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Nursing When They Can Ask For It

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Can anyone but a mother and child really determine the right amount of time a child should nurse? While the World Health Organization recommends nursing until at least age 2, and longer if the child and mother benefit, I have the sense that my daughter is not the only one who is quick to judge.

Yet, we don’t see many women breastfeeding in general (less than 14 percent of women in the U.S. exclusively breastfed through just 6 months of age in 2006), so when we see anyone nursing, it surprises us. And the older the child gets, the more unusual it is, and the more weird.

In my experience nursing, however, the longer a woman nurses, the more natural it seems to simply lift a shirt and feed a youngster when they need milk or comfort. Yet while many mothers become increasingly accustomed to this behavior, it seems as though society becomes less comfortable.

Extended nursing has been a natural part of child-raising in the past, and is even common in certain other parts of the world. Mothering Magazine published a fascinating article written by a Canadian mother living with her toddler in Mongolia (breastfeeding rate of nearly 60 percent at 6-9 months). She described how she initially differed from her Mongolian peers during playgroups. When an argument broke out and her son was upset, she would try to distract him or talk out the problem. She reported that this approach succeeded in calming him only half the time.

Related: Guilt and Breastfeeding: Who’s Really to Blame?

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4:46AM PDT on Oct 20, 2013


2:28PM PST on Nov 18, 2012

Interesting article, thank you.

2:27PM PST on Nov 18, 2012

Interesting article, thank you.

3:40PM PST on Feb 3, 2012

An interesting thought.

2:14AM PST on Jan 14, 2012

Thanks for the info.

6:05AM PST on Jan 13, 2012

Not sure what normal is but I breastfed my two youngest ones well past one year and even 2 years (2.5 to be exact) and they are both now in school eager to learn and their skills are well above their grade level (fe. Reading on 5.4 grade level in 2nd grade and 2.8 in Kindergarten). My daughter who is now 16 and was also breastfed baby is in gifted education program, gold honor roll student and has received 2 presidential awards for academics along with her first Academic Letter for first year of HS. Needles to say that I don't think extended breast feeding harmed either one of them and I have learned how to fight my battles at that time. It's amazing how numb is our society to drugs, violence, explicit music, pornography etc. but issue of breast feeding keeps discussion threads going for years!

12:35AM PDT on Aug 30, 2011

Thanks for the article.

9:53PM PDT on Aug 7, 2011

BRAVO! Raya!!

Sadly the 'divided you fall' of which you speak, is the cornerstone to our medical model of birth. Once the Mother/Baby dyad is put asunder from unnecessary interventions, c-sections along with iatrogenic and nosocomial ailments, damage and disorders, it takes a saint to breastfeed without pain and problems. Then out come the FREE samples of mind minimizers aka infant formula. Mark up one more for a lifetime of health issues to make a profitable pension plan for medical professionals.

The good news is that the more milk of human kindness and the closeness and skin to skin contact which comes with it …the more oxytocin courses through the veins of both Mom and Baby–the better...and the other good news is that a breastfed baby beats our North American norms of development and all sooner...and I might add delicately: they smell so much more sweetly...speaking earlier... so they can ask for what they much better than sad colicky cries of babies in pain... left alone to suck on stuff that can be made from all manner of things and corruptions...(Nestlé alone has had a number of containers...and in China.. with ground melamine—thats what your cupboard doors are made of...and worse.)…not to mention the phalates in their bottles and nipples!

There hasn't been a recall to date on any of the elixir of life.

Oh!... and the benefits are many... and many are not ever lis

12:33PM PDT on Aug 7, 2011

Dr. Sears says "Breastmilk's influence on health is probably more far-reaching than researchers have even dared to imagine."

Why would we cease to supply our children, whose systems are still developing such an elixir of life? "This living biological fluid carries substances that are critical to the optimal development of many systems in the body."

The perverse and outmoded belief structures serve only to keep us in the dark ages and hinder the health and development of a generation to come. People who are offended and disgusted by something as beautiful and sacred as a mother feeding her child are displaying symptoms of classic projection, it is really themselves who they are disgusted by. This behavior is constantly encouraged by the barrage of both subliminal and obvious marketing strategies that assault our sensory perceptions on a daily basis. Consumerism feeds off of this by selling products and cosmetics to mask our humanity, to keep us isolated from nature and from each other. Divided we fall. The status quo fails to serve us as a species. Let us collapse and then restructure for a dawn of a new humanity.

10:52AM PDT on Aug 2, 2011

It's not completely my area of expertise ( see speech/ language developmental research); but those, whose professional training lie w/in early childhood development, well know that suck/swallow reflex & oral motor development in general is HIGHLY related to development of expressive language skills. Verbal abilities are totally dependent on oral musculature that supports & makes talking possible. Just ask anyone who has faced neurological or physical trauma to this area of the body & has had to undergo speech/language therapy to regain their ability to speak. Breastfeeding, because it exercises & promotes oral muscle development, also fosters the ability to talk in the process. On the other hand, sucking from a bottle might also do just as well in terms of the exercise factor; & the issues of breast feeding in public an older child (whose established oral motor development would already allow them to drink from a cup & eat solid food) are separate social considerations defined by the culture from which the people originate. This is simply a question of cultural relevance & definition. It depends on the society involved; & as in other social customs, practices in one society may (or may not) fit in another cultural setting. The old adage "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." applies here. The customs of one culture are not superior/ inferior to the customs of another. Your community norms determine the "correct" practice in such situations.

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