Or: Stuck in an Airport for 16 Hours With a Sick Child — How Extended Breastfeeding Saved the Day
Well, I created quite a stir when I participated in the discussion “Breastfeeding in Public” in McKMama’s BlogFrog community. I mentioned that I’m still breastfeeding an almost 4-year-old.
Oh, the shit storm that created!
No, not really, I just felt like saying shit storm. If you know me, you know how uncharacteristic that is. I wish I had it in me to swear more.
My being so open about being an extended breastfeeder actually started a very interesting dialogue between many women on that forum. Most were supportive, and some moms just thought breastfeeding a child that can ask for breast milk is disgusting. By now over 40 entries have been recorded.
I love this kind of dialogue between women because I think that as long everyone respects each other’s opinion, we hopefully all learn from each other. Ultimately, I hope that discussing extended breastfeeding will lead to more education in the U.S. about the many advantages of it.
Don’t believe me that there are many benefits to extended breastfeeding? Kellymom, one of the best resources for breastfeeding, offers this very educational article, citing countless studies: Breastfeeding Past Infancy: Fact Sheet.
Besides being the best for your child’s health and yours, it’s also the best for your wallet and the environment if you don’t have to buy formula or less of it because of your breastfeeding. Sounds like a win-win to me.
I wanted to keep the discussion going, so I asked McKMama’s community (almost 8,300 members) my own question: Breastfeeding: How long is too long? By now almost 100 entries have been posted, amazing! Interestingly enough, many moms wrote in that they are still breastfeeding children that are 3 or 4 years old, one mom even a child that is 6 years old. Wow. I don’t think I’ll be still breastfeeding Landon at that age.
And then there are the moms who vehemently oppose children nursing past one or two years, for one reason or another, and hopefully through this those moms will learn that the World Health Organization now recommends to nurse children for two years. So you are really only an extended breastfeeder if you nurse your child past two years. Unfortunately, this fact is not yet known enough in our society.
I left three comments on this discussion, two as a response to what another moms had written. One mentioned something about not having to worry about her child’s nutrition as much because she is still breastfeeding, and I wrote:
“Yes, I love that added benefit as well — I don’t have to freak out when L isn’t eating his green bean, because I know he is pretty well covered vitamin-wise with the amount of breast milk he still gets. So lovely to have one less worry. He is so seldom sick, but the couple times he did have a fever in his live all he wanted to do is nurse and after a few hours the fever would break by itself. Breast milk is just amazing.”
While writing that, I was reminded of the day I was stuck in a German airport with Landon — while he had a fever. I haven’t blogged about that day, and now seems like a good time to tell you how breastfeeding saved the day then:
I got stuck in the Hamburg airport with Landon when he was about 2 1/2 years old — for 16 freaking hours. Yeah, insert scream here. I had been visiting my parents and friends with him in the summer and we were on our way back to New York. My mom and Landon and I had stayed at an airport hotel the night before because the flight leaves at 9 a.m. and my parents live over an hour away from there. She had helped to check in my luggage, we had said out tearful good-byes, and L and I were just getting ready to board the airplane when we were all informed that someone from the cleaning crew had touched the button to release one of the emergency slides, which now had to be newly installed. They would have to fly in that part from England. Time to insert another scream.
To make a looong story short, we had to get our luggage back and then re-check it, which meant standing in line for two hours alone, and then the waiting began. The worst part of it all: Landon had a fever since the night before and I had been up worrying and wondering if I should even fly or postpone my flight. In the end I had called a hospital and the pediatrician on call felt he was okay to travel since I could get the temperature down with fever medication — and because I was still nursing him, L wouldn’t get dehydrated.
I think that was the sickest L has ever been, and I don’t know what it was. The fever was under control but only with medication, which I had never had to use the other two times he had had a fever. On those occasions, he’d nurse a ton, would fall asleep on me in the glider, and after an hour or two of rocking him, the fever would break by itself. I had decided to still fly because I knew he’d sleep most of the time and I could nourish him with breast milk, which meant he’d stay hydrated and wouldn’t have problems with his ears when descending.
The airline personnel kept telling us it would be just another hour — for 16 hours! — otherwise I would have gone to a hotel or had my mom pick us up. They offered us to fly to London, but then they couldn’t guarantee we’d get a connecting flight that day, so I decided to stick it out.
I would have absolutely LOST it if I wouldn’t have had breastfeeding to take care of L and comfort him and get him fed all those hours — and the 10 hours of flight and travel time that followed after that. Scream. Ever flown with a toddler on your lap on an international flight? Yeah, fun times. I couldn’t feel my butt or arms anymore after an hour of holding him and being afraid to move one inch and wake him up. Only nine more hours to go, piece of cake.
In the end it was kind of a blessing in disguise that L was so lethargic and only wanted to nurse or sleep, because that made taking care of him easier. If he would have been his energetic self, he would have wanted to explore and run all over the place the whole time — this way I was able to push him around in his stroller in the airport and either sat holding him or nursing him.
I didn’t get a minute of sleep for over two days but my body made the milk my little one so desperately needed to make it through that experience. He was over the fever by the time we got back to New York — and I could have used a vacation after that.
I’m so glad I was still breastfeeding L at that point. And I’m surprised but happy that he is still nursing on his fourth birthday. I don’t care what other people say or think — my motherly instinct is telling me to let L self-wean, it feels completely natural to me, and everything I have read about attachment parenting supports my decision. By now, L only nurses when we cuddle on the sofa and wants his milk to fall asleep. I don’t see any harm in that.
He won’t be this little for much longer, and he will nurse less and less until I will realize that we haven’t done it in a few days. I will miss nursing him very much, it has become such a part of my life and I love doing it, but that’s just part of being a mom — not holding your children back when they are ready to move on to the next thing in their development.
Last night L woke up and said, “Mommy, I don’t feels so good.” Uh-oh, he’s never said that before. A few minutes later he threw up. After that he wanted to nurse and fell asleep again, and this morning he was totally fine. Yay for extended breastfeeding.