Today when baby nurses for over a year we use the term extended breastfeeding. But is it really ‘extended’? By today’s society’s standards, yes it is. It’s quite common for mothers to feel proud to nurse for any length of time from 4 months to one year, as they should be. Breastfeeding is hard work. But when it crosses the one-year mark it’s common to hear a lot of questions.
‘You’re still feeding!!?’ ‘When do you plan to stop?’ ‘Are you still getting milk?’ ‘Is it normal?’
But when breastfeeding is a regular part of your mothering, when you don’t schedule it and use it to your advantage for long flights and to heal hurts and for everything in between, you can’t pull the plug when your baby turns a year just because some societal milestone has been achieved.
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Taking into account the child's needs:
When you nurse for over a year or even two and you follow your child’s lead to drop breastfeeding at a stage that matches the child’s developmental need, it becomes a conversation between mother and child and a mother can stop nursing taking into account the child’s needs as well as her own.
Breastfeeding has been a big part of my life as a mother. I went into motherhood knowing I wanted to nurse for two years. My first son nursed until 3 years and my second at 2 years and 4 months is still going strong though we both know it’s going to end soon, more so because I don’t want to nurse anymore. We talk about it and he says he will be sad and miss nursing and I tell him I will be there to hold him and cuddle him whenever he misses nursing. But I feel that taking into consideration my children’s feelings about something so important to them is the best part about natural term weaning.
I prefer using ‘Natural term weaning’ over ‘extended breastfeeding’. That’s because extended breastfeeding is not really extended at all. Breast milk changes as children grow and can be a great boon to a toddler as well as a baby. Before infant formula gained popularity and before the industrial revolution it was not uncommon for children to feed for a few years. So what we see in today’s times as ‘extended’ is more of a norm for the major part of human history.
Why is breastfeeding over one year considered extended?
The bottom line is, breastfeeding is a very personal and beautiful relationship between mother and child. There is absolutely no reason to stop unless YOU or the child is ready or wants to. There is no one else who should have a say or should try and come in the way of this relationship. However, if it isn’t working for the mother and you really want to stop then nothing should pressure you to continue either. The important thing to realize is that it is a two-way relationship between two people and both of your decisions matter.
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