Somewhere, on the path to breastfeeding my kids, I went from having the goal of "getting through" a full year of breastfeeding, to not really understanding why anyone would stop. With both kids, I breastfed for close to two years, and it didn't take me long to realize I had to brace myself for a certain amount of criticism. By my second baby, I was fully versed in the many reasons why extended breastfeeding doesn't make you a bad mom.
The truth is, 12 months came and went with each child, and neither showed any signs of wanting to stop. Breastfeeding was handy for soothing both kids at an age when they always looked to me, their mom, for comfort. I know both my kids would have continued for longer than I let eventually them, but travel (with the first) and an unexpected medical situation for me (with the second) demanded that I wean them.
Did I feel judged, if a breastfed outside the house with my toddler? Not overtly, but I live in a fairly liberal city so, in that respect, I'm lucky. I did worry about it, though, and was always ready with an argument, should anyone approach me. Honestly, isn't it sad that women who are just breastfeeding their children feel the need to be on the defensive? What right does any other person have to tell a mother how she should or shouldn't feed her children, or what she should or shouldn't do with her body, especially when it comes to something as basic as breastfeeding? If you see me feeding my 14-month-old a sugar-heavy energy drink, judge away (I guess, if you must), but otherwise? Trust that I know what I'm doing.
If you're still breastfeeding your child past what society deems is an "acceptable" age, here are six reasons why extended breastfeeding doesn't make you a bad mom, so you can just "boy bye" the haters.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Supports It
That's right, the AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding until six months of age, and beyond the first year, for as long as is mutually beneficial for both baby and mother. If American pediatricians say it's OK, it's not really anyone else's place to say it isn't.
The World Health Organization Recommends It
The WHO recommends continuing to breastfeed up to two years, and beyond. Why would they recommend it if it wasn't a good thing for babies and toddlers? Oh, right. They wouldn't.
It's Actually Normal In Most Other Parts Of The World
You're The Only Person In Charge Of Your Own Body
Surprise! No one else is the boss of me. If I choose to breastfeed my baby for longer than what society dictates is appropriate, then too bad for you. The last time I checked, there weren't any laws preventing me from doing so.
Breast Milk Is Nutritionally Relevant For Babies, Even After The First Six Months
That's right, solid foods don't nullify the importance of breast milk for children. According to studies, breast milk actually increases in nutritional value during the second year.
Kids Don't Remember Their Early Childhood Experiences
According to studies, often what kids are remembering from their early childhood are actually reconstructions, thanks to conversations they've had with their parents. It's generally believed that children's memories start somewhere around three and a half years old, and memories from before that age, while recalled initially, eventually disappear.
No One Knows What's Best For Your Baby Like You Do
Newsflash: moms are the ones who know what's best for their babies. Not family members who did things differently "back in the day," and certainly not people passing by on the street. You do you, mama.
Breastfeeding Longer Doesn't Psychologically Scar Children
Guess what? It's actually a predictor for fewer behavioral problems in adolescence, according to multiple studies. So, I wouldn't worry too much about messing kids up due to breastfeeding for an extra six months, or even one or two years, or as long as you feel is right for you and your child.