Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


How Long Should I Breastfeed? Part 2

Jenny Silliman, age 50

My Titus 2 mentors aren’t celebrities.  Most of them are moms in the trenches just like me, godly ladies who are farther down the mothering road than I am.  I’ve written before about my friend Jenny.  She’s a mom of 8 children, some of whom are nearly as old as I am.  When I got pregnant with Elizabeth she called me just to congratulate and encourage me.  What a surprise!  Until that point I had mainly thought of her as my mom’s friend, but that phone call changed my life and cemented our friendship.

Her advice particularly impacted my mothering style.  Before that I had some vague notions about mothering but I didn’t have a lot of concrete goals, especially for the infant stage.  Jenny talked to me about preparing for birth, nutrition, responding to and nurturing my baby, and breastfeeding.  Her advice to try to breastfeed for two years took me a little by surprise.  “Baby’s brain is growing so fast until age two,” she explained.  “And breast milk is the perfect brain food!”  Until then I hadn’t given much thought to how long I would nurse my babies.  A year?  Eighteen months?  I had no idea.  This made sense and gave me a goal to shoot for.

I have to admit that I was the odd girl out among my friends.  Most of them didn’t breastfeed at all, let alone for longer than a year.  And that was fine.  I certainly didn’t (and don’t) judge or criticize them for that, but I was definitely alone in the breastfeeding department.

All the same, I am so glad that I took my wise friend’s advice and aimed for that two-year mark!  I soon learned that many experts agree, breastfeeding past one year is fine for baby and may even confer great benefits.  I found it interesting that Jenny’s rule of thumb was being backed up by medical professionals.  (There are a plethora of studies that have discovered the many benefits of breastfeeding to both baby and mom.)

Personally, I can say that breastfeeding longer than average has benefited my children enormously, especially in the area of immunity.  Elizabeth caught her first virus just weeks after I weaned her.  Our one-time pediatrician (himself a father of eight) concurred that in his observation, it made all the difference in the strength of a small child’s immune system.

Breastfeeding until a certain age is certainly not an issue of right or wrong.  When you choose to wean is not something I’d criticize anyone for. I believe God leads each of us differently in our mothering, and the important thing is to be sensitive to Him, even in something as basic as how to feed our children.

I just share my Jenny story just to encourage you: If you have considered breastfeeding past age 1, it’s OK.  Go right ahead.  Not only will it not hurt anything (even the AAP explicitly states so) but it will probably be beneficial to your little one.  It’s fine to nurse for both nutrition and comfort.  In the Bible, Isaiah 66:10-13 makes reference to a mother nursing her child for comfort: “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her.  For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.”  For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees.  As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

It might cause a raised eyebrow or two, but remember that whether you are able to breastfeed for just a little while or whether you choose to go for longer than your friends, what’s important is that you are doing what you believe is best for your baby.  Nourish with confidence!

Leave a comment

Boosting Your Immune System

nurse bedside

I don’t normally post on Wednesdays, but there is sooooooo much sickness going around that I thought I’d pop in to offer a roundup of thoughts on avoiding sickness, and flu in particular.  Obviously this isn’t to be taken as medical advice; I’m just sharing a few things I’ve found helpful to me.  Do your own research and act accordingly.

In The Vaccine Book, Dr. Robert Sears gives this list of tips for boosting your child’s immune system:

1. Breastfeed

2. Minimize sugar and junk food

3. Minimize other chemical exposures (especially in foods)

4. Use omega-3 oil supplements

5. Give your child a probiotic supplement

6. Fruits and vegetables

7. Vitamin A

8. Vitamin C

Here are some other helpful posts and articles:

10 Tips for Building Your Immune System

Canada Looks at Vitamin D for Swine Flu Protection

More Evidence That Vitamin D Beats the Flu

Which is interesting, considering this CNN report that 70% of American children are vitamin D deficient.


How Long Should I Breastfeed? Part 1

mother baby

Note:  This isn’t a diatribe against people who can’t/don’t breastfeed or those  who don’t breastfeed for a full  year.  No judgment here! It’s directed toward moms who haven’t decided how long to breastfeed or who have committed to do so at least till the one-year mark and wonder what comes next.

Recently a first-time-mom friend asked me about how long to breastfeed.  Interesting, because I had just been thinking about writing something along those lines.

The main question some moms seem to have is that they plan to wean at one year, but their babies still seems very attached.  They wonder: Is it OK to breastfeed past the first birthday?

The short answer is yes.  Not only is it OK, it’s probably quite beneficial to baby.  Many babies just aren’t ready to wean at 12 months.  In its most recent breastfeeding guidelines, the American Association of Pediatrics says:

“Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother, especially in delaying return of fertility (thereby promoting optimal intervals between births).

There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.”

Here’s what the World Health Organization recommends:

“Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”

In The Vaccine Book, Dr. Robert Sears (of the well-respected Sears family of pediatricians) says:

“If you are breastfeeding, plan to do so for a minimum of one year.  Two years is better.  Not only will your baby catch fewer illnesses, but her immune system may be better equipped to handle vaccines.”

So if you’ve ever wondered, experts agree that breastfeeding longer than one year is just fine, even to be encouraged.  If you choose to wean at 12 months, good for you for making it to that point!  But if you choose to continue, go for it!

Look for part 2, the story of my mom mentor Jenny who gave me wonderful breastfeeding advice!


How I Accidentally Created Non-Picky Eaters


I’m often asked why my kids eat so well or how I keep them from being picky.  I’m fortunate—I never set out to not raise picky kids or to be a food Nazi, but apparently I have accidentally succeeded in raising children who aren’t too particular.  In retrospect, here are a few reasons I think that happened.  Again, it was by accident.  And I’m not claiming it’s foolproof.  I might end up with a picky kid tomorrow.  But for what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve done that has (apparently) worked.

I breastfed exclusively until 6 months. No bottles, no cereal, no fruit; just good mama milk.  I have read that babies’ palates develop through mother’s milk and even while in utero.  This is good news for me (except that my kids must be addicted to peanut M&M’s and Reese’s peanut butter cups.  Oops.).

No baby food. Once they were 6 months or older (a couple of mine have not really cared for solid food till 8 months or later), I mashed up whatever we ate for baby, especially fruits and veggies.  (I avoided high-allergy foods like strawberries, peanuts, and egg whites, of course.)  If they like it, fine.  If not, they were still getting plenty of breastmilk.  I also never gave my babies much juice or other flavored drinks.  If they got a sippy or bottle, it was for water.  They never knew the difference!  Since my kids are developmentally normal, I am really low-key about introducing solids.  They will eat when they are ready.  They are all very healthy and rarely sick.

Once they were older, I didn’t prepare separate “kid food.” When we had spaghetti, I didn’t get them pizza.  When we had grilled chicken, they didn’t get nuggets.  When we had fajitas, they didn’t get nachos.  They ate what we ate.  (If we ate junk, so did they—haha!)  I don’t force my kids to eat stuff they really hate, but I am not a short order cook and I’m not fixing a bunch of separate dishes just because they are kids.  The concept of “kid food” is a modern phenomenon.  If I do require them to eat a portion of something that is not their favorite, I will serve them a tiny amount, like a teaspoon full.  I’m not really into creating food battles.

I make most of their snacks such as cookies, muffins, etc…and I try to make them healthful or at least more healthful than the boxed alternative.  Sometimes I serve fruit or veggies with dip.  My kids love and adore processed junk food, but they also love real food made from scratch because that is what they eat most of the time.  They even sometimes love foods that I think are disgustingly healthful.

They’ve participated in growing some of the food they eat. Most years we have had some kind of garden, even if it’s small.  I have found that when kids “own” the process of food production, they are much more willing to try those foods.  My kids readily eat foods not typically considered kid-friendly such as squash, lettuce, kumquats and Japanese plums because they have watched them grow and then get to harvest them themselves!  There’s so much fun in that!

I get this question a lot, so there you are, for what it’s worth!

Leave a comment

Overcoming Mastitis

mother breastfeeding cassat

Ladies!  I am venturing into the the realm of the extremely practical today!  Sometimes we just need practical information, so here’s some that I hope will be a help to someone.

If you’ve breastfed for any length of time at all, more than likely you’ve had a run-in with the ugly beast that is mastitis. Basically, as I understand it, mastitis is a plugged milk duct (painful in its own right…the words hard, hot, and hurting pretty well sum it up) that’s gotten infected. And that can happen at the drop of a hat.

The first couple times I got mastitis I had no idea what I was doing and I ended up on antibiotics and in bed for a week. Now I can see it coming and (usually) head it off before it gets a good foothold. Since I’m not a doctor or medical professional, I’m just going to tell you mamas what I do and you can do your research and make up your mind whether or not you think it’s worth a try next time you are confronted with this scourge of breastfeeding mothers. Or if you are fortunate, you won’t ever have to deal with it, in which case you won’t need to read any farther.

1. Recognize early symptoms. Don’t just say, “Huh, why do I have this sore spot…?” and move on. Be proactive as soon as you think you might have a plugged duct. If you act quickly, you might stop it before it gets started. This has happened to me MANY times.

2. HEAT HEAT HEAT!!! Apply heat as often as you possibly can. My favorite method is to use a rice sock. Easy to make. Fill an old sock about ½ full of rice. Knot the top so the rice doesn’t pour out. Heat in the microwave for a minute or 2. (If you overheat it the rice will burn and smell kinda like burnt popcorn, in which case you may want to start over. Or not.) Apply to the sore place and keep it there as long as you can. Take care not to burn yourself. I sometimes wrap mine in a towel until it cools a bit.

3. WATER WATER WATER!!! Keep the fluids coming. Drink lots and lots. Water is best. Stay away from sugary drinks.

4. REST REST REST!!! Take a sick day or a couple. Nap. Watch TV. Go to bed early. If you can. Don’t overdo it. (Incidentally, getting overtired and run down is one thing that sometimes triggers mastitis.)

5. BABY! Letting baby feed will be painful, but one of the worst things you can do for yourself is to stop breastfeeding. Let your little one nurse as often as he will to keep you from becoming more engorged and infected. The milk is fine for baby. My friend Jenny, a mama of 8 encouraged me, “You can do it! This is when the wimps quit!” Hang in there! It will help!

6. Avoid sugar. Sugar feeds infection.

7. Garlic. I just take a garlic supplement. For a real kick, take fresh garlic. Garlic fights infection.

If you don’t knock it right away, pretty soon you might feel like you have flu, complete with fever, head and body aches, chills, the works. That is why it is so important to act as soon as you think you know what is going on. Even when it’s gotten to that point, aggressive action has enabled me to start feeling a lot better in 24 to 48 hours. It seems to be important to keep treating until you feel *lots* better. Don’t stop too soon. Of course, use common sense and see a doctor if you are really sick. I’m providing info on what has worked for me personally for informational purposes only.

Remember that breastfeeding is so wonderful for your baby! It is worth working through this to get to the other side!

Do the rest of you have any words of wisdom to share about what has helped you?