When I was pregnant I knew I would want to breastfeed my baby. Before my baby was born, I was decided that I would do it for at least one year.
Breastfeeding for one year was the obvious choice for me. As soon as I started reading books on maternity I started to stumble upon information on when to stop breastfeeding. I was very fond of the book “What to Expect When You Are Expecting”, which is really good for several things but for breastfeeding advice it sucks.
This book will advise you to quit after one year. The main reason it gives is that it´s “easier “ to go through the weaning process around the first birthday of the child. Well, that´s a lame reason. Especially because I found the benefits of extended nursing much more compelling.
Doing a quick google research with the phrase “When to stop breastfeeding”, which is probably what I typed two years ago, I landed on lots of web sites advising women to breastfeed only for the first 12 months of the baby´s life. Unfortunately, I believe many women that don´t find a good source right away and have no support from friends and family (frequent) probably quit breastfeeding before one year.
For a quick view of the benefits of breastfeeding for extended periods (meaning over a year – which should be considered minimum) I´ll quote La Leche League: “ 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.”
This knowledge, that the longer the baby receives the human milk, the greater are the benefits is what kept me going the most. There was also the pleasure it gave me, the bonding, the easy way of putting Luísa to sleep or simply calming her down, but when I, for instance, was afraid of my breasts sagging (a myth, you can check on a study that shows that smoking and the number of pregnancies are the main cause for breast sagging) I would think of the healthy benefits and keep going.
Well, I also found out that the mother is greatly benefited as well, the longer you breastfeed, the more you decrease your chances of some sorts of cancer (ovarian, uterine, endometrian and osteoporosis as well), among other benefits.
Oh no, the hidden agenda again
After reading, thinking and experiencing so much of breastfeeding I started to realize that there are some truths behind all the public information given to us. If the World Health Organization advises that children breastfeed for two years, than it´s almost implicit to think that women should work less. But it´s not what´s encouraged at all.
Obviously women working less goes against the society paradigm of productivity at the expense of extinguishing the resources. As a modern society, we need all women working and consuming and being an active part of the cycle (endless productivity and consumption).
Yeah, I know you can pump out milk in a bottle, but I believe that much more women end up losing their milk stock because of stress or get very unmotivated than we find women actually pumping out their milk during their 9-5 jobs.
All this information given to woman to stop breastfeeding in one year or less, I don´t know, it´s just weird.
I don´t mean to judge women that decided to quit breastfeeding early. Each woman will have her own reasons to do things. Unfortunately, many will also find lame sources of information and not many people to count on for support, if they live in a big city.
I just want to point out that in our modern society, long-term breastfeeding (although proven to be the best for both mother and child´s health) is discouraged.
Long-term breastfeeding is not an option for many women that need to work full time to support their children.
If the governments were to really support breasfeeding as a measure to enhance the public health, they would have to stimulate women breastfeeding to work less. Now that, my friends, it´s impossible to see in a money-profit-based society in which we live in. Except for countries like Norway and Sweeden where maternity leave can last two years (but I´m afraid, the reason for that is to increase the birthrate and guarantee the future work force).
So much of what we should know about our health and how we could make our life better will simply never be displayed like that, just because it´s of the interest of everyone. We have to seek for the real information and share it like in a black market.
Enough of bitching about how the world is ruled, let me keep in my personal breastfeeding story here.
When Luísa was 2,5 years old, she still depended on breastfeeding to take a nap. I couldn´t imagine our lives without the boobs. How would this kid sleep after all? Would I depend on car or bike rides everyday to make her sleep? My deepest fear was eliminating the nap all together. How about that lovely 1,5 hours of arms free in the afternoon?
Well, one day something happened that made me want to quit. I met a guy. The first time I met him, Luísa clinged to my boobs right away and for the first time I felt uncomfortable with it. It was a sign for me.
I didn´t know if I was going to get that guy, but it sure made me wonder if it wasn´t time to stop breastfeeding. Be freer to go out and date and not have to offer my boob within a defined number of hours.
As shallow as this reason might have been, it was something for me to stick to, since before this I couldn´t even picture myself not breastfeeding. I was afraid I would keep at it for a couple of years more, maybe ban myself to an eastern country where children breastfeeding at the age of four is common. Well, I was starting to want to quit.
So I quit the day breastfeeding cold turkey. No more boob to put Luísa to sleep. Just like that. One day I meet a gorgeous guy, the next week I quit 3-4 daily sessions and start to breastfeed only in the morning.
I figured I could keep breastfeeding once a day until she was three years old, because well, I was so informed about the benefits that I thought the longer I could hold to this, the better. Finally when we were one week away from her third birthday I did it, I quit completely.
Which strategy I used to quit
As I mentioned, I first cut the few times a day to only once. My boobs hurt for three days and were super full in the morning, but then they went back to normal.
One week before cutting it completely, I made an acting show to Luísa a few times with the characters talking about how the mama had to stop breastfeeding and how much she enjoyed it but it was time to move on.
Using lime on the nipples helped us go through a smooth transition. I had expected it to be hard, but having made my mind probably made this all easier.
What I feared the most became true – no more naps
Cutting the afternoon breastfeeding session did make Luísa very unsettled to take a nap. We´ve been through months that she might take a nap or might not. And contrary to my beliefs, this wasn´t bad at all. I was so programmed to stay at home in the afternoon to wait for her nap and now I have completely different days, where we can do things out at what was nap time before.
As for nap management, it´s been great. Some days she will sleep and when she doesn´t, I like it even better because it means early night.
No nap = bed time at 8pm
Afternoon nap = bed time at 10pm
How about you? For how long did you breastfeed or intend to do so?