This is a post from the Natural Mama website written by Cherie Raymond – http://naturalmamanz.blogspot.com which is stuffed full of useful information. I found out about Natural Mama NZ when Cherie emailed me to ask if she could use some Lactivist images for her collection.
This article in particular is witten from the heart and is about breastfeeding an older baby after a gap of 3 months.
“There is no nutritional value in breastfeeding past the age of 12 months”. Not only is this statement wrong (breastmilk has fantastic nutritional value for anyone who consumes it), it also implies there is no reason to breastfeed your child past the age of 12 months, which couldn’t be further from the truth (the immunological benefits are vital to a child as their immune system does not fully develop until the age of six).
When I first heard the above statement, I didn’t know any different, like so many other mums. I’d done a small amount of reading on the subject of breastfeeding, but it seemed “why breastfeed if it’s no longer convenient, and there’s perfectly good formula as a substitute”. After all, aren’t these the perks of a modern feminist culture, we don’t have to breastfeed, we have all sorts of inventions to give us time to do other things? I even had an incredibly involved partner who was eagerly willing to take over parenting jobs whenever I wished.
|Jamie, newborn in the hospital|
Yet as easy as I had it, it all seemed to backfire; the connection with my child dwindled, and I was diagnosed with post-natal depression. Though it happened so subtly, each day more formula instead of breastmilk, more time with other carers, and eventually I felt like a stranger to my child. I’d completely weaned him from the breast, and between daycare, and family members eager to care for him, I was barely spending any time with him anymore.
I loved my little boy dearly, but I wasn’t ‘in charge’ as a parent. I put everyone else’s opinions regarding my parenting above my own. I didn’t trust my own instincts, desires and opinions, I honestly thought everyone else knew better, so I just did what everyone else told me to do. And before I knew it the motherhood I dreamed of since I was a child and had finally achieved, slipped from my fingers.
|Jamie, 2 months old|
My journey out of post-natal depression and becoming ‘in charge’ as a parent started with a lot of research about parenting. I learnt formula is in no way ‘equal’ to breastmilk, the main point being it lacks the immunological benefits of breastmilk, protecting children against many illnesses and improving brain function. The skin to skin contact also helps maintain the bond between mother and child.
Things really took off when I joined in discussions with other mothers online. I heard from mothers and websites that were living and promoting my mothering dream – babywearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding well beyond 12 months, healthy vegetarian diets, non-vaccination, gentle guidance as apposed to punishment. This was the encouragement I needed; no, my parenting ideals weren’t abnormal, mothers all over the world were parenting in the same way my instincts always veered towards. The support I had may have only been from strangers online, but it was enough to give me the strength to take back my relationship with my son.
After completely weaning my son at 12 months, I allowed him, now 15 months, to suckle again whenever he felt inclined, and slowly built up a steady milk supply. I looked after my son almost entirely on my own; I didn’t want anyone else to look after him anymore, I wanted to enjoy him, as was always the plan, and my motherhood dream.
This winter I have felt such pride. My boy, now 20 months, has never had any sickness past a runny nose. I have watched friends around me with their little ones continually sick, taking trips to the doctor and even hospital. I attribute my son’s health entirely to his daily intake of breastmilk, and the unrivalled immunological properties it contains.
|Alex (my older son) holding Jamie|
When I hear statements like “there is no nutritional value in breastfeeding past the age of 12 months”, I am now educated and strong enough to stand up for myself; I don’t rely on another persons judgment when it comes to the welfare of my children, and beyond any opinion I will always trust my gut.
My lesson was I must trust myself as a mother, stand up for myself in the face of opposition, and never feel guilty about putting my love for my child above anyone or anything else. There is so much parenting advice available it is mind boggling. The most important advice I can personally give is to let your love for your child be your guide to parenting, it will always steer you in the right direction.