Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Breastfeeding myths: The infant image


Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!
This post was written as part of the Breastfeeding Cafe's Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to www.breastfeedingcafe.wordpress.com. For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today's post is about breastfeeding myths and dispelling them. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 22nd through August 4th!

Day 2:  Breastfeeding myths 

The biggest breastfeeding myth (In my experience) has been the age limit idea.
The infant image. It seems that once you get people latched onto idea of breastfeeding they have a hard time swallowing full term breastfeeding, also named sustained breastfeeding. That is to say, breastfeeding until the child weans her/himself. In many cases this means a walking, talking, and sometimes singing child nurturing at the breast.

Why is it that many of the people who support breastfeeding then give it this arbitrary expiration date? I mean its not like a can of formula, you can't just look at and know that in 6 months its no longer suitable for consumption. Every breastfeeding relationship is different. Some children will naturally wean before they reach 2 years in age while others will not wean until after 7 years.

In the first year of my sons life I remember picking him up one day and smiling at my work. My arms had grown more muscular over the months of caring for him. He laughed at me and kicked his feet out, testing his and my own strength. It was a revelation to realize I had grown this person myself. All of his weight in my hands had once been a part of me. He had come from within me. It was a moment full of meaning and recognition of my own power.

Somehow this power of women has been lost from our culture. Breasts have been transformed from the powerful nurturing things they are,  into objects whose predominate and often exclusive purpose is sexual pleasure.

And if at the sight of a female breast your first thoughts are ones of arousal and sex it's easy to see how it could make you uncomfortable to see an older child suckling on the nipple, popping off to chat, then pushing their face back into position at the breast.

Where I live it's an uncommon site to see a child beyond their second year feeding at the breast, indeed they only time I have seen other women feeding their older children this way has been at La Leche League meetings. The unusualness of it coupled with their personal discomfort is what I think gives some people the courage to declare it unsuitable or wrong. Both within their minds and often by verbal comments/gestures at the mother or their companions. Many mothers who sustain their breastfeeding relationships do so in secret to avoid this judgement of others.

However, these judgments are not based in science. They are rooted only in cultural myth and stigma. In fact, there has never been a study done that shows a detrimental effect from breastfeeding based solely on the age of the person. Many studies have demonstrated numerous benefits to both the mother and child when breastfeeding is continued beyond at least the first year. Notably, is a marked decrease in the risk of developing breast cancer for the mother.

A mother and her child are really the only people who should be determining the length of time they share a relationship of nurturing at the breast.

For my children, breastfeeding is an important part of their lives. I do not allow these myths to control our relationship.  My children will wean from my breasts when they are ready, and I trust them to do that.

Here are more post by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.


Shary said...

That was awesome. I weaned my daughter at 19 months and regretted doing it. She didn't make it very hard to do which I think played a role. I left for the weekend and when I came home she asked once, I explained there was no more milk, and that was that. I felt touched out and frustrated and felt that I needed to do it for myself. I'm hoping this time with #2 I can extend the bond even longer. :)

angelina said...

hey thanks, yeah I agree its important to know whats working for you and when its not. Best wishes for #2 they grow so FAST!