Monday, September 27, 2010

Controversial Monday: Extended Breastfeeding

For 26 months I breastfed my daughter and loved it. I didn't at first but over the months and years that I breastfed my daughter I grew to treasure that time that we had together; all the happy oxytocin flowing, the snuggling, plus the knowledge that even after the first year of breastfeeding I was still providing my child with nourishment and antibodies, and helping to prevent allergies and even diabetes.

In addition to the benefits for the child, extended breastfeeding also benefits the mother. Numerous studies have indicated that by breastfeeding past the first year women can help decrease their risk of contracting breast, uterine, ovarian and endometrial cancers. Not to mention it also protects against osteoporosis and decreases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

My daughter weaned herself during the first few months of my last pregnancy because according to her my pregnancy breast milk tasted "yucky." There is a reason that it is called "weaning milk." After I lost the pregnancy I missed being able to breastfeed my daughter. I am grateful for the time we did have nursing when I remember all the struggles that I had with breastfeeding her. Ravenna was born with a weak suck which required weeks of pumping and "suck" training and a half-dozen visits with lactation consultants BUT after three weeks we got it! Then at 6 months, my milk dried up due to my insulin resistance. Thanks to the Leche League I was able to reestablish my supply using fenugreek, pumping, and switching breasts constantly during feedings. There were numerous other small challenges along the way including biting, but I was able to persevere because I knew where to find good information, had knowledgeable support, and I think most importantly, I had made a goal while I was pregnant that I would breastfeed for at least 18 months.

People were often surprised to see me breastfeeding a toddler, but most of the time Ravenna only nursed 1-2 times a day. Some days she wanted to nurse more, for comfort mainly, and that was fine by me. I will admit that it is hard, having experienced so many hardships in my own breastfeeding experience, to see mom's who never breastfeed or who give up whenever a challenge arises. It isn't hard because I feel like they are harming their babies irrevocably or being selfish; it is hard because I do not feel that our society is supportive enough of women who breastfeed. It is difficult for many women to get good information and formula is often advertised as being equal to breast milk when it clearly is not.

I have heard numerous examples of women, including myself, being told by their pediatricians that their milk isn't good enough because their baby isn't gaining weight according to the charts. This problem, if indeed it is a problem, is rare and easily corrected through the mother's diet. Information on how to solve nearly all breastfeeding issues is readily available online on such websites as Kellymom and La Leche League. I think that a lot of these misconceptions could be cleared up if pediatricians were more thoroughly educated in lactation; mothers trust their advice, even if it is incorrect.

My advice during a breastfeeding crisis? Persevere. Keep trying to breastfeed, search for information, and use formula only as a last resort. A wise woman once suggested that if you are wanting to give up on breastfeeding, as most women are at some point, keep trying for another week and try to solve the problem. If it still isn't working after a week and you don't feel like you can continue, then, and only then, think about weaning.


  1. I'm so glad you were able to breastfeed Ravenna for so long! Breastfeeding is challenging for many people and I'm glad you were able to overcome the difficulties. I think support for breastfeeding is growing, even after the first year, and I found lots of resources when I looked for them. I don't know what's wrong with me, but even after pumping every 3 hours, taking fenugreek and reglan, drinking lots of water, and trying to nurse Lilah every feeding, I only have drops of milk. I have to give her formula through a tube down my breast and I hate it! I don't know what else to do though--I just can't make myself have milk. People are always telling me that if I try hard enough, it will eventually work out. I think that is the case for most people, but after crying and crying and trying and trying to breastfeed Lilah, I think I need to just accept it and try to enjoy feeding her however I can. It's nice to hear how you were able to work through problems, though, so if you have any suggestions for me, I'd love it! Btw, I love this blog :)

  2. Lisa, here are just a few things that came to mind: I really needed to increase my fat intake substantially before I was able to increase my supply. I am talking saturated fats, particularly animals fats. One great way to get some good fats is Extra Virgin coconut oil. It is amazing stuff! Also, the fenugreek, are you taking it in capsules or tea? The tea won't do anything. You need to take A LOT of fenugreek to get it to work.

    Have you checked out Lila's sucking? If she has a weak suck then that could be an issue.It could also be a hormonal issue, which is why my milk dried up.

    Last of all, you are amazing! Way to go for trying so hard. What is most important is that your baby is getting nutrition and bonding with you and if feeding through a supplementer is what you have to do, don't feel guilty. It is SO frustrating, but you do what you have to do.

    I just found this: It has really good information, and if the Reglan isn't working, you may want to try the Domperidone (Motilium).

  3. Thank you Carrie! I should have talked to you weeks ago! La Leche League is wonderful and I'm so glad there are so many resources available for people who really want to breastfeed. It seems like such a wonderful way to bond and be close to your baby, so I keep telling myself I'm getting that with the supplementer, even if it's not what I would choose. And I will look into a couple of the other things you suggested, so thank you! I hope you are doing well. I have thought about you a lot lately and like I said, I love reading your blogs. Very strong, honest, and motivational :)

  4. Fenugreek is an herb. It is commonly used to flavor imitation maple syrup. For many women taking mass quantities of it, in addition to other measures, will increase milk production, but not for all. There are others that will help too.

  5. I must have had the best physicians, especially pediatricians because each one told me to make sure I nursed until the baby was at least 2 years old and even longer if I wanted to. I was lucky!

  6. I made a goal when I was pregnant to nurse for a minimum of two years. It really helps me keep going when it took two months before I even felt like we were breastfeeding successfully. He's 27 months and still going!

    I love your style of writing. I'm excited because I wanted to connect with more LDS crunchy mamas, but don't often feel the right connection when I read their blogs. So, I'm sure I'll be by again!