Last week was World Breastfeeding Week, a week designed to improve breastfeeding rates internationally through education.
Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months (exclusively for the first 6 months), and thereafter for as long as mother and baby desire? Or that the World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond? Despite these recommendations, and all of the proven health benefits, the Centers for Disease Control found in 2006 that only 13.6% of infants were exclusively breastfed through 6 months of age and only 22.7% were still breastfeeding at a year.
We had our share of bumps along the way, but by the time I returned to work (much too soon) when she was 8 weeks old, we had a good thing going. Luckily, she had no problems going between mama and the bottle and I was able to make pumping work, so she could have breast milk while I worked.
As we near her first birthday, one of the exciting things for me is the milestone it means with regards to nursing. When I got pregnant, I first said that my goal was to nurse her for 6 months; as I learned more about the benefits of breastfeeding, it changed into a goal of one year. Now, just three weeks from Nora’s first birthday, I am so proud to be meeting that goal, to have brought her through her first year of life without a drop of formula.
And now I am setting a new goal: nursing until she is ready to wean.
As we have started the adventure of introducing foods, I’ve been reminded just how important breast milk still is to her diet. With breast milk, there’s no worry about an allergic reaction. When her weight gain slowed this past month (which, by the way – for worried family members – is par for the course with a newly mobile baby), it wasn’t more food the nurse recommended, but more time at the breast.
It’s been interesting for me to see how quickly I was faced with questions about her nursing. As early as Christmas,
I was already being asked how long I planned to nurse her. As she’s been nearing a year in age, I’ve noticed another uptick in the frequency of the questions. This time around, I’m much more comfortable in answering with the truth:
I love her eyes staring up at mine,
I love that it’s the beginning of an amazing mother-daughter relationship.Even if Nora is going on a year, nearly walking and talking, and – yes, able to ask for it – I love nursing and I love that she’s going to decide when to stop, not some artificial time line superimposed by social awkwardness.
I love nursing, and I wish the same for every future mama. That’s some food for thought.