Benefits for Baby
- Breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby - no formula (as "good" as it claims to be) is the same as a mother's milk nutritionally, and the baby can digest it easily (where formula is harder to digest)
- Passes antibodies to the baby
- Breastfeeding can prevent illnesses and allergies in your baby
- Reduce chance of childhood obesity
- Boost your child's intelligence
- Reduces things like colic, constipation, upset stomach, meningitis,
- Promotes facial structure development, straight teeth
- Maternal bonding, comforting/soothing
Benefits for Mom
- Reduces stress and chances of postpartum depression
- Reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer
- Promotes weight loss (I weighed less than I did pre-pregnancy by 6 weeks after birth!)
- Develops special emotional relationship with baby
- FREE! (Don't tell me raising a child is expensive!)
- Helps uterus contract after birth to prevent postpartum bleeding
- CONVENIENT! If I am out running errands, I just give Zeek a quick feed while in the car, and I know he's good for another couple hours while I'm shopping or whatever. So easy and convenient.
- Makes night-time feeding way easier, since I don't have to prepare a bottle
This is some of what I found out as I dug deeper.
- Breastfeeding continues to be a great source of nutrition and disease protection for as long as it is continued.
- Nursing toddlers have fewer illnesses and shorter durations of illnesses than non-nursing toddlers.
- Fewer allergies
- According to Elizabeth N. Baldwin, Esq. in "Extended Breastfeeding and the Law":
"Breastfeeding is a warm and loving way to meet the needs of toddlers and young children. It not only perks them up and energizes them; it also soothes the frustrations, bumps and bruises, and daily stresses of early childhood. In addition, nursing past infancy helps little ones make a gradual transition to childhood. Meeting a child's dependency needs is the key to helping that child achieve independence. And children outgrow these needs according to their own unique timetable."
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that "Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child... Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother... There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer." (AAP 2005)
- "Weaning when your child is ready is more natural and less abrupt than picking an arbitrary end point. Nursing a child beyond the first year was common around the world before the invention of formula and still is in some cultures." (www.babycenter.com)
- Here's a statement I hate to hear: "If a child can ask to nurse, there's something wrong with doing so." Interestingly enough, it's deemed appropriate to hug and cuddle children, while nursing -- something that is also an act of love and affection -- is seen as inappropriate past a certain age. Giving children bottles, which were designed to imitate the breast, is also acceptable. Why is this? It is indicative of a culture that has made the human female breast solely into a sexual object instead of its primary and original role as an organ that supplies nourishment. (La Leche League) And by the way - my son has been able to "ask" for nursing since he was born!
- Dr. William Sears, author of The Baby Book:
"We have studied the long-term effects on thousands of children who had timely weanings and have observed that these children are more independent, gravitate to people more than things, are easier to discipline, experience less anger, radiate trust...[after] studying the long-term effects of long-term breastfeeding, the most secure... and happy children we have seen are those who have not been weaned before their time."
And I love this...
As stated in The Nursing Mother's Companion:
Many toddlers are dependent on a bottle, pacifier, thumb, or blanket, and this is quite accepted, but a mother who is nursing a toddler may have to deal with veiled or point-blank suggestions that her child is too old for it.Amen. I can't even tell you the number of times I've walked in a grocery store and witnessed a very large toddler sucking on a binky still.... Yet, this is appropriate, while nursing that same toddler is not. What a selfish, sexual minded country we live in, to deem nursing your young child as inappropriate.
Some good websites:
This was Zeek's sign for me that he was hungry (extending a pinky or two). He did this since day one and did it continually until 6 months of age. Now at nearly 9 months, he does it only periodically.
This was a part of our breastfeeding journey that I loved.
I loved our "language" and his communication with me.
I have loved my nursing experience with Ezekiel so far. Breastfeeding has been the most loving, sweet mother-son dance that I have ever come to know. When I leave for a few hours around Zeek's bedtime, Dad is always able to get Zeek to sleep still. I can still have my own independence if I desire it, so I feel like I am in no way unfairly stuck to my son when I want to have a girls night or whatever the case may be. But I know that I am offering Zeek the very best that I can, for as long as he needs it and wants it, for as long as I am fine with it still - despite any comments that I may encounter about "he's old enough to wean" from well-intentioned friends, family, and even strangers.
We'll stop when it's the right time for us. Not when it's deemed the "right time" by our weird societal standards (who made them up, anyway?).
That said, any amount of breastfeeding that can be given to your baby is hugely beneficial. So, I would encourage it as long as you can and want to! :)