Thursday

nursing

I breastfed baby# 1 for three weeks (Bad medical advice. Classic early weaning story.). I nursed baby #2 for 5 years. I nursed baby #3 for 3 years. Baby #2 was totally self-weaned. The week of her 5th birthday, she announced she was done with nursing. I urged baby #3 along some with his weaning. I was a bit more ready to be done that time. But he had never been as dependent on nursing as his sister, so that went easily.

Basically, my two fully breastfed children weaned when they were ready. And nursing them was one of the most rewarding parts of mothering so far.

(The only part of nursing that I disliked were the bras. I'm a girl who likes a nice La Perla or Calvin Klein push-up bra. Always have been. Cotton nursing bras were a burden I had to bear until I could get back into the good stuff.)

Given my own experiences and views on breastfeeding, I am very pleased to see that a mainstream parenting magazine like PARENTS has published an essay this month from my friend Dia Michels about the fact that she is still nursing her five year old daughter.

I'm really happy that those of us who go with child-led weaning are getting our say amongst all the infant formula and plastic bottle ads that clutter up the mainstream parenting mags.

19 comments:

mamalife said...

I just read that article and was also SOOOOO SOOOOOOO SOOOOOO thrilled to see it!! Usually these magazines seem to be filled with formula ads, let your baby cry itself to sleep advice, and comments like now that your baby is 9 months old it is time to start weaning. I am nursing my 13 1/2 month old and she shows NO signs of wanting to give up her mama milk despite comments from others that she ought to "well, breastfeeding is OK I suppose until 6-9 months, but after that..." I LOVE nursing her and have no plans at this point to wean her before she is ready, be that a few months from now or some years.

sajmom said...

I remember as a teenager hearing rumors that someone breastfed her son until he was 4 and I thought that was so strange and he would probably have problems as a result. When my daughter was born I ran across an article Breastfeed a Toddler, Why on Earth? and after that I read more on the subject. I was in no hurry to end nursing because it was such a beautiful relationship and my daughter ended up weaning herself at 3 after my son was born. I think once the milk came in it didn't taste right to her because she was used to the colestrum. It was partly a relief, but there are still times where I miss the closeness it brought us. The only negatives you deal with are other people's (sometimes) negative reactions. I'm so glad it's being put out there as a normal thing!

Anonymous said...

I also have nursed all 3 of my children. My first self-weaned at 14 months, my second at 3 yrs, and my third just turned 2 and still wants her "num nums". I know that the mainstream still find this odd, but mainly to those that never breastfed. I hope to see more positive articles on breastfeeding toddlers!

Regina said...

I didn't breastfeed my first son and regret it to this day. Nursing my 2nd son was such a positive experience for both of us.

Anonymous said...

Both our children nursed, and really, the hardest part was the social support, or rather, lack thereof, from the parents and grandparents. I know they were well meaning, but shoot people, leave it be. I tell all the expectant dads I know that, aside from being harder than it looks at first (though ultimately more liberating . . . ever have to go looking for the ONE bottle you own) it will be your family that causes you the most direct grief and oddly, they're the ones you'll have be firmest with, or in our case, as in many families, I suppose, most passive-agressive with. The point of this rambling, is however, that it is very very nice to have a magazine to thrust into the hands of a grandparent or someone else and say "see here, I ain't just making up some hippy crap!" It can't be hippy crap if it comes with a glossy cover of an airbrushed babe with baby!

Anonymous said...

FIVE YEARS>..OH MY GOD. my son is five and i just cant imagine. and I nursed him till he was over two. then all he wanted was to nurse and not eat and I decided it was time to do some serious mother led weaning. imagine..he CRIED...oooh he will DEFINATELY rack up some therapy bills for that one (tongue in cheek here)I seriously hope that your willingness to smear yourself all over anyt6hing that will recieve the printed word doesnt result in your husbands lawyer getting wind of it.come to think of it, for someone who has attempted to make millions of women feel less than adequete because they didnt buy into the whole attachment parenting package I can think of no more fitting comeuppance than being accused of being a bad mother.

Dewi said...

Dear anonymous,
Breastfeeding a five year old is not unusual worldwide. Have you ever read any academic research about breastfeeding? Try reading Dr Katherine Dettwyler’s to broaden your narrow petty point of view. She is an anthropologist who researches and writes about the cultural perspectives of child led weaning. Can we get any more mainstream then the “Journal of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology” ?

A recent article.
Dettwyler, K.A. 2004 When to Wean: Biological Versus Cultural Perspectives,
Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology , 47(3):712-723.

Anonymous said...

yeah and if you live in a third world country you HAVE to breastfeed as long as possible so your child doesnt starve. a lot of these women choose to be malnourished themselves so their child can live..really a lot of them are in a situation where they are screwed whatever decision they make...they have to make some very hard choices. to take your decisions from what people in starvation conditions do to survive strikes me as a very poor decision making criteria. I mean did you decide to circumcise your daughters because "its a very common practice worldwide"???Would you sell your children into the sex trade "because its a very common practice worldwide". somehow I do not think so. a lot of these cultures that the le leche whackjobs quote as some "gold standard" when it comes to parenting practices do a lot of extremely barbaric things to their children when they arent "wearing" them (something they need to do so they can get up and work in the fields or whatever they must do to survive) or "sleep sharing" (its hard to imagine anything else if all you have is a one room hut with a straw mat when you sleep; if you're fortunate) or any of the other primitive practices "attachment parenters" have glommed onto in their attempts to fix what is broken within themselves. what amazes me is how many gullible naive people have fallen for a totally undocumented theory based on taking some common sense findings to the utmost extreme. someday I suspect another parenting generation will look at the extremes of attachment parenting as a bad experiment the same way they now look at the extreme behaviorism and hands off approach popular a generation or so ago. the people who tend to write books about parenting tend to go to extremes, from one to the other and back again. people who are balanced and common sense int heir approach dont seem to have their little mutual support clubs where they only mingle with thier own kind and thier little reading lists etc etc. they do the Nike thing and just do it. for people who are supposed to be thinking for themselves it sure doesnt look like it. I dont give a rats ass what someone in a primitive culture does because it does not have any bearing on me. I have also heard the animal kingdom argument although truth be told I believe some animals forcibly wean their babies. every time though I hear one of these nutjobs talking about how something must be "right" because its "natural" and "present in other species" I want to ask them if they eat thier newborn babies shit or devour their young when they get stressed out because thats sure what a lot of animals do.

Anonymous said...

I might add just because something appears in a mainstream journal doesnt mean jack shit to me. the APA says that homosexuality is "a normal variation" and I dont buy it for a second. (see above post for my thoughts on the argument that its natural because it appears in the animal kingdom) I do not worship at the shrine of academia. academics can be some of the most misguided, most screwed up people on the entire face of the universe. do you know there are people at Harvard, very very very highly educated people, who really, truly, with all thier hearts believe that we are on this earth as an alien experiment gone awry? I rest my case.... I take studies, especially those where there is even the smallest factor of subjectivity, with a very big grain of salt.

mamalife said...

I think when reading ANY parenting book, we have to take what works for us and leave the rest. What works for each parent and child is different. But there is a large culture out there that practices extended breastfeeding and it works for them. If it doesn't work for you, that is okay. Nursing until age 2 is AWESOME. If nursing until age 5 doesn't work for you, there is nothing wrong with that. BUT I think it is great that this article was featured in a mainstream publication. MANY people I know would find nursing until age 2 bizarre and disgusting. I am already receiving comments about it being bizarre and disgusting that I am still nursing my 13 month old and that I ought to have weaned her months ago (to the much superior formula thank you very much!) ... so to make people more aware that some choose extended breastfeeding and that it is NOT a bad or bizarre or disgusting thing is terrific!

Anonymous said...

I think there is a HUGE difference between two and a half to three year old and a five and a half year old. a toddler is really still just a baby. my five year old son is very very aware of body parts. I am quite certain if I had let him he would still be enthusiastically nursing (and probably eating even less food because he much preferred nursing over eating when he was doing it) and to be honest the thought of a child with the ability to verbalize, still nursing absolutely creeps me out. he will try and pretend to nurse sometimes and believe me its something I nip right in the bud. its called teaching kids boundaries. where is the upper limit? while I am quite sure no one but a true pervert would really be nursing a teen, I have seen people trying to defend nursing an eight year old. while some people in third world countries might do this as an act of desperation because they have inadequete food supplies you cant look at that and say that in a situation where food is available that its an acceptable thing to do. quite honestly I can understand why someone would call child protective services on someone nursing an elementary age child. the fact people pressure someone to wean a baby the second they turn one has nothing in my mind to do with the general creepiness of nursing an older child. and to be honest I never heard any of these supposed pressures to not breastfeed or wean or anything. maybe it doesnt happen where I live or maybe I was just in the right circles or maybe its grossly exaggerated so the LLL crowd can pat themselves on the back about what big martyrs they are for thier cause. I never encountered anyone appalled that I was nursing a two year old (and yes I did it in restaurants etc..this may surprise you given where I am coming from but I just whipped it out anywhere BUT I was also very very mindful of respect to other people and covered up which seems to be something sorely lacking among "lactivists") if anything what I did experience with my first, bottlefed child (and in my case it was LLL who screwed up, not the nasty male medical establishment that we all know, just out to prevent women from breastfeeding) people quizzing me in the checkout about why I didnt breastfeed etc etc. or telling me that "if only I had done this or that that I could have breastfed" or that I just really didnt care about my child that much, did I. interestingly the only weaning pressure i ever recieved was from my appalled pediatrician who discovered my daughter still had a bottle after her first birthday. the way I rationalized it was she had had no interest in a pacifier or thumb or any of the other usual "suckies" that you have to break kids of and I knew people nursed up to around two or three so I thought why should I go thru the big mess with a cup when she can just as easily drink the same fluid in a bottle. rather coincidentally, to the week, both of my kids were weaned at the exact same age. with my son I did a most unattachment parenting thing: I went camping with my older child and left my son with a sitter (mainly because I didnt want to deal with worrying about if he would run off and drown or something so I could just focus on having fun with my older kid) and told him that was it..no more. he made a big fuss for it for the first day and after I told him it was all gone he didnt ask again. I'm sure he's not scarred for life. I dont see any problem at all with the parent deciding what is best for the child and for the parent on certain things and taking decisive action. the time to let them self direct is more and more as they get older. is

Anonymous said...

I should add I believe you live in Florida and my general experience with the south is people there are not my cup of tea. I can imagine most of those beauty pageant barbies with perfect hair being appalled by the idea of breastfeeding period. and probably the idea of childbirth too while they are at it. thats probably why so many people I knew in the south when I was growing up were total hypocrites acting like Laura Ashley or something on the outside and then being total bimbos when they thought no one was looking.

mamalife said...

I don't know where the "cut-off" is where one should no longer be breastfeeding a child... that is an interesting debate. Again, I think it is different for every parent and child. While many, many people I know are very supportive of breastfeeding, even beyond one year of age, many have said to my face or my husband's face behind my back ("make your wife wean") otherwise... have not been the young barbies, but rather people of the 60-ish year age group. I think who very much grew up being told that formula is superior to breastmilk and that you ought to start your children on solids and whole milk as soon as possible. They were only doing what they were told at the time and it is hard to un-do that thinking. Much as I try to educate. If 20-30 years from now the tide swings back to that direction (hopefully it won't, but if it does), no one will be able to convince me that formula is superior to breastmilk - just as I cannot convince them that breastmilk is superior to formula. They've lived with their ideas too long to change them. And they would say of a 2 year old (or younger) as you do of a 5 year old (and have) - "That is gross, breastfeeding a child who is walking and talking".

Anonymous said...

I think there is a cut off and I think its when you have a kid that is acting more like a kid than a dependent baby (and toddlers really are more on the baby end than on the kid end). a kid old enough to make poop jokes and discuss body parts and be extremely aware that boys and girls have different equipment is a kid too old to be nursing or even (if of the opposite sex) seeing mommy nude. as far as the criticism..I was around plenty of older people and I never heard a peep about it. makes me wonder if what they are responding to is what you think is "educating" and what in fact comes off to THEM as fanatically cramming it down thier throats. I find it hard to believe that someone would be pressuring someone with an infant under a year old to wean unless perhaps their attitude and what they are shooting off at the mouth about brings it on. which makes them in fact wonder if you still WILL be nursing that child on into high school. to be honest I have met some people in real life who have nursed past around two and a half and to a person they seemed weird in ways that had nothing to do with breastfeeding. three seems to me to be the dividing line between reasonableness and whacko as far as I have observed. because like I said then you get into people who are dumb enough to use what is a survival tactic for people in third world countries and apply it as a "thou shalt" for people in the US. deny what they will I think there is a lot going on about meeting their own needs..probably in the direction of making up for what they didnt get or percieved they didnt get from their own parents. so they take what is common sense and apply the fact taht if a reasonable amount is good then as much as you can get is optimum. because children need to be held then constant round the clock skin to skin contact is a neccessity or the poor kid will need mountains of therapy when he/she is an adult.

mamalife said...

Anonymous, I actually do feel as you do that there is a difference between a nursing 2 year old and 5 year old and I don't at this point see myself still nursing when my child is 5. But I try not to judge others for their choices and what works for them simply because they are different than my choices and what works for me. And having a child is humbling, teaching you to "never say never" - before I had my baby I'd have said I'd not let that baby sleep in my bed, but indeed I did let my baby sleep in my bed for 8 months because it is what worked for us. I'm not sure why you assume if someone receives criticism for their choices/actions that it must be all their fault ("it must come across to THEM as fanatically cramming it down their throats")No, certainly I am NOT perfect and would never profess to be. My education of others has come only in response to their words to me against breastfeeding. For example, saying why don't I give my 6 month old cow's milk, wouldn't that be better than breast milk for my baby? Educating that no, cows milk is not an appropriate choice for an infant and why. Getting the response that "Well, that is what our doctors told us to give our babies back in the day and our babies grew up perfectly healthy." Responding that they did what they thought was best and were told to do, but medical thinking/knowledge changes over time. You are fortunate to NOT be surrounded by people who would find it odd to still be nursing a 2 year old or even younger baby. But because you are not subjected to such views does not mean they do not exist. Because I've never been surrounded by people who would judge me on my color or religion does not mean I fail believe others may have a different experience. NO ONE - not ONE person in my family or my husband's family has ever breastfed. Both of us have heard anti-breastfeeding comments from our families long before we every married, had a baby, chose to feed our baby in this way. Comments like "Breastfeeding is gross" "Only poor gypsies who can't afford formula breastfeed" "Breastmilk goes 'bad' after a year of age" ... because my baby would never take pumped breastmilk I've been told she obviously doesn't like breastmilk, cow's milk tastes better and this is what I ought to give her. Because one time she cried while I was nursing her to sleep I was told "She is crying because you are nursing her, she obviously doesn't like nursing" (she was crying because she never wants to go down for a nap and often fights it. If her daddy walks her to sleep she also cries but no one says "She is crying because her daddy is holding her, she obviously doesn't like her daddy to hold her")

Anonymous said...

perhaps the criticisms you recieve do exist..from what you have said about your family, assuming it is true, they sound like real winners in ways nonrelated to babies. BUT I hear all this stuff about how "everyone" gets all this pressure and I have never heard a peep. I am not talking family..my family lives clean accross the country..I mean the stuff out in public. I just never heard it. it does make me wonder whats up with all these people who supposedly are persecuted wherever they go for breastfeeding. if thats just part of their victimization mindset taht goes with being a "lactivist".
as far as a five year old...it raises a big red flag for me. and if you have people out in the media trying to normalize something that seems to me to be a symptom of all around psychological weirdness thats not a good thing. maybe thats why I dont read parenting magazines or books anymore. it does seem with attachmetn parenting, for people whose whole philosophy is supposedly based on thinking for yourself and not caring what anyone thinks, that they sure do a lot of groupthink and they spout out a lot of stuff that talks out of both sides of thier mouths. as in...dont let anyone tell you what to do with your baby...here let ME tell you what to do wtih your baby. sorry, dont need that. uh uh. no thanks.

sajmom said...

Wow, I find it amazing that you have never come across any criticism or negativity at all(towards breastfeeding). I live in Pennsylvania and can testify that it is alive and kicking here. I've dealt with comments from in-laws, people I work with, and total strangers also. Well-from strangers I've been lucky, only dissaproving stares. Looks of disgust. It has also been expressed that breastfeeding gives a wonderful start-meaning the first two or three months only. At work I started hearing, are you still doing THAT? when my daughter was around 9 months. I also heard that it was disgusting that I was doing THAT(expressing milk) in the bathroom, although the people of that opinion didn't say it to me. Intrestingly, a girl who said, I would never titty feed, that's gross! was the one who defended my right to pump. I worked with a lot of older women, and I think that a lot of them came to respect breastfeeding as a choice after seeing me give up all my breaks willingly to provide for my child. I think maybe it didn't seem as strange after knowing someone who did it sucessfully. I think a lot of people support breastfeeding in theory, as a lifestyle choice-but when actually practiced, they feel funny about it, as though there's something sexual going on. And that's where the stares and looks of disgust come in....which is why so many breastfeeding women feel pressured to stop or not do it at all. I'm lucky that I haven't experienced any outright yelling, but I do know others who have. It is real.

mamalife said...

Thank you sajmom... and thank you Barbara Walters for your idiot comment the other day on national television about the nursing mom on the plane making you uncomfortable... you unknowingly helped prove my point to all of America that indeed many people do have negative opinions of breastfeeding!!! (and what if that nursing mom was uncomfortable watching you eat your meal on the plane???)

Anonymous said...

nope. I never encountered it. not one. however with my bottlefed child i did have "lactivists" all over the place trying to find out why I wasnt nursing and then telling me what I could have done differently. it got to the point that I really just shunned any activity involving mothers with nursing age kids. because that was really all they talked about. unless you had a signed doctors note whatever you had to say just really wasnt good enough for them.
as for Barbara Walters, I dont think it means people are unaccepting if they dont want to see a breast full on. some people are discreet but to be honest I have seen a lot of nursing mothers who are very in your face about it. I didnt feel "persecuted" if I had an option to go somewhere private and chose to do that, with my child who nursed. I realize on a plane its unavoidable. I have been next to people who yes, eating thier meal DID offend me...they tried to talk with thier mouth open...some fat woman I remember in particular sucked down her meal and then started to ask me if I was going to eat some of my food I had left on my plate. (yeah I guess its un PC to state that morbidly obese people have a food problem instead of seeing them as a persecuted minority..but yeah..her eyeballing my brownie grossed me out) I have sat next to people with bad gas and BO and well, you are really stuck with whatever bodily functions the person next to you on a plane has. In an environment like a plane the polite person tries to not inflict stuff on the person next to them. like it or not breastfeeding involves a part of the body that is considered to be private. that means if you are in a situation where you need to nurse in public you cover up. if you do not and someone complains of course the "lactivist" will scream persecution instead of realizing they were just being rude. on the subject of breasts as sexual objects...read the song of solomon. men are attracted to them. so there. maybe their thinking that mens normal desires are sick and disgusting is why so many "lactivists" appear to be divorced. I think breasts can serve two purposes, just like vaginas.