Reke explained that she considered weaning Ilo off of breastfeeding when she was one year old, but she found so much evidence that said continuing nursing is beneficial for both the mother and child.
‘Talking with accomplished, experienced pediatricians sealed the deal. I was not pushing it — I let my daughter decide how she felt, and if she still wanted to feed.
‘I am a working mom, with a career and busy travel schedule, and I always assumed that when I returned from my travels, she would be weaned off. So far, that has not happened,’ she said.
‘Breastfeeding her right now is a bonding experience and it has been amazing for her immune system.
‘I can’t even tell you how many times she has gotten the antibodies from my breastmilk and avoided the cold that both me and my husband get.’
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a mother’s breast milk contains antibodies and other immunological factors that can help protect her infant from flu and is the recommended source of nutrition.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first six months with continued breastfeeding along with introducing appropriate complementary foods for one year or longer.
‘She usually has breast milk in the mornings when we wake up, and if I am at home, at night when she goes to bed,’ Reka said of her daily breastfeeding routine.
‘If she is feeling sick, she may want to feed more often and during the day. I have always been a bit of a lactivist.’
Now that her daughter is a toddler, breastfeeding has become easier in a way, because it is no longer a constant food source for Ilo.
‘But it’s harder because you have to deal with a toddler who does acrobatics while they have a nipple in their mouth,’ she added. ‘It’s also harder because people judge you, and you have to constantly explain yourself.
‘That is part of the reason I continued to post breastfeeding pictures on social media; to educate people that judge without doing any research.
‘Why does a breastfeeding mother anger and irritate people so much? I have found that most of this anger is unfounded. As soon as people read on the matter, they become less judgmental.’
Reka believes that ‘breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding should be normalized,’ and it upsets her to read stories about mothers who hide the fact that they are breastfeeding their children past a year out of shame or fear of judgment.
‘The more women speak publicly about this; the more people are exposed to the idea and the more acceptable it becomes,’ she said.
‘I ask those that judge, what research they have that backs up their criticism. Then I kindly present them with the abundance of research that states that extended breastfeeding are beneficial to the mother and child.
‘Of course, I give my daughter solid food too — she loves to eat. But some of the benefits of extended breastfeeding include: boosting the child’s immune system, helping brain and intellectual development, and making children more socially adaptable and independent.’
Although she has received some negative reactions in public, Reka said she has gotten mostly positive comments on social media.
‘I get a lot of supportive messages from women that have also breastfed their toddlers till around three-years, or longer,’ she said.
‘For the few negative comments I get per post, I try to educate those people so that we can remove the negative stigma surrounding this matter.
‘We should also stop the negative cycle of constantly criticizing and judging women’s bodies and the decisions they make regarding their bodies.
‘Choosing to breastfeed, or not to breastfeed, is an individual choice. These are my breasts, hear them roar.’
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