Saturday, November 7, 2009

Can Breastfeeding Work As Birth Control?

A while back I watched an episode of "19 And Counting" where the Duggars went to an Amish community. I would consider the Amish to be the same as the Duggars and my family when it comes to having a full quiver: they believe children are a blessing from God and want blessings from God. Anyway, Jim Bob asked one of the Amish dads about how many kids most of their families have. The Amish father said most of their families had about five kids. That got the wheels in both Jim Bob's and my head turning.

More recently I learned that the world average for the length of breastfeeding was until the baby was four-years-old.

With Daniel, my oldest, I had searched the Bible pretty thoroughly to find out how long I should be breastfeeding and found nothing. If someone has a verse, please tell me, because I couldn't find it, and we have two exhaustive concordances.

Samuel, in the Bible, was given to service in the temple after he was weaned. Daniel, my son, was weaned at fifteen months. I couldn't imagine how Hannah, Samuel's mom, could watch her baby leave her so young, but Samuel was probably four-years-old when he was weaned.

I know it isn't this way for everyone, but I can't get pregnant when I'm breastfeeding and I get pregnant immediately when I am not. (Daniel was born exactly nine months and four days after our wedding.) For nutritional reasons, my breastfeeding goals for both Thomas and Bobby have changed, so I imagine our family is going to look different than my husband and I had hoped and expected.

Bobby, who is now 15 months old, was weaned around five months because I was stupid. It is probably my greatest regret as a mother, thus far. I tried to get him going again, but I became pregnant and he did well on formula. Now, I want him breastfeeding again until he is at least two. It's a little odd for me, and he isn't really interested in my breast, so I'm pumping him a cup a day into his sippy cup.

Thomas is an amazing breastfeeder, my best yet. I am aiming to breastfeed him until he is three, but I won't let him be weaned before two.

Is breastfeeding cheaper?

It's an odd question, because it is assumed that it is much cheaper, but you have to eat more. You have to get an additional 500 calories per day. So, let's look at the cost breakdown:

If I got the 500 calories in beef, it would be 5.5 ounces for $0.39.

If I got it in bananas, it would take five bananas, 7 ounces each, for a total of $0.72.

If I drank it in whole milk, it would take three and one third cup and it would cost $0.70 with milk at $3.39 per gallon, the state regulated price.

If I ate the 500 calories in homemade whole wheat pasta, I would have to use 1 1/4 cups of flour, costing $0.20.

If I ate the 500 calories as straight, pure butter, not the cheapest option, I would need five tablespoons at $0.31.

What if you have low milk production or other problems?

I will be honest and admit I have never had problems with milk production, so I can't share a touching personal story about how I took a certain supplement and everything magically went smoothly. Here's what I would recommend, though.

1) Don't give up. If it means pumping and giving what you can in a bottle, that is still a good option.

2) There are herbal supplements. I've heard great things about Mother's Tea. I drank tons of raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy and drink it now. I brew it in bulk in the crock pot. It is probably more like an extract the way I brew it, but it has helped during the transition of nourishing Bobby as well as Thomas.

3) I know there are "other" problems, and I had to use a device with Daniel for the first few days that forced my nipple into the right shape. Now, I have learned to force it into the right shape without the device. A local La Leche League can help with a whole range of other problems.

I know there are people who can't breast feed, but I think they are more rare than is generally believed. Before formula was invented, all babies were breast fed. If a problem came up, they were given animal's milk. With what I know now, I wouldn't have chosen powdered formula for Bobby. I would have chosen to give a fortified animal's milk, either cow or goat. I found some trustworthy recipes here in case any of you are in a predicament where breastfeeding isn't possible. It may not be much cheaper, if any, than conventional formula, because it calls for high quality ingredients, but it is real food. As with anything, check with your pediatrician for the best option for your kid.

The downsides:

The daily downside to breastfeeding, as I see it, is the stream of precious but inappropriate photo opportunities breastfeeding provides.

58 comments:

Tammy said...

The longest I breastfed a child was 3 1/2 years. I did get pregnant when she was 1 1/2, but continued to nurse thoughout the pregnancy, and then they BOTH nursed together for quite a long time. They both were chubby and healthy. Of course people (mostly my mother who never breastfed) thought I was off my rocker, but I believe we did just the right thing for our family. The other babies weened between 6 months (my fault) and 18 months. Anyway, nursing for such a long time was a very precious time for both of us. I will try to do it again if we are blessed with any more children. (For those of you who wonder--the baby whose pregnancy I nursed through, weighed in at over 12 lbs. at birth--it certainly didn't harm her at all!)

Devon said...

BFing is a big issue for me--I was unable to despite everything I tried. If it hadn't been for bottles, Dakin would have died of hunger. There appears to me to be a strange dichotomy in the breastfeeding world--some people are militantly for it and pressure others to the point of complete exhaustion for the poor mother, and others say to just give it a try, and if it doesn't work, let it go. If I ever have another child, I will try a few times with him/her and if it doesn't work, I am not going to put myself through the emotional hell I did trying to breastfeed my son. It drained me and wasted 8 weeks of precious time with my son trying to do something that just wasn't going to work for us. It is one of my biggest regrets that I DID try for so long after the guilt trips I was put through.

That's just my point of view. I'm not saying you're a militant breastfeed forcer, Emily...lol. Just giving my two cents.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post that actually brought tears to my eyes. My three sons were all breastfed (the longest was 2 years). That was a long time ago and now I have the joy of seeing my sweet daughter-in -law nurse and love my grandson. Thank you for a great blog :o) grandma dee

Kat said...

There's nothing innappopriate about a breastfeeding photo :)

Anna said...

I only breastfed my first baby, for just under six months. I will probably be upset about it for the rest of my life...

Just this past weekend he nearly went into anaphalactic shock from a shrimp allergy. We spent the night in the ER, not even from eating it...just being around it.

I cannot help but think this may have been prevented by prolonged breastfeeding. This baby will be breastfed for at least 18 months at a minimum...

Maria said...

I am currently still nursing my 16 month old and am due with her brother in February. I definitely don't want her to wean anytime soon. Ideally she would continue until the new baby comes at least, and any length of time after that is bonus.

However, the one problem I have with this post is the wording that your child WILL nurse until 2. I think it's a great goal to set, but so many kids can lose interest sooner than that, and if that happened, would you force him to breastfeed? I don't get the impression from posts I've read that this would really go with your parenting style. Perhaps you meant that he will receive breastmilk until 2 years. If that is the case your wording is just a little misleading.

I think it's best to word it like this: I am going to encourage my child to nurse or drink breastmilk as long as possible, hopefully for at least 2 years. Because really, if they don't want it, they don't want it.

I hope that you are as successful in your extended breastfeeding relationship as I have been. We struggled a lot with supply and pain (which no one could diagnose) in the very beginning and I'm so glad I toughed it out past those first 10 weeks. Hopefully this next baby is like yours and gives me much less grief!

Anonymous said...

Great post!! I have nursed 3 children for over 9 years, with only a few months break b/w my last 2. I nursed my oldest until he was 4 1/2....through his sister's pregnancy and once a day for another 2 years!! I nursed my 2nd child til she was 4 1/2, halfway into this last babies pregnancy. This last little guy is 15 months and still going strong. I plan to do the same with him.....I never in a million years saw myself as "this" type of mother but totally grew into to out of necessity and enjoyment!! For every year you nurse your babies you reduce your chances of female related cancers by a ton!!!! If you choose not to vaccinate you really need to consider breastfeeding for awhile. I start to limit the frequency of nursings and night wean at about age 2 or so...just fyi.

Emily said...

Maria, I agree, I would not force the breast, but would pump so that Thomas continues to get the nutritional value.

Devon, I'm sorry you had such a hard time. I'm surprised there aren't more people in the middle. I consider myself somewhere in the middle with the idea of pumping what you can so your baby can still get some of the nourishment. It doesn't have to be all or nothing, in my opinion.

CJ said...

Just curious, Emily, what happens to stop a child from breastfeeding after 5 months or so? You said you were "stupid," what does that mean, if you don't mind sharing? That you stopped for a bit and he wouldn't start again? I only ask because breastfeeding is very interesting to me and I don't have any experience.

listipton said...

Awesome post! Here's a link to my favorite breastfeeding site in case you've never been to it (but you probably have :) )
http://www.kellymom.com

Devon said...

Emily--yeah, we pumped the whole time--it was horrible. I had major production problems--tried Fenugreek, some other stuff--nothing worked. Oh well. At least Dakin got some BM for a while, so the effort wasn't entirely wasted...

Emily said...

CJ, I was working at the time and combining breastfeeding with formula. I didn't have the same health convictions at the time and allowed him to keep taking more and more formula, less and less breastmilk until he was weaned and I got pregnant. Looking back, I could have gotten Bobby back on breastmilk any time from then until now, but it was only very recently that I saw how important that was and started pumping for him.

vm said...

I'm dying to know what your typical day looks like: a list of all the "chores" you do on a daily basis. What made me think of this was when you said you are pumping now in addition to everything else that you have on your daily plate. Do you make a list of things to do each day?

I am still breastfeeding at 15 months. I've taken fenugreek when I thought I needed a "boost."

I continue to find your blog fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Good for your BF. All my children BF wonderfully. I hope your "can't get pregnant while BF" comment stays true for you. You've only really tested that theory two times though :P

Emily said...

vm, I wrote this post on my average day

http://under1000permonth.blogspot.com/2009/10/day-in-life-of.html

Breastfeeding and a new baby haven't changed much. It's easy to do while I'm on the computer or reading, and pumping is good during evening tv time.

Anon, we'll be happy if it doesn't stay true. We want a BIG family. (:

Atheist Mama said...

Emily -

I am SO glad that you've decided to let your child nurse for that length of time. I nursed my daughter just shy of 4 years and she was one of the healthiest kids around (although, now that she's in kindergarten that's another story!).

Anyway - at first when I saw that you said you couldn't get pregnant while breastfeeding I thought you were going to use that to justify weaning your children.

Nope. You went the completely opposite direction! Good for you! I think it's awesome you are putting your child's health/nutrition above your desire for a larger family.

And who knows, maybe once your child is older and not nursing as frequently you'll get pregnant?

On another note...I honestly don't think you need to eat an extra 500 calories a day. I never did and both my milk production and child were better than ok :)

P.S. This is totally off topic, but being a MDC mom the issues often go hand-in-hand in the realm of natural parenting...

what are your opinions on circ'ing? You have all boys...so I was curious. Maybe blog it if you don't feel like answering it here - or ignore me if I'm overstepping my bounds!

Simple in France said...

Breastfeeding until 4 years old? I've never seen that. Why is it better? Doesn't the child need to eat solid food by then??? I don't know--I'm not a mom, just curious. Even breastfeeding until 2--well, ok, I might be clueless, but don't they start to eat by then?

Anonymous said...

I don't know where you got that the world average is four, but you can find more accurate statistical information here:http://www.unicef.org/sowc09/statistics/statistics.php

When you run the numbers, you will see that only 50% of the World is nursing to 20-23 months. If that is the case, the nations which are nursing on average to age 6 would need to be incredibly large to get an average age of 4.

Atheist Mama said...

Simple in France -

The child DOES eat solids, they just continue to nurse as well.

When my daughter was 3+ and nursing she would only nurse approx. 2 times a day (right after she woke up and right before she went to sleep).

It's not like the kids nurse like newborns ;)

Emily said...

Athiest Mama, I think circing would be it's own post, but Daniel and Bobby are already circed, and we're undecided on Tommy... when we decide, I may write about it. (:

Anon, a better way would have been to state it as the AP did, "According to anthropological studies, the average age of natural, child-led weaning worldwide is 4.2 years." It is a generally accepted fact, google "average age weaning worldwide" but it may no longer be the technical average, especially if you include Western nations.

Kacie said...

@ Simple in France -- Babies and toddlers do start eating solids. Some babies start around 6 months, and some at 1 year. It just depends on the child.

Toddlers and older children typically nurse less frequently -- say once or twice per day (though sometimes more). They do eat regular meals and nursing can sometimes be like a snack or a small meal for them. At any rate, nursing provides comfort and nutrition and antibodies for the child.

So yes, they do eat regular food!

Dee said...

Emily-
Thanks for the great post. I got some co workers addicted to your blog now. I nursed my daughter for 11mths and regret not doing it longer. It was hard though, I was working full time and I was supplementing when she was at daycare. My goal is to nurse for a long time when baby #2 comes a long. Good for you for writing a blog about breastfeeding. It is SO important that mothers do this for their children!

Kathryn said...

The research my pastor did when we were studying Samuel and Issac was that ~3 years-old was when children were weaned at that time.I don't know of any verses to back that up though.I can't imagine that Samuel got left at the temple until he could walk, talk,dress himself, and be potty trained.

Anonymous said...

Actually, better way to state it would be: "According to anthro studies, they average age of natural weaning may be 4.2 years." I have read some of Dettwyler's work, and she did not create an average based upon what human beings actually do now or, for that matter, at any time in history. It is not a generally accepted fact. It is at best a theory.

Anonymous said...

Actually, even Dettwyler refutes that number: "One often hears that the worldwide average age of weaning is 4.2 years, but this figure is neither accurate nor meaningful."
http://www.kathydettwyler.org/detwean.html

Emily said...

Kathryn, I hadn't thought much of Isaac, with the feast when he was weaned. I bet there is a lot more cultural info that I don't know about that feast. It makes sense that Samuel would have been able dress himself or he would have been a burden on Eli, not a help.

Scottish Twins said...

I too am giving my older son breastmilk in a sippy cup. He loves it.

I had to wean my oldest at 6.5 months because of health issues and got pregnant soon after.

Breastfeeding is birth control for me and I plan on continuing with David for as long as possible. Since we don't believe in other forms of borth control - it's the only way I can keep from having another so soon :)

Kim W. said...

First time commenting here....but you've hit on one of my favorite soapbox topics :). I'm guessing I'm probably older than your target audience, at nearly 52. We have six children, ages 7-29, and I've spent fifteen years of my life breastfeeding, nursing each child a little longer than the last. At one point I even began studying to be a La Leche League leader (while still nursing Baby #6 who was by then a toddler). But I struggled with their militant stance that ANY mother could breastfeed and that somehow one was less of a mother for having to find alternatives. We have a small dairy goat herd and sell the goat milk, catering mainly to mommas who, for whatever reason, cannot fully breastfeed. Goat milk is closest in composition to human mother's milk, and THE best alternative if breastfeeding is not possible. Though I continue to be one of the biggest proponents of breastfeeding on the planet, I run into mommas all the time who are so generationally malnourished that there is no way they can provide quality milk for their babies. By generationally, I mean that their moms could not nurse, grandma couldn't nurse, allergies and food sensitivities and health issues are rampant within the family, etc. Couple poor nutritional status with ridiculous post-partum weight loss expectations, and you have a recipe for breastfeeding failure!

I have to say that in these cases, a goat milk formula is BETTER than breast milk. Now you can see why I'm no longer pursuing LLL accreditation :). Such ideas are heresy! I also need to qualify that we've had great success in helping mommas improve their nutritional status (goat milk for mommas being a key component), thereby making it possible for them to nurse their babies more fully or longer or completely, as in subsequent pregnancies.

BTW, I nursed my Elianna Grace caboose baby nearly four years (I was almost 48 when she weaned), and she is by far the healthiest child we have had. I never forced her to nurse though by this time I knew better than to think she was weaning when she was teething (babies can go on nursing strikes when new teeth are coming in as the sucking action can be very painful on their swollen gums) or when she was distracted as an older nursing child (that's when we'd go hide out away from the "fun"). One day not long before her fourth birthday, she was trying to nurse -- we were down to a nursing every few days -- and she couldn't even latch on, instead looking up at me and saying, "You know, Mom, actually I really do believe I prefer goatie milk!" Okay, someone that articulate should NOT be nursing :).

Emily, I applaud your determination to give your boys the best nutrition, and encourage you to continue your quest for the most nutrient-dense diet you can manage. Stay hydrated and rest often! I'm so impressed that you're pumping for your older son, too.

And, hey, my last three were surprise bonus babies, born when I was 35, 40, and 44. You have plenty of time!

Kim W.

Blessed said...

All you breast feeding moms will enjoy this: turn it on for the kids!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4EUE9KBDUU

This is a delightful old Sesame Street song and video that I remember being on the show when I was a kid--but I only remember the bottle-fed version! Seems the original version showed breastfeeding, but they got too many complaints, and so changed it. But you can see the original at the above link, and it is a shame it was pulled from the show--the nursing baby is such a wholesome, beautiful image! (and SO discreet--what were they upset about? And in the 70's to boot!)

Your kids will come running to watch. Or at least mine do. We don't have TV, so they really appreciate the good stuff we show them on the computer. : )

Anonymous said...

my son breastfed really heavily until he was 4. right after he turned 4 it really started to dry up even though he still wanted to nurse all the time. it had never been irritating up to that point, but then i had to begin weaning him. i didn't follow a set pattern. he took the whole year to finally stop. he would just go longer and longer without asking. it broke my heart, even though i knew he had to stop some time.

about the solid food. even though my boy was very solid and robust, he was really not very interested in food for 3.5 years, i know this is not the norm, but all he wanted to do was nurse and eat small snacks. at the time, he was my first and i was a full time SAHM so all i had to do was care for him. i still look back on it as the happiest time of my life.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Sesame Street:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFNwbc0X7GI

Anonymous said...

Emily, you may find that you can get pregnant while nursing. It happened to me twice, and to several other moms that I know as well :)

Rainbow Waters said...

What a wonderful post, I think 2 yrs is a great goal! :) I think you could end up pregnant before 2 yrs depending on how things go. :) I got pregnant while breastfeeding when my son was 12m old. Than I tandem nursed. i did lose a lot of my milk, if not all of it while I was pregnant, but my son continued to nurse for comfort until my daughter was born and than of course my milk came back. My son nursed until he was over 4 yrs old, and my daughter nursed until 3 yrs old. They both self-weaned although my son needed a little encouragement. It is such a fond memory, I love the bond we share now.

Stacy said...

I really appreciate both Devon's and Kim's posts. I was never able to solely BF because of supply problems. I really did try, and got lots of guilt trips from lactation specialists, to the point that my son began to lose weight. Finally, I had to try to come to peace with the idea that any breastmilk was good, and that helped. Although we BF for a bit over a year, I always supplemented, and I always felt bad about it. It really damaged the joy of the experience feeling like I was "failing." Also, lots of BF advocates say all kinds of things about how horrible formula is. As a new mom, I never heard about goat's milk as an option, so I felt bad about the formula even while using it. The one thing I did do was get organic formula, and felt better about that. Anyway, I loved BF still, but always felt like a failure. Now I think I could do it again and feel differently, having more perspective. I believe my supply issues related to a thyroid problem, but that was never proven. I did tons and tons of pumping, took lots of fenugreek, drank Mother's Milk tea very often, etc. Still, no full supply. Anyway, my son is very healthy and we're very close, so I have to believe that even if it wasn't something we did for years, the year+ gave him a good start in life, and really helped us to bond.

Captain Cleavage said...

I ove brestfeeding post. I love it even more when they aren't preachy soapbox post as I feel brestfeeding is an incredibly personal choice for every woman. We are judged so much on a daily bases with how we raise our children that it is sad to see women who aren't brestfeeding judged for it. bottom line is you don't know why that woman is formula feeding and when I see a woman using or buying formula I like to think she is doing it because she loves her child enough to make sure he/she gets food and nuritment no matter what. Thank you for not judging emily :)

Also I was wondering if you have ever read the book Transorming Children into spiritul champions by george barna.

It does actually have a passage from the bible about brestfeeding (and I will email it to you later when I find it! lol)

I would definantly pumping for your middle baby (my mom gave both my sisters breast milk which she pumped till they were almost 6..I was allergic to B-milk...so i couldn't have any)

also a quick word on homade formula..be very careful. I talked to my midwife about this as well 9becasue like I sadi I had an allergy twords B-milk and was on soy formula)

She recomended not using homemade as it wont have the same nutrients and even a small error in making it could be harmful to baby. She did recomend goats milk over cows milk though :)

When all else fails talk to your doctor (or Mid-wife)

Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

My goal was two years with my daughter and I achieved it. I began to wean her at that point due to health issues. I hadn't considered pumping for her. She'll be nearly four when the next comes. I'll see if she's interested in the pumped milk. I am hoping to remain healthy enough for child-led weaning with this second one. -Cris

Penny Saver said...

I am totally pro-breastfeeding, but it didn't work for me with either baby. I desperately wanted to make it work and spent more on aids and assistance than I would have spent on formula to feed my babies. Lactation consultants, supplements, the supplemental nursing system with a tube taped to my breast, pump, pump supplies, etc. all added up. I spent well over $1000 with each baby to try to nurse. My supply was just never enough and I felt like a defective mom because of it.

My first son hated nursing from early on. He'd kick and scream, and he was fully weaned by 4 months. I cried and cried about it, but I just didn't have enough milk for him and it was not encouraging bonding between us.

With my second baby, I was exclusively nursing round-the-clock on demand, pumping and giving her the pumped milk in the SNS while she nursed, and she still became dangerously underweight. I also had a 3 year old who I was not able to give enough attention to as I was attached to the pump 5-6 times a day.

We had to add high calorie formula ($$$) because she dropped from 50% to under 0% on the height/weight chart. It was heart wrenching to have to admit that my milk was not enough to sustain her, and she ended up growing well once we added the supplement. She is 14 months old and continues to nurse for comfort because she truly loves it, but there really isn't much milk to speak of.

I would have loved to extended nurse for both but it wasn't in the cards. And because my experience was so hard physically and emotionally, I will not try again if we have another baby.

I still encourage everyone I know to try it, but I'm not quite of the opinion that it works well for all moms if they put in the effort. I was a stay at home mom with a ton of support, access to lactation consultants, pumps and supplements, and I couldn't make it work. A working mom without family support, without the financial resources to get help, pumps, or supplements, is going to have a much harder time making it work.

Audrey at Barking Mad! said...

I'm probably considered a BF zealout amongst some, but that's OK, I'll take it.

My youngest, Gaby, was my longest nurser and had it not been for a medication that I needed to be on, we would have let her go until she was somewhere between 3-4 years old. It just was not that huge an issue for me. I have read extensively on the benefits of extended breastfeeding and the ONLY downside seems to be the societal stigmas that Americans attach to it.

Sadly, I had to wean her at 2 1/2. It was heartbreaking, especially because she was my last my baby. She was a miracle to begin with as I was told after receiving chemo for breast cancer in 2002 that the chances of me becoming pregnant would be slim to none. Well, lo and behold Gaby!

Anyhow, I cherished every single momement I nursed her, even more so because she was a preemie and we almost lost her at birth and were told that breastfeeding would be hard...if not impossible. HA! All it took was a little time and effort and she nurses better than any of my others.

Bottom line...ANY time spent breastfeeding is a wonderful thing, AWESOME. The longer you can go, the better for both you and baby!

Amber said...

Here's another one who got pregnant while the little one was still nursing! He was 11ish months old and still going strong when I got pregnant.

Carla said...

I nursed both of my kids until they were about 4.5; my daughter nursed longer by a few months when I finally had to stop (ds was a gradual self weaning process). She was nursing around the clock and I was so sore. They both were always frequent nursers and I had a lot of trouble losing weight while nursing (heck, still do).

Nursing was never easy for me, but it was among the top most rewarding thing I've ever done. With DS, my first, I had thrush until he stopped nursing. Nothing got rid of it and I tried everything. Even though I tandem nursed for 2 years, DD never got it (thrush). DS also had latch issues and he was slow to gain weight. DD had a lot of food intolerances, which I later figured out DS probably had as well.

I really miss breastfeeding. I sometimes still want to nurse DD even though she's now 5 and practically as tall as me (when she weaned, our feet would touch when she nursed; I have big kids!). They are so healthy and I know it did them a lot of good for the long term.

Clisby said...

Five sounds awfully low for the Amish - I mean, it might be perfectly true for the particular group interviewed, but if the Amish overall have an average family size of 5 kids, they're obviously practicing some form of birth control other than breastfeeding. I found an interesting article from the American Journal of Epidemiology on the subject - for the large Old Order Amish community in Ohio they studied, women > 44 years old had a *median* of 8.3 births. That sounds a lot more likely to me.

http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/139/2/173

Jennifer said...

I am totally on board with bf, totally agree with you! I've exclusively bf all of my six children until after a year and then introduced food. I got pg with each one of then before their older sib ate solid food! Some of us are more fertile than that!

Clisby said...

The information available on the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) of birth control warns that it isn't reliable once the breastfeeding child is past 6 months old. While breastfeeding can reduce fertility in the short term, I don't think BF alone is likely to result in spacing births much more than about 2 years apart.

Anonymous said...

My midwife told me that once your baby is sleeping through the night and going several hours at a stretch without nursing, your body reaches a hormonal threshold that allows ovulation to start up again and pregnancy to occur.

Anonymous said...

My best advice is just keep breastfeeding your baby when they are born no matter what. Most kids really will take to it. When a baby is born, a mother gets paranoid that they are not getting enough food, so they start supplementing. That is a slippery slope and will end breastfeeding soon. I did this with my first child because I was panicking that he wasn't gaining enough and seemed to eat constantly, like every hour. I realized with my second that eating every hour can be normal and okay. If you stick with it, it usually works! You will know if there is a serious problem with the baby.

Green In OC said...

Emily, in addition to the cost of the formula other costs must be considered: bottles (hopefully glass with rubber nipples, nothing w/BPA), washing and sterilizing the bottles, filtered water, a carrier for transport, ice packs for transport, etc...

amulbunny said...

I nursed the first one till he was 7 months and he got teeth. Nothing like getting bit. The second baby was a lot fussier and she didn't like to nurse. We again went about 6 months but had to be on formula as well. I had plenty of milk, she just wasn't interested. They are in their 20's now and healthy and robust. They got more than milk from me, they got love, attention and I would read to them when they nursed. Silly me, but they have a love of reading.

BF worked well and then we went on to a milk based formula ( Carnation if the memory serves me) and fruits, vegetables, rice and eggs and they were fine.

crabcakes said...

Emily,

I wish you all the best with Thomas. My second child is still nursing at 2.5 and luckily it's been fully supported by his peds. Honestly, the only people who have given me hard time about it is family, who basically think babies are too old after 6 months or so...sigh.

My children have never had formula. If I had needed it, I would have used it. But thankfully we are part of the 90% of moms who can breastfeed successfuly and part of a small minority that choose that exclusively without any supplimentation of artificial milk.

My toddler nurser nurses mainly just in the morning and sometimes at night. He's small for his age and while he can get a lot of his nutrition from food, breastmilk has 170 calories per cup (more than whole cows) and nearly 12 grams of fat (more than whole cows) so it's giving him a little boost of extra calories.

I'm also glad you haven't been ripped to shreds regarding discussing homeade formula. Bring it up on any parenting discussion group and it's like you offered to feed your child liquid aresenic.

The fact is that NO formula is as good as breastmilk but homemade formula can be an excellent suppliment. Doctors all over the world prescribe homemade formulas for children who have trouble nursing and if you find a European doctor over here in the states, they've been known to recommend it as well.

No, it's not as good as breastmilk. But neither is formula made in a laboratory. It's "FORMULA". The word itself has a funny connotation. And while homemade formula can have risks, so can the canned stuff. Children have died from tainted formula. Formula gets recalled all the time.

Anyway, good luck and good for you for being honest about your thoughts.

Treva said...

I lost my ability to comment b/c of a program my DH was running, so if this late or repetitive, my apologies.

A good reason why children breastfeed longer around the world is that a good chunk of the people don't have access to clean, healthy water. Still, I think kids should be breastfed a couple of years if you can do it (and you should NEVER feel like a failure if it doesn't work out; 10% of women can't BF and that's a good enough reason to have formula). My DD only fed for 15 months; she's always been very independent and this was an early sign. Still I had pumped and stored my stash in my mom's deep freezer so it could be kept up to a year. We had it in a good rotation so she drank mommy-milk for another 8 months from a sippy cup.

I know a lot of "experts" scorn at the use of a nipple shield and say that it will decrease a woman's supply and make it harder on the baby in the long term. I disagree. I had to use one b/c despite using one and the constant nursing from my DD my shape never changed and I stayed flat (almost to the point of being inverted). Compared to many moms my milk production was above average. I worked full time and pumped 3 times a day at work and once in the evening at home. Could it infringe on a woman's milk supply? Maybe, maybe not. But each woman is different and you won't know how it affects you until you try it. My DD got thrush at one point; I think she was about 7 months old. I never got it and the lactation consultant at the ped's office said it was mostly likely b/c I was wearing a shield. Who knew?!

I didn't choose to breastfeed b/c of some big anti-formula thought in my head. I did it b/c I read about how it could help a child who is prone to allergies and asthma combat those issues. My DD does struggle with asthma but it's extremely mild and she doesn't have near the allergy problems I had as a kid; I underwent 8+ years of shots to help my body build up a resistance so I could simple things like play outdoors and not be sick for 10 whole days afterward. I would like to think my breastfeeding has had something to do with my DD's health being so much better than mine ever was.

Finally, eating 500 additional calories each day is much cheaper than formula would ever be for a baby! The only exception would be a mom who has access to WIC and does not have to pay for the formula. Random thought: I used WIC when I had DD; b/c I worked full time they gave me a pump to use and I spent $30 on extra bottles to pump into and store the milk.

Anonymous said...

Emily,
I think you make great points! My DD BFed until she was 15 months and then a few times occasionally after that. I was back to work full time and she was nursing once a day and it wasn't enough to completely satisfy her before bedtime, so she was nursing and having some milk after. I tried to keep her nursing longer to build my supply but she was very easily distracted!
Maybe my next will keep it up longer but overall I'm very satisfied with 15 months!

Anonymous said...

I didn't read through all of these replies but you absolutely can get pregnant while breastfeeding. I'm not sure where you got the idea but frankly you've dodged a lot of bullets if you've managed not to and still continued to have sex.

Emily said...

About breast feeding an birth control, we don't want to use breastfeeding as birth control; we want a large family. It is just how it has worked so far.

Clisby said...

Right - I understood you weren't using it as birth control. My comments were related to your original points about the Amish. It's really irrelevant whether you're intentionally using it as birth control, or if you're just breastfeeding as long as possible. The outcome is going to be the same - and if you happen to breastfeed Thomas until he's 4, I'll be *very* surprised if you haven't gotten pregnant well before then, if you're not using some other method of BC.

blessedmama said...

It seemed to me that your post said that YOU don't get pregnant while breastfeeding- not that people CAN'T. That's totally common. Not sure if I just read that differently than others or what, but I know PLENTY of people who are in the same boat. For me, I don't get pregnant quickly whether I'm breastfeeding or not, but I still start cycling early on after my babies (even though I've been nursing for 45 months straight). I'm nursing a 3.5 year old and a 17 month old right now and nursing through my 2nd pregnancy, and I imagine come March I'll be nursing 3 little ones! I wish there wasn't such a negative attitude towards extended breastfeeding...our society says babies grow up too fast, yet we sort of "force" them to do so much of that ourselves! 3, 4 or even 5 years old is SUCH a small part of a lifetime!

Chrysalis said...

Emily,

I am consistantly impressed with your ability to state your point of view without belittling other people. You come across as level headed, strong in your beliefs but accepting of others.

I don't always agree with your beliefs but I like your blog alot because you appear open minded although committed to yourself. That is an admirable quality.

Oh, and to add to the post, I was one of the rare ones that was unable to BF. I was crushed, didn't even know ANYTHING about formula because it never occured to me I would need it. But my little one is 8 years old and seems none the worse for wear, so I am grateful for formula.
As for the length of BF, I would have stopped at a year, but I get why other women will BF much longer. To each their own!

Chick Hatchers said...

How elegantly you wrote this blog post, without being judgemental nor boastful. I am a dedicated breastfeeding mom. My youngest self-weaned at 3-1/2, which was the earliest of my 3 and each of my children are spaced about 3 years apart - not my planning, but naturally. God knew what would be best for us and I am ever so grateful!

You are so right about the beautiful photo opps from nursing. We have many and I wouldn't consider them inappropriate at all.

mychildsview.blogspot.com

Boysmom said...

I have practiced ecological breastfeeding with my 3 youngest children. My oldest was weaned at 14 months forcibly, which I do regret. I let my twins nurse until they were done, which ended up being at about 4 1/2 for one, a bit later for the other. My youngest nursed until 1 month before his 4'th birthday. So 4 is kind of a weaning age here. I must say though that my cycles came back at about 14 to 15 months regardless, so likely your fertility would return prior to weaning, so I wouldn't worry that ecological breastfeeding would dramatically effect your fertility, it might space your kids 2 years plus or minus, which can be a good thing. I know that my mom bfed me to avoid conceiving again too quickly, it was a Catholic thing though, not a quiverful issue. They still ended up with 3 kids by the time my father graduated veterinary school. So I just wanted to encourage you in your child-led breastfeeding journey.

Becky said...

You might want to look into Islam in terms of Biblical guidance for breastfeeding. I know that it isn't your faith but it might provide some interesting perspective. I was told (and a cursory google search seemed to indicate) that it was taught that women of the Islamic faith should breastfeed for 2 years. I know that there is some overlap between the Koran and Bible and thought it might just be a place to start. Also, I second Boysmom's comment to look into ecological breastfeeding if only for information as it sounds like you may be stumbling into ecological breastfeeding anyway.

Becky

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