Mothers really can’t win when it comes to feeding their babies. Regardless of what, when, where or how they feed, they’re going to offend someone. And moms who nurse their children past the age of one are no exception.
It doesn’t matter that the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until at least the age of two. Or that the benefits of breastmilk continue past infancy. Some people just can’t keep their unsolicited advice to themselves. Here are some of the judgmental, offensive and ignorant comments moms who practice extended breastfeeding hear on a daily basis (and examples of what you should never say to them):
“Wow, you’re still nursing?”
This is as good as any a place to start, because an overarching theme here is this: It’s not your business, and it doesn’t affect you. Unless someone’s parenting is explicitly and immediately putting a child in harm, I suggest just keeping mum on the whole subject.
“Once they can ask for it, they should no longer get it.”
Logically, this makes no sense. Most kids start talking at around one, so many babies can sign or outright ask for milk at a very young age. Others don’t start talking until they are toddlers. Which means using language as a cutoff date for breastfeeding would be totally arbitrary (and unhealthy).
“If she’s got teeth, then she’s ready to be off the boob and on to solids.”
Having a couple chompers in her mouth doesn’t mean a baby is ready to ditch the boob and head straight to solids. Some kids get teeth as young as three months, which is too young to start solids and water. Besides, breastfeeding offers the kind of balanced nutrition that babies don’t get when they first start solids. Which means there has to be overlap between breastfeeding, and introducing food. Teeth have nothing to do with anything.
“Doesn’t it hurt now that he’s got teeth?”
Piggybacking off the previous teeth comment, there’s often a lot of concern from nosy onlookers about the impact on mom of nursing a kid with teeth. If you’ve ever had a toothless baby gnawing and mashing on your nipple, you’ll know there’s nothing soft about the human palate, toothless or otherwise. Also, most toddlers don’t engage their teeth when they’re nursing, so it’s really just a moot point anyway.
“At this rate you’ll be nursing a five-year-old (or 15-year old, or 25-year-old).”
Hilarious. Honestly though, studies show that most children wean naturally and at their own pace, usually before they are school-aged. So don’t worry, Aunt Linda, Junior here won’t be coming home from football practice asking for the boob.
“Extended nursing causes speech delay.”
It straight up doesn’t. Thanks, though.
“She’ll never transition to solids.”
Of course she will. Food is delicious, and babies know it. She can like breastmilk and spaghetti bolognaise, just like you can like milkshakes and club sandwiches.
“You’re going to end up spoiling that baby.”
You can’t spoil a baby. In fact, research suggests that attachment parenting—like baby-wearing, picking up a crying baby and nursing on demand—has benefits that last well into adulthood. Babies aren’t teenagers who we’re trying to push toward independence. They need comfort and support, and nursing them is one of the best ways to give that.
“He’s manipulating you.”
Ridiculous comments don’t even deserve a response. The end.
“You’re delaying her independence.”
Nope, I’m filling her belly. When she’s done nursing she’ll run off and play on her own, just like she normally does.
“Doesn’t your husband want those back?”
Our bodies don’t belong to anyone but ourselves. Not our children, not our partners. When our kids are very young, we use our breasts to provide them with nutrition and support, something our partners recognize and support. And when we want to offer our breasts to our partners in the privacy of our bedrooms (or wherever), nothing is stopping us from doing that, even if we’re still nursing.
“You’ll never get pregnant again if you keep nursing your toddler.”
That’s literally not true at all, and also please don’t make assumptions about whether a woman wants to or can have more kids.
“At this point, you’re obviously doing this for you, not the kid.”
We’re doing it for both of us, because it’s healthy and natural and lets us bond. And breastfeeding isn’t just about providing nutrition to children until they are old enough to eat a banana. Breastfeeding past one helps supplement a child’s diet, offer liquids on a hot day, or comfort them when they’re sick, sad, overwhelmed or upset. Let’s all stop looking at breastmilk as just a means to fill a hungry tummy.
“At this age, it’s tantamount to sexual abuse.”
Breasts are meant for feeding children, and our breastfeeding children see them as a source of food and by extension, comfort—nothing else. To suggest there’s something sexual going on between a nursing mother and her child is as offensive and ludicrous as it gets.
“Your milk has no nutritional value at this point.”
Don’t you love when someone who has no idea what they’re talking about spouts facts at you like they’re an expert? Breastmilk doesn’t slowly dilute and eventually turn to sawdust by 12 months. In fact, breastmilk changes its makeup as your child grows. It continues to provide fats, proteins, antibodies, hormones and enzymes that help his growing body mature and develop, while offering immune protection and fighting infections.
Breastfeeding moms: I see you. I know how you endure all manner of comments—from the passively judgmental, to the explicitly condemning. From ignorant to offensive.
Breastfeeding moms: You’re doing it right. Whether you supplement with formula, feed on demand, pump at work or nurse at a restaurant. Whether your baby is 12 days old or four years old, you’re listening to your body, following your intuition and meeting your child’s needs.
Keep your head up and your boobs out. Let the naysayers become nothing but white noise. And enjoy all the blissful, quiet, gorgeous cuddles that come with breastfeeding. Because I know it’s hard, and it’s fleeting, and it’s wonderful.