Not if they can ask for it!
A good friend sent me a funny post the other day, it was a GIF of Dean Winchester from the TV show Supernatural (if you haven't watched it - do it and you're welcome) coyly saying 'Um yeah sometimes I guess' and the caption read: 'When people ask if you're still feeding your toddler'.
I actually burst out laughing because something about it rang so TRUE!
As soon as you give birth you work out pretty quickly what topics are controversial.
One of the inevitable ones though is feeding, because babies tend to eat pretty regularly, and this can be so confronting and nerve-wracking.
In the beginning
New mums often feel the need to justify why they are breastfeeding. It is a bit strange seeing as it is a biological function like any other, in fact I can't recall the last time I was asked why I was drinking water or why I needed to sleep - but the question still rears its head, and with it often times you will encounter unsolicited advice, encouragement, judgement or concern for yourself and/or the baby. You just never really know what you're going to get and from whom.
This understandably makes a lot of new mums super nervous about admitting that are choosing to breastfeed. I can clearly remember the sweaty palms and the violent whispers to my partner to pass me a blanket to cover the 1cm square of exposed skin of my breast.
I remember the HORROR of milk squirting across a cafe table and into my lukewarm black coffee and the weight of what felt like 10,000 curious eyes on my baby boy blissfully nursing away, unaware of the utter mental mayhem I was inflicting upon myself from my lack of confidence and from the fear of judgement.
The epiphany happens when you push past the physical hurdles if you had any, your confidence peaks, your friends and family support you or have at least come to terms with the fact that you are still breastfeeding, that it is not stopping anytime soon and you are owning it.
Want to spontaneously stay out 3 hours longer than planned? You do that girlfriend! You have baby’s food on tap.
Want to enjoy that glass of rosé with your mates at the BBQ? Latch away small human, and have that drink, mumma (thanks Dr Jack Newman)!
Forgot to wear your maternity shirt? Pull all that business up or to the side, who has time to be discreet about a kid eating? Anyone who gets turned on by breastfeeding should seek help.
And for the most part people either admire you or can tolerate your confidence.
BUT, there is a time limit of societal acceptance of breastfeeding and that is where your next hurdle begins.
Feeding a toddler
When my son was a newborn someone said to me that anyone feeding a toddler was doing it for their own pleasure. The comment didn't sit right with me, at the time I was feeding a 4 month old and it was anything but enjoyable, so I found it hard to imagine, but what I did know was that there was definitely NO WAY I was feeding beyond 12 months.
In fact, I distinctly remember saying that there was “no way I would feed a kid that could ask for it.” What I hadn't factored in were a few truths that you only really realise when you have a very content toddler feeding happily, with no end in sight.
1. Our babies have been 'asking for it' in their own way since birth, what is the magical switch that changed as soon as an 'ugh' turns into 'milk?' and how is that a marker of what your baby needs?
2. The average natural weaning age is between 2-7years old - we forget this! Breastmilk adapts to what a child needs; picky toddlers need as much nutrient support as possible. The WHO recommends breastfeeding or breast milk until 2 years at least where possible - that’s a toddler, people!
3. Have you tried explaining to a 2 year old they can't do something anymore? YIKES!
But seriously, I forgive myself for those statements because as with every step of motherhood, with enough humility, there is a new lesson to be learnt every day.
I never ever envisioned feeding a 2yo, but I am and without regret.
Something I have come to learn, and only recently, is that the world needs more mums living life and feeding with positivity and confidence, it needs more women whipping out a breast to feed, not just for sexual pleasure and the world needs mums who are still feeding toddlers to not retreat back into feeding in private or avoiding the topic but owning it proudly!
Happy World Breastfeeding Week everyone, and congratulations to every single person who breastfed for a day, a week, 3 months or 3 years. And congratulations to anyone who may not have done any of that, but that is a cheerleader for anyone in their life who chooses to. The world needs more of you.
This is a guest post from our newest Mum Diaries blogger, Beth Lotoniau. Hailing from the Maitland area, Beth is a mum of one (and hoping for more), wife and former travel agent. She is the daughter of a GP and a midwife who have their shared practice in the Hunter Valley area; she’s the second-oldest daughter of four girls and has an extended student exchange family. She’s an advocate for feminism and equal rights, a gentle parent and passionate supporter of sustainability and eco-friendly living.