Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Unexpected Opposition

At 17 months old, Alice is still a fairly frequent feeder at home, but in public, she's usually too busy to want to nurse. Oddly enough, when she does want to feed, I find myself heading to more secluded places. Not because I'm embarrassed to NIP, (quite the opposite!) but because she needs to have peace and quiet to feed well, and perhaps help her to nap. On a couple of recent occasions I have taken her to a baby feeding room in our local shopping centre.

I have been fortunate to have never experienced negative comments when feeding Alice in public before, so it came as a surprise to receive my very first from fellow breastfeeders. On two occasions, as I have latched Alice on, I have looked up to see a woman nursing her own baby with a horrified expression, and have been asked "How old is she?!" with an incredulous tone. One lady told me that her husband had said she needed to stop feeding her two month old soon otherwise he'd get too attached. She said she wanted to feed until three months "but no longer, or I'll end up with a nightmare like you!" Another woman asked me "shouldn't she be eating solid food instead by now?"

These comments bothered me far more than they would have done coming from other people. I wondered why they were judging me in a way that others hadn't. I think in part it is because of their own insecurities about nursing babies. I've been fortunate in that I have been well supported by family and friends. I attend a La Leche League group, and know my stuff when it comes to the benefits of breastmilk. Many women are not so fortunate. They feed in the knowledge that 'breast is best' or because they have a deep biological desire to nourish their child, but negative comments can get you down. Seeing a woman still happily breastfeeding well past the 1 month, 3 month or 6 month target they've set themselves must be threatening. When we're threatened, we often attack. I think that the disapproval they showed me was as a result of that they they had received.

Although my experiences were a little disheartening, and I must admit they made me a little more self conscious about pulling my top down to feed, I have been spurred on to continue NIP wherever Alice wants to, and to make sure I answer negativity with positivity and confidence. Hopefully, it won't be too long before nursing an older baby, toddler or child becomes a more common and accepted sight.


  1. I think you make very good points. When people feel threatened, they attack.
    I am still nursing my 3 year old daughter. When I was pregnant, I actually thought of nursing a 3 year old as "going too far" but I look at her now and see how young she still is and how much she still really needs this connection. I can't imagine it any other way. I have said a million times I was going to make her stop but when she falls asleep at night at my breast I can't imagine forcing it away from her.

    Anyway, all that to say, wonderful post, I enjoyed it and I agree.

    One last thought - there has been an overwhelming amount of scientific literature that has flooded the public the last 5-10 years about the nutritional benefits of nursing and in my opinion, it has clouded the other VERY important EMOTIONAL benefit to a baby or child gets from nursing.

    Hopefully one day we will get there. :-)

  2. Thanks both of you!

    Anonymous, I agree that the emotional benefits are rarely mentioned, and yet as Alice grows, that's rapidly becoming my main reason for still nursing. I'm sure she's get the nutrients she needed from other food, and her immunity to illness is growing stronger, but nothing could replace the emotional support breastfeeding gives both of us. Well, not as easily anyway!

    Thanks for your comments.

  3. That's so sad you've been criticised by fellow bf and to say Alice is a "nightmare". Shocking!