I decided to breastfeed my daughter until she was 2 years old. I was the first person in my family to practice what is called extended breastfeeding since the introduction of baby formula.
I thought this was a personal decision, between me and my husband and my child, but boy was I wrong.
I taught her a few baby signs by the time she was about 9 months old, so she knew how to tell me when she wanted to be nursed. During the first year she was exclusively breastfed. By the second year she had a diet consisting of breast milk and toddler appropriate foods. During her second year, she breastfed less than the year before.
Unfortunately, unwanted and unwelcomed advice on when I should wean her came from everywhere. People that have never breastfed a day in their lives will offer their advice about when's the best time to wean YOUR baby. Even people that have never had a child will somehow know when you've breastfed long enough. Unbelievable!
If you resist their unsolicited advice, people may even switch from asking when you plan to wean to trying to scare you into weaning.
You'll likely hear, "If you don't wean her soon, you won't be able to do it." You may even get the, "She's going to start biting you when she gets teeth," threat. It's funny how most people accept that a baby will start to walk when he or she is ready, and talk when he or she is ready, but they think that there is a magic age when all babies should stop being breastfed.
Once threats don't manage to scare you into submission, the attempts to shame you into weaning may begin. You'll get the loaded, "You STILL breastfeeding that child? How old is she?"
Family members and people that feel that they can will make snide remarks about how your
child might be driving, married, or doing something else that's totally ridiculous before you wean him or her.
Things were particularly challenging because breastfeeding, especially extended breastfeeding, is not necessarily encouraged in Black families.
Like many breastfed babies, my daughter lacked the "baby bloat" that frequently occurs in formula fed babies. My well-meaning grandmother asked me dozens of times if I was sure my baby was getting enough to eat. She'd ask me, "Are you sure you're making enough milk?"
She and other members of my family refused to believe that my baby could survive on just breast milk. I was constantly guarding against my family's threats to give my daughter "real food". formula.
After breastfeeding six children of her own out of necessity, my 85-year-old grandmother seemed to view my decision to voluntarily breast feed as something out-dated or odd.
I think that moms that do not practice extended breastfeeding sometimes secretly resent moms that do. There is a competitive spirit that makes women want other women to make the same child care decisions that they've made. Women that do not, or did not practice extended
breastfeeding, may feel that moms that do are judging them for their choice.
Contrary to the warnings, weaning for me was easy. Taking natural cues from my daughter during that second year, I breast fed less and less during the day time. Breastfeeding became more of a bonding and comfort activity for us at night. When I sensed that she was ready, I began telling her that mommy wouldn't have any more milk soon. My breast naturally responded by producing less milk because of the less frequent feedings.
My daughter's nursing slowed down to a few minutes only at bed time.
Over a three day period I cut the feedings down to quick bouts, which culminated in the end of what was one of the best experiences of my life. I am glad I never succumbed to the pressure to wean before we were ready, but it bothers me that such pressure exists.
Why are we so uncomfortable with extended breastfeeding?
Tanglela Walker-Craft is the creator of Go Pillow! a patented, multipurpose childcare item that allows moms hands-free breastfeeding with comfort and president of Simply Necessary Inc. After nursing her own daughter for two years, Walker-Craft, realized that there was not a product on the market that allowed mothers to have nursing privacy and cradling comfort when others were present. Existing nursing pillows were too bulky and cumbersome for travel and cover-ups on the market required too much manipulation. The GoPillow! satisfies the needs of both breast feeding and bottle feeding mothers and caregivers.
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