If new breastfeeding mothers had a cent or a penny for every time they got asked:
“How much longer are you going to nurse that baby?”
“When are you going to wean?”
“Surely she’s too old for that now?”
they’d probably have a good start on the child’s college fund.
When two of our six were tandem nursing, I was told authoritatively by a family member:
“You have NO LIFE!”
which meant: “you can’t come to concerts and the pub and places where real life is happening because you’re always with those babies!”
Ah those babies!
Little hands, little gurgles, little night time snuffly noises when they wake to nurse and don’t have to work themselves up into a frenzy to find you because they’re right beside you in the big bed and you can just snuggle and think of all the women who right at this moment are with their breastfeeding babies throughout the world:
on straw mats
in one-room dwellings with three generations sharing living space
you get the idea.
I found it hard to watch the news when my babies were very small. Any story about children being hurt, by accident or evil; any sad family tale would cause me to be a snivelling wreck (and the empathy with suffering people only deepened with each new baby). A side-effect of mothering hormones?
Language is so important.
There’s a wonderfully warm, supportive facebook group in Ireland called “Extended breastfeeding”. I joined before the membership was 100 and now it’s over 4,000. But what counts as “extended”? (Certainly, a distractable 5 month old wanting to watch their sibling playing and forgetting to unlatch before turning their head during nursing might fit the bill!)
There have been times I have answered the “and how long did you nurse your babies?” question with a truthful-but-not-the-whole truth reply on the lines of “well, they all had the World Health Organisation and Irish Department of Health’s recommended 2 years and beyond”…
The last child to wean was curious as to how long each of his siblings had nursed. On hearing that one had weaned at 3 years and 2 months of age, his thoughtful six-year-old reply was “that sounds like an early time to stop breastfeeding.”
Now, where could he have gotten that idea?!!
Lovely post Monica. i admire you so much, and other women i know, for your dedication to breast-feeding. I was never ace at it, tho I tried. But it was hard. my mother didn’t do it, and in my baby days 1979 through the 90s, the medical people only really gave it lip-service. But people like you & my daughters, by doing it, and supporting other women who are doing it, ensure that new mothers will find it easier in many ways. Well done!