Saturday, March 13, 2010

Long-term breastfeeding

Mama's milk breastfeeding toddlerAfter much thought and considering people's reactions to the different terms, and even getting Sam's take on the issue, I'm leaning toward "long-term breastfeeding" to describe any sort of nursing beyond a certain age of infancy, say one year old — but individual women could decide what age that is for themselves.

What do you think?

"Long-term," to me, seems very neutral — descriptive without being prescriptive. It doesn't have the same sting of abnormalcy that "extended" does to me. It doesn't have, I think, the same potential as "full-term" to sound judgmental to women who choose not to or cannot breastfeed for a long time.

It's open ended, because it could apply to a 1-year-old same as an 11-year-old. There's no implied cut-off date beyond which breastfeeding is unacceptable or implied breastfeeding minimum before which weaning is unacceptable. It can be a goal for mothers to shoot for, but they can set the specifics themselves.

For instance, for a woman in a particular parenting culture where no one breastfeeds past six months, that might be the moment she identifies herself as a long-term breastfeeder. Or if the wider breastfeeding culture changes over time where it's expected that everyone breastfeed at least two years as the WHO recommends, then maybe eventually long-term will mean past that age!

And I think it's a term I can use among my fellow long-term breastfeeding supporters to talk about the particular experience of breastfeeding a toddler and beyond.

I'm sure I'll still use "extended" and "full-term" and just plain "breastfeeding" casually, and I still love the camaraderie and meaning behind "full-term" and "child-led," but I'm thinking "long-term" might be a winner as my preferred way of referring to breastfeeding past infancy — toddlers or children.

Thank you to Stephanie of Adventures in Babywearing for inadvertently turning me on to the phrase.

And a huge thank you to everyone who commented and shared stories of breastfeeding successes and perceived breastfeeding failures. It might be natural to breastfeed, but it is not always easy, and I respect every mother who tries what she can and ultimately makes whatever is the right choice for her baby, herself, and her family.

Please do let me know what you think of the phrase long-term breastfeeding. Love it, hate it, too clinical, just right?

P.S. Thank you to whoever became my 100th follower. Woot! Getting from 0 to 50 seemed to have taken forever, and getting from 50 to 100 was a blink. Funny how it snowballs like that!

Photo courtesy Chickpea. on flickr (cc)


philippa said...

I love it. Like you say, it can fit almost every mother and her situation. It's a conversation starter because know you are interested in knowing what their take on long-term really is.

Taryn said...

I think it's just right. I'm interested to see what others think too...if there's a loop-hole that this term doesn't fill, someone's bound to let you know. I think it's great that you are even thinking about this breastfeeding issue. Thank you for your thoughtful approach to such a potentially touchy subject!

Bibliomama said...

I think it's perfect. Full-term seems a little confusing to me. This is descriptive, non-judgemental... fits the bill.

Lindsay said...

I think it's perfect! It doesn't have any of the negative connotations the other phrases do but is still descriptive. I think I'll describe myself as that too (so far I don't have any local friends who are mommies and my relatives didn't nurse or didn't nurse more than a couple months each, so they already think 7 months means I've been nursing a long time! )

Lisa C said...

I love it! Go Stephanie!

I was anxiously waiting for your response the the great conversation you started on this, and was eager to see if you decided on anything. I actually think I may have used that term before without even thinking about it.

By the way, I was your 100th follower! I was excited about that but forgot to mention it.

Dagmar said...

You made me think, which do I like better? I usually call my breastfeeding extended breastfeeding. I just celebrated my 3 years/3 months/3 weeks/3 days anniversary of breastfeeding my little guy. But I think I actually like long-term better because extended sounds a little like it's beyond what's normal, and I want it to be perfectly normal for moms to breastfeed as long as they and their children desire.

Thank you for this discussion!

Dagmar’s momsense

Unknown said...

I love it! I also, by the way, love your blog and the beautiful picture in this post. You have inspired me to take more pictures of my beautiful girl breastfeeding so I can remember this precious time.

Anonymous said...

I like it! It sounds perfect and I'll make effort of adapting it.

mamapoekie said...

I prefer natural duration breastfeeding, because it points to how nature designed it, whereas long term means it is something beyond normal

Olivia said...

I like "long term breastfeeding". Very nutral.

Anonymous said...

I breast-fed two years long. To someone who didn't or shortly breast fed, that'll be longterm, to someone who did it 4 years (like a colleague of mine), it won't. I think the term "long-term" here ist like "beautiful": it's in the eye of the beholder.

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