Sunday, June 10, 2007

on breastfeeding

"In terms of the benefits of extended breastfeeding, there have been a number of studies comparing breastfed and bottlefed babies in terms of the frequency of various diseases, and also IQ achievement. In every case, the breastfed babies had lower risk of disease and higher IQs than the bottle-fed babies. In those studies that divided breastfed babies into categories based on length of breastfeeding, the babies breastfed the longest did better in terms of both lower disease and higher IQ."
- A Natural Age of Weaning by Katherine Dettwyler, PhD link

The last time my oldest child nursed was shortly after her fifth birthday. Originally I had planned to breastfeed for two years based upon recommendations from the World Health Organization and other expert sources. I wanted to make sure my baby's immune system would benefit as much as possible because of various auto-immune issues that run in our family. The older she got, the more obvious the emotional benefits of nursing were becoming. She wasn't nursing because she was hungry anymore, nor was she nursing just because she wanted to, she only asked to nurse when she really needed to nurse. I decided to trust her to know what she needs, and to know when she no longer needed it as well. She slowly cut back on how often and how long she would nurse. By her third birthday, she was nursing only one time each day, sometimes going as long as 36 hours in-between sessions.

But the point I'm trying to make is that all the experts, all the studies, everything you read about "extended" nursing, the emphasis is on child's IQ and health. As Mommy, I find that the emotional benefits, at least for my children, far outweigh any other benefits they might be receiving from nursing. Certainly they are healthy and very intelligent, I won't deny that for a second! But that's not what has given me the strength to allow them to decide when to wean. Rather it has been the near-spiritual experience of watching my children's emotional development, seeing them learn about the connection between their bodies and their emotions, and then to see them turn it around and teach me the same thing. They have an awareness of themselves that seems to be lacking in many people I know, both children and adults. And because of this self-awareness, they acutely perceive the effect they have on other people. They don't just know the golden rule, they instinctively understand how it works.

3 comments:

Chris said...

"Certainly they are healthy and very intelligent, I won't deny that for a second!" -- You sly dog you! ;)

It sounds like your kids are living it up! I think it is really awesome how your raising your children, children deserve to be treated with respect yet almost no one does, I think its awesome that you let them do their own thing. :) After listening to that Alan Watts I posted the other day all children remind of me the Buddha saying when he was born "Above heaven and below heaven, I alone am the world-honored one." Words of wisdom!

P.S. In my own life I think I was nursed until I was 4! :)

Anonymous said...

I did extended breastfeeding and my child had a brain tumor. How fair is that? :(

stacy said...

not fair at all. at least your child wasn't emotionally traumatized by weaning too early ((((hugs)))