Friday, May 11, 2012

Motherhood is NOT a Competition

So I'm going to try my best to get a copy of Time magazine today so I can actually read the article, but after reading several rants and reviews, I know what the gist of it is.

The picture on the cover of Time magazine this week is very provocative, featuring a sexy 26 year old mom nursing her (much older appearing) 3 year old son, who is standing on a chair to reach her breast. I agree with a post I read that Time missed the opportunity here to show a mom cuddling her 3 year old while nursing, since no one really nurses their older child in the position they chose. Ever.
I wonder if people would have been so weirded out if they had chose a more nurturing pose? But controversy sells.

Now on to the title, which suggests that you're a crappy mom if you don't/didn't breastfeed. I've been on both sides of this. My first child was a boy, and I was young and unprepared for breastfeeding. I thought it would come naturally, and let me tell you, it did not. It hurt like heck. He had a terrible latch & I didn't know how to fix it. I gave him a bottle too soon and he developed nipple confusion. My pediatrician finally convinced me I would still be a good mom if I put him on formula, so I did. That was the best decision for all of us at that time. I still felt like a failure as a mom. Had I seen this Time magazine cover right after that happening to me, I would have probably curled up into the fetal position and cried for days. When my next baby was born, a daughter, I was determined to make breastfeeding work. With a lot of determination and perserverance, I nursed her for 18 months. She self-weaned. I am now nursing my 3rd baby, another girl, who is 8 weeks old. I plan to nurse her until she self-weans. I hope she nurses until she's 2.

What I take issue with through all this is how harsh people are reacting towards moms who choose to nurse for an extended period of time, which to most people is beyond the age of 1. I have never nursed an older child, but I know several moms who have. Most of them were still nursing their child at 3 years old. I know those kids, and they turned out just fine. They are smart, independent, and well-adjusted. Just as much as my first child that was not breastfed for more than a month is.

It is commonplace in most other developed countries in the world for 3 year olds (and older kids) to still be nursing. They even do it in public and people don't bat an eyelash. Here is what the World Health Organization recommends:
"Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond."

The Time article apparently also focuses a lot on attachment parenting (AP) which basically encourages you to breastfeed for an extended time, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, and gentle discipline (no spanking allowed). I practice some of these things, but not the idea as a whole. It just doesn't all work for our family. However, one thing I leave up to my kids is the breastfeeding part. I don't force it on them or make them do it longer than what they wish. My son was not happy breastfeeding, so we stopped at a month. My first daughter decided 18 months was enough for her. My 8 week old is loving it, and I'll do it as long as we are both happy with it; if she decides she's done before I am, so be it. As long as she is nursing, I'm happy, so I guess it's mainly up to her.

There are no proven negatives to extended nursing, with in the toddler years. My own personal opinion is that weaning should probably start to be encouraged by the mother if the child is still nursing at 3 years old, but that is just me. But if a mother chooses to nurse her child until he goes to kindergarten, so be it. I am not a member of that family, and I don't know what works best for them and why. Who am I to judge? I guess if it were wrong to nurse a child that long, our bodies wouldn't be capable of being able to do so.

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