have some quality time, at the end of a long day.
In the end, I decided not to return to work. Ebony is seventeen months old now and she is still breastfed. This may be unusual, but it feels right. She still gets a lot of comfort from the closeness, and very rarely requires painkillers (because of the natural pain relief properties of breastmilk). I don’t worry about her diet, because I know she is still getting a lot of nutrition from breastmilk.
As she gets older, Ebony breastfeeds less frequently. She can now go up to six hours without asking for a feed. Other times, such as when she’s teething or having a growth spurt, she may feed more often. For the time being, I’m happy to follow her cues and let her decide when to feed.
The only downside to breastfeeding a toddler, is that they can talk. Where your tiny baby would discretely tug at your top, a toddler will screech “BOOBIES!” at the top of their voice. Repeatedly. No matter where you are.
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