Unfortunately, children don’t come with an instruction manual. Having a baby is a new experience for every mother. And every baby is different.
Today we are bombarded with advertising and it’s sometimes hard to think clearly in all the noise. And there’s certainly a lot of noise about breastfeeding as companies pitch the virtues of formulas and the convenience of bottle-feeding.
But take a moment to consider this. Man has yet to fully understand, let alone replicate, the human brain. It is the perfectly adapted tool to control a human body. So too are we blessed with the perfectly designed tools to nuture and raise children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of a child’s life is extremely important. They also recommend breastfeeding for the first year. Of course, if you and your baby desire to nurse longer, then do so.
What many mothers do not know is that breastfeeding benefits are cumulative: the longer you breast feed, the more benefits you and your baby will reap.
There is no arbitrary time frame that you must follow. Some children decide they are finished nursing after nursing several months while others are very much attached and continue nursing for 2 years or more. Whatever you and your baby are comfortable with is the right length of time to carry on your breastfeeding relationship.
As you can see in the article entitled The Advantages of Breastfeeding, its benefits are many. Your child will continue to receive these benefits while you breastfeed him or her. The breastmilk continues to provide antibodies to help fight off illnesses and the exact right ingredients to help your child grow healthy and strong.
And remember that you, as a nursing mother, will also continue to benefit. Even short term nursing can lower your risk of breast cancer and osteoporosis. The longer you breastfeed the more health benefits YOU will gain.
Despite what some may believe, extended breastfeeding is quite normal. Humans are designed to wean anywhere from 2 to 7 years of age. The worldwide average is 4 years; in fact extended nursing beyond infancy is so common that it would seem nonsensical to stop nursing too soon, especially if only due to perceived social disapproval.
If you feel pressured by family members or friends to stop nursing before you and your child are ready, do what is right for you. The benefits far outweigh the criticism of the less open minded and perhaps misinformed members of your social circle. Reach out to other like-minded mothers and support people. With a strong support team you can learn to overcome any negativity and do what is best for you and your baby.
Look for organizations in your local area to help you. The La Leche League has chapters all over the world. Their mission is to help mothers to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of both baby and mother.
Lactation Counsellors also exist, as well as Mom’s support groups. No matter what, you are not alone in your desire to nurse your baby for as long as you like and it is wise to surround yourself with loving support.