Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Full-term breastfeeding vs extended breastfeeding vs who knows what anymore

breastfeeding toddler nursing in public
This is me being a freak without a way to describe my freakishness.
All right, there's been some discussion lately about what to call breastfeeding a toddler or preschooler. There's also some discussion over what to call the age range I'm talking about, but I hope you get the idea that it's somewhere around 1-5 years old — as in, not a young baby.

I had had the whole idea of a name change brought to my attention, from Ruth among others, with an argument that calling it "extended" breastfeeding suggested an abnormality to the practice. That is, plain old "breastfeeding" was reserved for nursing an infant, and anything past a certain cut-off (six months, one year, depends on the cutter-off) would be "extended breastfeeding," and therefore out of the range of normal.

I agreed that "full-term breastfeeding" was much more satisfying to my sensibilities, because, as the mother of a two-and-a-half-year-old who's "still" nursing, I feel that breastfeeding a toddler is considered outside the norm in my society. Calling it "full-term" has been much more positive to me, even in my own head. I'm not being a freak; I'm letting my child nurse until we have completed our term together. See?

But some commenters on my post collecting links and articles about the subject of full-term breastfeeding and then an article and many commenters at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! suggested that "full-term breastfeeding" was just as offensive as "extended," if not more so.

The main objection is that it sets up a nebulous yet high standard for breastfeeding "success," meaning that if women wean their children — at all, I guess, but particularly before a certain age — then there has been a lack of full-term breastfeeding. So, for instance, if a mother weans at 15 months, she's nursed for much longer than most Western mamas, but under the full-term breastfeeding ethos, she will not have breastfed full term, because her baby probably (maybe) would have gone on longer. (I can't see any of my ardent lactivist friends not just giving such a woman a huge hug and pat on the back rather than criticism, but that's beside the point in this language discussion.)

Some commenters suggested alternatives to "full-term," such as "post-infancy breastfeeding" or "child-led/determined breastfeeding" or "biologically determined breastfeeding" (though I suppose the last two would run the same risks) or "bonus breastfeeding" (from Sarah V. of Good Enough Mum who asks for scientific proof that breastfeeding beyond infancy in First World countries offers any definite benefits — I could go into a tangent about needing such proof, but I'll try to stay on track a little here). Some preferred calling it "extended" breastfeeding anyway, due to familiarity or due to positive connotations with the word because they enjoyed being beyond the norm in a good way. Some insisted that we don't need a special term at all, because it should just be breastfeeding, and if needed, you could insert the age of your child.

I got a little upset reading the comments on Melodie's post, so I'm going to try not to replicate any tendency toward rantiness (on my own part) here. I know no one was writing against me, but I guess I didn't expect so much disagreement within the crunchy community. Must take my emotions down a notch. Deep breath. Calm, calm, peace, zen.

Ok.

With all due respect to the idea that we could call it all just "breastfeeding," I really think we do need a term for breastfeeding past [insert a certain age here]. Because I want to talk about it, and so I need a name! To say it should be "just breastfeeding" is nice and all, and maybe you live on a hippy commune where it is just breastfeeding (that would be cool!), but where I live, I'm a total freak. And I want to be able to name and discuss my total freakiness, so I don't feel so alone.

So then we're stuck with terms that feel pejorative against one or the other group — some of us who breastfeed toddlers and beyond object to terms that suggest a perversion of the natural order by continuing to nurse beyond our culture's accepted cut-off points (it's extended! it's post-infancy!), and — theoretically — those who do not breastfeed toddlers but do breastfeed infants are put off by terms that suggest what they have done is subpar (it's not full term, not child-led, not biologically determined, etc.).

So here's where my question is, then, and why I emphasized "theoretically" up there. It seems like most of us arguing this in circles are people who are fine with (full-term/extended) breastfeeding (a toddler/preschooler/non-infant) and who even practice the same. What I'd like is to hear from the three groups (I can identify) who could shed some light on the subject of offensiveness:

  1. Women who intend to breastfeed or have breastfed during infancy (up to a year old) but who have not considered or do not desire breastfeeding beyond that age: Does "full-term breastfeeding" make you feel inadequate? Does it make you want to learn more about nursing beyond infancy, or does it lessen your interest? Is it an intimidating term that makes you feel like Why bother if I'm not going to do it full term? or that your best won't be good enough? Is there another term that would make you feel less intimidated or guilty? Or does it not bother you that some people choose to breastfeed past infancy, if you're comfortable with your own choice?
  2. Women who don't intend to breastfeed or have intentionally chosen not to breastfeed during infancy: Does calling it full-term breastfeeding make it more or less likely that you would consider breastfeeding in the future? Does it make you feel like, Why bother breastfeeding at all because clearly I'm not going to do it full term? If you feel uncomfortable with your decision not to breastfeed, does hearing about full-term breastfeeding make you feel guiltier than hearing about breastfeeding an infant?
  3. Women who intended to breastfeed past infancy (again, let's say past a year old) or for a certain "extended" period of time (eg, two years or till child-led weaning) but for whatever reason could not or did not (surgery, illness, prolonged nursing strike, pregnancy, unexpected baby-led weaning, low milk supply, emotional or physical discomfort, separation, etc. — I know there are lots of good reasons!): What do you think of "full-term breastfeeding" as a phrase? Does it make you feel guilty or sad or otherwise uncomfortable, or do you feel you had good reasons to wean when you did? Is it still your goal in the future to attempt (full-term) breastfeeding again, and does the term inspire you or intimidate you? Do you feel judged by people who use the term? If so, would you feel less judged if they used a different term, and if so, which one (extended, post-infancy, child-led, a completely different one, etc.)?

I don't expect to hear much from categories 1 and 2 up there. If they're reading along, I certainly hope they chime in, and I do expect some category 3s have something to say. But: My theory is that we mostly use this term among ourselves, i.e., among full-term breastfeeders. It's not going to be on the cover of Parenting magazine. (Now, watch — it will be, just to spite me.) But I mean, I think the bulk of the people concerned with "full-term breastfeeding" and what we call it? Are the people doing it. Everyone else couldn't really give a flip. I would never use either (any special) term to talk about breastfeeding a toddler with my friends who stopped breastfeeding at six months — because they don't want to hear that I'm still breastfeeding and I feel uncomfortable mentioning it, and so we just don't talk about it at all. I wouldn't expect them to know (or care) that there was a term circulating for the specific type of breastfeeding I do.

That's just my take on it.

So why can't I have my cushy, feel-good term? What's wrong with calling it something that makes me feel a little better about being in the minority? So what if it's subtly pretentious and sets a high standard? What's wrong with a high standard if it's a good one? There are a lot of things I don't do that I know I should do; do I blame the people who do the good things for being pretentious and for setting too high a standard? Why isn't it the ideal thing to breastfeed a child until the mother and child mutually choose to stop? And, therefore, why shouldn't the term I use wave that flag?

Here's an example from my real life. I wanted a home birth. I researched home birth. I bought a birthing pool (well, an inflatable kiddy pool, but for a reason!). I squirreled away birthing supplies and scoured thrift stores for cheap but decent towels and sheets to get messy. I was ready. I was excited.

And then, and then — labor. After 39 hours, I ended up transferring, voluntarily, to a hospital. I had my natural hospital birth, but I was sad about missing my home birth. I had a healthy baby, a healthy me, rah rah, everything was great, really, but — I was grieving my lost dream.

I went on Mothering.com after the birth, asking questions about newborn care and checking on my due date club sisters. And every time I saw a little "home birth" smilie icon, I winced a little. I wondered if they judged me for transferring, and I wished — how I wished — I could be part of that group. Sigh.

But I got over it. I still was part of that group, in spirit and intention. My next birth I would be trying again to do it at home. I knew I had good reasons for transferring to the hospital, and if I could do it all over again, I would (reluctantly) make the same decision. It really was in the best interests of my health and the baby's, even in hindsight, so I've come to peace with it, even though it was not my ideal. I also feel like I do belong in the home-birth smilie club, because that's where I place myself ideologically. I don't judge those who choose not to have a home birth, even though I could offer (good) reasons to consider it, and I still wish to pursue home birth for myself in the future. But, you know, even if in my next pregnancy or labor I find good reasons to transfer again, I will, and I will still consider myself a home birth advocate.

I wonder if women who wanted to breastfeed a toddler but couldn't for whatever reason feel guilty or no? Feel intimidated or no? Because I can't speak for them. I can offer my metaphorical anecdotes and opine on what I feel about the terms surrounding breastfeeding a great big little kid, but — I need to hear from the other perspectives, too.

So, here I go, opening up the floor. If you do not belong in categories 1, 2, or 3, you are welcome to share your opinion, but don't share your opinion of what you think anyone else might think, because I don't want to muddy the waters. Let's find a little clarity here, if indeed it exists.

[Sorry if this sounded over-emotional and ranty, because I reread all the comments on my post and on Melodie's and I really don't know why I felt so emotional about the subject, but I did. There it is. A news flash that I'm not always rational when it comes to people talking about (judging?) the ways I parent, and even the ways I talk about that parenting. I've wondered whether I should hit publish, but I'm going to go ahead and trust to your graciousness in accepting this for what it is. Thanks.]

[ETA: Just saw "long-term breastfeeding" on Adventures in Babywearing. Takers for that one?]

26 comments:

Spilt Milk said...

I fall into category three. I was aiming for two-ish years but my daughter had other ideas. At 11 months she went on a sudden nursing strike that never ended (I persisted but after two weeks expressing wasn't enough to keep up my supply and after a further few weeks I gave up thoughts of relactating because she had absolutely no desire to come back). It broke my heart. She's over two now so I'veostly moved on but I do feel jealous pangs on the rare occasion that I see someone breastfeed a toddler. And yes, I do feel sad and guilty sometimes. I didn't choose to wean her but I may have inadvertently contributed along the way...or not, it's not easy to know.

Anyway, I use both 'extended' and 'full term'. I agree that extended is problematic because it implies 'extra' rather than 'normal' but I find it's mote readily understood. Neither term particularly hurts me - but then, as a trainee BF counsellor I'm probably more okay with the whole concept than most? And I guess I know that the full-term breastfeeders I know don't blame or judge me. Perhaps if I was more of an outsider in this sense I would be more sensitive.

Amber said...

I am not in any of those categories, as at this very moment I am nursing my 18-month-old and I breastfed my daughter until she was almost 3. In the interests of disclosure, as it were.

I really have no opinions on this in any direction. I think maybe that's because I don't feel like a freak. I most definitely DO NOT live in a hippie enclave, I live in a working-class suburb. But I have been lucky enough, mostly through La Leche League, to make several friends who breastfed as long as I did or even longer. It helps me feel 'normal', and when we're talking amongst ourselves we don't really need a term. When I'm talking to someone else, I don't discuss it because I don't particularly want a negative opinion.

It is really no fun to feel like the odd one out. I think that you can refer to breastfeeding beyond 1 year (or whatever age) in whatever way works for you. There is no need to explain yourself. If it makes you feel better, then by all means do it.

(And I love that photo of you breastfeeding Mikko. It really is sweet.)

yellowkites said...

I fall into none of the above, but I wanted to throw my two cents in. I am nursing my 1 year old, and frankly I feel that anyone who makes it to a year did a wonderful job! I consider that to be full term. I do, however, intend to go on breastfeeding as long as kiddo wants to because I believe there are benefits to it, and I enjoy it myself. So I don't really like the term "full term" because it would feel (unintentionally) judgmental if I stopped at say 11 months. I don't really like "extended breastfeeding'' either because it also has implications of being abnormal to go beyond a year or two. I think "toddler nursing" or "nursing beyond infancy" both work just fine, they have no connotations, one way or the other, and they state exactly what they are referring to. To a woman who nursed 3 months extended breastfeeding would mean anyone, like myself, that has made it to 12 months, whereas for others full term would mean all of 6 months. Know what I mean? Toddler nursing, or nursing beyond infancy, both are very specific.

CurlyMonkey said...

Interesting... In my case I would say it took my daughter 4 years to let the breast go... It wasn't about nursing anymore, just comfort. Baby #2 is 14 mos and still nursing.

Paige said...

Can I just say - I will eat my shoe if any of these terms end up on Parenting! lol :)

I really like child-led because even a mother whose child weaned under 1 year could have done so in a child-led manner. Also, forced-extended (which I'm not implying anyone who likes that term would do) could be just as bad as early weaning. The whole point for me is that i listen to my daughter and give her what she needs as long as she needs it. When people ask me how long I plan to nurse I don't say "full term" or "extended" I tell them, "as long as she wants to."

However, i don't feel offended at any of the terms. Whatever we use to modify "breastfeeding" brings us together as a community of Breastfeeders Past Infancy.

Dionna said...

Lovely post, Lauren. You know where I stand on the issue, so I'll move aside for other commenters, but I did want to say one thing - don't apologize for feeling emotional/ranty about the topic! We're all entitled to a little emotional rantiness now and then :)
Sharing!

~Dionna @ Code Name: Mama
http://codenamemama.com

Lilly Rose said...

I see it this way (not in any of those categories, as I'm nursing my 3 year old): There's a point where we go from being PC to being stupid about it. Accepting the argument, "no you can't use the term that applies to you and not to me because it offends me" is going beyond PC, to me.

I prefer full-term nursing. That's what it is. That's not saying that people who do post-infancy nursing but stop before the biological norm for humans to nurse until are lesser, nor that those who go full-term are greater. It's simply another category for nursing and it's the term I will continue to use.

satrialpine said...

I feel you should be able to call it whatever you like and makes you feel good.

I don't really fit neatly into your categories as I am still nursing my baby at 9 months and plan on continuing past a year but I can't predict exactly what will happen. If someone asked me if I planned to be a "full-term breastfeeder" I may feel slightly intimidated, as I had to live up to some type of ideal. I may even feel guilty if for whatever reason we stopped at say 13 months, because we didn't make it 'full-term' (whenever that may be).

Similarly, I feel slightly embarrassed and defensive in the crunchy community explaining why I ended up with an emergency cesarean - even though I had a midwife, doula and did every possible thing to get my baby to move around from her footling breech position.

These are my issues though - and you should feel free to enjoy whichever term fits you.

If I HAD to choose I suppose that child-led, long-term or just plain breastfeeding feels less 'judgy.' But really on the other hand, I do agree with you that it is an excellent high standard to set as long as it does not discourage anyone from breastfeeding as long as fits them.

Melodie said...

I love this Lauren. What an utterly fantastic follow up to my post! I need to come back when I have more time and read all the comments, but just wanted to give you my thumbs up.

Alison said...

i don't fit into any of the categories as i am "still" nursing my 21 month old. i'd prefer to call it just breastfeeding because that is what it is. the amount of time spent varies for everyone and i don't want to feel any more reason for judging people who don't nurse their babies 'as long as i do' which is how i gauge things. when my son was smaller , say, less than a year old, i really didn't know how long i'd breastfeed. once he turned one i KNEW he'd be doing it for a while because he wasn't slowing down at all and so yeah...there is no way for me to know when he'll be finished. i only have a few friends that breastfed/feed and only one (who i only kinda sorta know) is breastfeeding a toddler.
fwiw, i think i live in the same area as hobomama and i have never felt like a freak or out of place for nursing my baby. and i have nursed him in a lot of places...pcc, fred meyer, the park, the zoo, whole foods, barnes and noble, nordstrom.......the list goes on. i have never encountered any weirdness from ANYONE. and maybe that is why i don't feel the need to give it any different name.

toni said...

Hello! I would be in group #3, I nursed my daughter up to 15 months. I introduced cows milk at 12 months, and by 15 months she wasn't interested. I do feel a ton of guilt now, at the time I didn't know any better, and I was feeling a lot of pressure from my family to wean, but I honestly thought it was going to be hard and to my surprise she weaned very easily to cows milk on her own pace(3 months), no fussing or crying, nothing. She just turned 2 and it was a sad bday for me, not only because my baby is growing up but because I realize that I could still be breastfeeding and I made a mistake. Now with that said, I still feel AMAZING and very proud we made it to 15 months. The term "full-term breastfeeding" doesn't really bother me, I actually find it fitting. Though it does make me sad I wasn't able to give my little one her "full-term". I do plan to try "full-term" breastfeeding with my future babies!

TopHat said...

You know what language I've been trying to fix in myself? The word "still." My daughter is 23 months and I find myself saying/blogging, "I still breastfeed my 23 month old" instead of "I breastfeed my 23 month old." I wonder if "still" does the same thing as "extended"- make it seem like it's abnormal and freakish.

Olivia said...

Not in any of the 3 categories, but I like "child-led" because I think it removes the onus from the mother in all except the most ardent "no nursing past a year" crowd.

"Extended" does sound a bit like I'm abnormal if I go past a year, but I think it gets the point accross most succinctly for the majority of people. If I say "full-term" or "child-led" it would probably require more explaination.

TopHat, ditto on the word "still" if it's coming from a negative place.

Em said...

I read a blog somewhere and the writer referred to nursing less than 2 years as "premature weaning" and other such terms. I was so highly offended that I quit reading what was otherwise a really great blog. If "full term" means until the child is ready to wean, than I practiced full term breastfeeding to 12 1/2 months. That is when my son was ready to wean, and I was fine with that. There is a certain amount of sensitivity I feel when I think someone is belittling me breastfeeding for "only" a year, because it is the thing I am the most proud of doing. I went back to work when he was 12 weeks old, and managed to pump, work full time, and nurse at home for 9+ more months. I think whatever you call it, there are going to be people that feel like they don't measure up. "Child led" sounds nice... I feel that is how my son weaned. People will still probably tell me he wasn't ready, but I am happy with our breastfeeding relationship. No matter what you do, there are going to be critics. Just keep doing what works for your family. :-)

BluebirdMama said...

I haven't had a chance to read all of the comments yet. I fall into category 3. My son nursed until he was 3. My daughter is still nursing at 20 months.

Like Amber, I don't feel particularly freaky. I just go about my business. I nurse less frequently in public than I did when my kids were babies but only because they need to less. My friends know we still nurse and I refer to the fact but I guess we don't discuss it much because I tend to just act like it's a fact of life. In that sense, I'm not a really militant lactivist. I just behave as if it's completely normal.

To get to my comment though...

Your post is fabulous and thought provoking. I enjoyed Melodie's original post and the discussion it prompted as well.

Upon reflection now, I feel like this really is overly rampant political correctness though. I guess I feel like some PC terms were instituted to deal with unsavory terms coming from an outsider group. In the case of full-term and extended breastfeeding, these are terms used within the group right? If this is something you do, shouldn't you be the one to decide what to call it? Why should you have to worry about what outsiders feel when you put a name to your own behaviours? Why should the other have a say in what the group calls themselves? To put it into perspective: should I, as an able-bodied person have any right to tell someone in a wheelchair what term I think they should refer to themselves by? Not really. That's their call and I don't think they should have to worry about hurting my feelings.

That's why it maybe seems like a strange discussion at the root. But of course, breastfeeding acceptance and societal norms and lack of support and all kinds of other issues get wrapped up in this one. We certainly don't want to alienate moms who WISH they could have breastfed. We want to be united and supportive.

But I really think Lauren that you should be allowed to say full-term breastfeeding if you feel it is the best description of YOUR experience. It's not like we're discussing whether or not you should be allowed to call another person a partial breasfeeder or early quitting breastfeeder or something atrocious like that.

Lisa C said...

Okay, first of all--yay, picture of you! Now, on to business.

To be honest, I never really gave this topic much thought, but I really like your thoughts on it! It would be so nice to have a term other than "extended" because to all the mothers who don't believe in nursing past a year, "extended" really does make it seem like it's not regular. A term that makes it sound regular would be good. I have occasionally used the term extended, but it doesn't feel right to me. I just say "breastfeeding." But I don't talk about post-one-year-old breastfeeding as a group. Full term sounds really nice, but I think some would think full term is the minimum recommendations set by the pediatric associations (which can be one or two years). Child-led sounds great, but then if you put any limitations on your child's bf is it really child-led?

If I had not succeeded at bf my son, I would not be insulted by any of the terms you listed. However, if I didn't believe in nursing past a year, I might be. I think what we really need is a term that is clear and honest with no implications that it is either odd or required, though it could be nice if it hinted that nursing past a year is a healthy thing. I don't think this is about being PC. It's about normalizing breastfeeding.

Inder-ific said...

Hi! I love your blog! I am coming out of lurks-ville to comment.

I am currently breastfeeding my ten month old baby boy. I work full-time, so I pump every day. I intend to continue breastfeeding as long as my baby enjoys it, but I will probably stop pumping at some point. So I'm hoping for the best, but I may or may not make it very far into the second year.

Putting me almost, sort of, in category one. Like, I might be in category one in about three months!

Which is to say: I want to breastfeed longer, but I feel pretty good about my accomplishments so far. If I quit at 12-18 months, I would consider that pretty "full-term" for a working mother.

But I do think it's natural to breastfeed for much longer, and I will if I can, so the term "full-term breastfeeding" doesn't bother me at all, although I think "breastfeeding past infancy" or even "longer term breastfeeding" may be more descriptive to folks who are not as up on the lactivist lingo. However, if you like the term, I say go for it. I like to see terms that embody a little advocacy, and certainly don't take it personally!

Lisa C said...

The more I think about this, the more I see that there are so many different types of breastfeeding relationships, and I think it's hard to umbrella them all. After all, what is "full-term breastfeeding"? Is it breastfeeding until the child is done? What if you nurse your child for three years and they still aren't done, so you wean them. You still did "extended/post-infancy" breastfeeding, but not "child-led." I don't know what I'm rambling for, I'm not even sure this answers your question. I just know there are various types of post-infancy nursing relationships and I don't think they would all fit the term "full-term." Just saying. :)

I plan to nurse Michael until at least two (my goal) but would like him to wean by three. Preferably his choice, but I would encourage it, I think. Possibly. I don't know! I love nursing but I do think I have a limit, and I don't want him to be nursing if I get pregnant again. If I cut him off, would that mean that even at three years, we would not be full-term?

As an aside, my husband thinks full-term is two years, the standard minimum set by WHO>

Megan said...

I'm not in any of the categories either, as I'm breastfeeding my 9 month old first child. Our goal is to hopefully make it to 18 months, but who knows? She's a mover and shaker and I'm just hoping she'll be willing to take the time to nurse as we gets older.

I guess I've always thought of breastfeeding beyond a year as "traditional breastfeeding." And by traditional I mean, not in the last 50 or 60 years. Before the 20th century weren't most children breastfed beyond a year? It seems to me that something that was done for centuries should lay claim to the term traditional, not something that's just been done recently.

Lisa C said...

Sorry, but I'm chiming in again. When I read "traditional breastfeeding" in megan's comment, I fell in love. What a wonderful way to describe it! I think I might try that one out.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

My current attitude towards breastfeeding is "child-led", but my baby is only seven months old. Basically, my plans for breastfeeding have been to go as long as both she wanted to and I could handle it. (No teeth yet, so we haven't had to work on navigating that particular lump.)

When I see 'full-term breastfeeding' I understand the, hrr, political reasons for it? But am faintly intimidated by the perceived subtext of "there is a full scope of job to complete and if you stop you will have Left It Undone." Which is much more my emotional damage than the words, but there it is.

Deb(bie Debbie Doo) said...

can't help your research out - made it to approx. 2 yrs w/ all three kids - i was also a freak :)

but, you know what? if being a freak means we're doing what is best for our families and that is different from the norm. because our current norm. is NOT child or family focused than i say we should just happily/proudly/gratefully let our freak flags fly!

Fly your flag sister!!!

natalie said...

Ok, I like "traditional breastfeeding" pretty well. But I generally just say he (23 months) is nursing, just like I say his sister (11 months) is. I'm not going to make it until four, even if he wants to. I envision nursing him till 2 1/2 or 3. I would consider that I'd done extended breastfeeding at that point, though, because it was extended past the norm around us.

Dr Sarah said...

Thanks for the discussion and thanks for linking to my blog! I appreciate the time and trouble you're taking to listen to other people's viewpoints. I see you've just made a follow-up post, so posting this feels sort of superfluous and maybe I should just shut up, but I already spent ages writing this and don't like the idea of wasting that time, so I hope it's OK still to comment here.

I guess I'd be in your category 3, even though I'm also in the category of whatever-the-hell-we-do-call mothers who nurse past a year. ;-) I planned to nurse my son until he was two and a bit, and ended up weaning him at around sixteen or seventeen months; I planned to nurse my daughter until around sixteen or seventeen months and ended up weaning her at fourteen months. Those were deliberate changes of mind, and I'm happy with them. So, the phrase full-term breastfeeding doesn't make me feel guilty, sad, inspired or intimidated. In all honesty, what I'd have to say is that it makes me feel annoyed. The pretty clear implication is that there *is* a specific term that all women should nurse for. I don't like the idea of anyone making those sorts of generalised judgements about something as individual and personal as a breastfeeding relationship. Regardless of whether the judgement is that all women should give up breastfeeding by a year at the latest or whether we should all go on until two years at the minimum or whether we should all practice child-led weaning or whatever, I don't like people making that judgment call in the first place. Beyond the point at which we have actual evidence of benefit, it just doesn't seem like the business of anyone apart from the breastfeeding dyad and immediate family. (By the way, I do feel you took what I said in my previous comment out of context there. I don't think you need scientific proof of benefit just to decide for yourself how long you want to nurse! I was trying to point out that, without such evidence of benefit, we shouldn't be telling everybody else how long *they* should nurse.)

To answer your other questions: I'm not planning to have any more children so that one's a moot point, but, if I did, I think my plan would be to do pretty gentle, gradual mother-led weaning over the late babyhood/early toddlerhood period. I don't feel people who use the term “full-term breastfeeding” are judging me as a person, but I do feel they're judging my breastfeeding decisions and my ability to make those decisions. I'd be fine with most of the other terms that you're suggesting (though I do want to point out that 'child-led' doesn't actually mean the same as 'any nursing past a year', and hence isn't just a synonym for 'extended').

Hope that helped, hope it didn't sound too ranty, and thanks again for your thoughtful approach to this.

Becky said...

I belong to category 1. I'm currently breastfeeding my 8 month old daughter and love it (except when she bites me). I have never considered breastfeeding her after age one. I like all of the suggestions for "post-infancy breastfeeding" [or whatever] except the term full-time breastfeeding because that isn't describing what's happening. When I hear "full-time", I think of exclusively breastfed, which can happen anytime whether a newborn or a toddler.

When my baby was a newborn, I supplemented with a bottle much to my disliking. After a check up with my OB, I got a prescription to increase my milk supply and now my daughter will not have anything to do with a bottle. :) That makes me happy and grateful that I work part time so she doesn't need to take a bottle. My decision to breastfeed was 100% influenced by my mom. She breastfed me until I was 15 months old and I wanted to give that to my own daughter. Mom told me that as soon as I was old enough to "request" her milk by lifting her shirt, she weaned me. So, I guess that might be my guide with my own daughter.

As far as if I feel inadequate when I hear "post-infancy", "toddler", or "extended" breastfeeding, the answer is no (although as discussed I disagree with the name "full-time"). Bottom line, knowing that I didn't quit when it got tough and knowing that so many other women have quit when they didn't even have it as hard as I did, I'm proud of myself. Here's hoping that my grandchildren are breastfed!! It's so important, and I sincerely hope that because my daughter has been breastfed, it will encourage her to do that for her own child(ren)!

dushan said...

Full term nursing. I love the name and it made me feel good. I'm my son is 2 years 8 months and he still nurses most days. Almost everyone I know thinks I've gone to far but I just know it is right for him and for me.

Thanks for the article

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