And I have no plans to stop anytime soon.
There. I said it. Will you get off of my case now?
If you had told me almost two years ago that this is where we would be today, I wouldn’t have believed you. We struggled terribly with breastfeeding during those first few months of my son’s life. There were several occasions on which I cried to the heavens that I could not do it anymore, that my mental health was lost, that my nipples would never feel happy again. Obviously, and despite the horror of teeth chomping down on nipples, things improved.
In this day and age, it’s a lot easier to get by with doing “weird” things like breastfeeding your toddler because of the whole #normalizebreastfeeding movement. Unfortunately, it does not mean that I am never asked, judged, or harassed about when I’m going to stop breastfeeding my son. Even my darling husband has asked me on multiple occasions when we are going to finish breastfeeding because “he doesn’t need it anymore.” Well, yeah, that’s true. But it’s also true that I don’t need candy anymore. Does that mean I’m going to stop eating candy? (That’s a rhetorical question. We all know the answer to that.)
Before you go hating on my husband (or cheering him on), you should understand that his mentality is common. I think it has something to do with the way women, breasts, and relationships/bonds are viewed in U.S. culture. I have heard several comments directed at me regarding breastfeeding, and I have read several more online:
“If you breastfeed your son for too long, he’s going to turn into a sissyboy!”
“You’re going to turn your son gay from breastfeeding him so long!”
“Wow, you’re still breastfeeding your son? He’s going to be too attached to you.”
“It’s so selfish of you to continue breastfeeding your toddler.”
“Don’t you think it’s weird that he knows what ‘boobs’ are and you’re just letting him suckle on yours? I mean, if he knows what ‘boobs’ are, he’s too old to breastfeed.”
“You’re still breastfeeding your [toddler, 3-year-old, 4-year-old, etc.]? You’re sick. That’s basically child abuse.”
Is there any evidence to support this type of thinking?
In short: NO.
End of blog.
Okay, no, that wasn’t the end of the blog. But the answer is still ‘NO.’ Let me start by saying that there is absolutely no scientific evidence of any of the above statements having any validity.
Now, let me continue by offering anecdotal evidence against the validity of the above statements.
- My best friend’s husband was breastfed and is about as far as you can get from being a “sissyboy.” My son is not a “sissyboy.” I suspect you know a guy (a brother, father, husband, neighbor, or co-worker) who was breastfed and who also is not a “sissyboy.” Maybe, just maybe, being a “sissyboy” has more to do with genetics and/or nurturing/parenting style.*
*I’m not condoning the use of the term “sissyboy.” I’m merely refuting this commonly-used colloquialism within the context of breastfeeding.
2. My best friend’s husband isn’t gay. I don’t know yet if my son is gay, but if he is I suspect it will have nothing to do with him having been breastfed for “too long.” Also, I have lots of gay friends who were not breastfed as babies. So, there’s that.
3. Is there such a thing as being too attached? Well, yeah, probably. You want your child to embody a healthy balance of attachment and independence, because you can’t/won’t/don’t want to have this child attached to your hip until the day one of you moves on from this realm. But is an overly-attached child always the result of having been breastfed for “too long”? No. See the last sentence of number 1.
4. Yes, because having my nipples destroyed, losing countless hours of sleep, worrying about whether or not my baby is getting enough nourishment, pumping until the cows come home, and forever losing any semblance of perkiness my boobs may have had is my idea of fun. So selfish.
5. This statement has nothing to do with anything except fear. I’ll just leave it at that.
6. I know–it’s hard to believe that anyone would say this to a mother who is providing nourishment, love, bonding, and security to her child. But, it’s true. Refer back to number 5 for more information on why someone might say this.
Now that I’ve finished myth-busting, I’d like to talk a little about why we are doing “extended breastfeeding.”
As I mentioned above, we struggled with breastfeeding for no less than the first three months of my son’s life. Once we finally found our groove, it became the most natural occurrence in the world for us to breastfeed. And aside from middle-of-the-night feedings, which we did until my son was 19-months-old (yes, it’s a miracle I’m not dead right now from sleep deprivation), we have had a good and flexible breastfeeding schedule. My son usually breastfeeds once in the morning, once at nap time, and once at bedtime. Some days, he wakes up from a bad nap and wants to breastfeed. Some days, he falls and gets a boo-boo and wants to breastfeed. Some days, he just wants to snuggle and breastfeed more than usual.
But, guess what?
Some days he doesn’t want to breastfeed. Some days we don’t breastfeed in the morning. Some days he goes to bed without breastfeeding. And that’s okay. Sure, he doesn’t “need” the nutrition he’s getting from breast milk anymore. And the antibodies he’s getting are probably negligible at this point in time. And my boobs certainly aren’t getting any perkier. But he needs me, and he finds comfort in me through breastfeeding, and I am totally okay with that.
Don’t worry–there’s no such thing as a breastfeeding college-kid. He will wean. Until then…