Breastfeeding is one of the greatest gifts I have given to my two children and myself. It is a gift that has benefits far beyond providing nourishment to an infant/toddler. It is a gift that bonded us early, kept us bonded during growing spurts, provided safety and calm during difficult transitions, plus numerous other benefits that I will forever be grateful for.
Nursing didn't come easy for me with my first child. I had to work at it, but once the two of us figured it out together, it wasn't something we were about to give up quickly. Luckily for me, I was introduced to La Leche League during my first few weeks of nursing. The lessons I learned from this group of nursing moms forever changed my outlook on parenting and health. I felt empowered to follow my heart when it came to my children in all aspects of their lives. As the person who knows them best, I learned I had earned that right to make decisions that felt right to me, rather than what society or even "professionals" felt was right for them. The closeness we experienced together through nursing gave me a unique look into their lives. The empowerment I learned through nursing my children continued into the decisions I would later have to make about my own health with rheumatoid arthritis.
As we celebrate World Breastfeeding Month, I reflect on the timing of my rheumatoid arthritis. It came at a time when my oldest child had nursed until he felt he was naturally ready to move on in life, something I whole heartedly wanted for my chidlren. You see, during my early days of breastfeeding, I was also introduced to the works of anthropologist Katherine Dettwyler by my own anthropologist brother, who purchased her book of research for me as a gift that I treasured during my years of nursing. According to Dettwyler's work, the natural weaning age of a human child is quite higher than most Americans believe to be the age for weaning. Although I know it is unpopular in our society, I am a momma that agrees with Dettwyler and the World Health Organization's recommendation of "Exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond." I wanted my two children to wean naturally at an age that felt right for them as individuals.
My daughter came very close to weaning on her own. She was almost to a stopping point when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Since my diagnosis came the introduction of drugs, something I had kept far away from since the day I discovered I was pregnant with my first child, weaning was rushed along. When my rheumatologist discussed the combo of Plaquenil and Methotrexate he wanted me to take, this is the type of information I had in regards to nursing and Methotrexate as found at Drugs.com:
"Methotrexate (MTX) is excreted into human milk in low concentrations. Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions from MTX in breast-fed infants, it is contraindicated in nursing mothers. The American Academy of Pediatrics considers MTX to be contraindicated during breast-feeding because of several potential problems, including immune suppression, neutropenia, adverse effects on growth, and carcinogenesis." Since I already knew the side effects of taking Methotrexate myself and felt scared beyond belief, I wasn't about to expose my daughter to even a smidgen of the drug."