Thursday, July 30, 2015

The best thing about long-term breastfeeding

Mikko looks on as his newborn youngest brother, Karsten, nurses on the first day.

There's so much to love about breastfeeding beyond infancy: the closeness, the health benefits for you and your nursling, having a tool to calm and connect. Here's one that continues well beyond the time nursing stops: Your child will think breastfeeding is normal and natural. Because it is.

Mikko is eight years old, and our nursing days are literally years behind us. But he breastfed till five years old, old enough to remember, and what he remembers is all pleasant. He describes nummy milk as the best milk in the world, sweeter than ice cream, even though he has no current desire to taste it; the memory is enough. He remembers snuggling and being close, and he's confident and content in those memories as well.

And he's taken those memories and projected them on to his baby brother. Karsten is nine months old, and still breastfeeding like whoa. Mikko loves it. He cheers him on. Whenever Karsten makes the slightest fuss, Mikko will turn to me: "Give him nummies, Mama."

When Karsten's eating, Mikko will lean in close and say affectionately, "You're a nummy thief, aren't you?" Karsten will break off nursing to smile milkily up at his brother. Mikko loves that Karsten's being nourished, body and soul, just as he was.

I can only hope and expect that this ease with breastfeeding will continue on into adulthood. Mikko and Alrik are unfazed by seeing breastfeeding in public or private, or by seeing toddlers and preschoolers breastfeed. They just think that's what babies and mamas do, no big whoop.

I hope when all three of my boys are grown, they continue to be advocates for the type of infant feeding they were blessed to have. They're not against bottle feeding — we've talked about how babies can eat in different ways, and the boys love to help give an occasional bottle themselves. They also, now that Karsten's firmly into solids (and how!), love to tuck bites of their own food into his mouth like baby birds feeding each other.

But they know that breastfeeding is special, and something simultaneously completely normal and incredibly magical. I expect they'll be the kind of adults who stand up for the rights of breastfeeding women in a "Wait, why is this an issue?" sort of way. We need the help of non-breastfeeding adults to support the normalization of breastfeeding, particularly nursing in public, and I think my guys will be no-nonsense ambassadors.

And if one day they have babies of their own, I hope they're able to give that baby a wonderful start through encouraging and supporting the mama to breastfeed, or in securing donor milk in the case of infant adoption or surrogacy. And I hope they're able to feel confident and secure about letting those babies nurse for a good long time, so even that next generation can continue the cycle of passing on happy vibes about breastfeeding.

Mikko loved it when his middle brother, Alrik, breastfed as well!

Did you breastfeed your babies past infancy, or do you have plans to? What's your favorite benefit of long-term breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding Cafe

3 comments:

Holly Scudero said...

I certainly never planned to nurse a toddler! My initial goal was 1 year, then 18 months, then 2 years. But I also decided early on that I didn't want to force my son to wean before he was ready, and the natural result of that decision is that I have a 3.5-year-old nursling. :)

LB Present said...

I'm happy that we breastfed Baby Boy as long as we did. I'm both nervous and a bit excited for the possibility of resuming with him once this baby is born. I sure hope to breastfeed this next one at least as long (or longer) than Baby Boy has. I've found these last months that I even miss it a bit! :)

Inder-ific said...

I nursed Joe until I got pregnant (he was 2.5). I'm still nursing Maggie at age 3. I just remember when Maggie was a newborn and she'd cry, Joe would holler, "MAMA! Maggie wants BOOOOB!" LOL. A little awkward in public places, but totally adorable. He tells me that "I got mama milks when I was a baby, but now I like my milk cold. From the fridge." Okaaaaay.

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