I didn’t think twice about breastfeeding my babies in public. It was easy, natural and never caused any raised eyebrows. Yet, breastfeeding a toddler seems to be a totally different matter.
Today my kids and I got caught out without a key and had to wait outside for a few hours for my husband to come home. It was time for Little Monkey’s nap and she is a very reluctant sleeper, especially when she is outside. I tried the pram and a cuddle first, then eventually had to resort to a breastfeed, or she’d get no nap and go crazy at night.
While I had no hesitation doing what I thought was the right thing for my child, I felt very uneasy about it. I kept on scanning the street for passers-by and preparing come-back comments. Because breastfeeding a toddler always attracts attention. Everyone has something to say about it, from ‘You are spoiling her’ to ‘Good on you for keeping it up.’
The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for 2 years and beyond. In addition to the health benefits breastfeeding makes my life so much easier. It provides instant comfort to an over-tired toddler. It distracts her when my attention is needed elsewhere. It makes wounds (physical and emotional) heal faster. And on a more vain note, I’d love to keep my B-sized boobs for as long as possible before I have to return to my non-breastfeeding almost-A size. I am doing the best for me and my family and I will not let society pressure me into weaning my daughter earlier than we are ready. Then why do I feel the need to hide?
I am not comfortable with neither of the above comments or anything in between. If you see a mother giving her toddler a sandwich you wouldn’t start criticising or complementing her on the great job she is doing, would you? Breastfeeding is just as normal. If you would like to support a breastfeeding mother of a toddler, treat breastfeeding as a normal parenting activity. Smile and say nothing. Or say something similar to what you would say if the toddler was eating a sandwich. Or share your own experience with kids’ meals.
This is the kind of reaction that would make my day… and that I’ve never gotten so far. What is your experience?