Sunday, April 17, 2011

(Extended) Breastfeeding as Mothering

Welcome Carnival of Breastfeeding readers! This month's theme was extended nursing and we've got a variety of posts on nursing toddlers. Be sure to check out the links to all of our participants at the end of this post.  
Avery latched right on and nursed like a pro from the beginning. Nearly three years later, he still very much enjoys getting Mama Milk. I’ve never had an expectation around weaning. I have always figured, when it was right, I’d know. And now that I work out of the house full time, I treasure the quiet minute on the couch after work and the drowsy six a.m. pre-breakfast snack, those times right before bed. I am grateful for the rare moments he sits still and I get to play with his hair or inspect his toenails.
They don’t keep statistics on breastfeeding past the first birthday, so no one really knows how many American babies get to nurse into toddler hood. While so called extended breastfeeding is commonplace in other places and other times, it feels like a lot of American moms wean sometime around 12 months--if not well before- , because then, babies can have cow’s milk, so there’s no need to keep nursing, right?
I was on the phone with a prenatal mother and she asked about our pump loan program. I explained the requirements: exclusively breastfeeding and returning to work or school at least part time, or a medical need. How long can I keep it, she asked. As long as you need it, I replied. Unless there are special circumstances, the pumps are generally only loaned out for a year. Most moms are ready to give up pumping by then, even if they continue to nurse. “So if I want to breastfeed for two years?” “Two years! That’s great! Your milk supply will be pretty established by then-- you won’t need to pump most likely.” She went on to extol the nutritional merits of breast milk and how she would want to at least give him some in a cup along with the other milk he would get.  
I told her how I breastfed my baby after work and in the morning, and didn’t need to pump at all. “Wait. You mean he gets it from nipple! A three year old is like a little person!”
He certainly is! A person who gets breast milk three(ish!) times a day.
My client isn’t alone in valuing the product of breast milk over the act of breastfeeding. In countering the product of formula, breastfeeding advocates have spent a lot of time researching the stuff of breast milk. It is important that we know how protective and beneficial breast milk is towards growing babies. And it’s easy to do: it’s quantifiable. How do you measure the emotional benefits of gradual, easy weaning?
There are many reasons why women have so many difficulties establishing a successful and enjoyable breastfeeding relationship: hospital practices that separate the dyad, short or non-existent maternity leaves, aggressive formula marketing, ignorant or insensitive pediatricians, et al. And, I think, one of the biggest: girls don’t grow up around a lot of breastfeeding women, so they don’t know how to do it. So if it gets tough, or painful, or isolating, someone is sent to Wal-Mart for pump, and the breast milk is delivered, at least for a while, via a bottle.
It says it right there in on the can of formula: Breast milk is best.
Just like there is not an arbitrary time when the nutritional and immunological benefits of breast milk cease to be helpful to a child, there is no magical age at which the emotional connection of breastfeeding becomes inappropriate. Ten peaceful minutes on the front porch, or rocking chair, or-- and this is becoming less and less frequent-- the back seat of the car or park bench can take an overstimulated, frustrated, cranky kid and make him good humored and  co-operative. More often than not, it resets my energy, too.
I feel him beginning to wean. He almost never asks to nurse out of the house and has spent several uneventful overnights with my parents. I’m *almost* ready to do it, too.
I grew up hearing stories about my days as a nursling and the way my mother and I ended over two years of breastfeeding with just a shared and meaningful look, so it makes sense that I would be open to “extended” breastfeeding and gentle weaning. I’m hopeful that both breastfeeding initiation and duration rates will continue to climb as more hospitals ban archaic policies, and the WHO code is finally enforced, and legislation mandates comprehensive and paid maternity leave. And, even more importantly, all of Avery’s friends nursed well past 12 months, will grow up and become people who see great value in not just breast milk but also in breastfeeding past the first birthday.    

Elita @ Blacktating: The Last Time That Never Was
Diana Cassar-Uhl, IBCLC: Old enough to ask for it
Karianna @ Caffeinated Catholic Mama: A Song for Mama’s Milk
Judy @ Mommy News Blog: My Favorite Moments
Tamara Reese @ Kveller: Extended Breastfeeding
Jenny @ Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: The Highs and Lows of Nursing a Toddler
Christina @ MFOM: Natural-Term Breastfeeding
Rebekah @ Momma’s Angel: My Sleep Breakthrough
Suzi @ Attachedattheboob: Why I love nursing a toddler
Claire @ The Adventures of Lactating Girl: My Hopes for Tandem Nursing
Stephanie Precourt from Adventures in Babywearing: “Continued Breastfeeding”: straight from the mouths of babes
The Accidental Natural Mama: Nurse on, Mama
Sarah @ Reproductive Rites: Gratitude for extended breastfeeding
Nikki @ On Becoming Mommy: The Little Things
The Artsy Mama: Why Nurse a Toddler?
Christina @ The Milk Mama: The best thing about breastfeeding
TopHot @ the bee in your bonnet: From the Mouths of Babes
Callista @ Callista’s Ramblings:  Pressure To Stop Breastfeeding
Zoie @ Touchstone Z: Breastfeeding Flavors
Tanya @ Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Six misconceptions about extended breastfeeding
Jona ( Breastfeeding older twins
Motherlove Herbal Company: Five reasons to love nursing a toddler

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


When I was with T I used to have these elaborate fantasies about various men rescuing me what from become a deeply negative situation for me. For years, I would day dream about someone whisking me away and handing me a new life. 
Turns out, no one did, or could, rescue me but me. I left on my own, with a four month old baby in tow and moved into my sister's spare bedroom. 
Tonight, nearly two years later, I had that same yearning. That same feeling of wanting someone else to hand me a different life, make me be someone else somewhere else. 
The catalyst for this self pitying melt down: a disastrous dinner. My painstakingly made raviolis turned into a giant pile of mush, and I totally lost it. Just a failed dinner, but I found myself sobbing in the kitchen, first about my inedible raviolis then my ever on the edge finances, lack of personal time, frustrating session with a new mom, ect ect. 
Just like before, though, it's clear to me that this my life, and this time, I don't really want out. 
So, I threw out the pasta, and made Avery some toast and a fried egg. We went for a walk, watched part of the Red Sox game. We spent a long time nursing tonight. His breath finally slowed down and I eased him into his bed to go cook tomorrow's dinner. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

some things I made this week

Here are two of my favorite recipes from the week. As expected I did eat some delicious food on my day off with Rubin, but mostly I did stick to my Eat More Plants plan.

Sweet Potato Shephards Pie
The crust: 1 sweet potato, steamed, peeled and mashed

The filing: Corn, black beans, fire roasted tomatoes, one zucchini, cup of  plain yogurt

I put sautéed the filing in a cast iron pan and when cool, added the plain yogurt and spread the potato over the whole thing. I made this the night before; come dinner time, I cooked it uncovered at 350 until heated through.

It was good hot topped with grated cheese, and good cold the next day for lunch. I just took some out of the freezer for Monday's lunch, and I'm excited about it.

Frijole Mole
I got some less than perfect green beans from my co-op's kitchen basket. I adapted this dish --and borrowed the clever name-- from a Barbra Kingsolver recipe. If you haven't yet read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle  you should.

So I steamed a handful of the green beans and threw them in the food processor with one green onion, some cilantro, garlic powder, lime juice and salt. Avery helped and really went crazy with the lime juice, and it was delicious. I served it with pretzels because it was a Friday and my cabinets were looking a little sad.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Health Kick

So I've been aggressively trying to eat better. I ate pretty healthy to begin with, but I can always do better. I'm not going anything: gluten free, or raw, or vegan, or all organic. Just trying to eat more fruits and veggies, and eat less empty calories, less sugar, less carbs, and less meat. I am, however, not giving up my morning coffee. No way.

I felt the best way to do this was somewhat drastically to detox and reset my batteries.  On Thursday I ate six apples and a spinach/carrot/cabbage salad. On Friday, I ate four apples, more salad, fajita veggies and some chili beans. I passed up cheese, brownies, and ice cream. This is serious.

Since then, I've been pretty good. I did have some dry cereal in a homemade snack mix, half a veggie hoagie, and a bit of chocolate pudding (on apples slices!) this weekend, but other than that it's been fruits, veggies, a few legumes, seeds, and plain yogurt, and lots and lots of water.

This new "health kick" as my mother would call it has required me to get more creative with my snack making. I busted out the dehydrator and have been running it at a good clip. I've made a lot of dried fruit, various flavors of fruit leather (mmmm sweet potato apple), dried peppers for seasonings, and kale chips.

My hand down favorite has been zucchini chips. I've had to exercise serious restraint on the second batch after I consumed the first batch (with a little help from Avery) in one sitting.

I sliced a few zucchini  into 1/4 inch rounds and piled in a bowl. I'm sure they would be fantastic spritzed with some olive oil and salted, but I mixed some nutritional yeast with salt and chili powder. Squirted in some line juice then added water to make a paste. That got poured over the zucchini. I had read they are best dehydrated at 115 for 30 hours, but I wanted them by the morning, so I did 135 over night and they were OMG good.

I'm not being super strict or self judging over this. Rubin and I are playing hooky tomorrow to have a grown up day, and I'm planning on eating something delicious as well drinking a cocktail or two. The rest of the weekly meal plan, however, is comprised of mostly things that very recently used to be a plant.