Infant feeding: the problem with calling it choice

Hands up who likes the term ‘feeding choice’?

I don’t.

Bottle feeding mums defend their ‘choices’ when in actual fact many would argue there wasn’t much choice in it at all. How they came to feed their little ones was more of a baby/life-led decision, made when they felt at their most broken; a series of events that called for a series of options when all the best laid plans had turned to shit, forever to be stereotyped because of their feeding outcome.

It doesn’t just work that way for the decanters either. There are those that feed their children beyond two years of age. They get pigeon-holed and stereotyped too. Just today, I read a comment from a mother whose GP had remarked it ‘odd’ she was still feeding her two year old. I have had someone comment on this blog about feeding children beyond a certain age increases the risk of autism because of the toxins in hooter juice. I have had friends being told they’re giving their children mental problems. We do that anyway, regardless of how long they boob-fed for.

So, let’s sum this up; if you bottle feed, you’re lazy, irresponsible, selfish, uneducated and your children will be fat, wheezy, thick and covered in warts and boils. If you breastfeed beyond two years of age, you’re lazy, irresponsible, selfish, uneducated and your children will be mentally deranged autistic perverts. No hope either way by my reckoning.

Over the next few blogs, I will be looking into the research surrounding feeding beyond two years of age and would like to share a couple stories with you; from mums that are boobing their kids beyond the age of two. Even if you think this isn’t a subject for you, please stick around because hopefully you’ll see it isn’t militant lactivists putting their narcissistic needs before their child’s. They are mothers being baby/life-led, just like everyone else.

Let us start with this:

“I had a very bad start bringing my boy into the world. I suffered a huge haemorrhage and my heart stopped.  I underwent a lot of treatment resulting in memory loss, dislocated hips, the list goes on …

My partner, unknown to me, actually listened when I was pregnant. He spent the first 3 days of our son’s life battling with staff to not give him a bottle as I spent my time fighting in ICU to be his mummy.

An off duty nurse, who came from nowhere,  started holding my son to me, helping me feed him when I was not awake.  When I awoke, the first thing they did was take me to a room and latch him on again;  my arms and legs were elevated and in these strange contraptions that were blown up and down to help my circulation.  I had been given so much blood I looked like the Michelin man!

Anyway my son fed and kept feeding and loved it. Because of our start, I feel so blessed to have been able to breast feed and now he is going to be 2 in April! I have gotten to the point where I am just going to rely on talking to him about it when he understands a bit more; that it’s time to stop but for now it’s all that settles him… He doesn’t sleep through ever at all everrrrr! And the only thing that’s settles is the boob. I have tried everything believe me!

He doesn’t feed in the day, although he asks if he falls over or feels tired. It’s just a night night bedtime thing now.

Last week a friend of mine posted a picture of her breast feeding her newborn child on Instagram.  She is a very well known artist and has 100s of followers. She had nothing but likes and good wishes. I wrote a message saying that it was a beautiful picture and she was doing an amazing  job. She then replied to me tagging my name to the message and said what an amazing job I had done and she hopes she will be able to feed for as long as me …

I then received a horrid message under a photograph of my son on my Instagram from a complete stranger saying “omg jeez, you’re not seriously saying you still breastfeed a mature infant? That’s completely disgusting and vile and you shouldn’t be a parent” …. It gets worse …..

I got emails saying I am affecting my son mentally and I am vile woman, doing it only for myself and I need help.  Then I got this message, “breastfeeding is for nutrition and bonding, yes, but at two years old, a child would have and should have formed a bond already. I feel sorry for your child that is sucking on his mother’s breast when he’s a mature infant just to please your needs. He will develop complexes in later life. I find this really appalling.”

I reported and blocked them and have had just one email since.

It has completely affected me. It is like someone who has no idea who I am has completely shattered me .

I have always suffered with lack of confidence. Becoming a mother was terrifying for me as I don’t want my son to become anxious like me. I want him to be happy and confident and healthy. That’s all I ever want for him. He can do anything and I will always support him. But now I feel like everything I have done so far is because I have been selfish and because of our start, perhaps I haven’t been able to let go and everything that he struggles with now is in effect due to me not letting go? I have no idea what I am doing now.

I know my son is happy and healthy. He won’t drink from a bottle. He won’t even have my milk in a bottle or cup. Just wants to breast feed the whole way and I am ok with it. So why is that a problem I have no idea? I didn’t think I would breast feed at all let alone for 2 years.

It’s such a head job being a mum and everyone has different opinions and I just wish I had enough confidence to be strong in my own opinions.  I don’t know why I am still breast feeding. I don’t know why my child doesn’t sleep. But deep down, I feel my son is comforted by me and I him and we have a bond. He will make his own decision when the time is right for him .

I don’t want to be doing this when he’s 4 but I’d like to think all this hard work came to a lovely end when we both talked to each other about it and I want that to remain a constant throughout his entire life. I am his mum and his point of call for anything he needs.

If you are a longer-term boober and would like to offer support to this mummy, then please get in touch, either by commenting below or by emailing evidencebasedtitsandteeth@gmail.com.

If you have your own feeding stereotype-busting story you want to tell, then please get in touch.

My milk brings all the boys to the yard
My milk brings all the boys to the yard

 

24 thoughts on “Infant feeding: the problem with calling it choice

  1. To L, from your sister in law and fellow full term breast feeder – I think you are amazing! Your last two paragraphs are perfect and fully explain how I feel too, about feeding your little boy’s cousin still at nearly 3 years old. The weird person who felt the need to comment on your life only needs to be directed towards this blog post. If this doesn’t make them think twice about the horrible things they have said, then nothing will. xxx

  2. Sorry that so many people were so horrible to you. Try to be confident in your motherly instinct, and remind yourself that most people’s opinions are
    formed through ignorance. Tell them that the UN recommends breastfeeding to at least age 2, and that breastfeeding around the world and throughout history is/was generally longer. Our culture is what is abnormal, sadly. Keep going for as long as it works for you both. I am still feeding my 26 month old twice a day, and it’s all led by her. She will stop when she is ready, and I hope it is one aspect of my parenting that will help ensure she feels she has a secure base for life.

  3. Well, here’s the thing: I never set out to breastfeed a 4 year old. I just fed my newborn baby and it was a bit hard and then it got easier and then it just became normal. And it carried on being normal. And then, because I’m basically lazy and my style of parenting is “line of least resistance” we kept on because they seemed to need it for whatever reason, God alone knows what goes on inside their freakishly-large-for-their-bodies heads, and I wasn’t about to start a fight about stopping it. So in the end my daughter weaned herself just after her 4th birthday and my son when he was 4 and a half and I’d really had enough and offered to buy him a games console if he would lay off the “milkies”.

    I did a lot of reading up about average ages of weaning around the world and in different cultures, amongst other great apes and so on but, really, the only people to decide when a breastfeeding relationship comes to an end are the two people involved in it.

  4. I find it totally horrific that you’ve been subjected to such awful behaviour. You’re still feeding your son because its the most natural thing a mother and child can do and a perfect way for your son to reconnect with you. For some reason we’ve (society) moved into thinking that 12 months is a long time to breast feed whereas anthropological studies suggest that the natural age of weaning, for a human, is anywhere between 2.5-7 years of age!
    You are doing an amazing job and to have managed to feed in the first place after such an experience is a huge credit to you and your support network. Be proud Mummy and know that what you are doing is right for you and your son and not anyone else’s business. Also be safe knowing you’re boosting both his health and yours by continuing to feed.
    Big love to you xxx

  5. I’m so sorry to read this. I once read somewhere that the never ending popular past time is judging other people’s parenting. Unfortunately that mostly means us women. I find that people who lash out do so out of their own insecurities, and I am in awe of you breast feeding for so long. I’ve been close to the other end of the criticism, and I hope for the day we stop apologizing for breast feeding for zero to however many months!

  6. What these two lovely ladies said! Follow your instincts. He’s obviously happy on boob as you can see so don’t worry. You will both find a natural way to move on to the next stage of your journey. For now keep going (I don’t know what I’d do without boob! ) x

  7. I nursed my son until he was a year old. My neighbors considered this strange! I live in Asia and it’s perfectly acceptable here to nurse older children, especially since the poorer families cannot afford to buy milk. Most children nurse until they reach school age (as early as 3 or 4) and the government schools will provide the children with milk.

    It is also tabboo in this culture to let your child “cry it out”, so if you have a baby who wants to nurse, you are expected to nurse him. Children who are given bottles are almost always those who are being cared for by someone other than their mother. Benjamin was weaned at 6 months, as his mother remarried and moved away and he was left with his grandmother.

    Don’t let anyone tell you your child is too old to nurse. That decision is between you and your child and is no one else’s business. As long as you love your child and give him a secure and happy home, he or she will generally grow up a mature and responsible adult.

  8. This topic has to be the most controversial one for mommies across the globe. I breastfed for 6 months, but also gave a 1-2 bottle feeds while breastfeeding to keep my baby full for a little longer so that we both could catch up on some rest. And I don’t care 2 cents about if mix feeding raises eyebrows. Be damned. I made a baby. I gave him life. I took the pains. And no one from the outside has a right to squeak.

  9. Well done! What an amazing thing to even start breastfeeding after the start you had (brownie points to your husband too!).

    I’m still breastfeeding an almost 2 year old (as well as my 7 week old!). Thankfully I haven’t received any criticism (other than a comment about how I’ll be sticking my boob through the school gates!) but I’m fully aware it exists!

  10. As a mum of four I’ve done the feeding thing every which way. I still regret that I didn’t breastfeed the twins and turned the option down flat (although once they were born and sent to special care no one mentioned it again, although if I’d known the benefit of liquid gold on premature babies maybe I’d have found the resolve to at least try. Nevertheless they’ve grown into healthy, intelligent young women and I won’t have formula decried as a wrong choice for anyone.
    Nevertheless, I was determined to breastfeed my daughter, 12 years later, even when pitted against a midwife who thought my nipples were too small and only had time for bottle-feeding mums. My daughter breastfed got a day shy of 13 months before self-weaning. Although I never had any outright criticism I found people more willing to raise an eyebrow after 6 months, as though the introduction of baby rice negated any need for breast milk.
    Another 4 years later and I had my son. I knew I could breastfeed and there was no question of choosing otherwise. Rather than set myself a deadline I decided that i would let things take it’s course. Just like my daughter, he would know when to stop. 27 months later he’s still breastfeeding. Not often – usually just once a day, usually around mid-morning – although if he’s struggling to sleep a quick bit of boobie juice will settle him quicker than anything I know.
    Annoyingly the only criticism I’ve had has come from a health visitor who stated that I must have failed to wean him properly when introducing solid food for him to still be breastfeeding. A completely unhelpful and negative comment from someone whose meant to be a professional offering guidance and support.
    I’m not being selfish by extending the time he’s feeding for. I’d quite like him to stop. I’d like to be able to wear pretty bras and dresses that don’t require easy boob access. But to stop him for such superficial reasons would be selfish. And I shall be sad when it’s done for good.
    I agree that often it’s circumstance rather than anything else that determines how mothers feed their babies and toddlers. Those who can indulge their child’s preferences are the lucky ones. But at the same time I wouldn’t judge any mother for how they feed, whether it’s a complete refusal to try breastfeeding or still suckling a school-aged child. Some things wouldn’t be my preference, but that doesn’t make them wrong. Motherhood would be a far happier place if it wasn’t for the judgements of others condemning ‘choices’ at every turn.

  11. You’re doing nothing wrong. I always thought that if I could feed my daughter for 6months then that would be a big plus. Well, you say you don’t want to be feeding your son at 4 – that’s the age I stopped feeding my daughter!
    It wasn’t planned that way. It just happened. She was an assisted delivery (ventouse) and I never felt we bonded. I suffered PND and felt like the worst mother in the world. Went back to work when she was 20weeks old. But she refused cups and bottles so somehow I kept up the booby feeds. I figured if I was a sh*t mother for the way I felt (or didn’t feel) then seeing as the feeding came easy it was the one thing I could do for her.

    Before my daughter I thought “oh, you should stop once they have teeth”, then “oh once she can ask for it” and eventually “when she can walk over and help herself”.

    4 years.

    I learnt a lot in that time.

    And it wasn’t for me, ever. It was for her. And even if it had been for me it still would have been for her first and foremost because you can’t force a child to breastfeed.

    Turns out I wasn’t a sh*t mum after all and I did a good job.

    And your doing a good job too xx

  12. This upset and angered me. You should not have to be subjected to such vile, ignorant abuse for doing what is perfectly natural for your child. Fuck each and every idiot who feels it is their right to force their ill-considered opinions on you and keep doing whatever you feel is right. I’m breastfeeding my 6 month old and have no firm plan on when to finish but like you, imagine it will be a baby-led decision.

  13. I’m still feeding my 3 (and a bit) yr old wee girl, like you only at bedtime and through the night now, she also doesn’t sleep and I think the treatment you’ve received is appauling, I’ve had a few shocked looks when I say I’m still feeding her but nothing as horrible as this keep at it you’re doing a fab job xx

  14. I fully support you in your patenting style . I think it speaks volumes about the people who have derided you so venomously; I wonder what doubts and insecurities they may be harbouring to make them attack you in this manner. It also comes across to me that they seemed to be sexualising the brest when they were horrified that the ‘mature infant’ ( an oxymoron if ever I’ve heard one!) was still ‘sucking’ and that is why it would psychologically damage them. The implication appeared to be that there would be some confused sexual messages between mother and child and that there was almost a type of abuse happening! Nothing could be further from the truth. I too have a two year old (very nearly) and I too continue to feed her. It is natural, bonding, nourishing and I have no plans to stop yet as she obviously gains huge benefits. I feel so sad that you found yourself in the line of fire through supporting a friend. I personally think you’re doing a terrific job! Well done.

  15. My father in law grew up in a tiny town in the South of Spain during the time of Franco. His family was very poor. He was breastfed until the age of 7!! Because it was free and nutritious!! The reason he stopped was because he was sent to work picking cotton. He is one of the most beautiful, gentle and MENTALLY STABLE people I know!! He has worked HARD all his life, he has raised his own family and as far as I can tell, loved his mother dearly with no unusual issues!! Don’t pay attention to anybody, they are speculating. Your relationship with your child is yours and yours alone.

  16. I will never understand why people who have nothing nice to say just don’t say anything at all. How you feed your children is your choice, and personally I wish I had the time and patience to have continued nursing my kids, but I work full time, hate pumping and after nursing I just want my body back. I say KUDOS to you, you are my hero 🙂

  17. I think what you’re doing is fantastic! I’m currently breastfeeding my third daughter. She is only 5 mo old, and I returned to work full-time, so I pump there and nurse when I’m home. Unfortunately, I have been met with a few comments about how much ‘easier’ formula would be. Don’t you think if I thought it was the right thing for us, AND it was easier, I would do it?! I haven’t slept through an entire night in almost a whole year, between the pregnancy and nighttime snacks! I have a friend who just had her first child, planned to nurse, but circumstances presented themselves which prevented that all together. Your statement that “how they came to feed their little ones was more of a baby/life-led decision, made at the worst possible time” was very powerful. I know my friend feels guilt for not being able to nurse, and I can’t wait to share this with her. Thank You and keep up the great work!

  18. I just want to say, how these messages have warmed the cockles of my heart. Thank you all so very much and I know they are gratefully received by the wonderful mummy who shared her experience.

  19. I wasn’t able to breastfeed for as long as I wanted to because the doctors didn’t want my kids to be consuming my epilepsy meds for any longer than absolutely necessary. I made the choice to follow their instruction, as I am their mother, and responsible for their well-being. I took some flack for it, too, from other moms who thought I should be breastfeeding no matter what. It was none of their business, and it’s none of anyones business how you breastfeed your children. You should tell your self esteem to take a break from feeling anything about your choices on this one, because this isn’t about you. It’s about other people thinking they know best for your child, and those people are just rude. Furthermore, I think they’d be the exact same people to throw a tantrum the instant they thought someone else was butting into their own parenting business.

  20. I just wanted to add my support to my fellow commentators and say that it’s nobody’s business how long you breastfeed for, likewise it’s nobody’s business if the child is formula-fed instead. These judgmental people should shove their feet in their mouths and go away.
    On another note, I think most of the judgment stems from the overly-sexualized culture in North America. Like others have mentioned, breastfeeding is far less judged in other places in the world. But here, boobs are viewed as sexual objects; while people recognize that for little babies breastfeeding is normal, they think that any longer suddenly is no longer normal, and they start to make a (however unnecessary) sexual connection. I certainly don’t condone sending hateful messages, but I can understand the culture that it arises from. It’s all about educating the ignorant, so stay strong in your choices as a mother, and perhaps prepare some choice words for if/when you’re next confronted.

  21. Unfortunately, the world is full of ignorant people who live only to tear others down.

    We bottle fed our son until he was 2 1/2. He also had a soother until he was around the same age. Those were his choices, not ours, and he was happy. It took us 2/12 years to potty train him, and we didn’t even attempt that until he was 2. We made that decision because he would go on the carpet in his room and then cover it up with his stuffed animals. Drove us nuts, but we got through it … lol.

    I got criticized by a couple of “friends” who thought I was doing everything wrong and told me I was going to have problems with my child. Know what? He’s 8 now, and doing just fine. Plus, I told those two “friends” where they could go.

    YOU know what is best for YOUR son, not them. You obviously love him and do the best that you can for him. Try not to let the idiots — and there are a lot of them — get to you and know that there are far more of us who understand and applaud you for being the amazing mom you are to your son. So try not to beat yourself up or second-guess yourself because of their stupidity, OK. You’re doing great! 🙂

  22. When I was rushed to theatre, my husband and I literally did not know who or which one of me and the baby-to-be would be alive at the end of it. Once the emergency cesarian had taken place, I woke up (but could not open my eyes) somewhere – and while I was stuck in this somewhere place I realised that something had changed about me. Then the phrase ‘My baby’ entered into my mind – and a fear spread like lightening through my whole body – and I couldn’t breathe, but happily the adrenaline kick from the fear got my eyes to open – and my head to move up a little. I saw a women (a nurse? a doctor? a midwife?) holding a baby in this place I was in. I was gripped by another fear now – what if that wasn’t my baby – and I wanted so badly to ask – but I coulnd’t even breathe again. Once a minute or so of emotions so strong and cripplingly frightening had gone by, I asked ‘Is that my baby?’ and my whole body braced itself for a grief that I knew would break me. ‘Yes’ she said, smilling ‘would you like to feed her?’ she then asked. I nodded and somehow a torrent of tears of relief didn’t slide down my cheeks, because now – I’m going from fear straight into shock. The baby is alive! omg – omg – omg- and she brought this little, chubby, shnuffly baby over – and she laid the baby gently in the crook of my arm – and helped me lower my hospital gown – then put the baby gently on top of my stomach, and stayed there to help both of us. This shnuffly little pookle sguiggled and pawed and mouthed and found the nipple and fell off – then somehow, she latched on. She! The woman had said she! ‘It’s a girl!’ I suddenly said – and she laughed. ‘Yes’ she smiled again. I was so very, very, very, very lucky. I woke up an hour or so after the emergency c-section, and my baby was a natural feeder. Lucky. Not skilled, not a choice, not predictable in any way – it’s lucky I could keep it up, it’s lucky I felt strong enough to tell them to take away the morphine drip – I’d rather the pain than the risk of dropping my baby in a haze of drugs so strong my head kept rolling around.

    Fast forward 2 and a half years. My darling pookle has almost stopped BF. It’s been a natural path for us. She refused point blank from as young as 6 weeks old to take a bottle or syringe or cup or anything but Mamma milk – even with a Health Visitor from hell – who tried to tell me my breast milk was ‘inadequate’ and that my baby’s weight was ‘dropping’. I went to a GP who confirmed that there was no proof in the former, but that since my daughter had dropped from the 9th centile to inbetween the 9th and the 4th centile that she would be referred under a ‘failure to thrive’ to the Sick Children’s Hospital. My whole life in these first weeks was dominated by a) my inability to even get out of a chair or the bed without help – due to the 12 inch long emergency cesarian scar (wound) that had cut my stomach muscles in two – and this witch who turned up at my house and demeaned every.single.thing she could think of. I had a wonderful midwife who continued to turn up and (emotionally) support me well after she needed to. This kept me going. The hospital doctor told me that the HV was *bonkers* and that my daughter was fit and well and that she had far more poorly children and babies to look after and wrote a strongly worded letter to my GP. She told me I was ‘strong and capable’ and had my husband not been sitting there, I might have asked her to marry me. 😀 Her words meant so much to me.

    My daughter has one kidney. We found out that our baby-to-be (sex unknown at that point) had one kidney during the last trimester anatomy scan – and it was highly recommended that I breast fed her for as long as possible – the reason being that it would give her the strongest immune system possible, because formula does not contain immune system goodies from Mamma’s body – and that the protection it would afford her from childhood illnesses (where the treatments to help may not be great for her kidney) wasn’t to be found anywhere else but in Mamma’s milk – and so we both just kept going with it.

    I’ve sat and read this whole page – and the comments – and I’ve cried and laughed and remembered and winced at all the different things. Thank you – for accidentally reminding me of what a journey I’ve been on, and am still on! xXx

    To the Mamma who got the horrible emails for BF her pookle: You are right. This does not make others wrong. I just happen to be walking the same path as you are or were – and I’ve heard the renal children’s doctors and the general children’s doctors all saying the same thing. Her immune system and her long-term health will have a better CHANCE. But it’s purely chance that led me to be ABLE to BF her at all – and yes – the women who choose an elective cesarean – and then choose to bottle feed will always be a mystery to me, but in a good – not in a bad – way – – – just as I must be to them – and that variety is wonderful, really. The only bad mothers or fathers or people out there are the ones dishing out insults, without thought of the damage that it might do.

    My pookle has moved away from BF quite recently – and she’s emotionally all over the place. She wants a random feed every few days or so, and I’m amazed that my boobs can still do it. I did think that if we missed a day or so that the BF would just stop immediately. She’s stretching her emotional legs a little, testing her own limits. I make sure to just enjoy what feeds she still takes. I have no idea which one will be the last we share. Peas n loaf lovely Mammas. ❤ 🙂

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