Very few women make it to six months breastfeeding, and ever fewer make it to one year. Of those who make it to a year, many of them face heavy pressure from friends and relatives to wean their baby. Breasts are viewed as sexual, and breastfeeding is not viewed as a useful mothering tool outside of feeding. Here are FIVE reasons not to wean your baby!
1. For toddler nutritional benefits:
Whilst it’s true that a baby or toddler can get their nutritional requirements from solid food, it’s also true that many of them are extremely fussy eaters. Furthermore when they become sick, they often go right off food. Adults do that too, but if an adult has a couple of days without eating it isn’t as critical as it is to a growing toddler. A 2001 study sited on the well known Kelly Mom website showed:
In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:
29% of energy requirements
43% of protein requirements
36% of calcium requirements
75% of vitamin A requirements
76% of folate requirements
94% of vitamin B12 requirements
60% of vitamin C requirements
2. Nothing soothes a toddler tantrum quite like a boob:
People have come to view tantrums as something that toddlers need to learn not to do, but that is false. As they grow up and their brains develop they naturally learn to deal with frustration in ways that don’t involve hurling themselves on the floor, and shrieking banshee style. Until they reach that point in development, offering them a breastfeed is a pretty good way to help support them through it.
3. Breastfeeding has health benefits to mums too:
One of which is reducing the risks of breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer. Several studies have shown that women who breastfeed full term have a lower incidence of “female” cancers. The longer you feed the lower your risk. It’s also linked to a lower rate of osteoporosis. Of course it’s not a guarantee, but everything helps, right?
4. Healthy attachment, independence and security for toddlers:
Breastfeeding gives toddlers a wonderful sense of security. Although people worry that children can become TOO attached, that is based on a myth. Firstly, children are biologically driven to seek independence, and they do so at their own pace. Secondly a child who knows their emotional and physical needs are always met, is MORE confident, and as such independent than one who is unsure that someone will respond to their needs.
5. Easier bedtime:
Breastmilk is full of wonderful hormones that help your baby or toddler to relax. Feeding to sleep is often perceived as a bad habit, but science shows us that the hormones that help a baby sleep are present in the milk produced after dark, but not during the day. This tells us that babies are biologically designed to feed to sleep. Given the bedtime battles faced in families around the world, it seems folly to deliberately wean before the child is ready! According to Pinky McKay, a renowned lactation consultant:
”With so much evidence that mama’s milk actually helps babies sleep, it makes no sense at all to resist this naturally sedating and bonding process, or to wake a baby who has fallen asleep against your warm body only to try some other settling technique or plug him up with a dummy to get him to sleep again. And, just in case you are still worried about those voices warning you about ‘bad habits’ or that your baby will never outgrow needing a breast to help him sleep, take heart: I am sure there aren’t many mums who have had to set up sidecar cots next to their grown up kids and, if your child does still likes to snuggle up to a breast when he’s twenty one – you can be sure it won’t be yours!”
The social pressure for women to wean is often based on false assumptions about how children sleep, interact with the world, depend on their mothers, and on the hypersexualisation of breasts. When each of those is examined under the microscope they are shown to be nothing more than myths, myths that deny women and children a whole lot of really amazing stuff!
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