Extended Breastfeeding Deserves Support
When we talk about World Breastfeeding Week, we have to include extended breastfeeding in the discussion. This is such an important topic because if more women feel supported, then it’s more likely that they will have a successful breastfeeding relationship with their child. This boost of immunity from the mother, in addition to the customized nutrition for the child, is especially beneficial for the first 6 months of the child’s life. But it continues to be important long after. Like, looooong after.
My favorite parts of the month is seeing all of the beautiful pictures of moms who give literally everything they have to give. At its heart, World Breastfeeding Week is supposed to be inclusive of every nursing mother and child. No exceptions.
Feeling Included In World Breastfeeding Week
One of the ways that I feel we fall short in honoring this week’s intentions is by always associating breastfeeding with infants. I don’t see enough depictions of the mother who is an extended breast-feeder. This is a mom who nurses beyond the typical year; into the 18-month range or to two years and beyond. We need to make this mom feel included and supported too, even with media and photos. Support might nudge people in a more favorable direction toward her so that she feels more confident in public. While breastfeeding a baby is seen as cute, I sense that breastfeeding a toddler often repulses the average American. However, breastfeeding beyond the years of infancy is actually VERY normal to human activity and it’s packed with more nutritional value that many realize. This is contrary to popular belief, unfortunately. Let’s give these mothers, who are gentling allowing their children to develop on their own terms, their due gratitude.
I know all my reasons for breastfeeding beyond the first year, which all involve matters of the heart, but let’s go over some of the concrete facts!
Benefits to Breastfeeding to 2 years or beyond
- Breastmilk is packed with immune boosters that actually increases
- Breastmilk helps protect baby/child against a host of serious illnesses and infections including respiratory infections, lymphoma, leukemia, both types of diabetes, obesity, UTI’s and more
- Breastfeeding reduces health risks of the mother; such as osteoporosis, breast, uterine, ovarian and endometrial cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity
- Breastfeeding Lower risk of post-partum depression for the mother, which can happen long after the birth of the baby
- Breastmilk changes content and even color when your child is sick
- Nutrition and fat of breastmilk is tailored to the child and changes as they grow
- Breastmilk is a useful topical to all sorts of ailments from ear infections to psoriasis
- Breastfeeding sets an example for future generations by normalizing breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding helps the child and mother sleep by releasing a hormone called cholecystokinin which causes a tired feeling
- Breastmilk has been proven as safe and effective pain relief for your child
- Breastfeeding releases oxytocin which further strengthen bonds and requires the brain for fewer stress responses
- Breastfeeding results in greater independence later because the child is in charge of the relationship until they learn emotional regularity
- Breastmilk provides missing nutrition for picky eaters
- Breastmilk increases the child’s food palate
- Breastfeeding aids in weight loss for the mom
- Breastfeeding reduces allergies
- Breastfeeding may lead to a higher IQ
- Breastfeeding forces you to TAKE A BREAK and do self care
- Breastfeeding is the fastest, cheapest, and most reliable source of on-the-go or emergency nutrition
What You Can Do To Be Inclusive of Extended Breastfeeding?
If you’re a mother of a breastfeeding toddler, then see and be seen! Don’t be shy! This can be as simple as snapping photos and posting them on social media. Or as daring as you want to be. I include extended breastfeeding photos of myself while retaining my modesty in hijab, to pave the way for any woman who feels too shy to nurse their child outside of the privacy of their home. If I can do it, any woman can do it. I will breastfeed literally wherever I am, and I strongly advocate for that.
If you’re a father of a extended nurser, make sure you stick up for your partner if there’s any opposition. Stick up for her if family or friends make discouraging comments. Let her know that she’s not in this alone and that you’re proud of her effort.
My message to everyone else is to live and let live. This momma is working hard, breaking stereo-types. She’s making the world a healthier place, one baby at a time! If you want additional resources, please check out The Nursing Mother’s Companion, visit Kellymom.com or attend a local La Leche League meeting near you.
As a Muslim woman of faith with four children, I believe that the child has a right to be breastfed and it doesn’t have to end at age two. Like everything else, it’s a choice between the mother and the child with science to back it up. It’s time we all grow and show support for this natural relationship and include extended breastfeeding for a happy, all-inclusive World Breastfeeding Week!