6.3
April 1, 2012

Why I Still Breastfeed my 7-Year-Old. {April Fools’ edition}

I’m not ashamed to admit it.

There’s obviously no sexual connection between my child and myself. Sensual, yes. What’s not sensual about two humans with skin-to-skin contact, one sucking the others breast? But young children are sensual by nature. They love to be held close, rocked, diapered bottoms patted to sleep, hair stroked after every boo-boo.

First let me say, I have compassion for all mothers, no matter what…

Breastfeeding has always been near and dear to my heart. I attended my first birth at the age of 22 and became a Certified Professional Midwife, named “Best Midwife” by Dallas Child Magazine. I taught three-hour breastfeeding classes to couples at prestigious hospitals across Texas, yet I’d never breastfed a baby or even had a baby for that matter.

Something stirred in my soul while in grad school in Boston in my early twenties when I learned about the benefits of eco-friendly nursing and natural birth. At the very least, the right to choose resonated with me, as homebirth midwifery is still illegal 12 states and alegal (not regulated either way) in 13 states.

A published, well-respected midwife was arrested this very morning in Indiana, taken from her home in her pajamas, and charged with a felony for delivering a baby at home with a normal, healthy outcome.

The right to choose to breastfeed may not be so obvious. Breastfeeding is free and infant formula is an eight-billion-dollar a year industry, which amounts to two-million-dollars a day!

With that kind of advertising budget, how could Nestle not convince third world countries to use their well needed resources on formula, which are inevitably mixed with contaminated water and stretched thin to last, killing thousands of babies? I signed the Nestle Boycott 10 years ago and to this day refrain from their products, including my formerly beloved, Nestle’s Crunch Bar.

Quick and easy biology lesson:

However much milk comes out, your body knows to produce exactly that much more for the next feeding.

How the formula companies prey on your motherly biology:

If I can convince her she should supplement with formula, her body won’t know she did it and will make less milk each feeding.

This leads to the common, “I just didn’t produce enough milk” syndrome. Clinically, less than 3% of women don’t produce enough milk. So where are all these dry, milk-less mothers in droves coming from?

The hospitals, which have formula readily available and seemingly doctor condoned in to-go bags! What you don’t know is formula is donated free to hospitals. Formula companies know the best chance they’ve got to secure a year-long, repeat customer is the first few days, when lactation is being established in its delicate dance with nature.

The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative was developed by the World Health Organization and UNICEF to assist US hospitals to stop their practices harmful to breastfeeding. To get this designation, the hospital could no longer accept free formula. It’s the number one reason most of them can’t get this highly sought after recognition. They can’t afford to let go of the financial assistance.

At six months, my daughter and I reached the milestone set by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which states a baby should be exclusively breastfed until six months of age. This means for the first six months of life, a baby can and should live off breastmilk alone; no juice, no formula, no cereal, no water.

By one year, we had, painstakingly at times, reached the AAP’s conservative recommendation to breastfeed at least one year, then as long as it’s mutually agreed upon.

By year two, we had reached the World Health Organization’s recommendation of nursing for at least two years, then as long as it’s mutually agreed upon.

By year seven, well, the rest is history.

I chose extended breastfeeding because the health benefits to mom and baby are directly related to the duration of nursing. The natural age a child will self wean when cultural persuasion is avoided is age three to seven.

UNICEF claims that 1.5 million babies die each year because they are not adequately breastfed, stemming from unethical marketing practices.

We as an American culture have succumbed to the “sex sells” way of advertising. It psychologically works on us. Formula companies have been known to partner with and fund many companies that objectify our breasts as sex objects to subconsciously deter us from putting our baby’s mouths there. The most blatant I’ve seen are formula reps giving Victoria Secrets bras to nurses on maternity floors as incentive gifts.

So maybe I am the urban legendary La Leche League Nazi, but I stand by my research based opinions and motherly gut instinct. If nursing reduces my child’s chance of getting childhood leukemia, no amount of mainstream advertising will stand in my way.

And, April Fools. My nursing daughter is only 2 and mostly weaned (Thank goodness!). All the other information in this article is factual.

 

Relephant: 

Weaned: A Reluctant Requiem for Breastfeeding.

Brooke Kochel

Read 85 Comments and Reply