Seeing the best in life's challenges

Breastfeeding Wars

on May 12, 2012


I have no hesitation in saying that I am extremely well qualified to weigh in on the “breastfeeding past infancy” controversy, thrust into the spotlight by the recent Time Magazine cover.

You see, I have three children.  I nursed #1 until he was 3, #2 until she was 2, and get ready for this: I nursed #3 until her fourth birthday.

Stop for one minute, and think about the assumptions you just made about me (or didn’t).  Do you find this shocking?  What assumptions did you make about my family dynamics?  How about my kids?

Why did I do it?  Well, it just worked out that way.  It felt natural.  My first two are 15 months apart, and my son had almost weaned himself just before my daughter was born.  Then came the experience of a new sibling, he saw her nursing, and still wanted to.  Was I going to push him away?  Of course not.  So there was much tandem nursing for a while.

Did I do it for me?  Well, no.  I wasn’t trying to prove anything to anybody, and I didn’t have an emotional need to fill.  It didn’t make me feel like a better mom.  It’s just what worked for my situation.  It was easier, to me, not to have to deal with bottles – I had total portability, which was a huge help when juggling two kids so close together in age.

Interestingly, we were not into attachment parenting.  Just wasn’t our thing.  When my two oldest were little, I had them on a schedule that had them eat dinner about 5:00 and in bed by 7:00. We could never stand to have kids sleep with us.  I just wouldn’t get a good night’s sleep.  Since I was home with them all day, I needed a break, and I also felt it was important that we had time together as a couple.

We did the crying it out thing (not pleasant).   When they were older and came into our room at night, we didn’t let them in bed.  We set up a spot on the floor (hoping that would deter them) and when that didn’t work, we got a couch for our bedroom and directed them there.

About #3:  she had me at my wit’s end when she was still consistently waking up at 3 a.m. at 18 months old.  At that point, the easiest way to get through it was to nurse her and get back to bed ASAP.  Nursing was also the only way she would let me comfort her in many instances.  It was just a personality thing.

Did we do it “right”?  Maybe right for us, but what works for me won’t necessarily work for you.

Enough years have gone by, that I guess most of my friends have no idea I did this.  Interestingly, people comment all the time that I have the most confident, independent kids they know. If I had to describe my primary parenting goal, it is to raise independent, confident, responsible kids who are prepared to thrive in the real world.  #3 especially, amazes every adult she comes in contact with.

Of course, at their current ages, if we had a discussion about this, they would be rolling their eyes and more.  I embarrass them a whole lot these days.  It’s just the phase we’re in.

It was always very interesting to see how people would react when they figured out I was nursing my kids so long.  It does make many people very uncomfortable.  Some would even make pronouncements about what kind of a person I was and what my motivations were, just based on my breastfeeding habits.

Well, I don’t fit into a neat box.  And guess what, most people don’t.

So my opinion is this:  if you don’t know a person well or at all, and don’t make an attempt to ask questions and understand his or her motives and life, PLEASE withhold your assumptions and judgments. Ask yourself why you feel the need to have strong opinions about something that you know little about and does not affect you directly.

An example of someone who is obviously very emotional and judgmental about this is Dr. Keith Ablow.  I am sure he has not spoken with Jamie Lynn Grumet, the mom, or her son, but he blasts her for all kinds of sins.  Really?

This “controversy” presents two different types of opportunities.  On the one hand, it puts an issue in the spotlight that can benefit from some discussion that leads to greater understanding.  On the other hand, it can just turn into drama, fed by accusations and judgments.  Collectively, we choose which of these opportunities to pursue.

As a busy mom, I just don’t have time for the drama.

What do you think?

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