Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mind Your Own Boobs....Er, Business

Here's the thing. Tarana is 16 months old and I am still breastfeeding her up to 4 times a day. And I have no immediate plans to wean her  - in fact, I plan to let her decide when she wants to stop. Now, for some reason, this seems to really bother a lot of people - friends and family - and has since Tarana turned a year old.

It's not as if I am going out of my way to announce this to the world (not unless you count this post). Unless I want to lie, it's the explanation I have to give for limiting myself to one glass of wine (which is unusual enough to attract comment) or get home in time for Tarana's feed or excuse myself to nurse her when we are over at someone's house.

Here are a sampler of the reactions I have got over the last few months:

'You're still nursing? Why?'
'Don't you think it's about time you weaned her off?'

'Aren't you bored?'

'What if she asks for 'it' in public? Won't it be embarrassing?

'What if she gets too used to it?'

'She will get spoiled.'

'I know the WHO favours breastfeeding up to the age of 2, but that guideline is basically for poor people whose kids don't have access to good quality nutrition.'

And this is my favourite:
'I know women in rural areas feed their babies till much later but I just find it a bit weird' *accompanied by a shudder*

When I was nursing Ayaan, I had no intention of continuing past the age of one. I bought into the argument that it was unnatural and unnecessary for  kids to breastfeed after their first birthday. Besides, that was also my deadline for return to full-time work (with some travel thrown in), so it would have been logistically impossible. So I followed a very strict schedule of weaning. From five months of age, I added one solid meal and dropped one feed every month till we were down to a single feed at Month Eleven. At that point, Ayaan took the matter out of my hands and self-weaned (he was never a big fan of breastfeeding in the first place).

Everything about Tarana's infancy has been less planned - from sleep training to her diet - and nursing has been no different. When she was born, I was committed to breastfeed her for a year and after that, it would have depended on my work situation. But once going back to work was off the table, I saw no reason to stop.

What I did not expect was the almost universal disapproval - mild and outspoken - of my choice to continue nursing beyond the age of one. The benefits of extended breastfeeding are well-documented but it's possible that most people, like my first-time mom self, are not aware of them and just follow the popular motto: 'If they are old enough to ask for it, they are too old'. But even then, I don't understand why it attracts this kind of negative attention. I am not even, like mothers in many Western countries, asking for the right to bare all and breastfeed in public. Most of Tarana's nursing sessions happen in the privacy of my bedroom and the occasional in-transit ones behind the modest nursing apron that goes with us everywhere.

I think the problem lies in the way that we have sexualised breasts. Prop them up with push-up bras, enhance them with surgery or bare them on the Playboy centrefold and most people are unlikely to so much as bat an eyelid. But, God forbid, that you use them for their intended purpose and actually nurse a 2-year old, you'd better be ready to be an eye-popping spectacle!

The other problem is that breastfeeding has become such a touchy issue. We all feel judged, no matter what our choices. Those who stop early feel that the ones who carry on into toddlerhood make them look bad, who in turn feel that the former look upon them as weirdos. In other words, just another front in the Mommy Wars!

I think the decision to breastfeed is a personal one. There is no universal right answer. Just one right answer for every mother and baby pair, depending on their needs and circumstances. In my case, I am at home, Tarana still seems to need it and I can't think of a single good reason to stop.

It's early days yet (I am just 4 months past the one-year mark) but I am happy with my decision. Sure, it cramps my style a bit - I can't go on a trip without Tarana or indulge in a boozing session - but I have found that the benefits far outweigh the inconveniences. Here's what has worked for me:
  • When Tarana was still an infant, I came across the concept of Baby-Led Weaning. They had me at hello. So Tarana has never had a mashed or pureed meal and her first taste of solid food was a slice of apple at five and a half months that she sat and gummed for twenty minutes. I will do a detailed post on this at some point but it has been great and she has been able to explore and take her time with food since there was no pressure to wean or stress about how much nutrition she was getting from her non-milk diet.
  • Travel is so easy. We went to Mauritus when she was just over a year and I did not carry a single thing for her to eat or any feeding equipment from home. There was always something that she would find interesting enough to eat at the restaurants we ate at and even when she was fussy about the food, the breastfeeding was a backup and I did not have to worry about whether she was getting enough.
  • I have actually seen the immunity thing in action. It's not that she falls ill less. Thanks to her brother's susceptibility to respiratory infections, she has had more than her fair share of coughs and colds. But what is different is their intensity and duration. She usually kicks the bugs off faster than Ayaan does and usually without any help from medication. In fact, she has needed antibiotics just once (when she caught the virulent bug that caused Ayaan's pneumonia). 
  • Even when she is ill and goes off her food for a bit, she continues to nurse so I don't have to agonise about her not getting enough to eat.
However, while I have not been actively weaning her, I definitely don't want her to get dependent on breastmilk. So I have been nudging her along in small ways. As part of her sleep training, I have been slowly pushing the time for her night feed. She now has it at 5 a.m. and then sleeps for another 45-60 minutes. When she gets up, I give her a cup of cow's milk. She doesn't have much but she's gradually increasing the quantity. I am doing this now when she is less rigid about her tastes because I worry that she might reject it altogether if I wait longer.

After she turned six months, I also cut out her comfort feeds and stopped feeding on demand. Unless she is sick or her ears are blocked on a flight, she only gets a feed after waking up and just before bedtime (that's four feeds a day currently). This way, breastfeeding is not likely to become an emotional crutch for her, another thing the experts warn against. And it also means that it is rare for her to ask me for an unscheduled feed in public (hence ruling out the embarrassment factor, which would have been high given that her word for it, rather inappropriately, is 'booboo')

So anyway, that's what it is. How do you feel about it? Go ahead, speak your mind in the comments. If you dislike the idea of extended breastfeeding, I'd really like to know why.

(Image courtesy http://alliancebreastfeeding.com)

64 comments:

  1. A lurker :)
    As I have said in one of my posts, its an extremely personal decision and no one has the right to comment but its a decision everyone loves to comment on....am actually sick of the comments, its been 6 months now and I intend to feed Popins for another 5-6 mnths if i can...and am repeatedly told by family n friends that i should not...cant understand why :)...so have stopped understanding

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  2. Hmm.... Firstly, its a personal thing. Everyone decides what's right for themselves and the kid. So please, the comments below are my own and dont take it in judgemental way or finger pointing.
    As some background- I nurse my daughter exclusively for about 6 months, and then with work and incresed stress she weaned off by 8 months. She continued to have first formula and then milk via baby bottle. However, until a few months back, she needed milk from a Baby bottle. (She is three now!) Luckily she has weaned off the bottle and is now on a big girl cup for milk! Reason I mention this- Well, I got a lot of grief from people... oh she is 2 and is still using bottle and on and on. It was her comfort!
    With background over- I completely get why you are lettng Tarana decide her when she is ready to wean off!
    Now.. the part I am confused about- I get that she is eating solids and food and
    trying different food. But, is she relying on milk to fill her up so that she does not eat meals? I had a friends kid who did that for the longest resulting in really long fussy meal times in the long run, hence asking.
    Nursing itself is a very personal and yet controversial topic. I had written about it here which pretty much summed up the 'mommy wars and judgement no matter which path you take!: http://mommy-in-making.blogspot.com/2010/06/cmb-why-is-it-so-hard-to-talk-about.html

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  3. I read your post as often as I can - but not very regular. However, I do want to say that I enjoy and appreciate your thoughts and the way you write. Since this whole breastfeeding is personal to me and I went through it myself, I just had to comment :)

    Don't let these comments bother you. It's a personal thing and there is no right way or wrong way. I nursed my son (who is now 22 months) until he was 17 months old and it was on-demand every hour in the night. If it were not for the fact that I was sleep-deprived and had to go to work the next morning, I would've continued for as long as he had wnated it. My sons friend from the daycare is nursing and he is almost 3 years old. So, don't even worry about it. Go ahead, indulge her. She will soon wean and you will miss it. You don't have to explain yourself and if it means wearing the t-shirt to explain it, then do so :)

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  4. Anonymous1:22 am

    Rohini,
    It is an entirely a personal decision, you please ask those over inquisitive people to go shove their gyaan. My son is 20 months old, I still breast feed him thrice a day. Twice in the night. I 100% agree with the immunity thing, my son and daughter have had ear infection only once, where as I see every other kid suffer from this at least once in 2 months. I see the same thing with other infections as well touch wood. Please go with what your mind says. Breast feeding provides the child with a lot of security, so if your child and you are happy, then, you don't have to worry about what the others have to say.

    Good luck and lots of hugs to your little princess.

    Deepa

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  5. Anonymous1:32 am

    Ohoh ...
    I posted a loooooooooooong comment and it is gone now :(

    Summary - I am first time mom and want to breastfeed my baby as long as I can ... he is 5 months and I have introduced solids and formula coz I am taking up a new job which might have overnite travel .. So I want him to to be independant .. at the same time it makes me feel so sad
    breastfeeding is such a nice bonding time .. I hope I can nurse him until he is ine year (atleast)

    A few qns
    I am moving to India and don't know much about the latest stores etc since it was a long time ago I left
    Where did u buy the nursing apron/poncho .. websites/store
    if so can u let me know ...
    I don't want to buy everything from here and carry with me

    I remember u had written long back about baby furniture and pictures of crib etc
    same qn as above - where did u buy them
    Basically any baby specific stores/websites would be helpful ..

    Thanks a lot
    -Anamika

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  6. Very honestly, the only reason I dislike extended breastfeeding is the restrictions it imposes on me and my mobility. And I hate pumping so that pretty much did my flow in. But hey, if someone else is OK with it...I am not going to spout my gyaan to them.

    There are a lot of things mothers get flak for ( I wonder why fathers are not asked ) and we all need 1 less thing to be judged on.

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  7. Anonymous2:54 am

    Hi Rohini,
    Lurker here and my first time commenting. I work full-time and have nursed 3 children. My oldest who is almost 6 till she was 20 months, my middle child till he was 18 months, and the youngest one is 7 months and still nursing. I pumped at work for a year for the older two and plan to do the same for my youngest. My goal was actually to just nurse them for a year but as their first birthday came around, there just seemed to be no reason to stop. My kids have been very healthy despite being in daycare. I feel very strongly about continuing to breastfeed as long as you are comfortable. I hate pumping but love the bond of breastfeeding. I'm very open about it and tell people at work that I need to pump.

    I also nursed my kids in public whenever I need to -- frankly there is no need to bare one's breasts, it can be done discreetly even without a cover. Most of the time, people don't even realize I'm breastfeeding. And it is so much more convenient than having to deal with bottles when you are traveling. So please don't stop until you are ready to and use the opportunity to educate people about the advantages of extended breastfeeding. kellymom.com is a great resource.

    -NW

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  8. Anonymous3:59 am

    I think all the reasons that you gave are valid for not breastfeeding beyond a year. It is really weird if the child is old enough to ask for it and there is no real reason for except that she likes it. I read a study about how children who are exclusively breastfed for more than a year turn out to be clingy with multiple social issues, but I am not able to dig and find the link. By all means, do continue to do what you want to do, but people who object to that are not fools and are speaking out of care for you and Tarana.

    ~Smriti

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  9. Hey Ro - as usual a nice well thought out post. I didn't even think much about this decision - I was so sure about wanting to breast feed my kids. And even stopping it happened not because I decided a time frame but because I became pregnant with the second one and I didn't feel like I could eat enough for all three of us. So around the second month of my second pregnancy I weaned KB. For the second child I kind of went with the same time line as I did for the first one and also because KG liked solid foods and ate a lot better than KB did - so I felt OK about weaning her. She didn't have a hard time weaning herself from breast milk at all. It went smoothly. I did get dirty looks from the airport police man who kept turning in my direction when I was stuck in the horribly crowded Bangalore airport all alone with a furiously crying KB and with baggage to handle...no other way but to feed him at that point to calm him down. I found a corner and put bags in front of me and a jacket on top of me and fed KB - but this damned guard in uniform kept looking at me like I was stealing - I kept staring at his eyes so he too would know I was looking. Other than that here in the US there weren't too many issues/questions. That said I too find it weird if a 3.5 yr old goes to his mom and asks to be breast fed. I try to tell myself it is their decision but can't help finding it weird/awkward. Just conditioning I guess!
    You are in control of this situation and doing it right. Funny though how though I stopped bf only 1.5 yrs or so back, it seems like such a distant memory!

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  10. Anonymous7:23 am

    I think its fine. And as I say this as someone who hated it, and gave up as soon as my baby was SIX WEEKS old. It sounds strange to adults because as you say, we sexualize breasts, but kids don't. For them its just a feed.I'm not quite sure how I'd feel if I heard someone was breast-feeding a six year old (as I've heard happens too), but rest assured it would be more my irrational reaction of disgust than anything particularly wrong with the idea. Its the old Jon Haidt (U of Virginia psychology prof) story of incest: you ask people what's morally wrong with it and they give you all sorts of reasons but in the end, its just the emotional feeling of disgust and then having to verbalize or rationalize it. (sorry I am not confusing breastfeeding with incest, in case you were wondering - just making a point that its mostly about an emotional reaction that people try to justify in various ways).

    The only thing I can say is that I have great admiration for you for extended breast-feeding. For me, it was plain torture.

    n!

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  11. You Go, girl! Do what's right by you and T.

    With the history of allergies n asthma in my family, I was determined to nurse Div till she was 2, but had been dropping feeds very slowly after she turned one. At that point we moved back to India, and she started frequent episodes of diarrhea, besides being quite immediately insecure and clingy, stopped trying to walk etc. I took her to this famous doc whom everyone swore by, and these were her words, "WHAT? You're still breastfeeding a 14 month old? If you don't stop now, she'll still be feeding at 6 years. Stop tonight and..." I was so outraged. This DOCTOR was advising a baby who'd just moved countries and was having severe diarrhea to stop the only source of nutrition, immunity and comfort.

    I continued, and Div weaned herself off suddenly at 17 months. I remember how I explained to her that if she stopped, it would stop and pleading with her. It was as if she understood, and still resolutely shook her head, tears streaming down both our faces. But I'm glad I tried to reach 2 years, and that it was her 'decision'!!

    I'm not against extending feeding at all. And I think your approach is a middle-of-the-path one. Enjoy it while it lasts! And I agree...we've sexualised breasts and it's almost criminal to be pressurising a mother and baby to stop an separate this very intimate bond.

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  12. go go go girl..

    I would have loved to breast feed ojas till around 2 but just like aryan he self weaned himself...

    its ur decision and T's

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  13. You hit the nail on the head - the sexualisation of breasts is really the reason why people are uncomfortable. Everywhere on screen, we see skimpily clad women with their breasts almost falling out of 2-bit bras and that's ok - but breastfeeding must be restricted to strict boundaries (where, what age etc). GAH!

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  14. If you have decided to breastfeed your baby for as long as you want, then stick to it. Don't worry about what the world thinks about it.

    One thing I have realized about parenting - people will disapprove and give their opinions no matter what you do. I bet you a 100 bucks you would have had women wondering why stopped breastfeeding because 'haven't you heard of the benefits of extended breastfeeding' or 'now that you are at home, you can breastfeed for as long as you want'. So relax and enjoy your bond with your daughter.

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  15. I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with what you are doing..infact its really good for T..see you can find the immunity increasing na...so dont you worry about anyone saying anything!!! its your child,your decision and her decision...I breastfed R only till the age of 9 months...exclusively was till 6 months and after that I started outside milk because I had to go back to work....and in 9 months she just stopped..suddenly all by her self..one night she had a cold, took some cough syrup and thats it...never asked again...and lemme tell you R is an asthamatic...and her asthma showed its ugly face AFTER I stopped breastfeeding..so see....I still feel guilty about not feeding her enough..anyways its too late..but you dont definitely get bothered about anything...the child will know when to stop and how to stop! Till then keep it going :)

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  17. Have been a silent reader until now and just cant stop myself from commenting to this post ! Awesome blog btw !!
    In my point of view, many women (hate to say this) dont personally like other women breastfeeding their children any longer than they themselves did. I know it is crazy, but have felt they have an inner sense of a fierce competition and feel J when other moms breastfeed for longer times. I fed my first one until he wa 21 months old, and stopped at that only because I went back to work and it was actually interfering with his night time sleep. And am currently feeding my 10 month old and intend to do so until he is 2 as I have quit working now.
    Breastfeeding has a lot of advantages, like u said, during travel, sickness and in the nutrition front ! Couldn't agree more on your decision to feed Tarana until she is ready to wean.
    So enjoy your time with her. It is indeed a very intimate bond between u and her and the most valuable gift u can give her ! As my lactation consultant put it - "Your breasts are the baby's property right now and the milk is what he has made to come in with so much effort and you have no right to deny it to him until he wants no more of it ".. isn't that so true !

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  18. Was ready to nurse my first until she was four! (In theory!) In Canada we have all kinds of public health stuff that super-advocates nothing but breast milk until age 6mo, and then the slow introduction (not substitution) of 'food'. Kid #1 decided all on her own that she was done w/breastfeeding at seven months, but we were due to travel (Thailand, India) by her 9 month mark so I limited her solid food and kept her on the breast throughout our travels to ensure immunity and suchlike. We returned home when she was 13 months old and once we were back it took her exactly 0.5 seconds to decide she was done with breastfeeding.

    Kid #2 is totally opposite - loved the breast from day 1, has never wanted to switch to solids, will eat anything we put in front of him but will go to the boob anytime it's offered. When he was 19 months old we were going on holiday without the kids. Good opportunity to let the breastfeeding lapse, I thought. Sure thing - but my milk and my kid didn't have the same ideas. I still have milk a month later and my kid would still like to drink it.

    So funny, you can make your own decisions and abide by them for ... whatever reasons you decide. But your body and your child will have other ideas sometimes. And logic doesn't get to play in the matter.

    Best to you. A

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  19. Totally with you on this one. I fed Sanah until she was around 18 months. Weaning was totally led by her, except for that one last night time feed that she wanted in the middle of the night. The weaning of that routine was done in one night, with me sleeping in the other room and George comforting her.

    And until I was breast feeding her i did not have to give antibiotics, and like Tarana her colds and coughs were not at all intense.

    All the other points you have mentioned resonate entirely with my experience.

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  20. blinkandmiss11:54 am

    I started giving solids to my kid around 4.5 or 5 months, but continued breastfeeding till he was hold-your-breath about 2 years 4 months!!! Though the last few months it was almost just 1 or 2 feeds in 24 hours, but still. I tried weaning him around 1.5 years, but it was just so stressful for him that my husband and I decided to let him wean himself or at least go a bit easy. Especially after 2 years, sometimes I felt like a freak due to all these unwanted, unnecessary comments by "well-meaning" people. But now I feel it was the best thing to do.

    He took his own time, but he made the move himself. I did travel for a week when he was about 2 and hoped he would forget about breastfeeding and that would be it, but that didn't happen. However, travelling with him was a breeze because we never had to worry about running out of milk/formula in the middle of the night.


    - blinkandmiss

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  21. My son's 10 months old now (8 months adjusted- preemie lingo).He eats pureed mashed stuff :) and he loves my booboos :)I breast feed him 3-4 times during the day and pretty much whenever he wakes up at night. Sleep deprived I am most definitely but hey, this works well for me!I will continue to breast feed as long as he wants and hopefully he will do the whole self-weaning thing! More power to you!

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  22. Hi Rohini,
    So happy to have been able to read this up on your blog. My daughter and Tarana are the same age - 16 months and I get exactly the same sort of flak from relatives and friends!

    Thank you so much for making me realize i am not alone!

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  23. I breastfed my son till he was about 22 months old and I so agree with the immunity thing.The frequency of illness has increased since the time I stopped breastfeeding.I would have liked to continue till the WHO prescribed 2 years,but it was getting too difficult as sometimes he would refuse to let go.So I slowly weaned him and frankly I was surprised that he took to the cow's milk replacement as a comforter before going to bed pretty well.And I agree that it is personal thing.I continued feeding him till I was comfortable and thats what matters.

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  24. Anonymous2:52 pm

    I strongly believe that breastfeeding is a very personal choice and each parent should take the decision that they consider appropriate based on the information they have gathered. So I agree with the basic premise of your post. However, based on the books I read and the discussions I have with doctors, I took the view that after 6 months a child does not get a balanced diet or all the nutrients they need for growth if they are solely or primarily breastfed. Therefore on a day when my breastfed baby did not eat solids well, I dont actually take comfort from the fact that she was having breast milk. Further, I have two children - the first one of whom did not get any breast milk due to post delivery complications and the second one got breastmilk until she was a year old and I have noticed no difference in their immunity.
    - Mother of 2

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  25. People will have opinions on everything and anything

    It is your right to decide what works for you and Tarana and Just do it.

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  26. Anonymous3:40 pm

    Aay! My younger daughter is 16 months and I am also 'still' breastfeeding her ;)
    My friends keep enquiring as to why I do it, and my reason is , I have not rejoined work, and am comfortable with it. Breastfeeding gives me some relaxed bonding time with my daughter and magically my little irritations at household work seep away!!
    And yep,KellyMom.com really helped me clarify my confusions.
    So go for it,Ro...

    U

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  27. First time commenter and serial lurker here, but this is a topic I feel so strongly about, how could I not comment. I BFed my now 22 month old DD till she turned 19 months old. I returned to work after she turned 7 months old, and pumped like a madwoman because I didn't want even a drop of formula to go into her. After the age of 1, I gradually dropped feeds till she was only nursing at night. I eventually stopped only because the 2 hourly night nursings were being detrimental to both my sleep and hers and any attempts to night wean grossly misfired. I finally completely weaned with a very heavy heart, and even now 4 months later, I miss it sorely.

    I too had to put up with my share of "helpful advice" about weaning her completely from the time she turned 7 months old.

    All this crap about extended BFing making a child clingy and needy is utter BS and people who propagate this idiocy should be taken to task. I would love to go on and put up links contrary to this "advice" but this isn't my blog, so I'll stop here by saying, WAY TO GO ROHINI. This is a beautiful part of the mother-child relationship and anybody who says otherwise can go shove it where the sun dont shine.

    Smitha

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  28. mine were nursed till they were almost 2. of course pretty much down to 2 feeds towards the end. had no issues with weaning either. can’t see any other way that would have been better.

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  29. I read a study about how children who are exclusively breastfed for more than a year turn out to be clingy with multiple social issues, but I am not able to dig and find the link. By all means,

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  30. i'm in the process of weaning my 19 month old (as in...started doing that 3 days back :)
    he has loved to breastfeed and was exclusive till 6 months with gradual introduction of solids. hated formula and doesnt think much of cow's milk...but he's now on approx 2 cups of cows milk apart from solids. he was down to one feed a day for abt 3 months now and i was in no hurry to wean him off that one.

    i have had a LOT of questions about 'how long r u planning to feed him?' , 'if u feed for so long u will have 'problems'" etc etc and other such assorted nonsense. i usually used to reply that i plan to feed him till he is 18yrs.... (rude but effective).

    i think extended breastfeeding is great for the baby and for the mom....not just from health perspective...but from a psychological one as well. breastfeeding has been a wonderful way to spend some exclusive one-on-one time with my baby and that is something which is so private and personal to the mom and baby that no one should be allowed to tell u otherwise.

    and u know....ppl just love to give advice on matters which dont concern them....and this is just one of those subjects...pay no heed to them. u and Tarana just do ur own thing :) good luck!

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  31. Interesting post! My daughter's still breast-feeding her daughter--who's around Tarana's age. But, as she's working, it's at night. As you say, it's so easy while travelling and when she's sick, cos she can always feed. Btw, she says words now and apparently the other evening, after a feed she told her mum 'Nice milk'! :-)

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  32. I dont see why the heck should anyone comment on such a personal choice!

    I had less flow both times and cub n bub were / are on combination. Everyone guilt tripped me So much last time that this time i hv been borderline rude to any Qs abt "isnt breastfeeding better?"

    ofcos it is moron! But its not like i hv a choice. And even if i had a choice i refuse to be judged!

    So you go Ro! Remember when ross tells joey its the most beautiful thing and joey says "but there is a baby on it!"

    am sure you know it best. And like someone said, as long as the nutrients go in thru solids as well, you guys hv win win situ

    cheers!

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  33. Ro I think it's really great that you are continuing with it. Nutritionally and from an immunity perspective its unparalleled so why stop just because some other people think differently. As long as you are making sure that it's not comfort feeding, which you've mentioned, can't see anything wrong. Also it's so simple and you don't need to carry 100 things with you everywhere!

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  34. Anonymous3:53 am

    Hmm...I am not for/against it. But I think people who ask you to stop - if they are your friends/family - maybe you ask them why?
    If the reason is because they have a mental block of a mom nursing a older baby - then it is their problem. But if they have other experiences that cause them to give you that advice - no harm in learning from that, right?

    I wanted to bf until about 1.5 yrs. But my son weaned himself off around his first birthday (hurt me more than him :))
    But my niece went on to bf until she was 1yr and 6 months and the mom had to wean (for some health reason)and it was incredibly painful to do so. So if I have another child - I probably will wean him/her before 1.5yrs.

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  35. Yes, someone please tell me what's wrong with extended breast-feeding!

    I nursed my daughter till she was almost 20 months, and had actually intended to for much longer, at least till she turned 2. But she was testing my pain index by frequently biting me! Shocking, how much these li'l ones can pack into their bites and punches!

    The odd thing is, people around me kept wondering (aloud!) why I was still nursing her. Like you, I noticed that she fought infections much better. I seriously wish I could still nurse her..if not for the pain, I most certainly would have let her decide when she wanted to stop.

    So, rock on!

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  36. I like this article and you did a nice job on your blog!
    Indian Art

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  37. Hi Rohini,
    I have a 13 month old whom I breastfed until 8 months and then since it began to affect sleep patterns and I began to work too - I introduced him to semi solids. After that he kind of weaned himself off. You are so right - At some point Tarana will decide to wean off anyway. And since she does seem to be eating other foods I dont think nutrition should be a problem at all - Thats what my Doc told me - If you go to work and eat outside it would be better to introduce your son to other foods than only breast feeding - so thats what I followed...

    Catching up on so many posts :-) Lovely...

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  38. I nursed my first-born for 27 months and plan to nurse my second baby for atleast 2 years (WHO standards as well as my pediatrician's).
    We took 10 flights across 3 countries,with my daughter before she was 2 years old and not once did she suffer from any major illnesses (especially diarrhea) .Also it was easy on her little ears to nurse her during take off and landing.She didnt lose much weight during any of her illnesses as she nursed through all of them.(It's a fact that breastmilk has more calories than any other baby food -any LaLecheLeague publication will provide you with the actual numbers).A well-designed nursing top was also very helpful,as most times people didnt even know I was nursing her.They just assumed she was sleeping in my arms.My daughter started solids at 6 months and never had a jar of baby food in her life,she happily ate whatever we did.
    I also dont find my daughter clingy or lacking in any social skills.She loves her time with her friends and her teachers tell me she is happiest when she sings 'itsy bitsy spider'for her friends.
    Everyone around me was very supportive of the fact that I was nursing my daughter.(yes, even my parents and inlaws in India).
    Oh,and the upside of nursing her for 'so long' - she is extremely understanding when I'm nursing her 2 month old brother.She knows thats where he gets his food from and pats him (quite hard,at times! ;)) while he is nursing.She even calls me to nurse if the little fellow is fussing :)

    Apart from the nutritional benefits, the emotional benefits reinforced my decision to continue to nurse her and now to nurse my son.Nursing made both of us very happy and content and so thats exactly what we did.

    PS: I know of 2 other mothers who nursed their kids till they were 2 years old, but hid the fact from their friends and relatives.I only got to know of it when I spoke about continuing till my little one was two years old.

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  39. Honestly, it's nobody's business but your own!
    Given that there is everything going for breastfeeding, (including great ease when travelling), the perceived/actual disapproval of others just isn't relevant.

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  40. its actually so good u r breastfeeding now ..there are some many statements and counter-statements ,even those who claim they are not opinioned but still next sentence they will show their approval or disapproval for the same..

    Breast milk is so good for immunity of the babies ..though its totally understandable why some mother's wear off much quickly..

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  41. I have also continued breastfeeding Kavya and have got almost exactly the same reactions from people about it. Kavya can so ask for it and the other day she actually asked to go to "matte side" (the other side) when she had finished drinking from one boob. I dont feel embarrassed by it...just thought it was funny.

    Having said that I have continued breastfeeding not out of a strong opinion on either continuing or stopping. I have on occasion wanted to stop doing it once in a while, but haven't gotten around to doing it, mainly cos Kavya is ill very often and (a) I feel its cruel to deny her when she is sick and (b) when she is really ill and goes completely off other food, this is a great option to ensure she is not getting dehydrated or terribly weak.

    I am not as good as you though with the non-alcohol bit. I drink often enough. Also, I feed her mainly at night and then in the morning. When she's sick, she tends to feed through the night (comfort feeding perhaps)...so I guess I'm doing it all wrong and perhaps should wean her!

    But I completely agree with you that the decision is upto each individual mother. So enjoy every moment of breatfeeding till you quit!

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  42. Anonymous11:19 pm

    This is what my doc said - For your own maternal health for all the pregnancy stuff/hormones to get back to normal, breasfeed atleast for 6 to 8 weeks. For the baby to get enough immunity, breasfeed exclusively until 3 to 4 months old. Afterwards, do whatever works for you.

    I have also heard that after a certain number of months, breast milk does not have the same nutrition content as for a new born. The theory that breast milk reduces ear infection etc., is not as absolute as we hear. Some babies are prone to them and some are not, provided you take good care of the baby.

    There are many women who cannot breast feed for whatever reason and those babies do just fine. There are babies that are exclusively breasfed and have a lot of allergies. Most of these seem to be genetic or how we are made and the nutrition choices we make only seem to help so much.

    This is again a personal choice, just like any other choice a parent makes to raise their children. Just don't let others judge your choices, no one has the right to do that!

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  43. @Anonymous above:

    Here is a link that provides you with all information w.r.t breast milk.
    http://www.llli.org/NB/NBJulAug90p99.html
    You are right, breast milk changes with the age of the baby and thats a good thing- it provides the baby with the nutrition she needs at that point of time.

    And also here is a link that dispels few myths about breastfeeding.
    http://www.llli.org/NB/LVAprMay98p21NB.html

    I agree that the decision to breastfeed or not is a highly personal one, but I think its a good idea to make an informed decision ,after gathering all facts and then seeing if it works for you.

    Feeding our babies is only one aspect of parenting.Happy mothers bring up happy babies.Sometimes a little more confidence in ourselves and less attention to what others say goes a long way in making the mother (ourselves) happy :)

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  44. I nursed Pattu till she was 1 yr and 8 months and she naturally weaned off after that. And I so agree with you on how convenient it is while traveling. I traveled with her when she was 6 months and again when she was 9 months, 1.2 yrs - no major stress!
    You are right that it is a personal decision - some docs say the longer the better for immunity but some others recommend early weaning. It is upto us to choose and most often it is a mix of instinct and the logic that appeals to us.
    ..and on the sexualisation of breasts - a very good point! What is so embarrassing about a baby asking to be fed! excuse me!
    A lot many things about parenting, I feel is a personal decision... anyway, that's a different argument altogether!

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  45. I wrote a post about my perspective on it and have linked your post there :)

    http://meenu-iyer.blogspot.com/2011/02/post-on-embarrassments.html

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  46. [Starry-eyed nut] What??! People are giving you grief at 6 months. Unbelievable. The problem is that when it comes to parenting, everyone thinks they are a self-styled expert.

    [Garima] Bah! Breast, bottle, no matter what you choose, people seem to have a problem with it. It’s not like any kid ever went to college with a boob or a bottle in his mouth (or at least not the kind we are talking about here :D)! As for Tarana’s diet, she is pretty good. She is not a fussy eater, self-feeds, eats a wide variety of foods and is slowly increasing her quantity as well.

    [Pri/ Deepa/ Monika/ Ashley/ Artnavy/ U/ Vandana] Thanks for sharing your experiences and the supportive words :)

    [Anamika] The nursing apron I could not find anywhere here so I got my brother to order it from the Mothercare UK site. This one (http://www.mothercare.com/Bebe-Au-Lait-Nursing-Cover/dp/B002BEGHGY?ie=UTF8&ref=sr_1_2&nodeId=42860041&sr=1-2&qid=1298564022&pf_rd_r=1QJZCRB2C21DB8VFCCN5&pf_rd_m=A2LBKNDJ2KZUGQ&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_i=42860041&pf_rd_p=231490867&pf_rd_s=related-tab-3-5)

    As for baby stuff, it depends on your budget. Mothercare and Mom&Me have a great range of baby stuff, though the stuff is at the pricier end. Cheaper stuff can be found too in local baby shops and Kangaroo Kids. Do mail me if you want more detailed info.

    [Clueless] True. The mobility constraints are huge. It is highly unlikely I would have got this far if I was back at work because I found pumping extremely tedious too!

    [NW] Hey. Thanks for de-lurking and sharing – you are so right on the travel bit. Managing bottles would have just robbed me of any desire to travel. I will check out kellymom. All the best with your nursing your youngest :)

    [Noon] The guard sounds like a complete ass. Most of my public nursing has been in airports and flights and I was really lucky to not run into people like that. Never actually run into a person nursing a 3-year old so don’t know how I feel about it. For all I know, it might be me 2 years down the line. LOL!

    [n!] To each their own. I think that it’s great that you even stuck it out for six weeks given how hard you found it.

    [starry eyed] Goodness! That doctor should have his license revoked. It’s one thing for a layperson to say such stuff but a medical professional should really know better. Glad you kept your own counsel on that one.

    [Apu] Seriously! Gah is the word…

    [Anamika] True. Now there’s even some research that says that there’s nothing all that great about breastfeeding after all. You just can’t win.

    [R’s Mom] Don’t feel guilty. The asthma would have probably come around in any case. 9 months is pretty good if you had to go back to work.

    [Suhasini] Thanks for delurking. It’s very honest of you to admit to your jealousy. I felt that way about SAHMs when I was working – jealous as hell. I like your lactation expert’s take on breastfeeding :)

    [Sur] Yup, I have been gradually turning the tap off on night feeding along with a gentle form of sleep training. But otherwise, Miss T calls the shots.

    [blinkandmiss] I know what you mean. I feel like a freak at 16 months already thanks to the comments. Good on you for hanging in there for 2.4 years.

    [The Inquisitive Akka] Hi! Long time! Sounds like the little fellow is doing great. *kala teeka*

    [Muse] You and me together, babe :)

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  47. [Bubble Catcher] 22 months is great! I am actually being quite particular about the way I breastfeed so that I don’t have to face any issues that would make me uncomfortable – hence the feeding on schedule (as opposed to demand feeding) to rule out public demands, cutting out night feeds, etc.

    [Mother of 2] Sounds like what you did worked for your kids. In Tarana’s case, I have followed the baby-led weaning method (will post on that at some point) and whatever I read about that led me to believe that babies come equipped to figure out what they need. That seems to be working for us. For my son, I followed your method. I am sure both will be fine :)

    [Smitha] Hats off to you for holding on through 19 months of sleep deprivation. I have slowly encouraged Tarana to give up her night feeds. With an older kid who needs a lot of my time, I was going crazy. So much of Tarana’s feeds happen in the day. Thanks for the encouraging words. And I am with you on the breastfeeding making kids clingy. I have clingy kids and my son weaned at 11 months so the nursing can’t be it.

    [Chox] Tarana is down to 4 feeds now. And I agree, for her and me, I don’t see any other way that would have been better.

    [Madhu] I find it most hilarious when people just mention some vague, yet ominous sounding ‘problems’ that you will have! And I love your reply. I am so going to try that on the next person who offends me on this issue :D

    [Hillgrandmom] Tarana is talking away too but insists on referring to milk (from the breast and the glass) as booboo :)

    [Mama-Mia] LOL! There’s a Friends dialogue for every situation in life, isn’t it? :D

    [Mum’s delight] Yes on all counts. Thanks for the support.

    [Anon1] I think people’s advice against extended breastfeeding either stems from a discomfort/ mental block or from half-baked wisdom about kids being clingy/ not eating well/ being harder to wean. Honestly, I would recommend that don’t set a hard and fast date. Weaning will always be hard if you do it when the kid is not ready, whether at 9 months or 1.5 years.

    [CW] Ouch ouch ouch. I hope Tarana does not decide to test her teeth on me!

    [RS] If I was back at work, Tarana would have been weaned by now too.

    [KA] Thanks for sharing your experiences and the links. Very convincing stuff. And yes, the travel is such a breeze. Tarana has taken at least a dozen flights (or more) till date and they have all been pretty easy. I have followed a similar method of introducing solids – T has never had mashed foods.

    [Dipali] Absolutely! They can all go take a hike.

    [Lawyeramma] Why do you say you are doing it wrong? Sounds pretty good to me and if she is frequently sick, it’s good that you have not weaned her yet. How do you manage night feeds and work though, not to mention an older kid? I would have been a zombie…

    [Anon2] I doubt science will ever give us all the answers. There are actually a lot of people who believe that the benefits of breastfeeding have been exaggerated. I guess in the end you just have to pick a side and stick with it, in what you believe are the best interests of your family.

    [Uma] I was actually reluctant to tell my doctor that I was still breastfeeding because I was worried he might have been in the early weaning camp. Thankfully he isn’t.

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  48. Hey Rohini,
    Like many other mom's here i too totally agree with your point of view on breast feeding. Its very personal and something that the baby and mom can take care of and i dnt think a third person's interference is really needed here. My daughter will turn a year old in a week's time and even ive been bombarded with loads of suggestioins frm friends and relatives on how tough its gonna be weaning in the later stage :)

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  49. Booboo? AWWW

    Your pro-feeding reasons were the ones given to me by my M'pishi and her doctor husband and I will also agree with the immunity thing. I cut out his night feeds first on M'pishi's recco and the rest followed a very comfortable, natural pattern. I'm glad the boy weaned himself at 14 months. If I'd had to do it by force I know I would always have wondered about the rightness of it.

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  50. @Hillgrandmom -- LOL@Nice milk. That's so cute. :)

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  51. Anonymous6:29 pm

    Hi Rohini,
    I have been reading your blog regularly since it was recommended to me in 2008 by my Indian friend Alice. I'm from the Netherlands and I enjoy reading your posts on issues that can be so similar or so different from what we are used to here. The breastfeading issue is a big one here too with all these opinionated mothers who mistake their own experiences and preferences for absolute truths... I like the way you find your own path and elaborate on it for others to read. One reply above read that breastfeading is "the most valuable gift u can give her" but to me that's absolute nonsense. The best gift you give your child is your love, your understanding, your wisdom and simply your presence as her mom.
    Best wishes and good luck!
    Manja

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  52. Hi! I am here for the 2nd time, & I so very agree with u. I fed my son for 3 yrs & presently I am still feeding my 2.5 yr old daughter, though there were people who were really after me when my son just completed 1 to stop breast feeding, and as u said with innumerous illogical reasons but I still continued with it & believe have no regrets 4 it rather I am pretty proud of it, and also I never faced any problems while letting this habit go.So as per me just continue the gud work

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  53. It is indeed a personal thing. I nursed my first born till he was 18 months old and stopped because i had a medical condition and was put on a strong steroid dose. Otherwise would have been happy to continue until he was two yrs old.

    Then, i nursed my second one till he was 45 days old because i had some problem with my nipples.

    Both situations, i had quite my job and was at home. I had comments from all and sundry for my first born because i would do what you are doing with Tarana and for the second one, again i had comments for letting go so early. (Was guilty for about 2 weeks) but then i realised that it was indeed a blessing in disguise.

    It was easy to align playtime, sleeptime and outings with my older one since i didnt have to be around for nursing my second one. The bond has been very strong and i really find no difference in their immunity bit despite the variation in the duration.

    Again, happy mom, happy kids!

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  54. you'll always do what's best for baby, no doubt there.

    but remember to get extra calcium.
    for you.

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  55. That got my attention.

    Simply, you should do what is right for you.

    Here in Australia women breastfeed wherever is comfortable. Equally, just breastfeeding rather than opting for formula is actually starting to gain momentum. The natural way is always best.

    I found that our girls told me by suddenly stopping and weaning themselves. I hope this happens for you!

    Feel free to drop past my kid friendly blog when you have a chance.
    I am newly following you!

    Oh, also, do you have bloghops here in India?

    http://beourbest.blogspot.com/

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  56. Hi, my first reading of your blog and my first comment. I understand how you felt.

    i Just wanted to share with you that I breastfed my daughter till she was over three years old. I used to work full time, used to carry a breast pump to work so that the flow remained. I felt healthy and happy, my daughter loved it and we both enjoyed the experienced.

    I felt proud that I did that. today she is 26 years old, and no, none of those old wives tale affected her.

    Take care.

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  57. Anonymous10:36 pm

    Im my opinion ...as long as they eat solids and are not taking breast feed as the soothing source...it's fine.
    It's so natural..the body or the baby decides when to stop....
    Go ahead and do what you think as a mother is right!

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  58. This is my first venture into your blog. You spoke your mind...not many do...I am EBFing my new born who is into his 5th month, whom I feel is ready to go on solids...well.. I am just going to let kutti r decide. Hey It's your life and you are living it...Go ahead and do what you feel momma! Nobody got the right to interfere in the way you live...I am already getting suggestions on weaning my little one who loves to go to sleep nursing...Well...when neither me, nor kutti r has a problem, how does it matter to anyone else...Let nature take the call...
    And as you said, travelling is a lot easier when you are BFing...
    I am with you girl...Let nobody take you down! cheers!!!

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  59. Great post. I think the verdict is clear - do as you wish, don't care about what the general duniya says, because they'll have a view on it in any case, so one can't live by the "rules"!!

    I can tell you this, that I really wanted to breastfeed, but for some totally unknown reason, I didn't lactate, and do what I might (medicines, ghee, et all!) it didn't happen and I yearned for it. I went through a lot of guilt for not being able to and thought about all the nutrition my kids would be missing on, but I could not do it. So, if you can, you must.

    When to stop is your call. But, as you said, you don't want her getting dependent on breast milk, so what you are doing, subtly, is probably the right thing to do..

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  60. I nursed my son till he was almost two and then when I started outside milk, he weaned off almost by himself.. had no trouble at all... and i traveled so much with him, it was actually easier, not having to carry anything.. as to feeding him in public, well, I realized that it was more comfortable wearing a saree, so for the whole period i wore one whenever i was going out, and it made the whole thing much easier!

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  61. smartassbride10:20 am

    first time here.

    i had a cousin whose 2.5 year old once came running to her and asker her for "amma's milk". This was not weird to any of us, only different. I don't even think we discussed it(about 6 of were in the same room I think). I really don't get the "it'll be embarrassing if she asks for "it" in public"! weird people.

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  62. Hey I miss your blogs! Please write!

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  63. I will surely bookmark this. Great blog

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  64. [Kavita] God save us from concerned friends and relatives :p

    [Sue] I never had to wean Ayaan by force either since he self-weaned before I got around to considering it. But yeah. So much easier to let them take the lead on this one.

    [Manja] Hey! Thanks for delurking. I totally agree with what you said. A happy mom who is comfortable with her choices is probably way more valuable to her kids that breastfeeding per se.

    [A&E] 3 years? Wow! Kudos to you.

    [Sai] That just proves that people will judge you no matter what you do. Might as well do what makes you happy! (Thanks for your second comment. It pushed me to get back to blogging).

    [MiM] Erm... I am horridly lazy about taking my supplements. I really should start them again.

    [Jill] Thanks for dropping by. Not sure what a bloghop is...

    [Sharbori] Wow! I have deep respect for women who keep at extended breastfeeding when it requires regular pumping. I hated pumping with a vengeance.

    [Anon/ Kannamma] Thanks for the supportive words

    [Crabbymommy] Why the guilt? It's not like you could but chose not to.

    [Anu] Easy travel is the biggest high point of extended breastfeeding for me! I am not very comfy in saris but I have a nifty nursing apron that serves me well.

    [Smartassbride] Weird is right.

    [Sushil] Thanks :)

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