I loved breastfeeding my daughter when she was a newborn. Her tiny body fit within the crook of my arm, and I treasured the feeling of cradling her there as she nursed. I loved seeing her take such immense comfort from me and my milk; nursing both soothed and sustained her. It was so peaceful . . . slow summer afternoons spent with her gazing softly up at me, hands clasped at her chest as though she was holding on to the most important thing in the world.
Nineteen months later, she’s as likely to be nursing standing on her head as in any other position. Attempted eye contact while she’s nursing now leads to a sly smile eventually erupting in giggles. It’s hardly peaceful, but it’s definitely still sweet.
I love how much she still loves to nurse. As soon as we get home in the evenings, she leads me to our spot on the couch, giddy with anticipation as I prepare her access. She’s just as excited when it’s time to switch sides. I also love that she can tell me when she wants to nurse now – it was the first sign she used consistently, and though she has recently been able to say “nurse,” she still signs for it, especially when she’s upset. Nursing beyond infancy has done nothing but strengthen the amazing bond between us that began with her curled against my chest, latched on for those early, languorous nursing sessions.
But nursing isn’t just healthy for our relationship – it’s still so good for her growing little body. Breastmilk continues to provide significant amounts of protein, fat, and vitamins long after the first year. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends nursing for two years or more, and the American Academy of Family Physicians notes that children weaned before two are at increased risk for illness. Some immune factors actually increase in concentration in breastmilk after the first year, and extended breastfeeding can also help prevent allergies and asthma. Extended breastfeeding even has health benefits for me, including reduced risk of breast, ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancers.
All of the above are excellent, even compelling reasons to continue breastfeeding. But at the end of the day . . . all we’re interested in are the snuggles. And that’s more than enough.
Jennifer blogs about her AP family at Postcards From the East End.