This Saturday is the International Day to Normalize Breastfeeding. There are also several awesome, creative movements underway to normalize breastfeeding. I started writing this post, however, several months ago. Paragraph by paragraph until I had a mini-dissertation framed with disclaimers - all before I had even gotten to the content! Why?
Because breastfeeding, particularly "delayed" breastfeeding, is kind of an anomaly in the states. Most people aren't used to it, and it's become socially taboo. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding up to two years and beyond, yet nursing into toddlerhood is considered by many to be "extended" breastfeeding.
But this post isn't about who I make uncomfortable. It's about re-normalizing what is a quite natural act of love and nurturing.
So in honor of Normalize Breastfeeding day, here's a quick list of 13 reasons why "still" nursing is the choice we made for our family.
1. Because science. There are so many benefits to breastfeeding for both me and my daughter - literally hundreds! From a boost in immunity for her, to a reduction in breast cancer risk for me. The list goes on and on.
2. Because health. Our daughter has been sick so rarely and when she is sick, it's often much less severe than it would be otherwise. For example: even after a week-long bout of stomach flu, she was able to avoid dehydration thanks the fact that we were nursing on demand.
3. Because REALLY. As we approach toddlerhood, nursing is a great addition to my mom toolkit. From tantrums to bad falls, there is no better soother.
4. Because we can. I should recognize that one reason I've been able to breastfeed as long as I have is because my work schedule allows me the flexibility and privacy to pump as often as needed. Many moms don't have that luxury - something I hope changes over the next few years.
5. Because it makes travel SO much easier! We never have to worry about running out of clean bottles/ milk / formula - we have a (relatively) limitless supply --- on demand.
6. Because we've helped other babies too. Early on, to maintain supply, I aimed to pump a little bit more than what I needed to send to daycare. Gradually and deliberately I built up a surplus. Last year I was able to send 2+ gallons of milk to a milk bank to be pasteurized and prescribed to babies, in particular pre-term babies born with special needs. It's an awesome way for lactating moms to use their "liquid gold" to help other wee ones. https://www.ohiohealth.com/mothersmilkbank/
7. Because nursing gives me the opportunity to be stillin a quiet moment with my daughter. And anyone in the presence of a rambunctious toddler probably knows, these moments are rare and precious.
8. Because we're still teething. And when she does, she eats less and nurses more. Partially for comfort, partially for additional nourishment.
9. Because I'm a working mom. A very busy one at that! I need every hour I can get, and working moms that pump or nurse on average need fewer sick days than those that don't.
10. Because nursing boosts her immune system, even into the toddler years.
11. Because it's FREE! Granted my pump was covered by insurance and I did buy some bottles and supplies for daycare, but essentially - FREE!
12. Because that’s what they are for. Love my girls - but it's good to remember their intended purpose!
13. Because nursing is the most natural thing. Ever. As natural as childbirth and the sun setting. And an image of a woman breastfeeding should be no more upsetting than the image of a baby with a bottle we've grown so accustomed to.
And there you have it. 13 simple reasons why we're "still" nursing. I understand they're not for everybody, they're for us. But hearing the stories of other moms was tremendously helpful for me so I want to pay it forward and share our story as well, on the off chance it encourages some other moms out there struggling with the same. It takes a village, right?