Please note that I tried to use the most current research that I could get my hands on. And as always, please note that I do recognize the hard work that some mothers put in and because of different circumstances they do not breastfeed for as long as what is "recommended." I applaud every mother who attempts breastfeeding and I am saddened for the mother who gives it 200% but can't continue on. I know things happen and I believe any breast milk is a blessing and that you should always be proud of the efforts you have given. xo
"When do you plan on weaning?"
"How long do you plan on breastfeeding?"
"You need to get that kid off of the tit."
And my favorite: "Breastfeeding past _______ age is bad for baby because ________."
photo taken while breastfeeding in a public garden in a downtown
shopping district, Ponchatoula, LA
Here in the United States our society and culture has created this "idea" of what is ideal for breastfeeding. To be quite honest, some of the things that I hear and see in regards to breastfeeding are actually quite humorous. So many people have this idea that they know what is right for breastfeeding and that they know when a mother should stop. Whether it is that they feel that the baby can become developmentally delayed for breastfeeding too long (which is bullshit) or that they just think it's "too weird," people in our country have a habit of forming an uneducated opinion.
The US is pretty behind in terms of breastfeeding in comparison to other countries. More than 70% of American mothers
follow recommendations to exclusively breastfeed from birth until six months. Many mothers unfortunately toss in the towel when things get hard, then some try everything they can with no success and others breastfeed but fall into the category of introducing cereal and solids too soon (usually from the pressure of older generation moms). This is why we do not meet the criteria for exclusively breastfeeding for six months per all of the recommendations.
I'd like to note here that I applaud every mama for trying; any breast milk is always a blessing. I know situations arise that make it hard for a mother to continue breastfeeding. If you're a new bf mama, just remember that the first 6-8 weeks are the hardest and that most of the time there is a solution to a problem. Always be proud the effort you gave. xo
What is considered "extended breastfeeding" here is completely normal elsewhere. Women in the United Arab Emirates
that a baby receive breast milk for two years or the father can sue the mother for "breaking the law." Many countries such as Africa breastfeed well into toddler hood without making it a "big deal."
Research collected by
showed that 50% of mothers worldwide were breastfeeding their toddler around 20-23 months old, while only 23.8% of US mothers were breastfeeding their toddler at 12 months. In India, Rwanda, Kenya, Bangladesh, Iran and Pakistan, over 51% of mothers were still breastfeeding their 20-23 month old (Bangladesh was 89% - wow).
So what does this mean? While yes some countries choose to breastfeed for a long time due to little access to clean drinking water and for health reasons (so don't even throw that one in my comment box), it does mean that the US is a bit behind. And why are we behind even though the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until at least two years old and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding until six months followed by continued breastfeeding for as long as desired?
We are behind because of close minded, judgmental people who think that they know the answer. We are behind for the nosy mother in law that thinks you should stop at blah, blah, blah months and we are behind because of the fact that breastfeeding in public is an issue here, therefore taking away the ease of breastfeeding. We worry about what society will say and think. We may stop breastfeeding because of pressure from others even though we may secretly desire to continue on. We fall short in breastfeeding statistics because of a lack of support. It's hard to find support when working through breastfeeding issues; it's hard to find answers to breastfeeding problems; and it's hard to find support from family and friends who do not cut you a set of eyes for choosing to breastfeed past blah, blah, blah months.
This past week I breastfed in a McDonald's parking lot in the grass facing a main interstate right next to an exit ramp full of big rigs, trucks and cars exiting and likely noticing (I was modest of course and did the two shirt method); I also breastfed in a secluded alley in a shopping center. I traveled five hours for a three day vacation with only 4oz of pre pumped milk to stick in a sippy cup for the car ride. Why pack milk and bottles when I have it on me? Oh and my child is a year old and yes, she's
on the tit.
I'm proud of the little things that I do as a breastfeeding mother. I'm proud that I'm just one who is trying to increase our statistics here in the US. I will breastfeed as long as I desire and whether that is another year or just a few more months, that's my call. It should not be up to anyone else to determine when I should stop breastfeeding. Every mother has a right to determine when to stop breastfeeding. While some mothers may fall short for the recommended six months,
hey at least they tried and kudos to them for doing any breastfeeding.
What shouldn't happen is that a mother falls short of her goal just because of pressure from others and because she is worried about what "society" thinks. If breastfeeding just isn't working for you at four months, then that's okay for you. But never stop just because you think that is what you're "supposed" to do.
We're a great country with the privilege of freedom of speech and expression. Let's just remember how your actions, looks and comments affect the breastfeeding mother. Before you judge and before you ask about weaning just remember that somewhere in another country, a mother is proudly breastfeeding her walking, talking toddler who is thriving, normal and healthy. Just remember that there in that country, no one is asking about weaning. No one says "congratulations on making it a whole year" because over there a year is typical. Just remember that while we see breasts as a sexual thing here in the US, that really and truly breasts are not sexual at all.
Just remember that breastfeeding is the only reason why God gave us tits anyway.
What are your thoughts on breastfeeding in the US
in comparison to other countries?
What's a good age to wean for you?
Thanks for reading, Sasha