When Self Weaning Becomes Self-righteous

Peanut tandem nursing her pocket monsters.

The other night when I was lying with the girls in bed as they fell asleep, I decided to check Facebook on my phone. This is pretty normal for me. Another common activity is answering questions on Facebook. Other bloggers often re-post questions they’ve been asked on their wall. It’s like an online La Leche League meeting and it’s lovely.

So this is what I did that night. A breastfeeding blogger who I used to love reading, but has since quit blogging (and I was very sad to see her go!), still keeps her Facebook page active. She frequently re-posts questions and this night, had re-posted this:

From the wall: Best way to wean a 1-year old.. Please help?

I clicked on it thinking I might find some answers that I can apply to our weaning situation. Sadly, some of the responses were pretty judgmental and not helpful at all. Multiple mamas responded something along the lines to “I don’t know because I do child-led weaning.”  No advice, links, references, or anything else that could help her. Just a holier-than-thou attitude.

They don’t know this mother’s situation. Maybe she is agonizing over weaning. Maybe she’s about to start chemo or has another medical reason. Maybe she’s pregnant and can’t stand it anymore. Maybe she just doesn’t want to nurse anymore. That’s okay. Both sides need to be happy in the relationship. Why does this have to become another dividing issue? Why is a mother not good enough for nudging weaning along? Why must mothering be all about self-sacrifice and never taking your own feelings into consideration?

If that mother doesn’t want to wean, but feels pressure from her family and friends, address that. If she thinks she has to wean because of a medicine she needs when there’s a breastfeeding-friendly alternative, inform her. If she’s weaning because of the problems she’s having with nursing, help her. But don’t give her more guilt to deal with. Don’t force your opinions on her. Don’t try to show her how much of a better mother you are than her because you’ll nurse until the end of eternity.

All mothers should know that it’s an option to let their child wean on their own. It’s a wonderful option at that. In our society, where so many lies about breastfeeding are circulating around posing as truths, mothers may not know. It’s okay to inform her. If she decides not to though, respect her choice. Don’t guilt her into breastfeeding longer. Don’t try to show that you’re a better mom than her. Just let her make the decision that is the best for her family.

Leave the self-righteous attitude at the door and learn to help your fellow mom.

Friday Fill-ins

FFI

And…here we go!

1. Why does it have to snow today? It’s supposed to be spring!

2. Two year old Peanut is equal whiny Peanut, if this last week is any indication.

3. My favorite breakfast includes an omelet made by my husband.

4. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan was the last book I read and I’m loving this series.

5. I am SO glad that the science teaching club I’m starting at my university is actually happening.

6. Cuddling with Peanut and watching Beauty and the Beast would make me feel better right now.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to sitting around reading the next Shopaholic book, tomorrow my plans include Curie’s playgroup (yes, a playgroup for dogs) and a friend’s birthday party and Sunday, I want to sit around and do nothing, but I have to go to a study group for my botany test Monday!

I also want to share this link to Kelly Rutherford’s (Gossip Girl’s Lily, my goodness I love that show) interview with Best for Babes. It’s a couple of years old, but it’s a great interview. I love stars that not only promote full-term breastfeeding, but also tandem nursing! Here you go!

An Open Letter to Pediatricians

So a child walks into your office. Hopefully, in this circumstance, the child is old enough to walk. I’ve heard stories from mothers that their pediatrician told them to stop breastfeeding their infant, but that’s another topic for another time (Come on! It is so highly unlikely that an infant is allergic to breastmilk and if the infant truly is, it’s also most likely allergic to formula also. Sheesh!)

So this child walks in and you’re having your regular check up. Maybe the child asks to nurse. Maybe you directly ask the mother if she’s still nursing. Either way, you find out that their relationship continues on beyond the recommended minimum according to the AAP. So you’ve decided to tell the mother it’s time to quit. There’s obviously something wrong with breastfeeding beyond one year, right? Wrong!!!

One may think that, as a medical professional, you would have some facts about the health benefits of breastfeeding at any age. Yeah, one would think. The problem is that most pediatricians are grossly misinformed about the benefits of breastfeeding. Either they don’t want to upset a mom who chooses not to breastfeed or possibly they just don’t have enough information, but either way it’s a big problem. Many moms go to their pediatricians for breastfeeding advice because it makes sense that their baby’s doctor would have a little knowledge about how to feed said baby. Yeah, that would make sense, wouldn’t it?

The problem is that pediatricians aren’t lactation consultants. (Actually, you can go ahead and add all the nurses on the postpartum floor in most hospitals to that list too, but don’t tell them that because they certainly think they are experts.) Many new moms don’t realize this. Many new (and not-so-new) moms see their pediatricians as an authority figure, which comes along with not questioning them and thinking they have all the answers.

The problem is that they don’t know all the answers. Hopefully, in the case of full term breastfeeding, that is what this post is attempting to remedy. So here we go

Dr. says: Breast milk doesn’t have any nutritional value beyond X months.

Facts: Breast milk changes as a child grows. Breast milk changes day by day depending on what the child needs. That’s the beauty of a supply and demand relationship. During the connection of nursing, that baby’s saliva actually communicates with the mom’s milk production. The simple act of actually nursing more often increases the mother’s supply within 24-48 hours.

In the case of nursing a toddler, the fat content actually increases as the child grows. You know how it’s recommended that children drink whole milk because they need that fat to grow? Guess what? Breast milk is whole human milk.

And what about the picky eaters? Virtually every toddler goes through at least one stage of not wanting to eat much or only wanting to eat certain things. Peanut, for example, will only eat noodles if whatever you put in front of her has noodles in it. I have to actually tell her “Take one bite of that (pointing to the food she’s shoved off in the corner to get to more noodles) and I’ll give you more noodles.” If she weren’t nursing, I’d be a lot more concerned about her getting all the nutrients she needs. As of now, she doesn’t take any sort of vitamin and is growing like a champ.

Dr. says: There are no immunological benefits of breastfeeding beyond X months.

Facts: Antibodies are in milk always. Every. Single. Time. You nurse, your kiddo gets the antibodies your body is producing. So when I’m at school and I catch a cold bug from another student, before I even get sick my body is starting to fight it. Probably pretty much simultaneous to me passing it to Peanut, I’m giving her the antibodies to fight it. Before even an adult system, let alone a immature system of a toddler, would produce antibodies, she already has them coursing through her system.

Toddlers get sick a lot, but in general, breastfeeding toddlers get sick less often. When they do get sick, it’s generally not as severe or as long. In industrialized nations like ours, this may be taken for granted, but in countries that still don’t have regular access to medicine, it can be life-saving.

Dr. says: Breastfeeding beyond X months harms a child emotionally.

Facts: Breastfeeding will never harm my child. I really, really hope no doctors ever say this. I feel it still needs to be discussed though because so many people who are against full-term breastfeeding bring this up as an argument.

You are putting sexual connotations onto our breastfeeding relationship that imply that it could harm my child. That is your association that you are imposing onto our relationship. It is simply not a fact. When my child falls down and is crying her eyes out and nothing can calm her, I offer her my breast. She is soothed. She immediately stops crying. Most of the time, she absolutely forgets about her scraped knee. How can something that makes her so incredibly happy damage her emotionally? How can that even make sense?

Even if it doesn’t benefit her emotionally (though studies have shown that it does), it certainly doesn’t harm her. So why tell a mother to stop? If you’re telling a mother that her breastfeeding is damaging her child, I think you need to go talk to someone professional, because there’s obviously something wrong up there.

So, I hope that helps set some of the facts straight. I hope that none of you are ever confronted by a medical professional about breastfeeding. I hope that doctors and nurses learn the facts and who to refer mothers to when they have questions. I hope that there will be a day where breastfeeding is such a norm where the doctors that tell a mom to quit is chastised for the fools they are.

I’d like to mention that not all pediatricians have this problem. Not all pediatricians are grossly misinformed about breastfeeding. There are many that are incredibly supportive of breastfeeding and beyond that, many that just don’t care enough to try to interfere with a breastfeeding relationship. The problem is that there are any pediatricians (or nurses in pediatrician’s offices for that matter) that spread such awful lies about breastfeeding and actually attempt to make a mother quit breastfeeding. For more information and links to the studies mentioned in this post, visit kellymom.com or llli.org.

Full-term Breastfeeding is Beautiful

A friend of mine posted this YouTube video on Facebook. It’s kind of old (posted before Peanut was born, actually), but the point is still relevant. Some of those comments people made on her past video made me want to cry.

Breastfeeding is a beautiful, wonderful, life-saving thing. While I understand that it doesn’t always work out, it’s a one time opportunity to give your child the absolute best start in life—just remember that that start doesn’t mean the first 3 or 6 or 12 or 24 months. Nursing full-term—2, 3, 4, 5+ years—is still giving them the best start. Yes, a five year old is still starting out their life. Five years is what, maybe 1/14 of your life conservatively? It is the beginning.

There is no magic time where breastfeeding is no longer nutritionally beneficial, becomes sexual, harms the child psychologically, etc. Breastfeeding 6 days is better than none, 6 weeks is better than 6 days, 6 months is better than 6 weeks, and 6 years is better than 6 months. Of course many children wean before that, but the longer the better. Why not provide the most nutritionally sound food for your child as long as possible? Especially when that food has anti-bodies, helps bonding, and so many other wonderful benefits.

P.S. Happy {barely still} IBCLC day!

Facing It As It Comes

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe’s Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to www.breastfeedingcafe.wordpress.com. For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about child-led weaning. Please read the other blogs in today’s carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!


I obviously haven’t had a child wean yet. Peanut is 16 months old and we have no plans of stopping. I’ve written before about how I used to think I’d stop when Peanut was one year old. Of course, that was before she was actually here. Stopping now would be way too much strain on both of us both emotionally and physically. I don’t even know how I would parent without breastfeeding!

Weirdly enough, I got more questions about when I was going to stop before Peanut was a year old than I do now. Maybe it’s because I’m more confident now? Maybe it’s because they figure that if I’m still going, I’m probably not stopping soon? Maybe it’s just that I’m lucky so far.

I am lucky actually. I’m lucky enough to have the people around me support our breastfeeding relationship. This extends to my friends too. The friends who I was afraid to breastfeed in front of when Peanut was tiny don’t even bat an eye now. These people just see it as part of who we are.

Peanut doesn’t nurse much in public anymore. Not because I’m against it, but because she’s too busy. When she does nurse in public, I try to view every time as a teaching moment. Not for me or her, but for the people around us. I feel that every time that I breastfeed in public that I’m helping to normalize breastfeeding for the people around me.

I’m sure it will get more difficult as she gets older—we’re not even past the World Health Organization’s minimum. I am already expecting some backlash from certain family members. I’m sure that I’ll get more complains as she gets older when she nurses in public. I’m sure that it will bother my friends more.

I’m also hoping that the people around me will see her breastfeed regularly enough that it won’t be a big deal to see her nursing as she gets older. I also know that if they can’t respect our breastfeeding relationship enough to not try to interfere that they’re probably not worth it. Of course questions are always welcome, but I hear of other moms being told they need to stop and that is simply wrong. People like that just won’t have a place in our lives.

Guess we’ll just have to face all of that when it comes.

 


 Here are more posts by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.