Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Five things to say to people who don't get natural term breastfeeding

This really hit home a few days ago when I was out with 21 month old Toby and the rest of the family and he asked for milk, as he often does. I didn't think twice about it and fed him as usual. I noticed a woman staring at me then saying something to her husband, who stared at me too. And not in a kind, oh-isn't-that-lovely-a-mother-feeding-her-child way. More of a eugh, what are you DOING? way. Which wasn't nice.

So for all those mothers out there who are still breastfeeding their toddler and face rudeness, ignorance or hostility, here are a few choice responses.

1. How long are you going to feed him for - he's getting a bit big for that, isn't he?
I'll feed him for as long as we both want. We both enjoy it, and it's a lovely part of our relationship. The WHO recommend that you breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, and then for first two years and beyond. That's not just for mothers in the majority world - it's advice for all mothers, echoed by health organisations in the developed world, too.

2.Isn't this more about your needs now than his?
Yep, totally. He doesn't want to breastfeed at all, actually. I just make him. Seriously, what a weird thing to say. We'll do this for as long as we both want. He'll soon tell me when he's done with breastfeeding.

3.They should stop breastfeeding when they walk/talk/can ask for it.
That's pretty arbitrary, as my son walked at 8 months. Should I have stopped then? And they can ask for milk from birth by the way, through the feeding cues that they give their mother. I know of a baby who said their first word at six months...should her mother have stopped then? That's a rather confusing rule you're applying to something so important.

4.He doesn't need the nutrition any more, so what's the point?
It's good for him. He enjoys the comfort he gets from it. It also offers him (and me!) protection from disease and illness, both now and in later life. There's a lot more to breastfeeding than just filling your child's stomach.

5.But it'll make him needy...he needs to learn independence.
We are so obsessed as a culture with making babies independent from practically day one. They must learn to go to sleep alone, sleep in their own beds, and so on.What's the big rush? Children become independent in their own time.
Babies who are forced to become independent too soon, and who don't have their needs met, are far more likely to become needy toddlers and children than those who have a secure base from which to go out and explore the world. He's happy to run off at toddler group and play without a backward glance, so I'm not worried.

If anyone has any more, then please do share!

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