As the breastfeeding mother of a toddler, I have encountered my fair share of judgment and criticism.
It would appear that, if you choose to breastfeed your baby past 12 months of age, you are almost guaranteed to come across some kind of negativity.
Upon first becoming pregnant, women usually go through a crash course of unsolicited advice from family, friends and, at times, random strangers. You would think we would become accustomed to it.
And yet I am still taken aback when an ignorant GP or impolite colleague feels entitled to impart negative opinions on breastfeeding a toddler.
I initially set out to write an article on how to handle this kind of criticism. I researched and compiled numerous suggestions on avoiding judgment when breastfeeding a toddler. There were ideas such as ‘respond to specific concerns’ or ‘quote on authority’. Other advice suggested ‘giving breastfeeding a code name so that your toddler wouldn’t talk about it in public’ or ‘breastfeed before you leave the house to avoid unwanted stares.’
But in the end I was uncomfortable endorsing any of these suggestions because, ultimately, I do not believe it is a mother’s responsibility to hide or to justify her decision to breastfeed her child.
The one piece of advice I will give on how to handle judgment about breastfeeding a toddler is this:
Remember why you are doing it.
Perhaps you are breastfeeding your toddler because of the proven ongoing health benefits such as enhanced nutrition, cognitive development and protection against infectious and chronic diseases.
Perhaps you do it for emotional reasons, because it makes your toddler feel safe, loved and nurtured.
Perhaps you do it simply because it still gives you and your toddler a sense of joy or self-achievement.
Or perhaps you do it because it is bloody well the quickest way to get your little one back to sleep in the middle of night!
Whatever your reasons are, they are valid and valuable. The next time someone gives you unsolicited weaning advice or gives you a dirty look while you are breastfeeding, remind yourself of the personal reasons you are continuing this beautiful breastfeeding journey.
And if all else fails, tell them to fuck off and mind their own business.
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‘BREASTFEEDING: AN ECONOMIC INVESTMENT’
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