pregnancy, birth & lactation services… at home
Today I led a breastfeeding support group and discussed weaning. As I was gathering resources and materials about weaning the phrase ‘extended breastfeeding’ stuck out to me. How is breastfeeding ‘extended’ if- as researcher Kathryn Detwilier explains- it is biologically normative to nurse between 2.5 and 7 years?
How is our breastfeeding ‘extended’ if we go beyond 6 months or a year or even two years if the historically normative ages for weaning were between 3 and 4 years of age?
My concern is that the term ‘extended breastfeeding’ conotes going ‘beyond’ normal breastfeeding. As if that first 6 months, year, two years is the ‘real’ breastfeeding and anything beyond that is superfluous. This couldn’t be farther from the truth- breastmilk continues to support children’s immune system and provide important nutrition far into a child’s third year of life. It also provides emotional reassurance as a child begins moving independantly into the world. How is it normal to cut short these biologic and psychological necessities if our health- both mama’s and baby’s- is so positively influenced by the continuance of the breastfeeding relationship?
I want to get rid of the term ‘extended breastfeeding’. I will use the phrase ‘natural-term breastfeeding’ from now on which signifies a breastfeeding dyad that continues to nurse- even with the introduction of complimentary foods- as long as both is satisfied with the arrangement.