I am very fortunate to be someone who had very positive breastfeeding experiences. This is notable because not everyone does and because I breastfed for a collective 38 months. That's a pretty long time to be more or less judgement-free. In talking to other breastfeeding moms, though, I've come to realize that while mothers nursing children of any age can take a lot of crap for their choices, moms who nurse children past a year get particularly nasty comments. The awful things people say when you're extended breastfeeding can be cruel, hurtful, undermining, and just plain old annoying.
While I can't make stop all the judgmental people in the world from making condescending, hurtful, or inappropriate comments and hurling them in your direction (though I'm trying in my attempts to normalize breastfeeding!), take comfort in the knowledge that lots of other mamas know how you feel and, most importantly, that the negativity of others tells you a lot more about someone's attitudes about women's bodies and motherhood than it does about extended nursing. Should so many breastfeeding women be able to say they've been judged? No. But there's power and comfort in knowing you're, for better or worse, not alone.
Like I said, I (magically) received very few negative or even passive aggressive comments about nursing (at least, very few that were said to my face), but the few I did were almost entirely in the latter days of my nursing career, after my kids hit one year. For the most part, these people just seemed confused. "Are you supposed to nurse past a year?" they'd ask. "What's the point?" Every now and then, usually from a stranger or near-stranger on the internet, I'd get an obnoxious display of histrionics. But reaching into my own extended breastfeeding experience (and borrowing from some friends) I've encountered some real gems:
"It's Just For The Mother"
So many moms who choose to nurse beyond a year are accused of selfishness, which is ridiculous. Do some moms enjoy nursing? Certainly. Does that take away from the fact that their children also enjoy (and benefit from) doing it? Of course not. Not all female enjoyment needs to be repudiated! I know y'all love to see us playing the martyr and self-sacrificing but my goodness. Calm down.
Because, trust me people, if the child did not also want to be nursing they wouldn't be, and it would be basically impossible to make them.
Guys? If you think breastfeeding a child is sexual then I feel profoundly sorry for what passes as a sex life for you. Because no. Not only is there nothing inherently sexual about breasts, the physical sensation of breastfeeding and being intimate is so vastly different I wouldn't even know where to begin to try to explain it to you. As such, please just accept my assurances.
"Your Child Is Going To Be Obsessed With Breasts"
So, I'll level with you a little bit: both of my children found my breasts to be a source of comfort, even after they stopped nursing. That generally manifested as them occasionally sticking their hand down my shirt, usually in a pretty absent-minded fashion. They mostly grew out of it pretty quickly and after a while I would just say "please give me some personal space and don't touch my breasts" and they did and it's fine.
(And guys? I wasn't breastfed and I am and have always been pretty obsessed with breasts. So breastfeeding is hardly the sole root of this issue which, incidentally, isn't really an issue. So calm down.)
"It's Child Abuse"
This is so over-the-top and riduculous I hate even dignifying it with acknowledgement but, yes, I've heard this. Not only is breastfeeding past a year absolutely not child abuse, it's recommended by a number of governing bodies on pediatric health, including the World Health Organization (WHO), which recommends nursing children up to and beyond 2 years old.
Unless your breasts can shoot bullets I don't think nursing is dangerous.
(Seriously, nutritionally, psychologically, and practically, there's no danger in extended nursing.)
"Breast milk stops having any nutritional benefit beyond [insert the age a non-expert who is asserting their opinion as though were an expert considers appropriate]."
Ummm... no. Not only does breast milk change over time (and in particular situations) to suit a child's needs (it's seriously one of the human body's neatest magic tricks), it's not like it suddenly goes from being nutritious and natural to straight corn syrup or anything like that.
"You're only doing this for attention, you pervert!"
If I wanted attention there are so many other things I could be doing to get it. I could take a whole bunch of selfies and post them on Instagram with the caption #AttentionPlease. I could get a face tattoo. I could sing loudly in public and wait for everyone to tell me what a gorgeous voice I have. I don't need to nurse a toddler to get attention.
"It Will Emotional Stunt Your Child"
But actually, no, it really really doesn't.
"I'm Calling Child Protective Services"
LOL, OK, buddy. Have fun getting yelled at for wasting their time, you priggish hysteric.
Really? Because it's occurring in my body without any sort of unusual or man-made mitigating factor. It is, in fact, the epitome of "natural."
"If They Can Ask For It They're Too Old"
This just strikes me as the most repressive nonsense in the world. "If you want something you shouldn't have it." I've never quite understood this, because babies can ask to be nursed, just non-verbally. As they get older, before they're vocal, they can often sign their needs. For a while they might be able to ask with a single word. Also, different kids learn to speak at different times. Some kids have apraxia and never speak, but that doesn't mean they don't communicate. By this logic does someone with this condition get to nurse until they're middle-aged.
Come on, we all know this is silly when you really think about it, right?
Bringing Your Partner Into It At All
Not my partner's breasts, not my partner's call. And spare me with the "they have to share the boobs" nonsense. It is my benevolence and largesse that permits them access to the boobs in any case: they will take them as they are and be grateful.
"As Soon As They Have Teeth They're Too Old"
Well, that's pretty arbitrary. My nephew cut his first tooth at 3 months old. And, certainly, he could have had formula instead of breast milk, but if he's at a stage where he'd need a food source based on breast milk (it's literally all babies that age can eat), why not... I don't know... just give him breast milk if you want?