Weaning My Toddler

So, I have some more big news to catch you up on. I weaned Cee a few weeks ago, soon after her second birthday. I took a few notes along the way, but I never pulled it together to post on the blog about it. I thought I’d share some of those notes here and reflect back on our experience.

Cee may be weaned, but she still nurses her own baby all the time.

Cee may be weaned, but she still nurses her own baby all the time.

11/24/12

Tonight, I nursed my baby girl for the last time. She’s not so much of a baby anymore. She turned two last week. But I savored the feeling of her curled into my arms. I noticed how her long eyelashes cast a shadow across her cheeks and how soft her face looked, the tension of the day melted away.

I remembered nursing her in those early days, when her eyelids were still translucent, tiny blood vessels visible. I remembered how she would be frantic to nurse one second and peaceful the next, her little hand clasped in a fist, resting on the top of my breast.

Cee and I started talking about weaning a few weeks ago. We usually read books while we nurse, and lately I’d noticed that she was so enthralled with the books that she could hardly nurse. I’d turn a page, and she would break her latch to look closer at a picture, pointing something out to me. We were going through the motions because we always had, but nursing didn’t feel that important to either of us anymore. It felt like it was time to make this change.

We had been down to nursing just at naptime and bedtime since the summer. We dropped the naptime feeding first. All fall, Cee had gone down just fine without me and my milk at daycare and with Husband, and there were only a couple of days of brief protest over this change.

Down to just nursing at bedtime, Cee and I talked about how Mama didn’t have very much milk anymore. We talked about how babies (like our friends’ 3-month-old) need a lot of milk, but kids like Cee eat lots of good food and can drink their milk in a cup. We talked about how we love snuggling and nursing, too. I guess I wanted a chance for us both to appreciate our final days of nursing.

A couple of days ago, Cee watched me as I undressed for a shower. She pointed at my naked breasts and said, “Milk?” Continue reading

Breastfeeding Beyond a Year: Why Stop Now?

BabyC is fast approaching her first birthday, and I’ve been asked more than a few times, “How long do you plan to keep breastfeeding?”

When I first started thinking about this question, the scientist in me wondered about the health benefits of “extended” breastfeeding.  I wrote about some of my research on the (purported) health benefits of nursing beyond a year last week.  I plowed through hundreds of breastfeeding studies looking for some data on extended breastfeeding, but the truth is that very little research on this topic has been published, and almost nothing has been published on extended breastfeeding in the developed world.  Please let me know if I missed something – just don’t send me links to La Leche League and KellyMom.  I’ve seen their pages and tracked down all those citations, and I couldn’t find any convincing evidence that my child will be any less healthy or nourished or smart if I wean at a year.  There could very well be health benefits to extended nursing, but as far as I can tell, they haven’t been described in the scientific literature.  I doubt if that will change in the near future, since extended breastfeeding is probably not much of a research priority.

However, as I started delving into the research on this topic, I realized that the mother in me didn’t really care what the data saidContinue reading

Breastfeeding Beyond a Year: Why Is the AAFP Stretching the Truth About the Benefits?

The benefits of breastfeeding to a young infant’s health are well-documented (though sometimes debated), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies be breastfed for the first year of life if possible.  Are there any health benefits to the child for breastfeeding beyond a year?  I am curious about this as my daughter approaches her first birthday.

Photo credit: Santiago Fernánde. via Wikimedia Commons

I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that there have been very few studies of extended breastfeeding (> 1 year) conducted in the developed world.  Breastfeeding research is notoriously hard to do, and good research on extended breastfeeding is nearly impossible.  As a population, women in the developed world who breastfeed their babies are already likely to be different from mothers who choose not to breastfeed, setting their babies up for different outcomes well before their boobs even hit the baby’s lips.  (This is of course a very broad generalization, and I recognize there are exceptions.)  These differences are likely even greater in women who choose to breastfeed beyond a year.  Only 24% breastfeed to one year in the U.S. [1], and we don’t know how many continue beyond that.  These mothers are more likely to be well-educated, white, older, richer, buying organic food, fretting about BPA exposure, and the list goes on.  Sure, we can use statistics to try to account for these confounding variables, but these methods require (A) that you’ve identified the most important variables, and (B) that you have study participants that represent a spectrum along that variable.  This research is hard to do. Continue reading