THE REALITY OF BREASTFEEDING
Some parents have a definite idea of how long their children will be breastfed, others have not decided or change their minds after they have begun.
Culturally, the expectation here appears to suggest that breastfeeding is something that you might do for a while before you begin giving bottles of formula. At any rate sometime your baby will be getting a bottle surely...
To continue to breastfeed solely until your child is eating many nourishing other foods is unusual, and to continue long after it is deemed necessary, is often seen as self indulgence on the part of the mother. The parents who continue realize the benefits to their child in nourishment, protection and security and they listen to what their child has to say. By the time some children are ready to give up nursing they are indeed able to say what they want. It is wonderful to hear your child telling you how much he appreciates nursing.
I remember when I was nursing a toddler of my own - about 16 months old - seeing a friend nursing her child and he was wearing shoes. It struck me that it was a strange sight to see someone else nursing a toddler even though I was doing so myself.
Toddlers continue to nurse for the benefits of nutrition, bearing in mind that they may eat fairly erratically; for comfort , when they have fallen over or been upset; when they are tired, many nurslings continue only the night time feed for many months; and when they are ill, in which case they may go back to fully nursing and you will be surprised to find yourself making pints of milk again after the quantity had been slowly diminishing. This latter reason is so convenient for the parents, as it ensures that the child is not dangerously ill, and often means that you do not have to resort to medication. I liked the fact that I did not have to sit awake at night with ill children as long as they could nurse.
One of the problems that faces the parents of nursing toddlers is that if they have any difficulty that they are dealing with, it is attributed to the fact that they are still nursing. Some problems are made different by the fact that you are still nursing, and have to be handled bearing that in mind. But most are unrelated and affect many children at that stage (see “Mothering your nursing toddler” bibliography).
You may begin to get remarks about weaning when your baby is only a few months old. It depends on where you live and who else you know who is breastfeeding. It is comforting to join a breastfeeding group for moral support while you are breastfeeding. I found it extremely helpful. I also made some really good friends, who have remained long after our children have stopped nursing. This is the sort of support that is wonderful when you are nursing your child and you know that it is right for you to continue. It helps when the doubts creep in, as most of our families and neighbours will not be doing or believing in the same thing (see breastfeeding groups, useful addresses: Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, La Leche League, also the National Childbirth Trust has a Breastfeeding Promotion Group and some breastfeeding mothers support groups).
Once you have been nursing for more than nine months or a year, you may come under some extraordinary pressure to stop nursing. Some people find it even more offensive to see an older child nurse. At this point some women then choose only to nurse at home. This can work quite well, as an eighteen month old for example, can understand ‘when we get home’. Having said that I feel that our children’s welfare is more important than the uninvited disapproval of strangers so sometimes we may have to risk criticism while we attend to our own child’s’ needs.
A visit to a breastfeeding country is a refreshing break, worth remembering if you are planning to go away with your family. It is so supportive to see all the women publicly feeding their children and reminds us that it is our society that is being odd, not us.
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