I have two children, an almost 5 year old and an almost 17 month old, who both nurse. They both began nursing just moments after each was born and here we are, still nursing along. I often find myself in the position of explaining this decision (or fate, rather).
Why is an explanation needed and sometimes even demanded from those who choose to do (or simply end up doing) tandem- and full-term breastfeeding?
Now breastfeeding may be less frequent, quicker, less nutritionally vital, more physically active than it was in the newborn days when they had tiny gummy mouths and floppy bodies. Otherwise, it really isn’t much different. They’re the same people they were 17 months and 5 years ago. Still asking to nurse. And one day they won’t.
Continuing to nurse as age advances is no clue that nursing will go on forever, like an evergreen tree of connection to mother. One day, the child will feel differently about this connection and realize the shoe no longer fits. What is the rush or worry until then?
From the looks of many comments on August’s World Breastfeeding Month social media/news threads, it seems there are two kinds of people who weigh in whenever full-term and tandem nursing come up: those who truly fully support breastfeeding and those who don’t (though many kick off their commentary with “I support breastfeeding, but…”). Do the rest just keep quiet to maintain neutrality? I don’t know.
I don’t have the time or concern to respond to or even read every comment/message that aims to preserve the controversy, but I feel it’s necessary to address a few inspired by two videos I recently shared.
Mostly because there aren’t too many tandem nursing, full-term weaning videos and I hope to bust (see what I did there?) some of the myths for other mothers. Also because breastfeeding mothers hear/read these same comments all. the. time. I hope my explanations (not to be mistaken for defenses) will satisfy the wannabe mic-droppers and the apparently ever-curious.
(Links to videos at end of post)
“You’re a mammal and you breastfeed, big deal.”
You’re a mammal and you have opinions, big deal.
“It’s personal! Why show this?”
A lot of things are personal that people share online. Gym selfies. What they had for lunch. The stamps on their Passport. This is just another part of our day like anything else.
Your opinion is “personal” too, so why are you sharing it?
“This is sick.” / “People get more perverted by the day…”
I don’t understand how it’s acceptable to call a woman a pervert for breastfeeding, when those who say this are the ones sexualizing an innocent, loving act intended for mother/child bonding? Really, who is the perverted one?
“Why post this all over the internet?”
Some people are apparently under the impression that I wallpapered the internet with these videos. I didn’t direct message them to anyone or tag random people in them. I shared them in two spots — my Facebook page and Instagram, both of which are geared toward the breastfeeding community. I don’t control who shares from there.
And if I had made a point to plaster the internet in my breastfeeding videos? If you find yourself offended, accept it as a sign that perhaps the internet — with it’s wide-ranging coverage of everything from shades of positivity to darkness — may not be the place for you.
So why did I share them at all?
(1) Because I wanted to keep a copy where they’re unlikely to get lost. (2) In big part, to help normalize tandem and full-term nursing — something a lot of mothers feel they must do in secret, thanks to mean comments like these. (3) Because I’m not a perfect parent, but I’ve done at least this part (meeting breastfeeding goals) pretty well. I’m proud of my accomplishments here. I want other mothers to know they don’t need to feel guilty about showing their pride for motherhood accomplishments either, whether breastfeeding-related or otherwise.
“We don’t need to see this.”
I feel like a broken record but… people do need to see this!
Breastfeeding is learned by example. It’s not an instinctive reflex. More women would have fewer problems initiating and continuing breastfeeding if they were exposed to more of it throughout their lives. Non-mothers also benefit by seeing what women are up against, which increases understanding of how to best support them.
“Ew… she looks like she’s in bloody pain.”
I wasn’t in bloody pain. If i had been, I would’ve stopped nursing for the time being. Breastfeeding is a symbiotic relationship where the feelings of everyone involved matter equally.
Now, in one of the videos I did begin to feel touched-out and sensed I’d soon be overwhelmed so I wrapped up the nursing session right after stopping the video. Feeling touched-out isn’t a reason to stop breastfeeding entirely (unless the mother says so); it can simply be a reason to stop that particular breastfeeding session.
If we say we thoroughly enjoy every second of tandem nursing, we’re accused of enjoying it too much. If we admit it can be overwhelming, we’re accused of martyrdom and medal-seeking through the pain, and then encouraged to quit. It’s like we can’t win.
“Come on, that bigger one is old enough for a bottle.”
He’s almost 5 years old. I wouldn’t say he’s “old enough” for a bottle, rather he is too old for a bottle. (The best parents are always those without children, of course).
Why do we have it in our heads that bottles are ever even necessary? My younger child has moved straight from breast to regular cup, no bottles. Of course many families have a lifestyle that necessitates or prefers inclusion of bottles, but this is not a standard rule.
Why do we maintain that there must be an arbitrary age limit of certain months/years for nursing? Shouldn’t the limit be reached when breastfeeding/proper latch is no longer physically possible (around the time milk teeth fall out)? Or when it’s no longer desired along a natural timeline by the mother and child?
“Too old – just my opinion.”
It’s perfectly fine to feel this way. If you wouldn’t nurse a child after a certain age, that’s fine. Hell, I said the same thing a few years back with near solid surety.
That said, if you have to write “just my opinion” after your opinion to dress over the barbs, please consider whether it’s a helpful thing to say at all. If the video isn’t relevant to you or your choices, feel free to scroll on by.
This is 2017 and breastfeeding is no longer an actual debate.
“She just needs to teach the older one to break that habit.”
Punish a child for wanting to nurse? That’s real positive and productive parenting…
Breastfeeding isn’t a habit. It’s not like a habit of chewing your nails or losing your socks.
Breastfeeding is for a child: his bigger-picture inclination for healing; the last surviving connection to his origins which are really not so far back in time. For a mother, an everyday mode of nurturing.
Children don’t have a ‘connection habit’ and mothers don’t have a ‘nurturing habit.’ It’s just what is. Breastfeeding just is.
“I’m all for breastfeeding but why shove it in our faces.”
I’m sorry but, why does seeing breastfeeding disturb you so greatly? Really… it’s that horrific? I hope you survived the rest of World Breastfeeding Month when these videos were posted because we were celebrating the heck out of it.
If you believe breastfeeding is all good and dandy, you won’t mind seeing it everywhere because that’s where families and babies are: everywhere. You can’t have the “All For Breastfeeding” cake and eat it too.
“This is more of a fad now! Lookie, Lookie got two kids attached to my boobies, see my boobs? Like my boobs?”
I’m sure that’s what the Virgin Mary said when she breastfed Jesus, too.
“I think it’s about time she weans the eldest.”
You must be my doctor, or maybe you’re my other child. Or maybe you’re me! That must be it. Because those are the only people whose “I think…” statements actually matter.
“That doesn’t look relaxing at all.”
I can understand this — a keen observation! Sometimes breastfeeding is pretty annoying whether I’m tandem or solo nursing.
In this particular instance it was just fine. They were quiet, I was sitting in the chair resting, the kids were mostly interacting with each other, not getting into stuff and making messes, and I was able to zone out for a minute.
As a mother of two little ones, this about as relaxing as it ever gets. What were you expecting, me in a flowy white dress in a field of lavender nursing a baby as still as a doll while saying “Ommmm”?
“Where’s the one-on-one time for the baby?” / “So I guess baby misses out on colostrum.” / “I feel sorry for the baby.”
One nursing session is an isolated occasion; breastfeeding isn’t a string of cookie-cutter experiences. In the videos we’re tandem nursing. They don’t nurse together every time we nurse. That would be ridiculous and impractical. This assumption highlights the dearth of breastfeeding knowledge in our society.
Outside what was captured in these videos, I actually limit tandem nursing and personally prefer to nurse my children separately (with the younger child doing so much more frequently, of course). This way I can mostly enjoy when it does happen.
My breast milk is made for both of my children, not just for the younger one. You can’t be upset about encouraging a younger child to occasionally share their breast milk with his sibling if you would do the same with a full pizza pie set out for family dinner.
As for colostrum: my older child was on a breastfeeding hiatus in the early postpartum days. All colostrum went to the newborn. However, it’s not necessary to keep an older nursling off the breast to preserve colostrum as it’s made for a certain amount of time during pregnancy and postpartum, not as a pre-set amount of milk.
“I’m so bored of seeing this on my Facebook. Wow! You’re breastfeeding! Hardly saving the universe!”
No, I guess not. I didn’t ask for a trophy anyway. Certainly didn’t intend to serve as entertainment. Boo-hoo, boredom blues. Boo-hoo.
“No common decency” / “Have some class!” / “Why display it – no morals anymore!” / “Mom is nasty.”
Maybe next time I’ll include a Content/Trigger Warning!
CW/TW: Indecent, Sinful, Immoral, No Class To Be Had Here.
Followed by a video of children being nurtured by their mother.
“I agree it is natural to breast feed babies, but do you really think you have to expose your breasts on face book, is this really about breast feeding?”
Yes. This is really about breastfeeding.
Grab a Breastfeeding Badge of your own here.