Happy World Breastfeeding Week!
To celebrate, I wanted to let you all know that I’m still breastfeeding my daughter. She’ll turn 3 next month!
There are many reasons we continued breastfeeding past infancy. I guess the main one is that I really like the attention, you know? It’s awesome to have a legitimate reason to expose myself in public. Like most breastfeeding mothers, I basically get half naked to feed and I don’t even care where I might be. The more people, the better. I just sit there, hoping they’re all looking at me!
Of course, my daughter doesn’t always want to breastfeed anymore. I usually bribe her with the promise of an ice cream or chocolate bar later. I’m assuming this bribe will work for some time yet and I figure the magical properties of the breast milk will counteract the junk food, right?
Part of my plan is to volunteer at school canteen when she is school aged. That way I can easily breastfeed at recess and lunch time while I work the tuck shop counter. I figure that way I not only get to attract attention from the staff and other mums at school, I also get to make sure the other kids see. That’s important, right? So much more convenient that trying to pop a breast through the school fence while waving a chocolate bar to entice her to come over and have a feed. I can keep this up right through school. Uni might be an issue, but I’m sure we’ll come up with a solution by then.
You’re probably wondering why I bother, since everyone knows that the very moment your child hits 12 months, all the good stuff in breast milk simply vanishes. The thing is, breastfeeding is a natural bodily function. Just like sex or urination. So why not do it as long as possible and wherever we like? If I can make others uncomfortable at the same time as getting all the attention I need then I’ll be achieving my goal.
Seriously, everyone should breastfeed for as many years as possible. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of handing over half your weekly wage for a quality nursing bra. Not to mention spending the rest on breastfeeding clothes. The win there is that most of the budget options from chain stores are designed to double as maternity wear and who doesn’t want to look pregnant 2-3+ years after having a baby?
Has this become ridiculous enough yet? It felt pretty ridiculous to write, but not half as ridiculous as it feels to know people make these assumptions of mothers that breastfeed their toddlers or older children. These attitudes are so common.
Mothers still breastfeeding are doing it for themselves, not their child. It’s disgusting. It will damage the child. They will never, ever wean. These mothers just do it for the attention. There’s no nutritional benefit.
Blah blah blah.
You might have heard it called “extended” breastfeeding. Most of us actually doing it just call it “breastfeeding”. Terminology-wise, though, the preferred titles are full-term or natural-term breastfeeding. This is because “extended” implies that it’s something that is being artificially prolonged, which isn’t the case. It basically means allowing your child to decide when they will stop breastfeeding. Sure, not everyone is going to want to do that, and that is okay. However, I think it’s always wise to base any decision on the correct information. Judging from what I see online every day- that information must be hard to come by. So let’s dismantle a few of the commonly held beliefs around breastfeeding an older child.
Mothers who are still breastfeeding past infancy are doing it for themselves.
Riiiight… This implies that the mother is somehow making the child breastfeed. I have no idea how you could force a child to latch and feed against their will. I can’t even get my daughter to pick up a piece of duplo if she doesn’t want to. However, there are some potential benefits for mum. For example, some studies show that the longer a woman breastfeeds, the more protection she has from certain breast cancers. That’s a bonus, but I’ve yet to encounter anyone who cites this as their sole reason for still breastfeeding. If this is someone’s reason, that’s their business. Their child, their body. I’m firmly in the “mind your own tits” camp.
Here’s the thing: Breasts are for breastfeeding. It is their primary function. Looking pretty is nothing but a side-benefit. Using breasts to breastfeed is about as disgusting as using feet to walk.
It will damage the child.
I’ve often read this one- the idea that breastfeeding beyond infancy will somehow cause psychological damage. No one I’ve ever asked has been able to back up that belief with anything more that “It’s my opinion!” and it may well be their cherished opinion. However, something being your personal opinion is neither evidence nor a valid argument, it’s just what you think about something.
They will never wean.
From all I have read on the subject, it’s thought that children lose the ability to latch at around 6-7 years old at the latest. They will wean. The age varies. Some countries have an average weaning age of just a few months. Others have an average of 2 years. There are many factors that influence these figures however one thing is certain- children stop breastfeeding at some point. Breastfeeding high school students just isn’t happening. Sorry to disappoint.
There’s no nutritional benefit to breastfeeding past (insert arbitrary age).
I guess it’s just like broccoli. 100g of broccoli contains about 148% of the daily requirement of vitamin C. You know, until you turn 36. Once you hit 36, the vitamin C just falls right out of the broccoli before you can get it to your mouth. You might as well just eat cardboard. Likewise, breast milk. Once your child hits the age of 6 months/12 months/24 months/whatever other age some person on the internet claims, the nutritious components of breast milk just vanish, right? Nope. The truth is, breast milk is a healthy food. It never stops being healthy. It’s pretty amazing stuff but it doesn’t actually know how old your child is so that it can withhold it’s nutrition accordingly. It certainly changes over time, but it never becomes void of nutrition. Have a look at this for an in-depth read of what breast milk actually contains. The World Health Organisation says that children should be breastfed “up to 2 years of age or beyond”. If breastfeeding became unhealthy at some point, surely they’d say so? So if you disagree with that, ask yourself what makes you think you are right and the leading health authority in the world is wrong.
Mothers are just doing it for the attention.
Got me, there. Personally, I love the attention. No sarcasm- I actually do. The attention from my little girl. Last night she curled up on my lap for a feed and popped off to say “Mummy, I’m so happy. I’m so happy.” Who wouldn’t love that?
As for the negative attention some women get for breastfeeding past infancy- it’s not a selling point! This is where it gets under my skin. I hate that negative opinions from people who basically don’t know what they’re talking about (or refuse to accept that they are wrong) have any impact on a woman’s choices. It’s her body, her child and her business. They can always choose to look away. I made a decision a long time ago to stop letting other people’s ignorance or negativity about my breastfeeding get to me: