As breastfeeding mothers we hear criticism and questionings from family, friends and strangers frequently. I wanted to hear from mothers out there on the negative statements and questions people have said to them. I received over 350 comments from people on Facebook when I asked this question! Here are some of their answers and my responses. One of the hardest things about hearing these is we just don’t know how to respond! We are left feeling frustrated and caught off-guard. Please bookmark this page so you can have the research at your fingertips to answer people when they say these things to you!
“Your ‘STILL’ breastfeeding?!”
“If he can ask for it then he’s ready to be done.”
“If you nurse past one year it is about you.”
The way we live as humans now in many parts of the world (including the US where I grew up and Australia where I live now) is incredibly weird and makes no sense. We used to live together in close communities. We now grow up usually never seeing anyone birth or breastfeed and then we have our own babies, head back home on day 2 or 3 knowing nothing and without any support. We hide in our houses alone (and we wonder why we have such high rates of post natal depression in our “modern” Western countries) and if we do breastfeed when out and about we can feel self-conscious with some women using blankets or hiding in dark corners of the café. It is no wonder then that people are shocked by the sight of a toddler breastfeeding! WE NEVER SEE IT! It’s become this strange phenomenon that people are shocked by. Not because these people are stupid but because they’ve never seen it. It’s like seeing a tiger walk down the street in the middle of town.
The World Health Organization recommends, “Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.” This recommendation is not just for developing countries but for EVERY woman in EVERY country around the world.
And as I mention in my BLOG POST about breastfeeding toddlers, “Cups and the ability to eat and drink things besides breastmilk has nothing to do with weaning. Natural weaning happens gradually (not abruptly) over a period of time, ideally when the child is ready…not when they start drinking from a cup or eating foods. Also, a ‘normal diet’ for a baby and toddler actually includes breastmilk. Dr. Dettwyler, an anthropologist who has done extensive research into the natural age of weaning suggests that the natural duration of breastfeeding among human, speaking biologically/physiologically, would be somewhere between 2.5 years and 7.0 years . Normality is culturally defined. Normal is not normal unless we (as a society) see it as such. Unfortunately most of us do not see this during our day to day life and feel as though breastfeeding is not a normal part of a toddler’s diet. However, breastfeeding our toddlers is one of the most normal things we do each day. In many cultures and communities around the world breastfeeding into toddlerhood and childhood is not only normal but expected. If you compare breastfeeding rates around the world (where the data has been collected), 50% of mothers are “still” breastfeeding their child at 23 months old .”
“Is he feeding again??”
“Don’t let him use you as a pacifier.”
Babies breastfeed frequently and without following a set schedule because breastmilk supply works on a supply and demand system. This means that babies must breastfeed frequently and have unrestricted access to the breast. This also menas that to many people it will look like the baby needs a pacifier when actually this behavior is the biological norm. Pacifiers took the place of what normally happens at the breast. Your breasts make more milk when they are well drained. Your baby knows exactly how to do this and if allowed to breastfeed when they ask for it then you will never have to questions “should I feed again?” as you know your baby will tell you.
Also, babies breastfeed for so many reasons too, not just hunger. These include pain relief, preventing an illness and relaxing to fall asleep. Every reason is just as important as hunger. The breast answers all of these.
I write in MY BOOK about our storage capacity and how this affects the frequency in which some babies must breastfeed. “Although we all make the same amount of milk within a 24-hour period, we have different storage capacities. This means that for some babies, breastfeeding frequently will be absolutely crucial for getting the milk they need to be nourished and to grow. Some babies can go three or four hours between breastfeeding, others will breastfeed every hour .”
“Formula is just as good.”
This is an excellent poster that was created by students for a project at Douglas College. As amazing as this poster is, it doesn’t even touch on the other factors that breastmilk provides.
*your breastmilk is constantly changing to meet the daily, ever changing needs of your child.
*the Montgomery glans on your nipples (the little bumps) actually pick up signals from your child’s saliva which tells your body how to change the milk to meet your baby or toddlers needs for that day. We are continually exposed to different pathogens and bacteria. Your milk helps to prevent these illnesses and will then help heal your child if they do get sick .
“You will have to wean once she gets teeth and starts to bite you.”
I’ve been bitten by my babies and I’ll be the first to say, “IT HURTS!!!” however there are many different ways to stop this behavior which do not include weaning! The good news? You can stop the biting! It just takes some specific things you need to do, don’t just let your baby bite you! Here is some of what they had to say.
“Unlatch, firmly say no and keep him off for a minute. My two year old was a biter but she learned if she wanted milk she couldn’t bite.” A.R.C
“Unlatch, cover your boob firmly say no and wait for a minute. They quickly learn biting equals no boob and no boob is like the end of the world.” J.C.
“I always had my little finger just at the edge of her mouth so I could push it in and save my nipple.” J. P.
“Basics of attachment and make sure they latch correctly. I have problems if my daughter gets lazy with attachment.” A. C.
“Pop the little finger in the side of the mouth where the cheek is near the breast and break the suction calmly say no bite mommy that hurts put the baby down a few seconds and try again on the other side if it happens again repeat with a longer break.” P.B.
“I support breastfeeding, but what’s so hard about covering yourself??”
“You should give her cows milk. She can drink from cup now, right?”
It’s interesting how we don’t think twice about drinking milk from a cow (literally made for another species) yet question a toddler who is breastfeeding. Cow’s milk is made for cows. Human milk is made for humans. “Milk is a product of evolution designed specifically for the nutrition of infant mammals. It bridges the nutritional gap between intrauterine dependence and extrauterine independence. The same nutrients are present in the milk of all species, although in different proportions. Such quantitative differences appear to be an adaptation to the nutritive requirements of the young of each species .”
“She’s STILL not sleeping through the night?”
“He would sleep better if you just stopped breast feeding/gave formula/started solids earlier than 6mo.”
“Your milk isn’t strong enough for her, thats why she doesn’t sleep through.”
There are many important reasons babies continue to wake through the night:
- Research shows frequent waking to breastfeed is a protective factor agasint SIDS
- Babies will wake more frequently when they are going through a growth spurt and need to increase your supply, are going through a developmental milestone, teething or are fighting an illness they have been exposed to.
- Research shows that the growth of our babies’ brains (DNA synthesis) happen rapidly during the first few years of life,
- Breastmilk has components in it which actually help our babies and toddlers fall asleep
- We often forget that babies and toddlers wake for many reasons other than hunger.
I go into much greater detail on night-waking and gentle solutions to sleep in my new book.
“You need to wean ASAP so this baby can stay the night with me!”
“He will be completely dependent on you.”
“It’s a shame you cannot enjoy the get together because you are having to feed.”
“Can you just express enough so we can go out for a meal all evening.”
“You’re in trouble!” Basic translation: “You need to stop giving him what he wants or he will manipulate you forever.”
Secure attachments in children are formed through meeting their needs and answering their cries. It is formed through being there with your small children. Babies and young children need frequent contact with their caregivers. Many of us choose to be with our young children for the first few years instead of leaving them with someone else so we can attend a wedding or gathering. We know that these early years lay down the foundation for this attachment which is crucial for their development. These attachments lead to secure humans which lead to independence. Sensitive and responsive parenting in the first years of life is crucial to attachment. Simple, and often instinctive, actions such as holding a baby lovingly, and responding to their needs, are key to the development of attachment. Equally important might be acknowledging a baby’s unhappiness with facial expressions and then reassuring them with warm, happy smiles and soothing tones .
Are you afraid your child is going to be forever clinging to you?
“Are you sure you have enough milk?”
The frequency in which your baby feeds is not an indication that you do or do not have enough milk. Here is how you know your baby is getting enough:
- Does your baby have at least 5-6 wet nappies every 24 hour period along with at least 2-3 bowel movements?
- Is your baby gaining weight as expected?
- Is your baby generally happy and content?
“His teeth will rot from breastfeeding at night.”
Absolutely NOT TRUE. The most recent evidence based information on breastfeeding and tooth decays shows that breastfeeding at night does NOT cause cavities. Breastmilk actually has antibodies that work AGAINST cavities . However research shows the following DOES contribute to tooth decay: sugar, strep mutans (bacteria) entering a baby’s mouth, salivary disorders, maternal or foetal illness or stress during pregnancy, poor dietary habits of the family, poor oral and overall hygiene of the family, family genetics and some other conditions .
“Mastitis for the second time and my mother said ‘Why don’t you just give it up?’”
Mastitis is an infection within the breast. Some women are very susceptible to this. It can be due to a woman being sleep deprived and run down, yet in many cases this can be due to a woman’s underlying gut health issue. If you have a healthy digestive system that is filled with the “good” bacteria then you will be in a much better position to be able to fight off infection within your body. There has been research conducted which reveals how our body’s immune system shapes the gut microbiota to naturally limit infections . More and more research is currently being publishes which shows the relationship between gut health and our immune system. This of course applies to any part of your body if you are fighting an infection. Eat a diet with lacto-fermented and cultured foods which are high in good bacteria and incorporate bone broths made from grass-fed organic animals. This helps heal and build your gut health. The focus needs to be about finding the source of why someone is having recurrent mastitis or thrush, not advising a woman to wean who would like to continue to breastfeed.
“I’m all for breastfeeding, BUT…”
This is my favorite comment of all. 🙂 Remember, you cannot be “all for” anything if there is a big, fat “BUT” after it.