How long a mom nurses her child is her decision alone. Here are a few things she just doesn't need to hear about extended breastfeeding.
People have a lot of opinions about breastfeeding in general, but they have even more to say about extended breastfeeding. Nevermind that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing throughout a baby's first year (and for as long afterward as both the mother and child want to continue) or that the World Health Organization suggests breastfeeding for at least two years—to some onlookers (including friends and family), nursing a toddler is just plain weird. As a mom who breastfed three babies well past their first birthdays, these are just a few of the comments I've heard:
1. "If they're old enough to ask for it, they're too old to nurse."
Another variation on this sentiment: "If a kid is old enough to order in a restaurant, he's too old to breastfeed." (Really, I heard a guy say that just the other day.) First of all, breastmilk is rarely on the menu. Second of all, verbal expression skills don't signal the end of breastfeeding any more than the emergence of teeth. Which leads us to...
2. "All those teeth! Doesn't it hurt?"
Clearly anyone who says this has no understanding of how the human mouth works. After all, you don't use your teeth to suck on a straw, do you? (Disregard that analogy if you're one of those people who chews on straws.) The point is, teeth are generally used for solid food. Breast milk = liquid.
3. "That's so inappropriate."
Actually, what's inappropriate is that anybody would think a natural function of the human body is inappropriate. Believe it or not, breasts were designed to make milk! That's like, their job! Who knew?
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4. "Doesn't it bother your husband?"
Does it bother my husband that I'm doing something beneficial for our child's health? Oddly, he's cool with it!
5. "I would be so worried about my boobs getting saggy."
Ouch. Look, I'll be honest—we're all worried about our boobs getting saggy. But that'll eventually happen regardless of whether I breastfeed (and for how lnog) or not. Besides, we don't let our fear of stretch marks stop us from getting pregnant, do we?
6. "What are you gonna do when he goes to school?"
Well, I figured I would just show up at snacktime and whip out a boob. I'm sure his teacher won't mind. Of course, things might get a little awkward when he goes to college.
7. "Kids her age should be eating real food."
Agreed! But here's the thing: Toddlers can actually eat "real" food and breastfeed. Not at the same time, of course. That would be pretty tough to pull off.
8. "Wouldn't you be embarrassed if people found out?"
Of course, that's why we both wear disguises when I breastfeed in public. It's like Halloween every day!
9. "Breastmilk is only good for babies."
Maybe that's what they told our grandmothers, but current science says otherwise: Packed with protein, calcium, brain-boosting fats, Vitamin A, and more, breastmilk is a nutritional powerhouse for infants and toddlers alike—and nursing's immune system-boosting powers increase the longer a child nurses. So, yeah.
10. "He's going to grow up to be obsessed with breasts!"
Following that logic, we'd all be "obsessed" with everything we liked to do when we were toddlers. And since most adults I know don't dip everything in ketchup or binge-watch Sesame Street, I'm not too concerned.