I reckon you could call me a lactivist--it's an actual term, I didn't coin it. However, that's not to say I don't recognize that there are many difficulties for a mother who wants to breastfeed her child and that this can lead to a short duration of breastfeeding or it not happening at all. At least we have formula now, my great Aunt was apparently fed a little cream and coffee in her bottle when her Mother's milk dried up. Formula is double-edged, good when a baby can't be breastfeed, can be very bad otherwise (it can hasten the drying up of the mother's milk when her baby is fed too much formula).
I also recognize that there can be mental and cultural baggage that keeps a woman from breastfeeding, and that can be valid too. Those mental hiccups need to be recognized though and battled, not just for the purposes of breastfeeding, but for healthy body image and sexuality. The extremely stressful and sleep-deprived period after birth, may not be the ideal time to battle emotional/mental hang-ups, and some of these hang-ups will take a life-time to unravel. I just want you to understand where I am coming from.
It is okay to be human.
Everyone has hang-ups and baggage.
We should all try to keep growing, learning and fixing ourselves.
It's okay to fail at fixing ourselves.
Okay, that's my little addendum, that being out of the way, I'd like to get on to breastfeeding stuff.
I'm sure that this stuff is plastered all over the internet in other Mom-blogs. I'm just going to give you my version and hope there's something original and useful in there.
Breastfeeding is really good for your baby. It's good for the mother (in some ways), breastfeeding assists in losing baby weight (remember all that fat you put on? It was put on so that you'd have reserves to feed the baby with, and it'll get used up first if you breastfeed), lays down new and stronger bones after you stop and has been shown to be protective against breast cancer (presumably because those mammary glands actually get some use and get cleaned out). It's even good for your toddler.
Here is the American Academy of Pediatrics statement on breastfeeding:
AAP basically says you should breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, followed by semi-solids and breastmilk up to a year, then continued breastmilk and food till whenever you decide it's more beneficial to quit. Some people exclusively breastfeed for up to a year, especially if there are food allergy concerns. I didn't need to do that, and I was having a hard time getting enough protein etc. to keep up with my six month old. To this day, if he hits a growth spurt or nurses more than normal, getting enough of the right foods to eat is difficult for me, to keep me healthy and happy. I have to eat very regularly, lots of protein and fat, plenty of water, and I still have low blood pressure episodes and hypoglycemic symptoms.
It made sense to me though, that I should breastfeed exclusively until about the time the first tooth came in. There is apparently some evidence for this, that certain enzymes develop for solid food digestion around the time of the new tooth--I cannot cite any study, but heard this from a health professional and is interesting to note at least the possibility.
Still on the topic of breastfeeding, but from the weaning side, is a really interesting article by Kathryn Dettwyler (PhD) that states:
"The minimum predicted age for a natural age
of weaning in humans is 2.5 years, with a maximum of 7.0 years."
( http://www.kathydettwyler.org/detwean.html )
Check out with whole article, it is quite fascinating. Anyhow, a woman may need to stop breastfeeding much earlier than this for all sorts of reasons, and she should not be judged in any way, but she should be made all accommodations possible. Many jobs, especially state and government jobs in the U.S. require that accommodations for breastfeeding mothers be made including lactation rooms, breaks to pump on and sometimes even a breastpump.
I've come across articles that poo-poo the science behind breastfeeding. They simply cast doubt on just how much better breastmilk is vs. formula. Honestly, I can understand wanting to wean, especially if those other Moms have felt as crummy as I have. I have had an extremely understanding and supportive family and job,which helped immensely. There I times I wanted to wean earlier, but something always stopped me, those hormones/instincts told me to keep going, and honestly, I've been helpless against that.
However, this is my son, aside from those instincts to continue, I figured, if there was any chance that those antibodies were helping him through this last, aweful, flu season, I should continue. We know breastmilk has antibodies that help your sick kiddo, it doesn't really matter to me how much they help him, but that they do. By next flu season, he will be on his own.
Make no mistake that breastfeeding causes a woman to be "more tied down" to her child and that she will be getting up more at night.
It seems to be the consensus among breastfeeding mothers that their children seem to get up more at night than formula fed babies. Who really knows if this is true? Formula doesn't break down as fast as breast milk, it is possible that formula fed babies don't feel hungry for longer. However, something I and some friends noticed is that if you pump before bed, and bottle feed the baby expressed breast milk, they seem to sleep longer too.
Perhaps the baby gets too cozy and falls asleep before they are full when they are latched onto the breast, or perhaps it is simply easier to get the milk from a bottle and they drink more at a time (and thus sleep longer).
Something important to note. If you're having huge sleeping troubles, try the expressed breastmilk bottle before bed. Just note, if you just bottle feed expressed breastmilk and never put the babe to breast, you will probably dry up your milk supply eventually. Every woman is different, but this seems to be most common outcome.
Bottle feeding expressed breastmilk is part of what I mean by accommodations for the Mother. You might as well try and see if it helps. On the other hand, if you are a single parent and you have to be at work the next morning and you find out your baby sleeps when they get formula, really, who can blame you? Mom has to be able to function, and while I had the luxury of stumbling out of bed and being able to fumble around the house during the day, some people are expected to think and function at a higher level, and bring in income. But before you call it quits, if you have the opportunity, why not give it a shot?
Enough for today, I could probably spend all day writing on the topic.