Image courtesy of Tratog/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
If you're a breastfeeding mama (or if you're about to be one) you've probably heard lots of commentary about breastfeeding. This commentary probably includes:
- How Long
It probably also includes the word should.
I hate the word should.
Let me be clear, I have some opinions about breastfeeding just like everyone else does. You probably have some as well. But the idea that you should do anything should be a red flag that you're about to get hit by someone else's values. Rather than taking someone else's values as your own, I recommend understanding why they hold those values and how you can best formulate your own.
May I present some facts surrounding the following areas so that you may make an informed decision about feeding your child?
Where: You are legally allowed to breastfeed your child in any place where you have the right to be*. This includes park benches, the zoo, restaurants, places of worship and airplanes. This does not include private property (because anyone can tell you that you no longer have the right to be on their property) and men's bathrooms. That's a short list.
When: Oh the SHOULDS about when! May I suggest whenever baby shows signals that she's hungry? Before she has a melt-down? Whenever you'd like? As you may recall from labor, baby lives in a space beyond time. As convenient as it might sound to schedule her feedings at regular intervals (and there are times when this might be appropriate to make sure she feeds often enough, per the recommendations of an IBCLC), most babies will simply make it clear when they are hungry. They are spending a lot of time growing, developing, learning new skills, and experimenting with new tasks. This means their caloric needs can vary from day to day and hour to hour. Are you hungrier on days when you do the incline? How would you feel about waiting for dinner with no snacks??
How Long: Just like the when, baby knows how long she needs to nurse at each feeding. More often, people comment on how many weeks, months, or years you should nurse each baby. Many factors play into the duration of breastfeeding, like medications mama might need to take, her employment, additional babies, and other factors. Baby expects to breastfeed until she's able to feed herself at the table and beyond. Did you know that the average age of weaning world-wide is more than 4 years old? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends six months of exclusive breastfeeding (this means no formula, water, juice, cow's milk, or anything other than prescribed medications) and sustained breastfeeding for at least 12 months.
Does that mean you should breastfeed your baby for 12 months?
No, it does not. But it means that it is worth considering why this recommendation exists and understanding the costs and benefits of sustained breastfeeding. I'll share some of the reasons why in an upcoming blog.
HOMEWORK: What are your values about breastfeeding? What are your goals? And why?
*In Colorado as in most states. There are a few states with slightly more stringent laws.
I'm one of those people who loves making your life easier (and I believe in you). I am an experienced registered prenatal yoga teacher and a lactation educator.
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