According to the most recent CDC Breastfeeding Report Card, almost 72% of babies born in Georgia are breastfed at birth. But by 6 months, only 10% are still exclusively breastfeeding, and only 18.5% are still breastfeeding at a year. Most mothers in this state initiate breastfeeding, but most don’t continue it.
Now, I realize that the vast majority of (non-parent) people in our culture hear the recommendations of “minimum age of weaning” (12 months according to the CDC) and think that means “absolute oldest age when breastfeeding must stop.” A lot of us mothers hear that, too. Most of my mom friends initiated weaning as soon as their babies turned one, because, you know, they’d reached the recommended age. It’s a milestone, like turning the carseat around or using fluoride toothpaste. Time to make the switch. And I really can see the arguments in favor of that–for one thing, it’s a lot easier to wean a one year old than a stubborn 2.5 year old, so if you miss the early window then you might be stuck with the long haul.
Honestly, I might have weaned then too, if I hadn’t had a child who was so obviously and utterly unready to wean at 12 months. Or 24 months. Or heck, even 36 months. Now at 40 months she’s starting to think about it (right this minute she’s going to bed with daddy, after insisting that she “doesn’t need mama milk tonight”!), but pushing it sooner just wasn’t a fight I was prepared to face. I know for a lot of moms breastfeeding is a lot of work, but for me, it was the easy way out.
Would you consider nursing your child past his first birthday? Here are ten things I did that should have clued me in that I had extended breastfeeding in my future.
You might be ready for extended breastfeeding if…
1. You’ve ever walked around your house or sat on your couch with one breast completely bare for more than ten minutes before you realized you were half naked.
2. Bonus points if you answered the door before you realized you weren’t covered up.
3. Your nursling can ask for milk (sign language counts), and that doesn’t bother you.
4. Your nursling can latch himself on without needing your help, and you actually kind of like that because it means you can type with both hands while he eats.
5. If you’re cosleeping, you sleep through the night even when your child doesn’t, because when he wakes he just helps himself and goes back to sleep without bothering you.
6. Sometimes, when you’re nursing on one side and really engorged on the other, you think that nursing two at once might be more comfortable.
7. You don’t mind nursing in public places like restaurants, coffee shops, and playgrounds. Bonus points if you nurse in front of extended family. Triple bonus points if you’ve ever nursed in front of your father-in-law.
8. You’ve found a happy medium between enjoying your food and eating for your baby. Either you don’t mind giving up alcohol and caffeine indefinitely, or you’re comfortable with indulging occasionally without stressing about what’s going into your milk.
9. You’re comforted by knowing your baby is getting the nutrition and liquids he needs even when he’s not interested in solids, and that knowledge outweighs any inconvenience of breastfeeding for you.
10. Your husband or partner is completely supportive. He’s pleased that you’re working so hard to provide nutrition for your child. He doesn’t resent the fact that the baby often prefers you–he’s excited about all the other ways he can bond with the baby. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt if he thinks your breastfeeding body looks amazing.