Why I Still Breastfeed My Medically Fragile Child
A funny thing has been happening recently, and it’s cute and sweet and sad at the same time. My baby boy, Von, is becoming simply a boy. He’s getting taller and lankier (if that’s possible), and he’s becoming a lot more independent. It’s hard at times for me to watch the change because he’s the only child I will ever call my own. I want to cherish all these moments and savor every single hug and snuggle. I know in a few years the hugs and cuddles will not be as frequent, and that I will no longer be the top priority in his world. Slowly he’s been moving more and more to daddy. He wants to spend most of his time with daddy, and playing with mommy is just really not on the to-do list for my little man.
The one thing we’re still doing that I can’t believe we are is nursing. He’s still not weaned, and he doesn’t want to be weaned. For the most part doctors have been supportive, and it’s only been the dietician to suggest we wean him off the breast. I can’t believe how attached I am to those moments I get with him. He’s fully weaned off my milk in the morning. He now just gets some here and there through the day. I don’t offer it to him; he always asks me for it. He will be 3 in October and I keep saying we need to be done then. I don’t know why I keep saying that, but I feel a lot of pressure from society to be done. What if I’m not really ready to be done? What if he’s not ready to be done?
Von has been incredibly healthy since November 2014. Yes, he has life-threatening illnesses we treat daily, but he hasn’t had a virus or stomach bug in nine months. That’s a long time for this child who couldn’t go more than a week without something prior to November 2014. I continue to breastfeed in part because every milliliter of milk he gets has antibodies that help his body fight infection. It helps his body — which cannot fight infection on its own — have a little extra boost to keep him thriving.
Another benefit I didn’t realize is that breastfeeding my toddler actually reduces his tantrums. When Von is having a fit about something, upset or even scared, I can hold him closely and everything he was afraid or mad about is no longer a consideration. He has a happy and easy disposition, and we rarely deal with any bad behavior. Breast milk has hormones in it that make him feel good and also calm me. It’s kind of a win/win situation for us.
I had no idea breastfeeding can also help my longterm health. Research suggests extended breastfeeding (breastfeeding past the first year) might reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer. It might also help my overall cardiac health. It’s really good for my mental health as well because every time I nurse him, my body releases oxytocin. Von’s endocrine doctor told me this is the “love” hormone. It makes me feel happy and super relaxed. It’s probably a reason Von has such a happy disposition, too.
Breast milk also contains fat in it that is essential for brain health and growth. This part is probably the number one reason I keep on nursing him. My son has an abnormal brain. His disease is so difficult to manage, and as a mother, I want to be able to provide him help. Giving him medication doesn’t feel natural to me. It doesn’t feel like mothering. He has to take these medications to survive, and I have no option but to give him them. However, I do have the ability to provide him milk containing fats and proteins that can help his brain grow and thrive.
Von will never be neurotypical, but I can rest my head at night knowing I’ve done my job as his mom by giving him the best chance at brain development I can.
Follow this journey on Von’s Super Hero Facebook page.