- All the benefits of human milk—including nutritional and health—continue for as long as your baby receives your milk. In fact, as your baby takes less human milk, these advantages are condensed into what milk is produced. Many of the health benefits of human milk are dose related, that is, the longer the baby receives human milk, the greater are the benefits. Some fear that continuing to breastfeed until a child weans on his own will make him more dependent on his mother. Instead of viewing extended nursing as something to question, perhaps the real query should be, "What is there to be gained by abruptly putting an end to the breastfeeding relationship?" It's interesting that some people think that a child won't grow out of breastfeeding unless he is forced. In reality, it's a natural process for children to outgrow breastfeeding on their own. Independence, not dependence, is one outstanding trait that breastfed children who self-wean have in common.Natural weaning allows for differences in children by letting them grow at their own pace. Independence can't be forced upon a child before he is ready to assume it. A child who weans gradually is able to maintain his emotional attachment to his mother, rather than being forced to switch to an inanimate object such as a cuddly toy or blanket. I can vouch for this; I speak from personal experience.
Plus don't think that breastfeeding a toddler is the same as an infant. First of all, it's not as often, mostly just mornings and/or evenings, when they are in distress or in pain. And all it takes is a minute at most (at least with mine).
Believe me I have tried to wean her off, twice, both times lasted for four! months. At the age of 3, and then 4. But she kept asking, very politely and kind of gently. I could see that she was not ready, she needed it, so I gave it back to her. And what a help it is. When she is sick, or in pain, instead of spending a lot of time and nerves (and a-lot-of-side-effects-painkillers) to calm her, get rid of the pain(like toothache,she likes her candies) and e.t.c all it takes is 30 seconds on a breast and off she's playing happily around. Yea, I KNOW!, you'd say " there are many other ways to calm your child"...BUT, nothing works as good and FAST as THE BREAST!
- Handling Criticism
Understandably, some mothers find it difficult to deal with pressure to wean, whether that pressure comes from family, friends, or complete strangers. Choosing to do things differently than other mothers who initiate weaning after a few months calls for courage, self-assurance, and a good support system. Katherine Dettwyler, anthropologist, states that major contributors to premature weaning are cultural. Early weaning often occurs in cultures that promote breastfeeding as mainly nutrition for infants, view breasts as sexual objects, and don't accept nursing in public.
If you're facing criticism from family members or friends, remember that they may simply be uninformed about the benefits of extended breastfeeding or perhaps they feel guilt about their own parenting choices. Consider responding to unwelcome comments by:
Ignoring: walking away or changing the subject.
Informing: sharing books, articles, or a medical professional's thoughts on extended nursing.
Using Humor: making a joke about the situation or yourself, not the other person.
Acknowledging: recognizing the person's viewpoint and asking further questions without agreeing or disagreeing
Empathizing: being empathetic to demonstrate that you understand the other person's feeling and meaning
- Advantages for Mother
Parenting is an exhausting business. When a mother says how tired or stressed she is, some people may point to breastfeeding as the culprit. In reality, there are many benefits of extended nursing to mothers, some of which include:
Stress relieving qualities: Breast-feeding suppresses the nervous system's hormonal response to stress, which is why many mothers recognize that they feel calmer and better able to cope with whatever comes along while nursing.
A few guaranteed calm moments in a day: Parenting can be hectic. Toddlers are bursting with energy and find a lot of interesting things to keep them busy. There are times -- however brief -- when a mother can count on breastfeeding to provide soothing quality time to calm an upset toddler or to reconnect and bond with her child.
Decreased risk of diseases: One study found a decreased risk of breast cancer among breastfeeding mothers, with the greatest risk reduction seen in women whose total amount of breastfeeding for one or more children totals several years (Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer 2002). A mother's risk of osteoporosis (and other diseases) is also reduced by extended breastfeeding (Gwinn et al. 1990; Hartge et al. 1989; Rosenblatt, Thomas, and WHO 1993).
Amenorrhea: The amount of natural infertility experienced while breastfeeding is known as lactational amenorrhea. Many mothers experience reduced fertility when nursing past a year, with some women going as long as two years or more without menstruating.
Even after the time during which nursing alone is a reliable contraceptive has passed, many mothers continue to enjoy freedom from menstruation and from the physical and emotional effects of ovulation and menstruation" (Bumgarner 2000).
Advantages for Toddlers
Human milk is the primary source of nutrition during a baby's first year. It becomes a supplement to solids during the second year, but it maintains nutritional value, as well emotional benefits for toddlers.
Immune system: It takes between two and six years for a child's immune system to fully mature. Human milk continues to complement and boost the immune system for as long as it is offered (AAP 1997; Goldman 1983; Gulick 1986; Mohrbacher and Stock 2003; Saarinen 1982). Research on the incidence of illness in breastfed or weaned toddlers reflects these dynamics. Breastfeeding toddlers between 16 and 30 months old have been found to have fewer types and shorter duration of illness and to require less medical care than their non-breastfeeding peers (Gulick 1986).
Oral development: Breastfeeding provides a natural outlet for non-nutritive sucking that promotes proper oral development, which has been found to improve speech (Davis 1991; Labbok and Hendershot 1987; Broad and Duganzich 1983).
IQ score: Extensive research on the relationship between cognitive achievement (IQ scores, grades in school) and breastfeeding has shown the greatest gains for those children breastfed the longest (van den Bogaard 1991).
Independence: The process that children go through while growing toward independence is a difficult one. Breastfeeding can provide feelings of love, comfort, and protection. When a mother makes herself available to nurse her child through a situation that he can't handle alone, he will likely develop independence based on faith that mother will be there to help. As a child gets older, there are fewer and fewer such situations. Provided a child isn't prevented from exercising his developing capabilities, independence comes with his increasing competence (Bumgarner 2000).
Self-Esteem: Babies and young children nurse when they are lonely, frightened, or in pain and responsive mothering through breastfeeding leads to enhanced bonding. Allowing a toddler to nurse (or wean) at his own pace is an expression of trust that contributes to his self-esteem.
There are no prizes to be won for breastfeeding the longest -- all mothers and babies are different. Ideally the nursing relationship continues until the child outgrows the need.
Myth: An older nursing child won't learn self-comforting skills.
Fact: Giving your child the comfort of breastfeeding is actually the best way to teach self-comforting skills in the long run. It is from this early relationship with you that he learns much about his needs and how to get them met in constructive, self-initiated ways.
Myth: Prolonged nursing is too fatiguing for a mother.
Fact: Many mothers find that nursing is one way they are able to rest, since nursing assures that there are a few times in every day when the mother can put her feet up and relax with her child.
Myth: The longer you wait to wean, the harder it will be.
Fact: As children get older, encouraging weaning often gets easier, not harder, since older children have a greater ability to reason and a wider repertoire of interests. When your child is ready to wean, it will be easy.
Myth: It's better to wean suddenly and get it over with.
Fact: Weaning slowly is one of the many areas in your relationship with your child where going slowly pays off in the long term. There are no instant fixes that don't have a cost. By weaning gradually and employing gentle techniques, you will maintain your child's inner security and trust for you.
Myth: A mother who nurses an older child is doing it to fill some need in herself.
Fact: Many mothers explain that their satisfaction and pleasure in nursing declines as the child gets older, and if they continue to nurse, it is primarily because it is important to their child. Older children are usually not coerced to nurse, they are allowed to nurse.