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Nurturing breastfeeding mother to freak in two seconds?

Come on, we’ve all read the guidance, the party line that exclusive breastfeeding for six months is the right thing to do

The WHO goes further and says that children should be breastfed until age two or when they self wean (note: babies don’t self wean before age one, they can go on a nursing strike but that’s different)

The message is clear – breast is best!

Ok we could argue breast is normal but hey you mums who breastfeed go and congratulate yourselves.

You’re doing a fab job. You’re reducing the risks of childhood obessity, saving the NHS £££ per year by reducing the incidence of sickness in babies and making your child cleverer (always good to pop that one to keep the middle class mums motivated) and even helping your child be better socially.

Well done breastfeeding mummies!

Except there seems to be a tipping point at which people stop congratulating you and start asking why you haven’t stopped.

And then they start implying you are getting some sort of twisted sexual pleasure from breastfeeding, implying that there is something unnatural about breastfeeding, implying that breastfeeding now makes you a bad mother.  They start making comments about ‘bitty’ (or maybe that’s just my colleagues…).

Hey?

How?

When did that happen?

I thought the message was that breastfeeding was good and now people are making out is bad?

What happened to every drop from the first drop having benefits?

What happened to the support?

What happened to those pats on the back for doing this?

And I’m not talking her about breastfeeding a university aged child. I’m talking about anytime after 6 months as far as I can tell.  Or at least breastfeeding at point where you have a child that moves, that can communicate that s/he wants milk through speaking or signing.

But what if neither you nor your child are ready to wean?  I mean have you tried to persuade a toddler to do something they don’t want to? Have you hear about the dummy wars when parents try and wean their child off a comforter?  Well what if that was an actual boob involved?  If the child still wants to there is not a lot you’re going to be able to do that won’t end up in tears.  Either yours or the child’s.

Where and why have the messages got so twisted? Why is there so little support for mothers continuing to breasfeed? Why do people feel that breastfeeding past the teeny tiny baby stage is in some way warped?

When do the goal posts move and why?

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27 comments to Nurturing breastfeeding mother to freak in two seconds?

  • Oh I hear bitty one more time!

    Or the phrase, well when she bites you…

    Great post, unfortunalty we live in a world where ridicule and bullying is easier than support!

    And why do people care so much?

    • Muddling Along

      Bitty made me nearly want to punch a new colleague – I mean when is it appropriate?

      And you mean you haven’t read my biting post?

  • emma dudley

    Great post. That’s excately how I feel. My little boy is only 4 and a half months (still being exculsively bf) and I’m already being asked ‘when am I going to stop’. My sis still bf her little boy who is 2 in april and I know that its frowned upon. I intend to bf for 2 years, but honestly I’ll prob lie and tell most people I’ve stopped, just to avoid the ‘bitty – urg – teeth comments. Which is a bit sad. Really enjoy your blog, I only have 1 little boy and I tend to read when I’m feeding in the night on my bb! 🙂 x

  • My son is 2 1/2 and still breastfeeds. He’s only just recently gone from 1-2 times a day to once every couple of days, when he’s tired or not feeling well or just wanting a cuddle and some lovely milk. I know that he’s slowly moving away from it and that it won’t be long before he stops asking for it entirely. I’m treasuring these last weeks/months, knowing that part of our bond will be over soon and it makes me quite sad. On the other hand, knowing that I let him wean off the breast as and when he was/is ready fills me with joy and confidence that our breastfeeding journey has been guided by him and his needs, not society’s bizarre expectations and taboos.

    I stopped feeding him in public when he turned 2, mainly because he was only feeding first thing in the morning and last thing at night, but if anyone ever dared utter the words ‘bitty’ or ‘ugh’ to me, they’d have had my boot up their arse faster than I could get the flap of my nursing bra down to spray them with milk. Actually, that would be a waste of precious resources… 😉

    • Muddling Along

      Precious waste of resource vs something I’d have loved to have done…

      We did get one of those boob hats for Littler and I have used it whilst out with other extended nursers… got some ‘interesting’ looks!

  • Bitty??!! WTF?
    I think we (society) got very used to seeing babies and small children with bottles. There is a lot of re-programming to be done. Keep up the good work. I think every woman should stop when it feels right for her, not when anybody tells her so. I stopped at 8 1/2 months, but only because I really had enough of the biting. And don’t anyone dare to judge me!

    PS: Loved NS’s comment 🙂

    • Muddling Along

      An awful lot of reprogramming… sad isn’t it

      And don’t get me started on the media’s portrayal of this (or of normal birth)

  • Flaf

    I *just* had a comment from a friend this afternoon as I fed a tired, cold and grumpy F (21 mths) in Costa. ‘can’t you afford any food for him?!’ ‘hey, this is organic, free range and home made bespoke stuff’. And yet his sons are 3 mths older and still have bedtime bottles. And *cough* fruit shoots.

  • when did it happen indeed. My older daughter now comments when she sees a “non-baby” being breastfed – toddlers don’t drink breast milk apparently. Short memory she has… I’m not sure where and when she got that idea but I’m determined to make sure she sees that under normal circumstances, a toddler is breast fed.

    • Muddling Along

      Ouch- incredible how short their memory is, Bigger still looks doubtful when I say she drank from my boobs

      Am equally determined she will think breast = normal

  • Well, we are still going at 23 months and no sign of stopping soon. I used to be worried about it, and have decided that if she is happy and I’m happy who cares what the rest of the world think? However, I don’t do it in public any more as it’s a little harder to be discreet when your toddler shouts booboo and then gives a great squeal of delight when she spots a nipple! I also don’t want it to be food substitute – if she is hungry she should eat real food, but if she wants comfort or a nice warm milky snack at night then I’m there for her 🙂

    Related in a way is the fact that we still co-sleep. I used to joke to my mummy friends about trying to get her into her own bed, but now I’ve stopped as I got disapproving comments from friends and friends of friends. Now I don’t mention it because actually, I do like it!

  • I have no idea what “bitty” means, but I’m guessing its not good?!

    Here in San Francisco it isn’t that unusual to see breast feeding toddlers. I stopped nursing my daughter at 13 months when I got pregnant with my son (kudos to those who nurse through a pregnancy, but I was not capable!)

    My son I was hoping I would nurse longer but he quit at a year (maybe it was a nursing strike, but I think it was also the fact that my supply was pretty low, I’d been back at work for 9 months by then, and though I was pumping, I think nursing started to get frustrating for him).

    It is sad that it isn’t culturally acceptable to nurse a toddler. It is hard to get them to quit though, one of my Japanese friend resorted to a tradition from her culture in order to wean her three year old; wasabi on on her nipples!

  • It is weird. I remember a friend saying, when I was still feeding Rosemary at around 18 months, “I just can’t bare the thought of my child turning to me and asking for breast milk. It’s just too horrible to think about.” Huh? Actually, it’s much easier when they can tell you that that’s what they need, or they need their nappy changed or they need to go to sleep… I can’t see why it would be horrible? Eleanor calls it ‘dot dot’. Have no idea why, but we love it. Rosemary comes home from school and says ‘Do you want dot dot, Eleanor? Are you having dot dot?’ And she also says ‘I wish I still had dot dot’

    I came close to stopping recently, but have settled into a much more managable pattern, which I’m very happy with and hopefully I’ll keep going until she’s ready to stop. Rosemary was around 2 years 3 months – just about when she started nursery school and dropped her nap. `I’d be happy to keep going that long and probably longer. By that point they’re usually down to just 1 or 2 feeds a day, anyway.

    I find that it seems to be more accepted now than it was 3 years ago with Rosemary, though. Although I do live in a fairly enlightened town, so I’m sure that’s not the case everywhere.

    (I have no idea what ‘bitty’ means – am I being extraordinarily naive?)

  • Rachel

    You’re so right about the ‘tipping point’ at 6 months. There are a few mums at playgroup who have happily breastfed exclusively for 6 months, then you see their baby at 6 months plus 1 week being force fed a bottle, as though mum has ‘done her bit now’, over to SMA.

    I get VERY strange looks as I’m totally happy to breastfeed my 13 month old in public. In fact since moving towns 9 months ago I’ve only seen 1 other mum (other than myself) actually breastfeed in public outside i.e. not in a baby group setting, and she was drinking a pint of lager at the same time. I don’t live in an enlightened place as you may have guessed.

    With my firstborn I was really worried about breastfeeding in public and hated the looks I got but now I truly couldn’t care less. I just think if there are other mums out there who wished they were brave enough to breastfeed in public and don’t do it because of other people’s un-called-for opinions and disapproving looks, then I hope they see me doing it and think “great, society is changing for the better”.

    I guess actions speak louder than words so all we can do is keep on with it. Anyone who has experienced successful, happy breastfeeding of a toddler and the lovely bond it creates would never make a negative comment about it, so I suppose we just have to feel sorry that the world is full of people who know nothing about this lovely experience.

  • Aly

    Not many medals being passed around here either.Mia just turned 3 and feeds when she wakes up for 10 -20 minutes some days more.Though I don’t do it to prove how excellent a mum I am and nor do I get any sexual pleasure from it(Dr.Hilary Jones.It’s just part of our routine and I don’t see why people think it’s weird.Breastfeeding was never easy to start with even with baby number 3 and everyone seems I should urgently for us to stop before she turns into a pumpkin or something.

    • Muddling Along

      As I said to my Mum, they won’t be nursing when they go to university and this is what works for us here and now – our life, our choice

  • Rizzo

    Hi,

    I’ve just blogged about this too!

    Do you think it’s because breastfeeding is just tolerated, instead of encouraged until 12 (sometimes even just 6) months?

    It’s as if breastfeeding mums have to be encouraged to ‘draw the line somewhere.’

    You can’t force a child to nurse, and if you and your child are happy and thriving, why not continue?

    Cow’s milk = to help baby cows grow
    Human milk = to help baby children grow!

    R

    • Exactly – have you tried to get a toddler to do something that they don’t want to?

      I think its because we, as a society, have decided that we need to separate parents and children and the breastfeeding relationship is just too close for people to understand in that context – I think it scares people how close and interdependent that relationship can be (and for me, that closeness was essential given I was back at work and away fro mthem for so much)

  • I have just discovered your blog and this post totally resonates with me. I have only begun blogging but I always seem to have trouble when I breastfeed my daughter in public. I recently recounted one such experience on my blog…my 15month old was ill, I took her to the doctor and whilst in the waiting room I nursed her. A woman (why is it ALWAYS women??) sitting underneath a ‘you are welcome to breastfeed here’ sign (oh the irony) started giving me horrified looks. What is the problem??

    My favourite is when people look at me condescendingly and say ‘you only do that cos you enjoy it’. Duh, really?! Well done Sherlock! Of COURSE I enjoy it and so does my daughter! The way society has sexualised breasts has gone too far when breastfeeding your toddler is seen as something dirty.

    Grrrr…. I could go on about this for days!!

    • Enjoy? We do it because its the best thing for our babies and the a REALLY easy parenting tool and you know what, the longer you do it, the better it is for you all

      Sexualised boobs are ridiculous – boobs are for babies and milk plus all the other stuff, they aren’t just single purpose mammaries!

  • Claire

    I am loving reading this, so many things you all say are so great and it’s fab to hear about so many Mums out there who are feeding their children past the perscription 6 months, so many mums think that is what it is! you must stop at 6 months! Well I wish they would mention the World Health Organisation’s recommendation that all children are fed till 2 1/2 then more mums might feed longer. I have heard so many of the ridiculous comments that you all are reporting, like it’s disgusting to breast feed after 6 months however I have also had nice comments when I have fed my toddlers in public where some mums have approached me to congratulate me! I have to admit that now I am feeding a child (2 1/2) I am not brave enough to do it in public however as it happens she now only wants a night time feed to help her off to sleep. She asks with a sign so if she did happen to ask when we were out I can talk to her about it and when we can do it. I am not really bothered what other people think (this is my third child and I fed them all into toddler hood) but I don’t want her to be aware of the negativity that can be directed my way and yes she is smart enough to notice it and get it when people say things to me. I want all my kids to grow up knowing that breast feeding is normal and healthy and I really hope my daughters manage to breast feed their own children. I don’t want them to be aware of the crazy attitudes because I live in hope that by the time they are mothers things will have changed for the better!! Keep supporting each other ladies – we are all doing the best we can!! xx

    • Exactly – it’s about making breastfeeding normal and everyday and not something that is remarked on because it is just so normal!

      Good on you for nursing for so long – it’s strange, I never thought I’d have issues once we got past the tricky early days but actually nursing once they were toddlers was when I got the worst comments

  • Noush

    Thanks ladies, what a great thread!! My son is 15 months and is Breastfeeding more than ever bless him, I’ve lost count of the number of people who have asked me when I’m going to stop and that I should be giving him cows milk!!! Why? He is not a calf!! I have maybe naively been surprised by the lack of support past 12 months but I’m determined to keep going for as long as he wants to.

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