Everyone’s got an opinion on breastfeeding, huh?May 14, 2012
Feelings of inadequacy run rampant among mothers. I can’t blame Time for creating a compelling headline around this universal truth:
“Are You Mom Enough?”
The most interesting part of this media bruhaha has been the comments I’ve read all over the web. Some are funny, some are ignorant, some are defensive. For my part, I’d like to use this opportunity to shed light on the realities of breastfeeding a toddler. As a first-time mom, I’d like to think I’m still “green” enough to talk about this topic through fresh eyes.
Here are some comments I’ve copied from various places. They at least shine a light on where people might be misinformed.
“What aspect of human evolution says that this is necessary? The teeth that allow a child to eat food? The fact that all the necessary antibodies provided by breastfeeding have already run their course by the time the child is 6 months old?”
It’s actually my understanding that antibodies in breastmilk increase significantly after 1 year of age. This extra immune support coincides nicely with when the baby starts scrambling all over the place and getting filthy. Or is it just my son who eats dirt and sucks on whatever he pulls out of the recycling bin?
“If you’re old enough to ask for it then you’re too old.”
I was really surprised when my then-12-month-old son started gesturing insistently at the rocking chair where we nurse. He learned to “ask” without using words! Is 12 months too old to nurse? I don’t think so.
“I’m thinking, once the kid has molars, maybe it’s time for solid food? This kid can clearly wield a knife & fork”
I would have probably said the same thing a year ago! My son is 15 months old and has 12 teeth, including 4 molars. He’s been eating solids since he was 7 months old (with his hands, a spoon and toddler fork, but definitely no knife). There is a lengthy phase for almost all children where they nurse or take formula while also eating solids, it’s totally normal to do both.
“I’d guess that the mom is into pain because that kid’s old enough to have some serious teeth.”
Again, comments about teeth. Thanks for your concern, all. Some children tend to be biters, others are not. My son tends to bite only when he’s done nursing and just being silly. Or when he’s sick and a stuffy nose interferes with him staying latched. That’s the only time I put up with a little pain, poor kid. Otherwise, it’s up to me to teach him “No biting.” It’s really much less of a big deal than I thought it would be.
“Enough is enough, get the kid some soy milk.”
Oh goodness, we can go back and forth over breastfeeding all you want but mothers – listen to me. Soy milk is NOT what you want to give your children (or yourself, frankly). My quick list on why not? Genetically modified soybeans, full of sugar, and phyto-estrogens in soy that may interfere with normal hormone activity.
“It’s totally child/sex abuse to breastfeed a 3yr old”
This one baffles me. From a man, no surprise there. I think for men it’s hard to understand how something breast-related can not be sexual. Nursing my son is nothing I can really explain, it’s like nothing I’ve ever done before. Intimate, yes. Nurturing, yes. Sexual? No. My baby was created in my belly, born with an instinct to nurse and be connected to me. We are one and the same. As you naturally breathe and stretch your limbs, I nurse my son. We will still be nursing at 3? It’s not my intention. Then again, motherhood rarely goes according to plan.
“That kid is going to be made fun of his whole life.”
Hmm. This might be true.
When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed, and I vaguely thought I would do so until my baby was a year old. Pretty standard, right? What I’ve learned along the way is that plenty of children are breastfed until they are much older. Most mothers simply keep it private. You would never know, but I bet some moms you’d never suspect are still breastfeeding! It’s usually at night, in the privacy of the home.
In fact, just about a week ago I got into a conversation with a woman at the park. We talked about bottles and sippy cups for our little ones and I somewhat hesitatingly confessed to her that I am still nursing my 15 month old. She replied, even more hesitatingly but mixed with the relief of honesty, that she too is still nursing with no end in sight. Her son is 2.
Nursing a toddler is different than nursing a wee babe. It’s much faster, only 5 or 10 minutes instead of those marathon sessions. Toddlers giggle and grab their toes, stopping to clap hands or play with the closest toy. They shove fingers in mom’s mouth, or up her nose, looking to get a laugh. And they do!
We are moms who pick crumbs off the floor. We forget to wash our hair, battle illogical tantrums, and at the end of the day enjoy a calm moment in our child’s embrace. We give our time, our energy, our patience and our love. We are no different than mothers who have weaned, or who never breastfed at all. We are all doing our best.
When will Danny wean? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe he’ll shake his head “no” one day like he did to his formerly-beloved binkie. Or maybe I’ll have to be the one to break the news gently. But I’m torn.
On one hand, nursing is a nourishing supplement to a picky toddler’s diet. It provides ongoing immune support and other health benefits. It’s a calm and loving way to quell a tantrum. On the other hand, I’d love a weekend away by myself! And he’s more independent each day.
As with anything, there are advantages and drawbacks. I want to be perfect for my son, I want to give him everything. Like the mother in the photo, I want to do my best every single day. That doesn’t deserve mockery. Every mother does her best.