WBW 2016: 5 tips for a strong nursing relationship while working away from home

wbw2016-logo-textEditor’s note: Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals central to World Breastfeeding Week this year is a call for better workplace support of breastfeeding women. Certainly employers have a large part to play in meeting this goal, but women also need step up to advocate for themselves, their babies, and their right to express breastmilk while at work:

It’s that day…the dreaded day that no new mother wants to face — the last day of maternity leave.

For a mother able to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave afforded by the Family & Medical Leave Act, the last 3 months in baby bliss may instead feel like 3 short weeks, but regardless of the maternity leave length, the end of that special period arouses many emotions, especially for a nursing mother.

Naturally, a nursing mother’s mind becomes occupied with fears and questions:

  • How will I be able to provide enough milk while I am away?
  • What if my baby refuses a bottle?
  • Where will I find enough time to pump while I’m trying to work?
  • How will my boss and coworkers feel when I need time to pump?
  • What will happen to our nursing relationship?

This uncertainty creates even more stress and anxiety for the breastfeeding and working-away-from-home mother for she knows the important role breastfeeding plays in a secure attachment in addition to the numerous health benefits.

Mommy Kissing Baby LContinued nursing after the maternity leave period helps maintain a strong attachment between mother and baby. In his book, The Attachment Parenting Book, Dr. William Sears includes a chapter entitled “Working and Staying Attached,” in which he points out that giving your baby your milk is a very important way of staying attached to your baby after returning to work. Expressing milk for baby to drink during the day allows mother to, in a sense, be with baby while she is away at work. When mother and baby are reunited, their attachment through breastfeeding can resume as if she never left.

Nursing beyond maternity leave not only helps strengthen attachment but also provides numerous health benefits for the nursing mother and her nursling.  In 2012, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published their policy statement, “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” in Pediatrics. In this document, the AAP notes the numerous benefits of nursing, including those of nursing beyond 3-4 months. Some of these benefits for baby include a lower risk for developing serious colds, asthma, and other allergies; Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; and childhood and adult obesity. For the nursing mother, benefits include a lower risk of diabetes for mothers not diagnosed with gestational diabetes, a lower chance of arthritis, and breast and ovarian cancers. Essentially, the longer a mother can provide her baby with mother’s milk, the more health benefits received by both mother and baby.

In order to continue a secure attachment and experience the health benefits of breastfeeding, nursing mothers can maintain a strong nursing relationship while working away from home by following a few simple tips:

  1. Know your breastfeeding rights — Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, many U.S. employers must provide a nursing mother with break time and a place to pump for up to 1 year after the birth of her baby. It is to be noted that companies with less than 50 employees are exempt from this law and instead offer pumping breaks at the discretion of the employer. Information, along with instructions for filing a complaint, can be found through the United States Department of Labor. Many other countries have generous allowances for nursing mothers at work, so be sure to check with your nation’s laws.
  2. Plan a pumping schedule — This schedule will differ from mother to mother. Planning to nurse right before being separated from baby and as soon as mother and baby are reunited can help reduce the amount of pumping sessions needed at work. While at work, a mother should try to pump about every 3-4 hours. For a mom working an 8-hour shift, she might pump once in the morning, once during her lunch, and once in the afternoon. The idea is that for each time baby receives expressed milk from his or her care provider, mother is pumping. In doing this, mother should be able to pump the amount of milk that baby will consume the following day. Talk with a local breastfeeding specialist for a pumping schedule tailored to your work environment and other needs.
  3. Discuss needed accommodations with employer — When a mother meets with her employer, she should be prepared by knowing her legal rights. A working-away-from- home mother should inform her employer of the needed accommodations before returning to work. The employer may need some time to make changes in order to accommodate the nursing mother. When the mother meets with her employer, she should provide her employer with a copy of her nursing schedule. This may also include pumping space accommodations. For example, the room where milk will be expressed needs to have an easy-to-access electrical outlet and should be heated and cooled.
  4. Nurse on demand — Although a working mother must have a pumping schedule while at work, at home, she can nurse her baby on demand. Nursing on demand means that a nursing mother nurses when cued by the baby. This might be every 30 minutes or every 2 hours. Since how much milk produced is based on demand, a nursling can help increase a mother’s supply by nursing frequently. Nursing on demand also allows baby to re-establish the nursing bond that was missed during the day. Nursing on demand can continue during the night. Frequent night nursing may lead to reverse cycling, meaning the baby will nurse more frequently during the night than he or she does during the day. Some mothers who encourage reverse-cycling find that they don’t need to pump as much while at work during the day. For example, a baby may only drink 4-5 ounces of milk while his or her mother is at work, but the remaining amount of milk needed will be attained during the evening and all through the night. Essentially, in 24 hours, the baby will have consumed his or her total amount of milk needed.
  5. Get support — Most nursing mothers need support throughout the breastfeeding journey, and nursing mothers that work away from home are no exception. La Leche League International and other nonprofit organizations provide local and online opportunities for mothers to connect and support each other.

While the end of maternity leave marks a transitional period for mother and baby, a strong nursing relationship can be maintained by carefully preparing for this changed and remaining dedicated to the desire to nourish baby with mother’s milk.

4 ideas for gentle weaning

beth mckay 2I often hear of the struggles mothers face when trying to nurse a baby in those first few weeks. For me, that has not been the case. Although both of my sons nursed differently, neither had difficulty nursing.

My experience is the opposite. My struggle comes at the end of the nursing relationship rather than the beginning.

For some mothers, weaning can be the most difficult part of the nursing relationship. Usually this difficulty arises when the mother would like the nursing relationship to end or change, but the child feels differently.

Imagine yourself in your child’s place. Your milk is what your child has known since the first day he or she came earthside. Your milk tastes good, but it also comforts and provides warmth and the feeling of safety. Imagine how difficult it might be to let something like this go. Imagine how much harder it would be if you were not emotionally, physically, and developmentally ready to let that something go.

Up to this point, your child has a positive perception of nursing. This perception can remain by weaning gently.

Consider how the word “gentle” affects the meaning of the word “weaning” when added to it to create a phrase. The negative connotation associated with weaning lessens. With the addition of the word “gentle” comes a positive connotation. This process will be slow, kind, loving, and without pain.

Gentle weaning is important. It is important to the development of our children. We know that negative experiences cause stress and can affect our children physically and emotionally. As parents, we want to limit the negative experiences of our children — not create them. Gentle weaning allows for mothers to wean children without creating a negative experience.

Just as gentle weaning is important to the development of our children, it is also important for the mother. At some point, every nursing mother will experience a nursing aversion, being “touched out,” pain (from ovulation, latch, or pregnancy), exhaustion from night nursing, and so on. It is important to remember that these feelings are temporary in the grand scheme of things.

Just as the child has a positive experience with nursing, the mother also shares in this experience. Weaning that is not gentle could create negative experiences that the mother will have with her for the rest of her life. The idea of living with no regrets can be applied to this situation. Weaning before the child is ready or weaning that is not gentle could create regret for the mother and negatively affect the mother.

For me, I wanted to start the weaning process when my son was about 18 months old, because I wanted to try to conceive another baby. Nursing proved to be an excellent birth control for me, and I thought that reducing some nursing sessions might help my cycle return.

beth mckay 1When my son and I started our weaning journey, I talked to experienced friends and researched weaning. The following are some ideas that helped me:

  1. Reduce the amount of time for some or all nursing sessions — Try to limit the nursing session to a certain amount of time. Set a timer for a specific amount of time.
  2. Reduce the number of nursing sessions — If your child nurses 5 times during the day, slowly reduce the time of one session until you eliminate it completely. Continue the process until all sessions are eliminated.
  3. Set limitations for when nursing can take place — Perhaps you would feel more balanced to only nurse during the daytime or only at bedtime and in the morning.
  4. Set limitations for where nursing can take place — I started by not nursing in public. If my son asked to nurse when in public, I would tell him that we needed privacy and to wait until we got to our car.

In order to be gentle, these ideas need to develop slowly, and the mother needs to be willing to judge each situation individually. For example, even though we only nursed in private, if my son got hurt, I would still nurse in public if he asked. Nothing has to be set in stone.

Nursing a child is a positive experience for both the mother and child, and it can remain that way through weaning by using a gentle process.

And we said bye-bye to breastfeeding

divya singh 1This holiday season, my 3-1/2-year-old daughter and I said bye-bye to our breastfeeding relationship on a very happy note. Here is how it worked for us:

When my daughter turned 2 years old, every now and then I talked about weaning, but she wanted to continue the morning and bedtime nursings. Then, on Thanksgiving weekend at the end of November, our weaning time came.

With a bad cold, she had been nursing a couple times at night in the 7 to 10 days before. One of these mornings I had sore nipples, and I told her I was hurting so she should be gentle. To my surprise, she just licked both sides and called it done. The following morning, she wanted to just cuddle, talk and sing before starting our day.

The first two nights after this, I intentionally avoided our bedtime routine — which she had been okay with on some recent weekends — because she was very tired, having missed her naps at daycare. The third night, after our usual night routine — to my amazement — she said she didn’t want “amma duddhu” (mommy’s milk)! I knew then that she was done.

And we said bye-bye:

And we said bye-bye to “amma duddhu.”
You didn’t cry, nor did I —
One small step, one big moment,
To let go of this elixir so potent!

And we said bye-bye to “amma duddhu.”
You were ready, and so was I —
A moment to pause, and celebrate,
So many to thank and dedicate!

And we said bye-bye to “amma duddhu,”
Like your first walk, like your first talk,
This was surely one milestone,
On this parenting voyage, a large capstone!

And we said bye-bye to “amma duddhu.”
When so many said you were too old to nurse
And questioned why I continued to nurse,
You affirmed our bond like a poem or verse!

Thanks for choosing me, your amma!

To 3 and beyond: An interview with Janell Robisch on breastfeeding

to three and beyond coverI received a copy of To Three and Beyond: Stories of Breastfed Children and the Mothers Who Love Them at a critical point in my parenting journey.

At the time, I was breastfeeding my third child at 2-1/2 years old. The longest I had breastfed my other two children was 9 months, and my original goal with my third baby was 1 year. I was thrilled to make it to 1 year, and so changed my goal to 18 months. My breastfeeding journeys with my daughters had always been rocky, a struggle to make it month by month it seemed. So I was unsure how long my good luck would last with my third, my son.

At 18 months, I changed my goal to 2 years. And at 2 years, I made a firm decision in favor of child-led weaning. But about 6 months later, I was surprised by my feelings of feeling touched-out and tied-down. I felt ready to wean, but at the same time, I was very sad at the thought. It was evident that my son was not ready to wean. I never thought, in a million years, that I would be struggling with these feelings.

And then the book, To Three and Beyond, arrived in my mailbox. It was sent from Praeclarus Press, owned by Kathleen Kendall Tackett, member of API’s Resource Advisory Council and co-editor of API’s 2013 Journal of Attachment Parenting. What a Godsend! The book is a collection of stories by mothers who breastfed children to 3 years old and beyond, choosing to allow their children the full benefit of extended breastfeeding and child-led weaning.

The book was my main source of support and comfort during the rest of my breastfeeding journey with my third child. It was my “support group” on paper.

(Photo credit: Allison Profeta)Today, I share my interview with To Three and Beyond‘s editor, Janell Robisch, whose own breastfeeding story graces the pages of the book. A former La Leche League Leader, Janell breastfed her 3 children to the ages of 5, 4-1/2 and 3-1/2 years.

API: Janell, I do so love your book! Please begin by telling me what inspired you to write To Three and Beyond. How do you want your book to benefit families?

JANELL: My own experiences with breastfeeding a young child and the lack of resources for mothers nursing a child beyond toddlerhood inspired me to create such a resource.

During the writer’s process, which was fairly long — about 10 years — at least one other book on the topic was released, but I wanted something more personal, a book that mothers could curl up with and be able to empathize and connect with. I see this book as kind of a La Leche League group meeting for long-term breastfeeding mothers. It is a collection of stories, and there are all kinds of mothers with all kinds of experiences. They are ready to share their experiences and give their support to the reader through their words.

This book will give mothers a sense of belonging to a greater group of mothers doing what they feel is right for their families and maybe an idea of how things might go along their own journeys. It also provides some resources for getting more support and evidence about what science has to say about natural-term nursing.

API: How do you offer support to mothers breastfeeding a toddler or older child who feel isolated and unsupported in their choices, and who may be reconsidering those choices?

JANELL: Remember why you have made the choice to continue breastfeeding.

You are not alone, not by far. I feel comfortable saying that at this moment, there are thousands — if not more — mothers nursing beyond infancy and even toddlerhood.

One of the most important things to do is to find support. It means the world, even if it is only online or from one friend or family member in your life.

There is a list of resources in the back of To Three and Beyond, but parents can also join the “Breastfeeding to Three and Beyond” online discussion group on Facebook. It is a closed group that started out about the book but is now mostly a discussion group for mothers with questions, stories and things to share about nursing older children and breastfeeding in general.

API: How does your book fit within the mission statement and vision of Attachment Parenting International (API)? What are your views of API?

JANELL: I am happy that such an organization exists, and I believe that API’s tenets of parenting reflect a safe, nurturing and loving way for preparing for parenthood and raising our children.

The website is full of great resources for parents, especially those looking for ways to approach parenting in a way that respects not only their feelings and needs but their children’s feelings, needs and development.

While no two mothers’ experiences are the same, one of the main threads running through the stories in this book is that of individual mothers carefully considering their children and their families and making decisions about breastfeeding and parenting based on the family’s needs as a whole and the children’s needs in particular. There is compassion and respect here for children’s needs, even when they contrast with what society presents as the “right” way to do things, and there is balance as well.

API: Thank you, Janell, so much for you time and insights. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

JANELL: I just want to give a shout out to all the brave mamas out there who fly in the face of tradition, not to rebel but to parent in the best way they know how, those who are brave enough to question parenting practices that ignore the needs and developmental stages of children and do what feels right for their children and families.

(Photo credit: Allison Profeta)

Morning cuddles: a story of child-led weaning

Editor’s note: At some point in every breastfeeding relationship, the question of when and how to wean presents itself. Many parents breastfeed into the toddler years and beyond, choosing child-led weaning. Janell Robisch shares her weaning story below.

to three and beyond coverAttachment Parenting International (API) thanks Praeclarus Press for giving permission to reprint this except from To Three and Beyond: Stories of Breastfeeding Children and the Mothers Who Love Them, edited by Janell E. Robisch, published by Praeclarus Press, www.PraeclarusPress.com. Used with permission. Read more about the book through an upcoming API interview with Janell.

So, when I was feeling touched-out or just ready to quit nursing, I would test the waters, cut back a little or talk to [my son] A.J. about it, and see how he reacted. I felt that since I was the adult, I could be patient when I needed to. If his reaction was intense, I knew that he wasn’t ready, like the many short-lived occasions when I tried night weaning. If, however, he went on about his business without much reaction to what I was doing — or not doing — I knew that we could move forward.

The following excerpt from my personal journal, written in 2006, tells the rest of the story:

“When my son finally weaned in January 2006 at age 5 years 3 months, of course part of me wondered if I had done the right thing in nudging him along. I had been ready to end nursing for a while but was contented to let him continue to nurse until he was really ready to stop. To me, ‘ready to stop’ meant that he would not be traumatized by weaning and that, as a mother and child, we would be able to easily meet his needs in other ways.

About 4 months before he actually weaned, A.J. set a date for weaning. During the interval before that date, he continued to nurse in the same pattern, in the morning and before bed and sometimes in between. However, when the date actually came, he said that he was going to stop nursing for that day only. I smiled and waited a while longer to bring up the subject again. About a month later, he stopped nursing for six days but then went back to it.

It was the end of November when we talked about it again. He had just turned 5 in October. I suggested that it might be easier for him if he got used to the idea of weaning by slowing down a little at a time. He was amenable to the idea and set yet another date. This time, however, he did slow his nursing down right away; he suddenly went days without any nursies and showed no ill effects. In addition, prospects for a weaning party were suddenly more important than having milk.

The last day of nursies — January 1 — came and went, and we even took pictures of his last nurse. As things went, he came down with a stomach bug a few weeks later, and he did nurse one more time around January 18.

Now, as I write this, 5 months later in May 2006, I am confident that we did okay. He has not asked to nurse again since that day and has not shown any ill effects of weaning. We still have plenty of close cuddle time, especially every morning when he wakes up. If I am not nearby when he wakes, he seeks me out as he still likes to start his day with some close time with Mommy. Our bond is still there, still strong, even though our nursing relationship is over. I will be ever grateful for the bond that it created and am happy that we had that special time together.”

It has been 8 years since I wrote that journal entry. A.J. is now 13 years old and is still incredibly smart and exacting. He is not incredibly “touchy” with most people, but he always makes time for a hug for me when he first wakes up and before he goes to bed. Our relationship, like any mother-child relationship, is not perfect, but I feel that nursing — more than anything — laid down a foundation of love and connection for us that will last a lifetime.

Editor’s note: Thank you to the photographer, Allison Profeta, for the image of Janell E. Robisch included in this article.

Nature’s Case for Breastfeeding

World Breastfeeding Week 2013For so many women, breastfeeding was the turning point for our journey into Attachment Parenting. And one organization whom many of us have to thank for our introduction to both breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting International — certainly in the case of API’s cofounders whose roots were here — is La Leche League International.

Dr. Jeanne Stolzer, Professor of Child and Adolescent Development at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, USA, whose research is known worldwide as an intelligent challenge to the current Western medical model that seeks to pathologize normal human behaviors, including breastfeeding, too, shares her beginnings in LLL. I heard her speak at a conference a few years ago.

“Most people think that because of the research I do, I was raised in a granola-eating, breastfeeding, bare-footed family,” said Stolzer. “Nothing could be farther from the truth. The first breastfeeding baby I ever saw was when I was 18 years old, and I was mortified. Five years later, I saw a woman with a PhD breastfeeding a three-year-old, and my immediate response was, ‘What was wrong with her?’”

Some years later, Stolzer herself was expecting a baby when a friend encouraged her to attend a LLL meeting.

“I was very reluctant, but I went,” said Stolzer. “I instantly felt like I was with kindred spirits.”

LLL led Stolzer to begin educating herself about breastfeeding. As she remembers, “I was reading and reading all this stuff and was getting madder and madder: Why didn’t my mother know this? Why didn’t my friends know this? And, gosh darn it, why didn’t my doctor know this?”

Where Did the Mammal in Us Go?

“For 99.9% of our time on this earth, we have been hunters or gatherers and we have been practicing esoteric mammalian parenting,” Stolzer said, meaning non-medicalized births, breastfeeding, and staying in close proximity to our babies. “Look at what, in just 100 years, we’ve done: We’re supposed to be the top mammal on the planet, but we’ve managed to completely erase the mammalism in our lives.”

Conception, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding are intricately linked together as one continuous process to give each baby the best start in life, Stolzer explains.

“Most people see these as separate. They’re not,” she said. “If you mess with one, you risk throwing off the whole connection.”

While there are a very small number of females in every mammal species unable to get pregnant, the United States has the highest infertility rate in the world among humans. But is there any wonder when we stop to look at what Western cultures are doing to the birthing and breastfeeding functions of this process?

Stolzer finds it comical that most mothers won’t touch a cigarette or a caffeinated drink while they’re pregnant – which is commendable – but then have no problem in going to a hospital and having powerful narcotics mainlined into their arm during labor and birth. In the United States, 38% of women are getting Cesarean sections when, naturally, only 1 to 3% of births might actually require medical intervention.

Then, mothers and their newborn babies are, more often than not, separated immediately after birth. If mothers are able to give birth vaginally, she is flooded with hormones – but by separating the mother from her baby, that hormone flow is interrupted. If the breastfeeding relationship isn’t challenged enough by separation, then it has to overcome the ordeal of a hormonally-deficient mother and a drug-affected baby. “It takes 138 muscles alone in the jaw to nurse, and if you’re drugged, they won’t work,” Stolzer said.

The truth is, most Western physicians are not educated in breastfeeding. To be so, they must go on to continuing education because medical schools don’t teach lactation.

“I think women do the very, very best they can, with the information they have at the time,” Stolzer said. “Breastfeeding decreases all forms of hospitalization, death, and prescription drug use. That’s amazing, but how many women who are formula-feeding know this?”

Introduction of Formula-Feeding

Formula was developed with the mechanization of the dairy industry, derived from whey, a byproduct of processing cow milk.

In 1910, only 2 to 13% of mothers formula-fed. After World War I, that statistic jumped to 65 to 70%, and the impression was that only the poor and the immigrants had to “resort” to breastfeeding. Formula-feeding had become a state symbol of wealth, and physicians were supporting that formula-feeding was superior to breastfeeding. The lesson learned here, says Stolzer, is to question your societal trends.

“Formulas are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies,” she said. “Look at who’s funding every study: If it’s a pharmaceutical company, don’t even read it – it’s propaganda.”

In reality, human milk is far better than any substitute milk. Human milk changes with each child, depending on the needs of that particular child during a particular time of the day, during a particular age of that child. Human milk – and breastfeeding, for that matter – quite simply, can’t be duplicated.

“Pumped milk is infinitely better than formula,” Stolzer said. “However, it would be a scientific fallacy to say that pumped milk is the same as milk from the human breast,” because of how breastmilk changes throughout the day, not to mention that feeding by a bottle misses the intricacy of the relationship aspects of breastfeeding.

Human milk is a dose-responsive specific variable, meaning the response is specific to the dose – or that the more that a baby is breastfed and the longer a baby is breastfed, the more benefits that breastmilk affords to the child, and the mother. Research that began in the 1920s clearly shows that breastfeeding reduces the risk of myriad physical and mental health conditions for both baby and mother – both through protective antibodies and enzymes, and the oxytocin and prolactin “love” hormones secreted with each breastfeeding interaction.

“Choosing not to breastfeed brings a halt to oxytocin and prolactin. This brings on the grief response in mammals,” Stolzer said. “That’s why we have 40 to 60% postpartum depression rates in this country – because the body believes that we’re grieving.”

In addition, it’s important to note the differences between cows and humans on an animal level. While both are mammals, humans and cows are not the same. Basically, there are two types of mammals on the earth:

  • Caching – i.e., cows. These mammals give birth to young who are, soon after birth, able to walk, regulate their own temperature, and be left alone for periods of time while the mother forages for food. Feedings are meant to be spaced to allow this, and therefore, the milk produced is high-protein and high-fat.
  • Carrying – i.e., humans. These mammals give birth to young who are unable to walk, regulate their own temperature, or stay quiet for long periods of time alone, and therefore must be kept in close physical proximity to the mother. Feedings are meant to be continuous and on demand, and the milk produced is low-protein and low-fat.

Quite simply, cow or soy milk formula would not be as good as human milk.

“It makes sense: We have such a different brain than a cow, and a soybean doesn’t even have a brain,” Stolzer said.

But mothers continue to treat their babies like that of caching mammals. This is evident not only in formula sales – it’s a $1 trillion industry – but also in the recent boom in sales of helmets meant to reshape the heads of babies who have flattened on one side because the baby spends more time lying down than being held.

Another important argument against formula-feeding is the increasing rate of food allergies in Western cultures. “The number-one allergen in human populations is dairy products,” Stolzer said. “The number-one ingredient in formula is dairy. Of course, we’re doing this.”

Extended Breastfeeding is Superior to Cultural Breastfeeding Standards

According to World Health Organization recommendations, babies must be breastfed at least two years to obtain optimal benefits. Developmentally, human children are designed to breastfeed well over two years of age. For example, permanent molar eruption doesn’t occur until the child is five to seven years old. In another example, a child’s sucking needs last for three to seven years – evidenced by prolonged thumb-sucking, pacifier use, and hair-sucking in older children.

The average breastfeeding weaning rate worldwide is three to four years. In the United States, weaning typically happens at only six weeks old, the time when women return to work outside the home. The breastfeeding research knowledge available clearly shows that if all women in the United States breastfed for just six months exclusively, the nation would save $3.6 billion a year, mostly in health care costs and time spent paying parents for sick time to stay home to care for their children. If they breastfed exclusively for one year, that savings would climb to $7 billion a year.

“Five thousand to 6,000 years ago, mothers were breastfeeding their children until about seven years old. They were ensuring the survival of the human species,” Stolzer said. “Not only is the human brain not done growing until the child is five to seven years old, but the human immune system is not fully developed for five to seven years.”

Breastmilk naturally has more antibodies available for the older child, because babies are designed to always be with their mothers. That’s why breastfed babies in child care centers still get sick – the antibodies in their mother’s breastmilk are designed to ward off family germs, not from the whole community. The antibody load naturally increases as the child becomes more mobile, Stolzer explains.

It’s time that Western cultures quit playing it safe when it comes to educating women about breastfeeding, Stolzer says. The benefits of breastfeeding are consistently dependent not only on the frequency and intensity of each nursing session but also on the duration.

“We used to tell women that any breastfeeding was good, but the truth is, for a baby breastfed for two weeks, his immunity looks the same as a baby never breastfed,” Stolzer said.

Worth the Work

One of the concerns of practicing Attachment Parenting is the physical work involved in the beginning, at a time when the baby’s natural sleeping and feeding schedule is so contrary to the parents’ pre-baby schedules. But Stolzer encourages parents to stick with it.

“I know it feels really intense right now – and it is really intense right now – but in the time between birth and death, this really intense time is very small,” she said. “Attachment Parenting does not ensure that babies won’t cry or make choices that will hurt you or make you so mad you could flip – but if you lay that foundation with Attachment Parenting, that path [of loving interaction] will always be there for them to find again.”

The End of Extended Breastfeeding

A nursing 3-year-old doesn't look much different than an infant

In the attachment world, we hear a lot about the importance of breastfeeding. And lots of women breastfeed for an extended period of time.

In our culture, more than a year is considered extended breastfeeding. So that’s what we call it.

I just considered it breastfeeding. I was nursed until I was 3. My mother was a La Leche League leader when I was child, so I grew up understanding the importance of breast milk and hearing the “breast is best” message all my life.

What I never heard was that extended breastfeeding is hard.

Lest you get the wrong idea, I don’t regret doing it. I nursed my daughter for four years. She weaned in May on her fourth birthday. To be honest, it was my idea. I have no doubt in my mind that if it had been up to her, she would still be nursing at least once a day still.

But I was done. And for all intents and purposes, so was she. She just needed a little tiny bit of encouragement and I needed to set the boundary.

Here is a slightly edited version of the post I wrote right after we weaned. I feel it is an important one to share. Because even though I always knew I would breastfeed my child long before she was even born; and even though I never had any supply issues or trouble with latching, there were things about it that were hard. It was hard on my back. Hard on my breasts. And hard on my psyche. And it was totally worth it.

Here is the post written in May of 2012:

We are done. Finally. After four years, exactly four years. My daughter is done nursing.

We made a deal a few months ago that on her fourth birthday she would be done nursing.

It still trips me out that we nursed this long. Even for me, a kid who was nursed for at least three years, the idea of nursing a child for four years seems long to me.

Most of my attachment parenting mama friends weaned in between 2 and 3 or a little longer. But even in my circle of mama friends who nurse their babes way, way longer than the average American nursing mom, I am still an anomaly.

And, in case someone takes it the wrong way, I’m not bragging. It’s the opposite. It feels weird to think that I actually nursed my child this long, even though women around the world do it all the time and many cultures don’t think anything of it.

The truth is, I didn’t love nursing. When my daughter reached 18 months, I remember having thoughts of weaning. I was tired. But I knew that it couldn’t be done without lots of drama. I couldn’t traumatize her. This was one of those instances where some advice from another mom friend echoed in my head that said something to the effect of, “I have to remember who the adult is in this relationship.”

So the adult part of my brain pushed aside the cranky, selfish teenager and said, “You know she is not ready to wean.”

So we plugged away.

I fought it. I reveled in it. I loved it. There were moments when it was the only way I could make it through the day with sanity. And there were moments when I hated it because if I had to sit down one more time while I was in the middle of something else, I was going to scream. But then there were the moments when I was so happy that all I had to do was pop my boob out and five minutes later, heavenly sleep had descended upon my child.

And in the end, I was finally resigned to the idea that I was going to be a mom who nursed her kid way longer than most people. And I’m okay with it. I have a long, cozy relationship with being the odd woman out. It’s all good.

But we’re done. And I don’t really know what to say about it except that we’re done.

For the first week, there was a tiny part of me that whispered, “Keep going. You can do it. She’ll quit eventually on her own.”

That’s what I really wanted. But when she was an infant, which seems so very long ago, I imagined that would be sometime around the age of 2 or 3.

As time went on, I began to imagine that it would be around 3.

That birthday came and went without any signs of letting up. But for my own sanity, I had to set some limits.

She’s told me how much she loves mama milk. It tastes like ice cream, like strawberries. It’s so good, and right before she weaned, she’d been saying she wanted to nurse “forever and ever.” But she also wants to marry one of her female friends (which would be totally fine with me) and sleep at her school on the playground at night after everyone has gone home. She has no real concept of “forever and ever.”

It’s been almost two weeks since we nursed. She asked me last night if she could nurse and even begged a little. I stood firm. And for the first time since we began nursing, it felt like a solid boundary and not an arbitrary no. She didn’t like it, but she also didn’t get overly upset. It was almost like she was testing me.

So, it’s done. We are finally weaned. I don’t feel super emotional. I don’t think I’m hormonal. I’ve always heard of women who get super weepy and sad when they wean their kids. That didn’t happen to me.

I needed to just let Annika nurse as long as she really needed it. We made it. I made it. And in looking back, I’m super proud of myself for just letting it be for so long.

Dr. Sears Comments on TIME Magazine’s Attachment Parenting Cover Article

Guest blogger Dr. Bill Sears shares his thoughts on the much talked about TIME Magazine Attachment Parenting Article, “The Man Who Remade Motherhood.”

Hello parents!  The cover was risky but a brilliant hook by Time Magazine to attract readers, and they achieved their goal.  The writer, Kate Pickert, herself a new mother and one of Time’s most diligent writers, sincerely wanted to increase awareness of the Sears’ family contribution to parenting and family health.  She lived with our family for two days, followed me in the office, and spent hours with me on the phone in an attempt to be factual.  While the cover photo is not what I or even cover-mom Jamie would have chosen, it accomplished the magazine’s purpose.  And, as some attachment dads observed, finally a magazine displays a woman’s breast for the real purpose for which they were designed – to nurture a child, not to sell cars and beer.  Cover-mom Jamie is a super-nice person and highly-educated in anthropology, nutrition and theology.  I enjoyed the several hours I spent with her family and her kids shined with the social effects of attachment parenting.

Even though I’m used to being misunderstood and misquoted, as is attachment parenting (AP), I had a few concerns.  AP is not extreme.  It’s very natural and instinctual.  It’s the oldest parenting style in the world.  Nor is breastfeeding three years extreme, at least throughout the world.  The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends for optimal health children be breastfed for at least two years and sometimes recommends three years.

Another misconception was AP is difficult for the mother who works outside the home.  It’s just the opposite.  Women are the greatest multi-taskers in the world.  AP, modified to the parents’ work schedule, helps busy parents reconnect with their child, which actually makes working and parenting easier.  It’s attachment moms that forged the long overdue workplace-friendly breastfeeding-pumping stations and laws which respect and value the ability of a working mother to continue part-time breastfeeding.

Regarding the science criticism, it’s impossible to scientifically prove by a placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized study (the gold standard in science) that AP works better than a more distant style of parenting.  You would have to take a thousand mothers who practice AP and another thousand who don’t, and see how their kids turn out.  What parent would sign up for such a study?   Yet there is one long-term effect that science does agree on: The more securely-attached an infant is, the more securely independent the child becomes.

I’m disappointed the article did not pay more attention to the bottom-line of attachment parenting: how AP children turn out – and that’s where this style of parenting really shines.  In my 40 years of studying the long-term effects of what parents do to help their children turn out well, AP kids generally are more: empathetic and compassionate, relate better to people, are easier to discipline, and are just nicer to be around.  When I walk into an exam room in my office, an AP baby, like a little sunflower, naturally turns toward my face and lights up.  I’ve yet to see an AP child be a school bully.  On the contrary, they are the ones who try to comfort a hurting child.

Attachment parenting is not an all-or-nothing, extreme, or indulgent style of parenting.  I advise moms and dads that the seven Baby B’s (birth bonding, breastfeeding, babywearing, bedding close to baby, belief in baby’s cries, beware of baby trainers, and balance) are starter tools (remember, tools not rules) to help parents and infants get to know each other better.  And families can modify these tools to fit their individual family situation.

Over my years of mentoring attachment parents, the main two words of feedback I have heard is empowering and validating.  My “helper’s high” file is filled with thank you letters such as: “Thank you, Dr. Bill, for validating what my heart and gut tell me is right.”  “Thank you, Dr. Bill, for empowering us new parents with your personal experience to help us enjoy our children more.”

As an investment banker dad once told me: “AP is one of the best long-term investments you can make in giving your child a greater chance of growing up happier, healthier, and smarter.”  Aren’t those the three main qualities we all want for our children?

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