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.

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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!

How to Avoid Comments About Breastfeeding

This is a tricky subject, but one worth addressing. With my recent post about Kourtney Kardashian weaning and subsequent comments (plus the fact that it’s been on my mind with Peanut now two), I figured that I may have some information to share regarding the subject. I have managed to make it 2 years without any real negative comments about breastfeeding. I am constantly surprised that one fellow mom’s mother/mother-in-law/grandma/pediatrician tells her to stop. I am baffled by the stories of moms who are told to leave Target, Ikea, or swimming pools because they’re nursing. I am thankful every day that I haven’t had to be in one of those situations.

I know a lot of it has to do with luck. Yes, I am lucky for not being confronted about nursing Peanut. I am lucky that people around me are at least tolerant of breastfeeding. I am lucky that I haven’t been around the wrong stranger at the wrong time. Beyond that though, I believe there are some things that help you to avoid getting harassed for doing such a beautiful thing.

1. Get educated. As I’ve said many times on here, I am not a very verbal person. I think I feel the need to keep repeating myself because I am such a blab online, but if you’ve ever met me in person I think you know how little I actually speak up. Even in a one-on-one conversation, I am the person who often forgets words I’m trying to speak of, gets nervous and starts to do things like stutter, and even just avoid the conversation in general (watching a toddler is a useful way to do this). If you’re one of the people that hasn’t noticed this about me, you’re either one of the few that I don’t feel uncomfortable speaking around or you’ve caught me on a subject I have knowledge about.

That’s it, knowledge. Having actual facts ready and at your disposal helps immensely when dealing with a verbal opponent. If you walked up to me and started arguing with me about coffee beans that are destroying the rain forest, I would likely have some opinions about it, but not be able to back them up. This goes for even things that you feel so strongly for, but you don’t have the facts. So do yourself a favor and come up with at least one argument against any and all things people may say to you against breastfeeding. If someone were to tell me that nursing my toddler didn’t provide any nutrition, I would tell them that even if it didn’t, it would still provide immunities. If someone were to tell me that nursing my toddler will stunt her emotional growth, I would tell them that studies actually show that babies and toddlers who are securely attached are more likely to show independence later in life. I have little “comebacks” prepared for every reason someone could possibly come up with for telling me I shouldn’t nurse my toddler. Beyond these comebacks, I don’t really know where I’d go, but hopefully I never have to get that far. Which brings me to my second point.

2. Act more confident than you are. I’m sure it works to my benefit that I have this blog. I think most people who know me also know about it (and a few even read it! Ohaithar!). I don’t know if having the blog makes people understand I’m serious about this stuff or if they just don’t want me to talk bad about them on it. 😛 You don’t have to have a blog about breastfeeding to avoid being hassled though. Just make your opinion known. I’m not talking about going around screaming “I breastfeed my child and you better not talk crap on it!!!!” There are simplier ways to make your opinions known. Being myself, if a conversations steers anywhere near breastfeeding, I tend to start awkwardly spouting facts about how great it is (I didn’t learn all these facts for nothing!). Simply making it clear that you’re not budging on your opinion may even help the “helpful” mother/mother-in-law/grandma/pediatrician/etc. understand that they can’t “help” you.

Now lastly,

3. Expect the worst. Quite pessimistic, eh? Not really. I don’t sit around dwelling on the fact that I may be confronted, but I just let it cross my mind. It’s a fact. As I adjust myself for Peanut to latch on while we’re sitting in the rec center watching Daddy play basketball or she’s cranky at the store or she hurt herself or any other reason a toddler may suddenly decide that she needs milk right now, I acknowledge the fact that I could be confronted right then and there. Sometimes I think about the laws of my state regarding breastfeeding in public. Sometimes I just remember a couple of the facts that I know. Sometimes I do nothing at all beyond being aware.

It seems like most moms who are confronted about nursing in public by a stranger are taken aback. If you’re not prepared for “the attack”, you won’t ever see it coming. You’ll be bamboozled and even the biggest breastfeeding advocate may find herself at a loss for words. So just know that it could happen to you at any time. It doesn’t matter if you’re nursing a newborn or a 4 year old. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a cover or not. You could get some snarky comment from an idiot who thinks they know more than you, so be prepared to show them how much of an idiot they really are.

Have you been confronted when nursing in public? Have you dealt with “well-meaning” (or possibly not even attempting to be “well-meaning”) family telling you it’s wrong to nurse? How have you handled situations of being confronted? Do you think any of these things help to avoid getting confronted or am I just a very lucky Mama playing Russian Roulette?

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!

Nursing Manners

Peanut has suddenly had a dramatic change in her nursing manners. She’s always been “bad” when she’s going to sleep. For whatever reason, no matter what I do, I can not get her past twiddling one side while nursing on the other while going to sleep. I tell her no. I threaten “no more milk”. I actually stop giving her milk. None of it has worked and it’s incredibly frustrating, but I deal with it. I just keep telling her no and such until she gets sleepy enough that she doesn’t do it anymore or that I can hold her hand away.

The problem is now in the daytime. I feel like we’ve gotten to the point in our nursing relationship where I don’t have to give her milk every single time she asks for it. I’m not trying to wean or anything, but sometimes it’s just down right inconvenient. For instance, while I’m trying to have a conversation with someone and I know that she’ll just pull off if I let her nurse because she wants to talk too. Or when I’m in the middle of doing something on the computer. Or even just when I needed to delay it tonight until we got everything situated for bed.

Seems reasonable, no? Well, Peanut would say “no”. Actually, she’d probably say “NO!!!!!”

If I tell her no, she has a fit. Most of the time, it’s just a bit of whining which is fine. She does that whenever she doesn’t get her way. Then, if I continue to say no, she’ll start pulling at my shirt. She’ll pinch my breasts like I do to try to decide which side I nursed on last. She’ll even lick either any bare skin she can find (generally my arm or neck) or even my shirt. Not that I think this is her intent, but I find all of these behaviors very disrespectful and outright embarrassing.

What I’ve been doing is setting her on the floor and telling her that she can’t get back up because she’s being mean to Mama. I often explain to her that those behaviors don’t get her milk, asking nicely for milk gets her milk (also often with the stipulation that when Mama says no, you do not get milk). I even sometimes resort to leaving the room because she is so persistent.

Alas, the behavior is not improving. Actually, if anything I would say that it is worsening (she hadn’t done the licking of my shirt thing until today). This isn’t a deal breaker, but I greatly feel the need to make it stop. I know that patience is a big thing to ask of a 21 month old, but she needs to at least learn that when Mama says no, she means NO. Period.

Any suggestions? Has anyone else dealt with these kinds of behavior before? Possibly it’s just a stage?

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.