10 Things Moms Who Choose Extended Breastfeeding Are Tired Of Hearing
As a mother, you're going to hear an endless barrage of opinions and "facts" and other people's opinions that, honestly, you'd be perfectly fine never hearing ever. How you choose to feed your kid definitely tops that list, and you'll inevitably hear all the things about breastfeeding and bottle feeding and how long you should breastfeed and why you should or shouldn't breastfeed. If you choose to extend breastfeeding into toddlerhood, the unsolicited vitriol becomes all the more unbearable. There are things moms who chose extended breastfeeding are tired of hearing, yet those things seem to be part of the parenting experience and it seems like they're (sadly) not going anywhere.
As a child of the 80s, when breastfeeding rates were lower than they are today, I didn't have a ton of exposure to the practice, but I had (arguably) more than most. While my brother and I weren't breastfed, our mom did ditch the formula for our younger siblings, who were both born in the 90s,when breastfeeding was on the rise. As such, I had a pretty favorable attitude towards nursing (or at least a familiarity) and knew that it was something I wanted to try when I had kids, once that day (at the time, hopefully) arrived. Breastfeeding was just something I knew, and the things we know are usually the things we try to recreate, or avoid, when we grow up.
My mom nursed my siblings for under a year, which is the current American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation. So I told myself, "Okay, I'll nurse my kids for 9 months, too. Everything else is weird and wrong because reasons, I guess." Those reasons, looking back, really just boiled down to: I wasn't familiar with anything else, so anything else struck me as "weird". After all, breastfeeding for 9 months worked for my mom, and since breastfeeding is a largely private activity, I didn't see anything to disabuse me of the idea that breastfeeding for an extended period of time was "weird," because it was weird to me. So, imagine my surprise when, after I'd done research and had a successful time nursing my first child and got into the swing of things, I realize that extended breastfeeding was the right choice for me and my children. I nursed my son for 17 months and my daughter for a wonderful 21.
Of course, as you can imagine, people had a lot of feels about it. I heard from many people on more than one occasion that it was time for me to stop breastfeeding or that breastfeeding my toddler was wrong or [insert something equally annoying, here]. If you're a mother who has gone this route, you have, I'm sure, heard lots of truly precious comments regarding this decision, too. Here are just a few that I, for one, would be so happy to never hear again:
"That's So Gross"
You can go ahead and think anything you want about breastfeeding. That's your prerogative. (Though, spoilers: Imma go ahead and think anything I want about your crappy attitude toward breastfeeding, too.) But saying it to someone's face? Dick move. I've never been one to insist someone "say it to my face." I prefer that those who are going to judge me silently judge me, because I don't feel like carrying their baggage on top of all the other stuff I have to deal with on a daily basis.
"Your Kid Is Too Old For That"
See, here's the funny thing: that's not something you get to decide for me. In fact, the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding "up to two years of age or beyond." So even the experts on the subject really don't have a solid end date in place. But this also highlights the difference between WHO ideals and the practice our culture seems to feel most comfortable with, as most babies are weaned by 6 months in the United States.
"How Can You Do That After They Have Teeth?! That's Like Nature's Way Of Telling You To Stop!"
You know some babies, including my nephew, cut their first tooth at three months old, so the idea that a child can't breastfeed with teeth is absurd. For one, a child's tongue covers their lower teeth while they're nursing. So, right away, that's a whole set of teeth you don't feel. Second, they don't really want to bite. Oh, sure, you might get the odd nip here and there. You might even have a kid who bites while nursing (#sympathy), but for most babies, teeth are completely unobtrusive. (I was only ever bitten a handful of times in more than 3 collective years of nursing two children, and usually those bites happened by accident.)
"You're Going To Scar Them For Life"
How, exactly? Like, you think there's actually a chance my kid will remember breastfeeding (a natural, peaceful, comforting experience) as some sexual act that will inevitably turn them into a neurotic or socially subversive weirdo? Why? Because boobs were involved? Okay. You don't have weird ideas about women's bodies at all, huh?
"It's More About The Mother Than The Kid"
I love this one because it's so telling to hear someone disgustedly sneer about the idea of a woman doing something for herself. But, okay, let's say breastfeeding past an age someone else is comfortable with is something the mother in question enjoys and is doing for herself. Why is that a problem? Trust: if a kid doesn't want to breastfeed, they simply won't. So, if this is a mutually agreed upon activity, I fail to see an issue. Furthermore, it's almost never "more about the mother," since breastfeeding past infancy has proven health benefits.
"If They're Old Enough To Ask, They're Too Old To Nurse"
Behind this is the idea that once a child is aware of the world around them they shouldn't be exposed to breasts because (as noted above) such exposure will turn your child into a maladjusted, psychologically scarred serial killer or whatever. But you know that babies can use sign language as young as 6 months old, right? Or that some little ones are precocious in their verbal skills? Babies are aware, pretty early on, about the things they want, and learn ways to communicate how to get them. I mean, what do you think a crying baby is? That's a tiny human asking for something it wants and/or needs. So, the idea that awareness should be the cutoff for breastfeeding is deeply flawed.
"It's Not Fair To Your Partner"
If you cannot understand the innate levels of creepiness plaguing every fiber of the idea that I owe my partner full and exclusive access to my breasts, then I cannot begin to explain it. So, to you I say, good day. Good. Day.
Because breasts are exclusively sex objects, right? So, if my child sees breasts it must mean that this is somehow a sexual activity. You don't think that maybe, just maybe, that very concept (and not the act of feeding a child) is what's actually perverted?
"There's No Nutritional Value In Breast Milk Past A Certain Age"
Actually that's pretty demonstrably false. Breastfeeding has nutritional benefits beyond the age of one. And honestly, the crackers I give my kids every morning aren't all that nutritious, but I really don't hear nearly as much judgment from people on that front.
"You Need To Set Limits With Your Kids"
I do set limits with my kids. Just because I don't share your limit in this particular choice doesn't mean I'm some hippie-pushover with no sense of boundaries or discipline.
In the end, that's what this all really boils down to, mostly: an unwillingness or inability to see beyond one's own comfort zone. Oh sure, there's a healthy dose of woman/body shaming and ignorance thrown into the mix, but ultimately what we perceive to be big differences, make us uneasy. Often, a person can see one mother's parenting choice (especially non-traditional choices) as an affront to their own. As one of the extended breastfeeding mothers of the world, please know that we are just trying to do our thing over here. We're not judging and we're not going out of our way to offend you. We just want to nurse our kids in peace, and that can be pretty damn difficult with all the aforementioned snark floating around. So, kindly knock it off.