Why I Am Breastfeeding Exclusively (almost) My 8-months Old

by Rashmie on July 8, 2014 · 8 comments

in Motherhood,Nurture & Culture

breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months and beyond

Eight months it has been been since Sufiana came into my life. This journey of being a mother, all over again, to a tiny being (but an evolved soul) – since Pari was born eight years ago – has been the most uplifting experience – at a spiritual, emotional and physical level. And, of all that I do as a mother to love and bond with her and care for my little one, breastfeeding her has been (and is continuing to be) the biggest nurturer. Not just for her. For me as much – if not more.

I’m breastfeeding her exclusively even though it’s way past 6 months – the recommended norm to breastfeed a baby exclusively. I’ve started tiny amount of mashed fruits/potato etc a week back. But, she’s not been too keen. So, statistically, she’s still nursing almost every two-three hours – through day and night.

So, why did I choose to breastfeed her exclusively for 6 months? And, beyond, too?

I’ll write my perspective and research on each of these questions, in separate blocks.

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.

Their health, growth, immunity….

exclusive breastfeeding benefits

(breastfeeding Sufiana on the Cavelossim beach, Goa)

With Pari as well as Sufiana, I’ve followed my instinct and my heart. I mean back then – 8 years ago – there wasn’t any emphasis on exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months. No one told me I must do so. I didn’t read any book or blog. (I didn’t have any parenting book). There were no breastfeeding consultants (there still aren’t any) as there are in countries like U.S. There were no breastfeeding support groups or networks in my country like the La leche League.

I just believed in my core that breast milk is the best for my baby. And, I did everything possible to make sure my milk supply would last for ever and ever….! (that’s another story and warrants another write-up!)

Today though, thanks to the internet, it’s almost viral – breastfeeding for 6 months is best for the baby. (well, it’s best for the mother, too). It’s a well-researched and established fact that breast-milk is the best nutrition for babies. For the first 6 months of life – at least. Nutrition from no other source comes even remotely close. Formula milk – nah. Cow’s milk – what? It’s for calves – who have a completely different nutritional need than human babies. Fruits and veggies – not so early.

Breast milk contains every possible nutrient that a growing baby needs. Plus, various other elements that help build the delicate immune system of the babies. Actually breast-milk supports babies’ health not just in the early years but later in life as well. Exclusively breastfed babies will have lesser chances of developing many diseases later in life including cancer, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and more.

Mommy Labs_Parinita

I breast-fed Pari (in the pic above. She’s now 8.5 years old) exclusively for 8 months. Not a drop of water until then. And, Pari was one of the chubbiest, pinkest (saying this for the hemoglobin factor) and healthiest child, I’ve ever come across. For the first 12 months of her life, she never had cold, fever, stomach infection. And this despite the fact that we lived in Delhi – one of the most polluted cities in the world.

No wonder, breast milk provides the best immunity. During nursing, the mother passes on certain anti-bodies that help babies develop a healthy gut and even protects from certain vaccinations (that weaken the immune system).

So, after 8 months of exclusive breastfeedng, I nursed Pari extensively till she was one. Extensively meaning, still nursing very frequently even when I started offering semi-solids and solids.

Breast-milk remained her primary source of nutrition till she was one.

And that showed – in her health, her skin (flawless – till today), growth and development. I continued to nurse her till she was two.

With Sufiana – same. Till today, at 8+ months, I nurse her almost every two-three hours – round the clock. And, this girl is growing up amazingly.

exclusive breastfeeding

She’s had five teeth already for more than a month now. She’s crawling all over the house. Pulls herself up by holding onto anything and everything. I have to surround her with a mountain of pillows when she sleeps on the bed or she’ll climb up high barriers and topple down the bed. She’s filling me up with the sweetest of emotions as she’s calling out Mumma…mumma like a song playing in loop.

Breastfeeding (exclusively) past 6 months is not the maximum limit.

Pari wasn’t interested in solids past 6 months. Sufiana isn’t either. Most babies take very slowly to solids. Pari had small amount of mashed fruits (banana/papaya/peach). Sufiana prefers mashed potato – if at all. Both LOVE to breast-feed whenever I offer – with little regard for the clock!

So, what I’ve learned – by following my baby’s lead, by following my own gut and from research is that delaying solids past 6 months is really good for my baby.

Breast milk is a superior nutrition (compared to any other food source) for a baby until she’s 1 year old.

Hence, what’s the point of replacing or substituting this precious nutrition with something else. And then, breast milk is best for baby’s digestive system.

Delaying solids till 7 or 8 months provides a whole host of benefits, including: decreased chances of food allergies; increased maturity of digestive system, protection from iron-deficiency anemia, and much more.

So, even though I’ve started offering ‘some’ solids, I make sure to nurse her first and then offer solids, which she takes very little of. I do this so she continues to get my milk (in equal amount) for as long as possible in the first year. And, I’ll increase the amount of solid as per her desire/hunger.

This reasoning at Kelly Mom (one of the most trusted guidance on breastfeeding) says enough.

Should solids replace breastmilk (after 6 months – that is)? (it’s a must-read – with thorough facts and figures)

No. Solids during the first year are only meant to complement breast-milk, not take precedence over it or replace any breastfeedings. It is more of a way to add textures to the baby’s diet, to allow the baby new experiences, and to help her develop hand/eye coordination through finger feeding. Your baby should still be allowed to nurse on demand, as your milk should be her primary source of nutrition until closer to the end of the first year. Continuing to allow on-demand feedings also better ensures your milk supply.

I agree that every child is different. Some may be more inclined to solids sooner than others. But, I believe every child would benefit from breastfeeding exclusively for at least the first 6 months of their lives. And, if possible (for the mom) continuing to have breast-milk as their primary source of nutrition  till 12 months. The foundation of health and immunity that is laid at this crucial stage is unbeatable and irreplaceable. Plus, the bond you create with your child lasts a lifetime.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Srishti@ProlificCooking July 9, 2014 at 1:54 pm

I was eagerly waiting for this post of yours. I agree with each and every line in your post. Hats off to you to be able to manage exclusive breast feed along with the humongous shifting effort. With me as you know, I got more inclined by the number the weighing machine was showing me. Sarah being under weight since her birth, I was not sure if my milk is giving her what her body needs as she was continuing to be under weight. My diet was good and so was the milk supply but still I opted for some semi solid feed starting sixth month. However, as you know her weight still did not go up much and she continued to be under weight. So I got my answer the harder way. It was to do with her metabolism and not my feed. I should rather have had faith in it. With Sarah, another challenge was that she was very inclined towards solids and semi;solids and loved them, so even that was one factor to start with them early. However, I will definitly keep in mind your tips and have more confidence on this natural phenomenon than on any kind of numbers this time :). Again you are one of the few moms I know who are ready to compromise one full year of their life, activities, sleep and everything to give a solid foundation to your baby. So again hats off to you especially for this!
Srishti@ProlificCooking’s recent fabulous post..Steamed French Beans (specially for toddlers)

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Rashmie July 10, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Srishti, it’s okay dear. Don’t beat yourself up about the breast-feeding experience with Sarah. You did what you thought best for her then.
About her being underweight (even though you had adequate milk supply), one other possibility (other than the reason you cited – high metabolism) could be the calorie content in the breast milk that she was getting. Often times babies nurse till they are satisfied and may leave behind small amount of milk (hind milk) which is high fat. This may happen when the breasts are full. Full breast means there’s less fat and more water content in the (fore) milk. Emptier the breasts, more the fat because when the breasts are fuller, the fat content tends to stick to the glands higher up and they don’t flow out with the fore milk. So, it’s essential to express out the hind milk and offer to the baby immediately or later.
As you know, I do this with Sufiana all the time, after EVERY feed, without fail.
Other technique to ensure that baby gets high fat milk is to express out the fore-milk so that the high percentage of water is not taken by the baby.
Here’s more to read on this if you’d like:
http://kellymom.com/nutrition/milk/change-milkfat/
Rashmie’s recent fabulous post..Why I Am Breastfeeding Exclusively (almost) My 8-months Old

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Sunita July 10, 2014 at 12:38 am

Hooray for you! There is variation in babies, of course, but I found with my boys that they really just “played” with learning how to eat food until around a year old. They were both still breastfeeding heavily at 15 months, but around 18 months they started to be more into eating solids, and they both naturally weaned at two and a half. In my unique town, which I call an “oasis of breastmilk” I was one of the early-weaning moms; most go to age 3 or 4. I have a theory that, because of both the nutrition of the breastmilk and the use of the facial suckling muscles, that kids who were exclusively breastfed seem to need less orthodontic dental care. In my small dataset of myself and my husband, he was breastfed and I was not. He has a very strong immune system compared to me, and no orthodontics, whereas I had lots of orthodontia work. My second son had many, many food sensitivities and bloody stools for most of his infancy (I think because I had giardia when he was born!) and breastfeeding made all the difference, though I had to be very careful with my own diet so that the things that hurt his tummy didn’t come through in my breastmilk. I could have put him on a carefully made pre-digested factory formula (and then I could have eaten whatever I wanted!), but I’m so glad I made the effort to keep on breastfeeding. My sister used to work at a cancer research place, and there was a researcher who was studying the link between women who had mastitis while breastfeeding, and how it somehow conferred immunity to the women so that she would NOT get uterine cancer in the future. It’s almost as if there is some evolutionary boon to having mastitis. There must be many, many benefits that we don’t even know about yet, to feeding babies in the mammalian way, that create long-term, whole-life benefit to both moms and babies. I wish you all the best!!

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Rashmie July 10, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Dear Sunita,
Thank you for enriching this article with such amazing anecdotes and bits of information from your personal experience of breastfeeding.
And, your place – that “oasis of breast milk” – I’d love to live in that kind of place with a community like that. I remember you sharing other examples about this place/community of yours.
Yes, your theory about exclusively breast-fed children needing less orthodontic dental care is bang-on. This is what I’d read: “A study of 10,000 children found that those who were breastfed for a year or more were 40 percent less likely to require orthodontic treatment.” The sucking action used to breastfeed involves complex motions of the facial muscles and tongue. This improves the development of facial muscles and the shape of the palate.
O another note – we should meet someday in real life :-) We’d have a lot to chat about!
Rashmie’s recent fabulous post..Why I Am Breastfeeding Exclusively (almost) My 8-months Old

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Madhu July 10, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Oh you are following Baby Led Weaning! That’s awesome Rashmie! Its a shame that you dont have a lot of lactation consultants or a support group to encourage women to breast feed as long as able. I mean, you are able to do it, I am only thinking of others.

I did not have a very good experience with breastfeeding. For some reason, she wasnt latching properly. I tried with the help of professionals too but it was becoming more stressful for her and for me. With the advise of a consultant, I had to supplement her with formula right from 3 months itself. So, needless to say, no amount of pumping really met her needs and I had to switch to formula completely at age 6 months.
I completely understand what you mean about the bonding! I still recollect when she was just a few days old and she would be rooting!

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yamini July 10, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Thank you rashmie for this post i have a 5 month old whom i breastfeed exclusively,but my MIL is very much intrested in starting solids.My younger one is chubby kid and i enjoy my time with him, i showed your article to MIL hope she takes it seriously.

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Claira Salgaokar July 10, 2014 at 7:37 pm

I agree with everything you said.
I breast fed both my girls. The second one continued until she was 3 years and she was walking at 9 months.
No regrets. They are strong, fit and healthy. Rarely sick.
Breast is definitely best.
Thanks for sharing your story.

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Sunita July 11, 2014 at 9:39 pm

@Rashmie – And I’m quite sure we will meet one day! We’re too much alike not to!

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