To wean or not to wean and why – does extended breastfeeding need a better PR campaign?
Extended Breastfeeding is considered any breastfeeding “Beyond One Year”.
Some mothers are unsure when to wean or even begin the process of weaning. Some lucky mothers are given very clear signs by their little ones as to when this phase is over. But for those mothers who go on day by day and suddenly realize they are now nursing a baby that is no longer a baby – there is not often support. Much of the support in the breastfeeding community is focused on the beginning of the process; making sure that things get started right and that your little one is nourished, thriving, and that mom is okay too. There are also some other points along the way where mom might seek out support again – returning to work which will now require pumping, starting solids, teething and/or sleeping predicaments (also known as dealing with nighttime nursers!). But what about moms who just want to continue nursing as long as they can?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding for a minimum of two years. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a minimum of one year. But statistics show that only 18% of children in the US receive any breast milk past the age of 12 months and only 6% past the age of 18 months.
While this could be due to a mother’s returning to work or finding that the demands of life often prove too much while still nursing, it might also be that there is very little support for moms who would like to continue. There are very few role models, that have not been branded vigilantes, for these mothers. It would be tragic to think that some mothers decide to wean because they feel they have no other option; or even worse, because they feel that society views it inappropriate to nurse when a child can walk and talk. The benefits are endless and not often disputed so if a mother wants to continue, they should be able to do so. Finding other mothers with the same mindset could be the key to making them feel comfortable and confident about their choice.
Where to find support?
- Find a La Leche League International meeting near you – there will always be extended breastfeeding support at a LLLI meeting.
- Find another breastfeeding support group – it’s incredibly fun and interesting to visit a support group where mothers who are new to breastfeeding attend. They look to a mother who has an older child for advice. They see that mother as the one who has gone before them and want to know thoughts and opinions.
- Start your own support group – depending on where you live, you could post an online listing in many different forums.
- Look online – while this support is not the same as in-person support, there is still much to be gained just from chatting.
- Lactation Consultants – LC’s have wonderful resources at their fingertips. Even if you don’t need their direct support, they can point you in the right direction.
Of course, a mother should do what is best for herself and her family. But, considering the option of continuing to nurse even a few times a day might be more of the norm if moms had others with whom to share their journey.