While most new moms in the United States will give breastfeeding a whirl, most won't engage in what is considered to be "extended breastfeeding." As such, most moms, fortunately, will not have to deal with the special brand of crap that moms who choose to nurse past one year get to hear regularly. I talked to some moms about the worst thing they heard while extended breastfeeding and, well, oh my.
An estimated 81 percent of new mothers will choose (and be able to) breastfeed. That number drops precipitously (to about 44 percent) at three months old and then steadily thereafter. Approximately 1/3 of babies are still breastfed at 12 months of age. In other words, moms who decide to try their hand at "extended breastfeeding," aren't considered the "norm," and open themselves up to some pretty ridiculous judgement and scrutiny. While the CDC recommends that mothers nurse their children exclusively for six months and continue to nurse until twelve months, most American moms do not reach that mark. For many, it is simply an issue of choice, and that's just fine. For many others, however, uncooperative employers, limited access to lactation consultants, and, of course, spectacularly terrible family leave policies impede their desire to breastfeed as long as they'd like. (I would be shocked to learn of that the fact that most women stop breastfeeding within three months, which is also when most women return to the work force, is a coincidence.)
Lack of exposure to nursing a child past infancy has served, in many instances, to make the practice taboo, even though the CDC (citing the American Academy of Pediatrics) says "at least 12 months" and the World Health Organization recommends "two years of age or beyond." Many of the women I talked to wished to be quoted only under a pseudonym, in many instances because these rude comments often came from people they know well, love, and/or (have to) continue to see. Coworkers seem to be the main culprits so, food for thought: don't be an asshat to your nursing coworkers. Still, coworker or not, everyone can learn a thing or two from women who know exactly what people should not say from their own experience.
"A coworker once said something along the lines of, 'I think if you breastfeed a baby past them being able to ask for it, it's basically abuse.'
For the longest time ... I would have the phrase 'the World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 2 years' in my back pocket when people (yes, lots of people) asked when I would stop."
"I have to say, I never got much flak about nursing my kid until he was 18 months, but I suspect that's because I stopped nursing him in public around 8 months (not out of modesty, simply because he was so distractible it was impossible to get him to latch when there was stuff going on around him.) I did, however, get many questions about nursing after his teeth came in and whether he ever bit me. People were really, really interested in the biting question. And by people I mean 'almost exclusively men.' (The answer: only once, when he fell asleep while latched and then jerked awake quickly and chomped down as a reflex. There was blood and shrieking — first me, and then him because I scared him.)"
"I wouldn't just want my kid sucking on my nipple if he doesn't really need it, that's a bit creepy."
"I got a few, 'He's still nursing?!' with accompanying side-eye, a couple, 'You're going to wean him soon, right? RIGHT?' and at least one, 'You know, you don't have to keep doing that after he can drink milk from a cup.' None of it felt super offensive, but what bothered me was the frequency with which friends and family felt the need to ask/comment about something they literally never saw after the kid was approximately 18 months, since by then we were only nursing mornings/evenings."
"How can a child that age and size even get anything out of breasts as little as yours?"
"A coworker who didn't know I was nursing my toddler once told me that anyone who nurses a baby past six months has sexually-rooted psychological issues."
"My mother-in-law never said anything directly to me, but she would talk to my son in front of me and say things like, 'You don't want that anymore! Yucky! That's for babies! You're a big boy.' She thinks that once a baby can walk they shouldn't nurse."
"A cousin that breastfed hers for a few months each said I might cause issues for my son, and a coworker told me that breastfeeding past a year was creepy. I must be a super creep cause I breastfed for 20 months."
"'As long as he's not nursing when he walks down the aisle you're ok!' (SO FUNNY I forgot to laugh)."