How long is long enough?
My son wasn’t even 3 months old when people began quizzing me about how long I planned to breastfeed. I quickly realized that these weren’t casual inquiries, and there was no correct answer.
Some people couldn’t believe I still was nursing, acting as if my son were 16 and not weaned. Others seemed to question my adequacy as a mother when I wavered briefly in my commitment to breastfeed for at least a year.
I had decided to breastfeed with no definite schedule in mind. My son’s pediatrician suggested breastfeeding for the first year, quoting a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics. That certainly had worked for some friends of mine, who spoke of breastfeeding with almost religious zeal. But others who quit after two months raved about the freedom of life with a bottle. Such pressure!
Here are some facts to consider in making your own decision. You need to explore what’s best for the baby and balance that with what’s best for you. For new moms who can’t commit to a full year of breastfeeding for whatever reason — work, family or personal preference — experts suggest simply doing it for as long as possible.
Best Bet for Baby “It’s been found that breastfeeding for up to one year, and two if the mom wants to do it, is best for the child,” says Pat Bull, R.N., I.B.C.L.C., a consultant with The Breastfeeding Connection in suburban Chicago. Some women nurse their children for two, three or even four years.
Both baby and mother benefit from even short-term breastfeeding, according to Micki Johnson, I.C.C.E., a Chicago lactation instructor. Breastfeeding for just two weeks gives the baby the nutrient- and antibody-rich early milk called colostrum. Continue nursing for four months, and the baby reaps other benefits that can help ward off allergies and asthma. By nine months, the baby has received essential nutrients for her developing brain, Johnson says.
“Breastfeeding one time is better than never breastfeeding at all,” says Jan Barger, R.N., M.A., I.B.C.L.C., a lactation consultant and co-director of The Breastfeeding Connection. “Whether it’s one week, six weeks, six months, a year or three years, do it! There is never a time when cow’s milk is better for a baby than human milk.”
Four weeks after our son was born, I booked a haircut at a posh Beverly Hills hairdresser. Afterward, my car wouldn’t start. The auto club came and started it, but at the first intersection, it died again. The people came back and started it again, but it stopped. I was in tears, and my breasts were engorged. I left the car, called my husband and told him to bring Adam so I could nurse him. I got back to my car to see a police officer writing out a ticket because it was parked illegally. My husband arrived with my screaming, starving baby. I just sat in the car and nursed him and cried. After this, I was thrilled when my husband presented me with a car phone for Mother’s Day.