How long should I breastfeed?

January 28, 2014

I often get asked about how I raise my children and what experiences I have had with nursing and introducing a healthy lifestyle. One of my plans this year for this blog is to share more about my personal parenting experiences. Who am I as a mother? I'm a breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, skin-on-skin, anti-cry-it-out, attachment parenting kind of Mom. I have a toddler and a preschooler. I am a working mom with our family business. Somehow it all still works out. One of my favorite things about having a baby is  breastfeeding. I love the time I have cuddling my child and I especially love knowing that they are getting all those amazing nutrients and building blocks for a healthy immune system and future eating habits.   Now for those who cannot or could not breastfeed, please know that I feel your pain. I had some struggles myself with my first baby. It was about 6 weeks of a hungry screaming baby, waking every hour and very sore nipples. Somehow I made it through, but it definitely made me realize that we cannot judge those who couldn't make it work because it is much harder than you imagine. On a side note, if the first time didn't work for you and you plan to have more children, try again...it gets easier! Also, there are other ways you can bond with your baby with regular skin on skin contact and baby wearing! How long should I breastfeed? According to La Leche League, a mother and her baby should breastfeed for as long as they wish to breastfeed. The American Academy of Pediatrics currently (2005) recommends: "Pediatricians and parents should be aware that exclusive breastfeeding is sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months of life and provides continuing protection against diarrhea and respiratory tract infection. Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child." As solids are introduced, usually around the middle of the first year, your baby will shift his primary source of nutrition from your milk to other foods. This hits home with me today because my 15th month old baby boy Bennet has been having his final nursing sessions over the last few weeks. He nursed longer than I expected since our daughter stopped just after her 1st birthday. It's actually amazing to experience the gradual disinterest as he enjoys food more and more and thrives on his independence. Bennet still tugs at my shirt and gets in position but I notice it is really just for comfort because when I offer he really doesn't take it. I feel like this gradual wean is the best thing for him, so that it is not just suddenly taken away. Since every baby is different, it is important to pay attention to their needs and use your instinct. Don't let society or a book tell you when the right length of time for you and your baby. I will be honest, I'm happy that he is growing strong and becoming a little independent man, but I'm sad that this chapter is over and I will no longer have this special time with him.  I do know that we will bond other ways and this is just a chapter with more beautiful experiences to come.     What about pumping and storing breast milk? I personally don't do a lot of pumping unless I missed a feeding or I know I need to be away for several feedings. I try to make it so that I'm with the baby every 3 hours or so, but I also always have a back up. This can be difficult at times but it is really only for the first 6 months while  they are on demand. If you're a full-time working mom then it's important to still get a few actual nursing sessions in before and after work if possible. What is he eating and drinking now? Bennet has moved on to organic rice milk and green smoothies and juices just as his sister did. He also enjoys all different types of fruits, vegetables, beans, pasta, and more. I will say that both my children have insane appetites and love all kinds of foods and spices. I believe this is because babies develop their tastes buds in utero so their palate has much to do with what I ate while pregnant and breastfeeding :) Being a Mother was a lifelong dream, and even though it can sometimes be the hardest job I have, I can't imagine my life any other way.

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