Unsupportive Support- Cultural breastfeeding ignorance: toddlers and introducing solids

I bet at least half of those reading this are uncomfortable with that picture.

I get that society isn’t comfortable with breastfeeding in many ways, despite all the lip service given to “breast is best.”  So it’s not a big surprise that socially speaking most people don’t even have a basic idea of what’s normal or healthy with breastfeeding.  With this in mind much of what is unsupportive support comes from this place of ignorance and lack of exposure to normal, healthy breastfeeding.  It is my hope that time will change this problem because we have allowed our emphasis on the sexual nature of breasts to replace a general understanding of normal human biology.  However, waiting won’t change the unsupportive support spreading as a result of this collective ignorance of society so those unintentional acts must be addressed.  Continuing the series on unsupportive support, let’s take a look at a few of these common issues stemming from society’s lack of understanding of normal and healthy breastfeeding.

Does this one weird you out too?

 

How not to support and how to avoid being unintentionally unsupportive- part 6.

Unsupportive support is…

Ever asking “Isn’t he too old for that?” or “If they can ask for it they’re too old, it’s just gross.”

First thought that goes through my mind when I hear this: “Aren’t you too old to be so rude?”  Manners, people, try them.  This is not your child, this is not your choice.  Plus, the answer is no, the child isn’t too old.  Wherever you draw the imaginary cut off line for breastfeeding, it’s just that, imaginary.  What is it you’re really afraid of anyway?  That it somehow becomes sexual?  Remember, that fear is founded in an adult perception of breasts, not a child’s.  Are you concerned that the child will grow overly dependent on breastfeeding and need to breastfeed when they are in college?  Please, in cultures where it is common for children to wean on their own timeline, this is unheard of.  And even if it were to happen, wouldn’t that make it their problem, not yours?  Still, I’m not going to give this concern any more energy, I’ve never once met someone that had a college-age child breastfeeding.  You may be out of touch with what normal duration breastfeeding looks like, sometimes called “extended breastfeeding” but I have to ask, extended beyond what?  The minimum recommendations?  Extended beyond society’s distorted perception of normal breastfeeding?  Extended beyond your personal comfort level?  Extended beyond the imaginary cut off line for breastfeeding  The major health organizations in the world encourage mothers to breastfeed for at least 2 years and they recommend women continue as long as it is mutually agreeable.  Mutually.  Between the breastfeeding mother and the breastfeeding child.  Not you.  It’s up to them so butt out.  Babies start using the only communicating tools they know to start asking for it as soon as they are born, you can read here about normal newborn behavior.  A mother responding to her child’s signs of hunger = good parenting, not a bad habit.  It’s important that you recognize and get comfortable now with this thought: “My opinions aren’t always right for everyone and sometimes I should just keep them to myself.”

Sneaking food to a small child without asking their parents permission or arguing with them about their choice to wait to introduce foods.

It boggles my mind how often I read “I can’t trust my mother-in-law/uncle/brother/grandpa/etc. with my 3 month old, they insist on giving him tastes of food, even stuff like ice cream or dangerous choking hazards!”  People, it’s not your kid, not your turn to make these kind of decisions.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, shoot, friends get to spoil a kid, it’s true.  When my kids are older I don’t care if my parents take them out for ice cream for breakfast when they get to have them on their own.  It’s their grandparent prerogative and I support it on occasion.  But that has to be something discussed and approved (even with disapproval) and the limits recognized and respected.  Giving a baby foods that their parents, you know, the people that are responsible for them, take them to the doctor, are reading the most up to date information on what babies need, and are up at night with them, haven’t approved is not only disrespectful but it’s dangerous.  Between ruining a virgin gut (google it), risking allergen exposure, and introducing textures they may not be physically developed enough to handle and thus pose a potential choking risk, there is absolutely no good reason EVER to sneak food to another parent’s child.  And arguing with them about their decision for the health and safety of their child, even if you think they are wrong or extreme, is not helping either the parent or the child.  If you’re truly concerned do your research before bringing it up.  In order to offer support that’s actually helpful, you need to be familiar with current information and research as well as possible controversy.  In the end you have to respect their decision or you will remain that person they can’t trust.  And yes, they can’t trust you which means they will never be comfortable leaving their child in your hands.  Coming to terms with “I am not the person(s) ultimately responsible for this child, I do not have the authority or position to make this decision and must respect the people that do.”  By the way, this goes for formula fed babies too.  Allergies, food sensitivities, immature digestive tracts, and choking hazards are real concerns for them as well.  This is their long term health you’re messing around with and you don’t have that right or responsibility.

 

Breastfeeding is the biologically normal way to feed a small infant and child.  Just because we’re not used to it as a society does not mean that there is something wrong with it.  Before critiquing the mother willing to go against societal norms to do what she truly believes is best for her child, please educate yourself as to why she would do that in the first place.  Or at least express your thoughts and concerns by asking respectfully why she has chosen a certain path over another.  When it comes to decisions regarding that child’s health step carefully.  There is controversy surrounding just about every health decision parents are faced with today, cut them some slack and just respect that they are thinking people that may be ok with discussing their decision but deserve to be respected in them even if you disagree.  Please don’t let cultural ignorance determine how you feel about something or how you respond to something.  Challenge yourself, is the problem really what that mother is doing or is the problem that as a society we just can’t imagine anything other than what we’ve grown accustomed to.  Push yourself outside of your comfort zone and offer real support, not ignorant social judgments.

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Have you received comments about your child being “too old” to breastfeed?  How did you respond?

Are there people around you that you can’t trust because they don’t respect your parenting choices?

Have you ever had someone feed or almost feed your child something you felt was dangerous?

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Comments

  1. I haven’t gotten them yet, as DS is only 5 months- but I’m sure I will with our plan to keep breastfeeding him normally until whenever the end comes! It’s more intimidating than I thought.

    • I know it can be intimidating, but you are doing what’s best for your child, and if you need support to stick with it, this is a great place to find it! When my boys are approaching the random age of 12 months and people thought I’d “cut them off” I found great points and support online. We kept going and are still going nearly a year later! Hang in there, mama. You’ll do what’s best for your family!

  2. I’ve received comments like that about my NINE month old….breastfeeding is such an amazing gift, and it’s one that I don’t see myself ending ANY time soon!

  3. I just respond with “No, he isn’t.” It’s as simple as that. Proud tandem nursing Mom to a 3.5 year old and 9 month old.

  4. My brother-in-law tried to give my 8-month-old a rice krispies treat…HELLO?! Common sense?!?!?! He was still having trouble masticating banana chunks!! Apparently everybody and their mom think they know better than the child’s own parents….

  5. I have a just-turned-3 year old daughter that weaned at 2 yrs old when I had my third child, our second boy. She didn’t seem to mind weaning and it was all fine and mutual. Recently, say in the past 3 months she suddenly became aware that her little brother was breastfeeding and she no longer does, and she asks for it from time-to-time. My husband thinks she is too old and that she hasn’t been breastfeeding so it would be strange to start again.
    Meanwhile I have been ‘sneak-feeding’ her once in a while. I feel bad and torn because I want her to feel like she can be close to me in that way but I definitley would be embarassed to BF her around others, maybe just because of what you describe above. I’m realllly not sure what to do…

    • I do that with my 2.5 yr old! My husband is supportive of it although he doesn’t watch me do it.

  6. I have been getting the “is he too old” since he was 6 months old!!! He is a year old now and I am being asked again why I haven’t “stopped that already “

    • 12 month old formula fed babies generally still receive formula, either in a bottle or beaker at a year, sometimes until 2-3….what’s the difference (other than breastmilk is natural, perfect, free food that comes from your bosom)? Nobody would ask a formula feeding mom at 6 or even 12 months, “Haven’t you stopped yet?” because they obviously wouldn’t have and probably won’t for a while! Formula is the baby’s main source of nutrition, so of course they won’t take it away yet. Breastmilk is great for newborns, crawlers, toddlers, and maybe even pre-schoolers (and sometimes beyond) if that makes mom and child happy!
      My mom is supportive of nursing but has also said the ‘their too old when they can ask for it’s, but somehow thought my DS would be asking for milk (with words) at 1. However we are nearly at 15 months and still nursing and mom hasn’t said anything further.
      Dh also said to me a while back that we would eventually need some formula (when talking about the can bought during my emergency hospital stay, as I don’t pump, so had no milk to give him for the night)…I said, “Uhhh, why is that, exactly?” He said, “Well, won’t he be too big to breastfeed?” I just said, “No, I’ll keep feeding him until he’s done.” Fortunately he seemed ok with that and he hasn’t brought it up again.

  7. My daughter will be 3 next month, and breastfeeds frequently (even at night!). Most of our family is out of town and most of them assume she weaned a long time ago. My mom knows, and while she has never said anything negative, I can tell she’s embarrassed if my daughter asks for milk around her. I am so lucky to have a good friend who is supportive, though. I wish I could be more open with family, but I’m scared of their reactions. As far as our other parenting choices (bed sharing, eating organic, natural toys, the list goes on), practically everyone we know thinks we’re “weird hippies.” My only hope is that one day, because of how she was raised, my daughter won’t be afraid or embarrassed to do what she thinks best for her own children.

  8. My son is 14 mos old, and I am 12 weeks pregnant. Yesterday at dinner I started to nurse and my husband’s grandmother asked incredulously, “You’re still feeding him that way?” I calmly told her yes, and she said “Well you’re going to have to stop soon!” I said no, actually, lots of people nurse two at once, and it’s no big deal. She told me she thought one was a good age to wean, I told her I didn’t think so, that we would be done when my son was ready. You could have heard a pin drop. My husband and in-laws have always been supportive, but I think they’ve been wondering the same things. I was glad to get my stance out there without having to argue with anyone but this silly old lady.

  9. What a timely post for me to read….a few weeks ago my MIL tried to feed my 6mo peanut butter-chocolate ice cream. This is the second time she’s tried to feed him something (the first time was pumpkin pie at 4 months!!) and I put my foot down about it. I’ve been paying for it ever since. Luckily my husband backed me up. It amazes me how little respect people have for us and the decisions we make for our son. You don’t have to agree with us but no one has the right to go behind our backs and override the choices we make. So, so frustrating. I used to trust my MIL, and now I worry about the brief periods that she was alone with him before we saw this. And there won’t be any more alone time for a long time. The trust has been completely broken.

    • Amy Phillips says:

      My MIL fed my 5 month old EBF ds sweet potatoes during thanksgiving last year, after my husband and I both adamantly told her no. He choked, and we had to clear his airway. People don’t get it. We’re the parents, we decide what’s best! If we wouldn’t have been just in th nest room, who knows what could have happened.

  10. My little girl is 20 months old and she is weaning. I’m happy it’s because she wants to but sad because I wanted to get to at least 2 years. I didn’t start off thinking that. I had short goals. My first was 6minths EBF then 12 months as there’s no point paying for the dreaded formula when she could go to cows milk at 12 months.

    As it was I decided at a year to carry on. She’d dropped down to 2 feeds a day morning and bedtime and rarely wanted it any other time. (Even if I offered). I was so glad at 16 months that she was bf as she was hospitalised with a severe D&V bug and massive temperature. The only thing she kept down was breastmilk. She upped her feeds to get through it. She quickly dropped down to 2 a day again when she was well. Then a couple of months later she started shaking her head and saying no when I offered her her bedtime feed. I carried on offering it to her for a fortnight (ish) but she kept refusing. 🙁 Now at 20 months she’s started to shake her head when I offer her her morning feed. Sometimes she’ll latch on for a few seconds but then comes off, says no and climbs off the bed.

    I really do believe that extended bf should be supported and encouraged. I met a fabulous group of friends through my bf group. Of 8 of us, all EBF for 6months and half fed for up to or over the 12 mark. There were peer supporters at the group feeding toddlers and at first it seemed strange to me sitting there with a tiny newborn but it became normal which I think is the important thing.

    Sorry for babbling. 🙂

    • I also met some great friends at a breastfeeding group! It’s so nice because we all have babies around the same age and we were great support for eachother! =) Now almost all of us are pregnant for the second time so we’ll get to go thru it all again!

  11. I was very clear before I even got pregnant that my intention was to breastfeed to age 2. I have friends that nurse their 3 and 4 year old, and while I respect their decision and support them, that wouldn’t work for me or for my husband, who is already bothered regarding my 20 month old still nursing. My husband’s main problem is that my son is still very connected to me – I am the only one who can get him to sleep because he *has* to nurse to sleep and if he wakes during the night, I am the only one who can respond or he gets very upset. If we weren’t dealing with that aspect, my husband would not have a problem.

    I did get the “once he can ask for it, he’s too old for it” comment. I *LOVE* that comment in the article though. Next time someone says that, I am definitely going to follow up immediately with “Aren’t you too old to be so rude? It’s not your business.”

    I also was pressured to introduce solids before the baby was ready, but I held out until 8.5 months. I had (very valid) concerns that MIL would give foods before the baby was ready and I’ve had to be very tight and firm with what kinds of food are acceptable and the quantity.

    • Our pedi made me feel like I was an idiot when we went in at 6 months and our son wasn’t eating solids 2-3 times a day already. She had told us at 4 months we “could go ahead and start” feeding him cereal, but I thought it seemed early and we waited until he was around 5 1/2 months to try it. He’d had cereal maybe 5 times total at 6 mo, because he just wasn’t interested. When I told her that, the doctor said maybe I should “back off” on the breastfeeding.
      I have since decided solids are no big deal. I feed my son solids when he seems interested in them. If he’s unimpressed, no big deal. He eats solids every day, but probably less often or a lesser amount than our doctor prefers. I know I’ll pay for it at the 9 mo appt, but she’s not a fan of our cosleeping either.

  12. I have gotten comments of my son being to old to breastfeed, or getting close to that age. I was asked “how long do you plan to continue that”*I was nurseing at that very moment..well he was snacking* I responded matter of factley that who reccomends two years at least and I plan on going that long if not longer. She said she thought I had done a great job parenting so far but doesn’t agree with that. ….I think I threw out a few facts of healthy, normal but her mind had shut off any reasoning so I changed the subject.

    My family is very supportive, even my new brother inlaw is pro-breastfeeding. This woman who was unsupportive is older and did the best she could with the available info she had at the time, I don’t want her to feel bad because she did do her best….but now I’m going to do my best.(maybe I should say that to her?)

  13. Oh I should also mention my extremely supportive husband, who I am so VERY thankful for!!

  14. I’ve been told by a number of people that I shouldn’t be breastfeeding my 17mo daughter because she eats enough ‘real food’ and doesn’t need it anymore. I used to respond that she’s not really eating so much as nursing – that’s it’s a great way for use to maintain that bond and it relaxes her and me. That would satisfy some, but some would still persist. A few months of trying out different responses, I now respond calmly and simply, “This is not a topic I care to discuss.” If they still persist, I just reiterate the same sentence as many times as it takes for them to get it.

  15. This Thanksgiving my mother gave my 2 month old son a “taste” of German chocolate cake icing. With nuts and coconut and all kinds of other crap in it. When she told me I flipped out and she tried to make me feel uptight and ignorant. She kept saying she was going to give him a chocolate covered donut or a Hershey bar. It really changed my respect and level of trust in her.

    • My in-laws think it’s hilarious to test my boundaries with food, drink, and DS. It’s like they have no idea how rude and disrespectful it is. DH doesn’t even speak up to defend us, either…:(

  16. Kirstie Farrar says:

    Nicely done as always!! I’m on my 3rd munchkin with natural duration BFing. In the main, I do my thing and no one messes with me. I hope to lead by example!! I’m hoping I’ve normalized BFing and natural duration BFing for some folks.

  17. The pictures do not make me uncomfortable. I think way to go! and Good for you! However when I look at my 3 & 5 year olds I know personally I could not still be breastfeeding them. When I look at my soon to be 6 month old I know I do not want to stop breastfeeding him yet. I also know past a year my family will not be supportive.

  18. My only disagreement with your position is – I am the Aunt that sneaks food to my niece because her parents feed her ONLY candy and soda. She gets nothing of any nutritious value. She doesn’t get vegetables or healthy food if it wasn’t snuck to her. Her parents think “fighting” with her to eat real food isn’t worth the hassle: it is heart breaking.

    • This isn’t about sneaking better and healthier foods to children this article is about supporting families who BF. If this child’s mother was BFing then you wouldn’t need to sneak veggies etc past sodas and candy. This child would already be consuming a healthy diet.

      • it’s also about sneaking food when they’re not ready (before 6mos) and against the parents wishes. Not sneaking better food.

    • I agree with Cynthia, but would also point out that sneaking food ever is still disrespectful, and not the way to teach the parents or child about healthy food. It’s the same thinking people have when they sneak our EBF babies food or cereal or formula, that they know better than the parents. Maybe the parents of your niece have some learning to do, or some growing up, and you can of course offer healthy foods in your home, but we have to respect each other as mothers and parents (as long as legal and not imminently dangerous) and believe that we are all doing our best for our kids. And, when our family is around, we allow more unhealthy options, as a treat, and to limit conflict with kids who are likely tired and on edge in a different environment. I hope my family doesn’t judge me for that – they don’t see what we do at home the other 99%. Love this article, have bf two toddlers, with varying levels of support.

  19. A few months back, while visiting my grandmother (who never tried to breastfeed any of her three children), she asked me how often DS (15 months old at the time) was still nursing. I said, oh, not too often, probably 4 or 5 times a day. She looked shocked and said, “That’s a LOT! When are you going to stop?” I just looked at her and said, whenever he’s ready. It’s clear she thinks I’m somewhat insane and misguided by continuing to breastfeed my son past a year, but rather than get angry, I just try to remember there’s a very big generation gap there. She loves her great-grandson and readily agrees when I point out that he’s a happy, healthy little boy. I know I will get more looks and questions from her when we visit at Christmas, but I’m just going to approach it with the attitude that what I’m doing is normal and healthy. IMHO, giving people facts is not always effective at changing their perspective, as you’re “defending” a behavior. Breastfeeding is a completely natural and normal thing, no need to defend it. Just do what you do and keep acting like you’re the normal one in the room. 🙂

  20. My daughter is 6 months and I’ve been asked a lot when will I stop. At the moment I say at least until she is 1yr, but really I’d like to go longer. My hubby is supportive of us, however he does say that I should stop at 1 because she can have cows milk then but I don’t agree.

    Not sure how long I’ll manage as I know I’ll have very little support including my family, my own sister says how weird it is! My daughter is the only one out of 8 children in our extended family who is breastfed past 6 months so I may have a battle!!

  21. I am currently still BFing my 15 month old and I have had a family member say to me, “they don’t even want them on a bottle after the age of 1, they can just drink cows milk”. It actually took me a second to respond to that one b/c I was just like WOW, really?? I guess I was just dumbfounded for a second, lol. I have 4 LO’s and have BF all my other 3 to 14-15 months when they were ready to wean, my 15mth old isn’t really showing much signs of wanting to stop anytime soon, and so I will continue as long as she wants to! :0)

    • What a bizarre society we live in that it’s more acceptable to give our children the milk of an 800lb bovine than it is to give them their own mother’s milk. It is, like you said, dumbfounding!

  22. I am currently still BFing my 15 month old and I have had a family member say to me, “they don’t even want them on a bottle after the age of 1, they can just drink cows milk”. It actually took me a second to respond to that one b/c I was just like WOW, really?? I guess I was just dumbfounded for a second, lol. I have 4 LO’s and have BF all my other 3 to 14-15 months when they were ready to wean, my 15mth old isn’t really showing much signs of wanting to stop anytime soon, and so I will continue as long as she wants to! :0)

  23. Karen Hurley says:

    Before my first son self-weaned at 2 years (I was 5months pregnant), All I ever got was people justifying why they stopped sooner, and kept going on and on about the WHO guidelines being for developing countries, and that I was going OTT by still feeding. I gave up trying to explain why and just smiled and nodded towards the end. I am now feeding a bonny 6month old, who has a loving and caring big brother who keeps saying “mum, Oscar needs feeding” 🙂

  24. Thanks for this article! We hit the 5 year mark tomorrow, so I’ve been dealing with this for a long time.

  25. Thank you so much for this post. I am going to share it widely.

  26. Love this – am nursing my sleepy 22 month old right now. Luckily we have not had any comments since baby #1 nursed until 2 years old, so I think everyone assumes #2 will go this long as well. I love our relationship about 75% of the time tbh. Thanksgiving at the in laws or a Christmas festival yesterday where he constantly asked for “booby”…not so much, it’s definitely difficult enduring those looks!

  27. My boss has already let these comments “slip.” She was posing the question of what am I going to do when I stop nursing, you know, when Noah is 2? Then she thought about that for a moment and asked “How long are you planning on bfing?” I responded w/ 2 or as long as he wants. She couldn’t believe it. In fact, she couldn’t believe so much that after a few days she wanted to clarify that I was going to be giving him bm in a sippy or bottle that long. I reclarified that if he wants it from the tap that’s where he’ll get it from. And I’m not going to lie, before becoming a mother and bfing my son I was that person who believed “if they can ask for it they need to be cut off.” I was sometimes embarrassed that my mom bf my little brother until he was almost 3. Now I think what was the big deal? He wanted to eat and he preferred my mom’s milk to cow’s milk. I also know that my mom was using it as comfort nursing for herself but my little brother wasn’t ready to wean yet, so again, I ask myself, what was my big deal about it? And for the life of me, I can’t come up w/ a good answer. I just hope that I have the grace my has to deal w/ the situation when it comes up again.

  28. These are the things people have tried to give my 11 month old:

    A whole piece of French bread (5 months) (my mother in law – “lady and the tramp” style)
    goldfish crackers (6 months- wasn’t able to prevent it in time)
    Pumpkin Tiramisu (7 months)
    Cheerios (3 months WTF?!?)
    A frosted sugar cookie (today- 11 months -in the grocery store)
    Gerber mashed potatoes (7 months – this is NOT ok with me – wasn’t able to stop it in time)
    A Shirley Temple (6 months at a restaurant – complete with straw and cherry….again, WTF)
    Brownie batter on a spatula (8 months)

    Almost all of these have been by my mother in law. She is unrelenting about wanting to babysit and I know that the few times he had been over there alone she overrides my wishes with the “grandma” clause. Ugh! People!

  29. I always loved this article. The natural age of weaning (2.5-7.0 years).

    http://www.kathydettwyler.org/detwean.html

    This gives me the strength to go past the opinions of others. Although I am looked at like a crunchy hippie type so we get less comments from the “mainstream” friends and family. They just stop judging because I just do what we like and I often have evidence to back it up unlike their opinion.

  30. My Grandma is completely anti-breastfeeding. From the very beginning she didn’t want me to bf my daughter… She kept asking me, “When are you going to give that baby a bottle? You need to get her used to one.” Finally when DD was around 5 months Grandma asked, “When are you going to put her on formula?” “I’m not.” I told her. “EVER?!?” She asked. “NOPE!” Now DD is 10 months old and I am proud to say she has NEVER had a bottle!!! Grandma still puts in her little digs about the way I’m feeding her. She says that I’m not giving her enough solids, and that she needs more vitamins and nutrients than what she’s getting from my milk. I try to be as polite as possible, sometimes it’s very frustrating!!! My step-dad isn’t any better. When I sat down to nurse DD on Thanksgiving he asked, “You’re still breastfeeding?” I smiled proudly and said Yes I am! 🙂 I’m so thankful that my hubby backs me up, it would be sooo much harder if he didn’t. He’s told everyone he expects me to bf until DD is 3 or 4.

  31. I just want to thank you for being so outwardly supportive of older children breastfeeding. For those of us who breastfeed toddlers and young children it is not the norm to see photos and here a supportive voice! I breastfeed my (almost) 3 1/2 year old and my 15 month old. I tend to not bring it up in public because I feel like I would be looked down upon. Only my very close friends (who support our decision) and some family members know. Thank you for being a support, it really does mean a lot!

  32. My mother breastfed my siblings and I till at least 3 years old. My brother and I were 5 1/2! Everyone thought she was nuts and made all sorts of comments and she would just brush it off “I don’t care what you think, I’m doing what I want with MY children!” She rules!! the US is repressed, people need to wake up and realize how amazingly natural breastfeeding is. My son is 5 months old and I plan to go as long as we both want.

  33. I have had people try and give my son bread crusts after we found him to have a serious gluten problem – and told them. It seems that mummy and daddy just don’t know how to feed our children properly. I even have my grandparents believing that I don’t look after my kids properly as they never see me feeding them. That’s because with allergies, we feed our kids BEFORE we go out anywhere so they are less tempted to eat the wrong foods. Oh and what a bad mother am I when they find out that the only reason my youngest weaned was because he didn’t like the change in taste of my milk when I fell pregnant again… While people annoy me with their warped views, they also amuse me a little too.

  34. My son is 9 months and my goal is to breastfeed until he is 2, unless he decides to wean sooner. When he was 6 months was when I got a couple comments about when I was going to wean him, especially since he was getting teeth. I just didn’t understand why I would stop him from having what he is supposed to eat and put him on formula, which to me seems like way too much work. I am a little fearful now when I talk to people about how long I want to breastfeed because most people reply with shock! If you’re not going to like my response don’t ask me the question! I’m ok with them being curious, but they should be courteous in their response. I don’t ask how long they plan to feed their baby formula…

    • Carissa, I read your post just after I posted my own reply. I totally agree. Questions that are just veiled criticisms are not welcome with me. Would people rather you lie to them? Sheesh. My train of thought is, if he would still need formula if I weaned him, why not continue giving him breastmilk? Formula is a breastmilk substitute, plain and simple. It is second best.

  35. I got the question yesterday I was nursing my 17-month-old.
    “Do you plan to wean him before the new baby arrives?” I’m due at the end of April
    I responded by stating that despite we don’t see it often, the WHO recommends that children be breastfed a minimum of 2 years. This was met with an eye-roll. Whatever. If you didn’t want to hear my answer, then don’t ask the question.

  36. I am enjoying the continued breastfeeding of my 16 month old and people can go jump in the lake for all I care.

  37. It continually amazes me when people ask about this stuff that is NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS!

  38. I can not trust my inlaws at all with my daughter right now. I feel her fruits and veggies then they babysit and give her hamburgers and french fries. (She is 9 months old.) At 5 months in front of me they tried to give her ice cream, and kept insisting she wanted a taste till I raised my voice at them telling them it was inappropriate to do so. Then this last week at Thanksgiving they were giving her SWEET TEA. Not only does it have a cup of sugar in it but more caffeine then a cup of coffee. Then they laughed at me when I told them “What are you doing?!?!?! Do not give that to her!!!!!!”

    Also now since she has 4 teeth they think that she is to old to nurse, and I am always getting the, “Don’t you think it is about time to stop nursing?” Question every time I am over there.

    It drives me up the wall!!!!

  39. Just this past weekend I got comments about BFing my just turned two year old. I was told that I “must be getting something out of it” to not “want him to wean”. He gets to wean when he darn well pleases!

    MIL has tried to give him soda (6 months) and cookies and candy his WHOLE life. And she wonders why we won’t let her babysit.

  40. My husband and I actually had a disagreement about this a few days ago. My son is 17 months old and is our last child (we had a hard enough time getting him here and healthy, and we have four other children). He’s the only child I was able to successfully breastfeed, so I’m not in any rush to stop. I’m sure if we were closer to family, they would be putting the pressure on, as well, but we live hours from them.

    Many of the people I know use that ‘if they’re old enough to ask’ as a point to say they are ‘too old’ to ‘still be doing that’, but to them I always respond ‘you’re old enough to ask for a drink, too… does that mean you’re too old to have something to drink/eat?’ Typically it trips them up enough to silence them. At least for a little while.

    I didn’t go into breastfeeding thinking I’d breast feed a college kid. My goals were simple- 1 week, 1 month, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, until he weans himself. Some days, he doesn’t want to do much more than eat and run, and other days he treats the boob as an all you can eat buffet… that he must live at.

    I want my body back (especially when he starts pinching the opposite breast), but I wouldn’t change a thing. These years are fleeting, and worth the investment of time.

  41. I’ll never forget how I felt when my Aunt in law stuck her finger in her chocolate mousse, then put her finger in my 3 month old exclusively breastfed son’s mouth. I was so angry! Not only was it wrong of her to feed him (he had never had anything other than breastmilk), but with her fingers?!

  42. When i read the first line I thought to myself why? When i looked at the picture the only thought going through my head was “I wonder where she got a bra like that from?” as mine all flip down, bareing my whole breast. I then read down and went back to the picture to see how old the child was. As a mum breastfeeding my baby girl, I’m in it for however long she wants!

  43. I’m currently feeding a 4 year old for the second time. When you are in the middle of it, it feels incredibly normal and natural. It just feels right. It feels right to let them decide. I’ve been letting them guide their breastfeeding all along. Why stop now after all those hours of care and effort? It seems odd that just because the Earth has moved around the Sun a certain number of times, breastfeeding should end. Do young people’s brains need good quality fats for development? Do they benefit from immunological protection? Do you think milk from another species is a better idea? The answers seem so obvious.
    I am grateful for the fact I don’t deal with negative comments or pressure. I don’t bother telling people who I doubt will be supportive. I shut down conversations with some people. I am lucky that those close to me either support or keep quiet. I advocate when I can but sometimes it’s OK just to be quiet about it too.

  44. So, I thought I would chime in here, even though I exclusively formula fed my child- by choice. I saw this post’s link from a friend’s facebook posting and I was intrigued. Clearly from all the posts here, it seems like a lot of moms who want to breastfeed past what is socially recognized as “normal” get a lot of slack. I wonder if people tend to think 1 year should be the cutoff point because that is when most formula fed babies are weaning off of formula and moving to whole milk and table food. I chose not to breastfeed my child for various reasons, but have never been against someone else making that decision. In fact, I have a lot of respect for women who choose to breastfeed. There are lots of organizations and articles that suggest that breastfeeding provide benefits that formula feeding does not- I agree. However, mom (and dads) who choose to formula feed their children get just as much slack. I had men and women not only question my decision on several occasion, but actually make suggestions that I should just “pump” to feed my child. Others just assumed I was breastfeeding. The frustrations with people not minding their own business goes both ways, no matter what decision you make.

    What kills me the most is when people feel scared, embarrassed, intimidated by reactions, or unsupported because they made the choice to breastfeed beyond what is “normal” or for any other decision really. Good for you ladies that continue to do what you think is best for you and your family!

    • Pumping is SUCH a huge commitment, a vast majority of women don’t even consider it an option–it’s an all or nothing mentality! Kudos to you for making an informed decision! I’m sorry people gave you crap about it–that should never happen. We should be praised that we fed our children…not all babies are so lucky 🙁

  45. I’m actually surprised how little I get that. I nursed my first until 20 months and my second is still nursing at 17 months. I think we’re pretty liberal here with breastfeeding, and I don’t think it’s social circle specific.

  46. d'Arcy Montague says:

    Jessica, I so appreciate this series dedicated to “unsupportive support”. It’s subtle and rampant. Thank you for so eloquently capturing the many facets of this. You’re doing our society a meaningful justice. Thank you.

    • When I started it I knew it was too long to be one post but then I realized that it’s even longer than I thought. There is just so much unsupportive support out there! And the more I talk about it the more people share their experiences with unsupportive support. It’s no wonder breastfeeding women struggle so much, even their support is often working against them! ~Jessica

  47. I am still breastfeeding my 10mth old and plan to until he wants to wean. DH is uncomfortable with bf after 1 year (has never seen it happen) so we will see how he handles it. My mother can’t remember when she weaned us but she also supplemented with formula. My grandma keeps asking when I am planning on stopping. I don’t have any close friends in the area that have made it as long as I have with bf. LO likes it, it calms him down, and it provides perfect nutrition. We started with food at 5mths due to my supply issues and my refusal to use formula but I refused to do rice cereal which was really confusing to DH and family. I know that my inlaws have probably given LO some stuff that I wouldn’t give him but I also know that I make them all panic when I do baby lead weaning. LO is our child and we get to make the choices for him.

  48. no comments yet with this one. his daddy thinks he’ll still be nursing when he’s 3. I plan to do it till he OR I can’t/won’t or whatever. the ‘don’t offer, no refuse’ method is what i’ll use if *i* want to initiate weaning.

  49. Pishhh on them! Nursed my youngest boy for 31.5 months! I told whoever asked me about weaning “I’m sure he’ll wean before he goes to college” 😉

  50. I love part two of this “arguing with parents about their choice to introduce solid foods.” I have personally had more trouble with the pediatrician than I have family members on the issue (not that they are innocent for the sneaking foods part). I learned with my first child that its just easier to flat out LIE at each appointment about what your children are eating. My kids did not really eat solids (besides maybe cheerios or something like that) until around a year. I never gave any of them jar baby food (well the first had a few jars before I realized how ridiculous it was). They all have been fine, passing all their blood tests and physicals with flying colors too. That must be because I started giving them jared green beans at 4 months, right? NOPE, sorry, that would be because they were exclusively breastfed until they started showing interest in table food (what the rest of the family was having for dinner), which happened at a different age for each of them!

  51. My family doctor told me at an appointment that my then 10 month old was too old to be breastfeeding. That was my first baby. I nursed my first 2 years, my second 2.5 years, and I am currently breastfeeding my almost 3 year old now.

  52. Wow, what a great article!! We stopped breastfeeding just after a year but I would have been happy to go longer (I hope to with my next baby!) and I get very irritated when people talk about it being “wrong” after they are a year old! Which seems to be about 80% or more of the opinions I hear!

    Then you write about people feeding your child certain foods when you have told them not to, or not supporting your choice to keep your child away from unhealthy foods! I have a two year old now, and continue to stuggle with people who don’t agree with me not wanting to give my child candy and sweets.. Like you said, I don’t trust my child with MOST people because of this reason. If you can’t listen to my wishes while I am around you then what are you going to do when I leave her with you??? In other words, I will not leave her with you! Most likely Ever! It sure makes it hard to have a night out though, when you only have a few people you feel comfortable with!

    I’m lucky my husband has been supportive and we agree on these things =)

  53. Google doesn’t seem to have too many good responses for virgin gut. I’d love a great link that presents the facts to share with a friend. What’s your favorite link for informing people on the benefits (full of facts instead of stories)?

  54. i nursed my son till he was 2 and 1/2. i got all sorts of negative comments from everyone including family. i think b’feeding is the best decision i made as a young mother! and it has given us a bond that is unexplainable. to this day i still get snide remarks from unsupporters.

  55. jeannette weinbrenner says:

    I had one person ask me how old my DD is (she’s 8months) and the lady was like and your still breastfeeding? How long are you gonna keep that up? And I replied as long as she wants… she says your gonna spoil her….at least she didn’t say it was gross but she has said before that I am spoiling her by Co sleeping and wearing her and I still bf on demand with baby led solids

  56. More power to all you mamas! I had to stop breast feeding my son @ 6 months old because of my cancer treatment. It was one of the hardest things I went through with him. He hated formula. But I had no choice. He is going to be 2 years old in the new year & I know I would still be BF if I hadn’t had radiation therapy. It just makes sense to me! Why give toddlers cow’s milk when we can give them human milk?!?! Cows milk – for cows. Human milk – for humans. The only reason people drink cows milk in the first place is b/c it’s similar to the nutritional content of BM. People will talk & disapprove of anything & everything. Let them. Be happy you have a choice. Mine was taken away.

    • “Be happy you have a choice. Mine was taken away.”

      Heart breaking. What an incredibly brave mommy you are and your son is so incredibly lucky to have you and I’m glad formula was there when you needed it and a little boy got to keep his mommy. (((hugs))) ~Jessica

  57. I don’t get too much flack, but my Step-mom *did* have a lot of worry about my daughter ‘getting enough.’ I just reassured her that I was checking diapers and that if she was gaining rather than losing weight, and going to the bathroom X times a day she was fine. There was a push from her to get my daughter used to a bottle rather than nursing, but I think that was more ‘for my sake’ than anything else.

    I *do* hear a lot of comments online from people who ‘support breastfeeding’ but only really support it in public if it’s a baby under a year. When breastfeeding a toddler on an airplane came up as an example one woman’s response was, “Give that kid a hug and a cookie! He does not *need* to nurse right then and there!”

    I feel that if I am going to support mothers who breastfeed, then I have to support ALL mothers who breastfeed in their decision to nurse for as long as they nurse. I don’t want anyone telling me when to stop nursing, or how to nurse, so why would I do that to another woman?

  58. I think those pictures are beautiful.

    My son I nursed until he was a year old, he then decided that he was done with breastfeeding, and that was that. It made me sad, but that was up to him. My daughter was still nursing at the age of two, and she loved it, I would have kept on nursing her, but her father whom I was not married to, decided it was perverted and disgusting. So he takes her for visitation just long enough so that by the time he brought her back (it was about 10 days) she was no longer interested. I even pumped while she was gone to keep up my supply. I was heartbroken and furious that my choice (and hers) to nurse was taken away. No one should ever have that taken away from them!

    One other thing, why do most people thing that drinking the milk of another species is okay, but small children and toddlers drinking human milk is disgusting. Just a thought to ponder…..

  59. Beverly Michaels says:

    I managed to form friendships and playgroups mostly through La Leche League (in the U.S. with my first child; in Canada with the next two), so it was easy for me to lose sight of how “weird” it was–for society at large–to nurse a toddler or preschooler. But clearly our own experience shapes our notions of “normal.” I still smile when I remember my then-nine-year-old telling his sister, “You’re getting too old to nurse–you’re almost five years old. Most kids stop when they’re three.”

  60. The second picture only looks weird because the baby is not standing on his head or grabbing his Mama’s teeth. Do kids really nurse all quiet and nicely like that? I am showing this to my dd. Maybe she can learn a thing or two.
    LOL

  61. I am still breastfeeding my 18-mo-old son. He has never had cow’s milk. I live in Switzerland now and his pediatrician told me that I should cut down on nursing because my son needs more calcium! He tried to tell me that breast milk does not contain calcium and to use cow’s milk, yogurt and cheese. Ok, yogurt is fine as long as it’s really yogurt (you would be surprised the junk they try to pass off as yogurt here in the land of cows). But I wont give cow’s milk and my kid hates cheese! I plan to nurse until he goes off to college (joking) so I researched it and found on kellymom.com that breast milk contains 64% of the daily intake for our babes. I want to fire his doctor, but he’s the only one I have found that speaks English!!!

    • Why are they always pushing animal sources for calcium? Lots of leafy green vegetables have calcium, as well as nuts if allergies aren’t a concern.

  62. Thank you for this article. I am enjoying reading everyone’s wonderful comments as I don’t have many people around me that have continued bf-ing after a year. When I started, I really didn’t know how long I would make it. I am proud to still be nursing 15 month old twins and I’ve realized there is no reason to set a “deadline” for weaning.

  63. My mother in law tried to push a adult (metal) spoon of chocolate cake into my baby’s mouth when he was 5 months-I went mad at her.But then, soon after he was 6 months and we’d started BLW she tried to shove half a chocolate bar in his mouth-I had explained to everyone that while ever I am breastfeeding, I choose what goes in his tiny mouth-it’s my right as a mother(and hubby’s as a father, obviously!). She knew this and still tried to give him chocolate and sweets-needless to say, we aren’t currently on speaking terms.

  64. my daughter will be three at the end of march, i breastfed her till she was 22 months old. I dont think a single day has gone by where she hasnt asked to feed. and now with my 4 month old, it hasnt changed her asking for the better or worst. I just am not sure whether to give in when she hasnt for so long. I dont see it wrong ,i really am just not sure if its the right thing.any advice