I am following with interest the media hype following the infamous TIME magazine shoot of a mother breastfeeding her 3 year old son on a chair. I came on the BH this morning to see a 'spin off' thread discussing when is too old to still be breastfeeding a child. Really? is this really what we need to be talking about?
What I find ironic is that we are devoting news headlines, writing magazines, inventing entire BH threads to discuss what just 2% of the population do. Yep, only 2% of mothers actually breastfeed beyond 2 years of age. We could argue at what age 'extended breastfeeding' refers to, but for the purposes of making my point I am going to choose 2 years and beyond, because that is the current world health organisation recommendation for breastfeeding, so if you go beyond that I am going to call it 'extended'. If ever there was a minority group, then this is one of them.
I think the more relevant question is :"What age is too young to stop breastfeeding a baby"
What we know is that almost all mothers want to breastfeed, because 97% of mothers in Australia initiate it. Only 3% of mothers do not want to breastfeed, and so choose to never initiate. What we also know is that by 1 month of age, only 56% of babies in Australia are still being exclusively breastfed. That means that within 1 month, 41% of mothers who wanted to breastfeed are either no longer breastfeeding or only partially breastfeeding. 41%! Many of these mothers have stopped because they hit a problem that under the conditions of post birth recovery and new born exhaustion they found impossible to overcome (very understandable). The most common reasons are related to attachment, sore/cracked nipples, mastitis and low or perceived low milk supply. These 41% of mothers are the ones we need to be talking about, and these are the mothers as a society we are failing. This is where the energy and debate needs to go - not into the 2% of mothers who are still feeding beyond 2 and are making some people feel uncomfortable. I mean, who cares? no one is getting hurt.
so my second question that I think we need to talk about is: "How do we best help these 41% of mothers who have stopped or partially stopped after 1 month when they didn't want to?"
The 41% of mothers who wanted to breastfeed but are no longer doing so at 1 month old are often left with feelings of loss, sadness, regret, anger and at times guilt. I came close to weaning my now breastfeeding 2 year old when she was 10 weeks old because of recurrent mastitis, and I was absolutely floored at the sense of grief and sadness I felt just at the thought of having to wean when I didn't want to. These are the mothers we need to be focusing on and helping. How do we do this? Its a complicated issue. Because we don't give little girls dolls and show them how to breastfeed - we give them dolls with bottles and dummies, and that's what they see as normal. They don't learn those life skills as they go along. Many young girls, teenagers or mothers-to-be no longer see their mum/aunt/sister/cousin breastfeed either, and for this reason many mums are handed their new born baby having never even SEEN another mother breastfeed before (except for the odd one down the shops hidden under a hooter hider -surely not enough exposed to actually see how the child latches and what their mouth looks like on the breast). This is a tragedy. It is no different to handing someone a brand new bicycle - someone who has never even seen someone else ride a bicycle let alone ridden one themselves - and saying "here you go! I'll show you how to get on and how to push the pedals, and then I'll give you a push off and you can ride to the city and back! ok?". What are the chances they are going to fall off at the first corner, and not know how to get back on? I'd say very high. Probably around 41%...
This is what we need to be talking about. Why is this statistic as it is? what can we do to change it? We need to be thinking about the 41% of mothers that are left with that sense of loss. The 41% of babies who miss out on the immunity, the comfort, the stem cells, the white blood cells and the incredible reduced health risks that come with breastfeeding. 41% of mothers who miss out on reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers and osteoperosis.
I don't know what the answer is. Maybe it is better pre-natal education. Maybe it is better role modelling from a society that is open and supportive towards breastfeeding. Maybe it something else. Maybe it is better post natal support. I dont know. But I sure do know that talking about and improving this statistic is this is much more important for everybody's mental and physical health than debating back and forth the 2% of mums who feed kids with teeth standing on a chair.
Well that's my 2 cents worth
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13-05-2012 11:52 #1
***spin off*** how young is too young to stop breastfeeding?
Last edited by purplecat; 13-05-2012 at 12:11.
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13-05-2012 11:59 #2
I don't think there's really any rules, given babies that are not bf are on formula, so it's not like they starve.
I would say the first 6 months are crucial, but then IME most ffers do so bc of bfing issues rather than just saying meh I think I'll put them on the bottle. Once a bfing relationship is established (which can be very hard), I believe ffing is much more work, so the insinuation that mums put their babies on formula out of laziness is a misnomer.
13-05-2012 12:01 #3Senior Member
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My heart genuinely goes out to mothers who had to stop feeding early when they desperately wanted to breastfeed. I can't imagine the grief they must have felt but I want them to know that they did NOT fail when we live in a society that sets us up to find breastfeeding difficult or impossible.
13-05-2012 12:02 #4
What can we do about the stats? more professional, free support. Less judgment from those professional services. As bfing rates go up, it will normalise bfing and we will again have mums, grandmothers, aunts and MIL's all who bf and can pass down invaluable knowledge, something I didn't have as both sides ff.
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13-05-2012 12:06 #5Senior Member
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Breasts are thought of as something that belongs in a bikini or the cover of a zoo magazine, there's always questions about whether mothers should bf in public because of the 'modesty' factor which puts a LOT of new mums off. It makes a lot of mothers uncomfortable to feel like we're being judged.
I also think countries that succeed are countries who have the village who have the knowledge of breastfeeding for free from mums, aunts, friends, sisters...we just don't have that
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13-05-2012 12:22 #6Senior Member
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I would also say that I don't think the figures that 97% of women 'want' to BF are quite accurate. Many women attempt to BF because of feelings of guilt or duty to do what they think is the right thing (or best thing) by their baby.
In my experience there are many women who are willing to try to BF, but not all of them would choose to do so IF formula was found to be absolutely equal in terms of health properties to breastmilk.
This is an issue that I've discussed with the majority of mothers I know, and most (even those who were keen to BF) have agreed that they felt a lot of pressure to BF from the medical system/ society at large.
It definitely seems that there are a lot of confusing and mixed messages out there for all of us.
We are told that we must BF as it's the best thing to do for our babies.
We are told that BF is natural and normal.
We are often not told that BF can be difficult to establish.
We are told that BF in public is wrong.
We are told that you can BF for too long or too little, and both are wrong.
We are told that people will judge you for BF in public, and to hide away.
We are told that people will judge you for FF in public.
We are told that all mums WANT to BF, and if you don't you are ignorant/ too affected by societal pressure.
We are told that b00bs are s*xual first, and for babies second (and never for toddlers).
We are told that formula is fine, and that you should feed your baby however you like.
We are told that formula is harmful.
And the worst part is... most of these things are things we are telling ourselves and each other too!
Is it any wonder that many of us feel confused/ judged/ hurt/ defensive/ guilty about whichever way we choose to feed?
13-05-2012 12:31 #7
Woe was my poor children who've never been breastfed (aside from an emergency feed from their cousin).
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13-05-2012 12:55 #8
I stopped feeding DD at 3 months due to constant abuse from her father I was simply doing it to get my t1ts out and was forcing my DD to become a lesbian through sucking at my breast😳 mind you his own mother breast fed all 3 of her children.
I couldn't take it anymore and stopped, I had full intentions of feeding until at least 12 months 😞
As soon as I stopped DD developed excema head to toe and stopped growing at the same rate she had been and also screamed everytime I gave her a bottle as he wouldn't help me do that either so it was me simply denying breast and forcing a bottle which she didn't want.
I still regret it and will never forgive him for it!
13-05-2012 13:02 #9
I think they need to lay it out on the line for new mothers.
It's one thing to say how brilliant breast feeding is, the bonding, the nutrients, etc.
BUT. No one told me the normal frequency a baby needs to breast feed. That alone might've stressed me less thinking I wasn't providing enough.
No one told me that a breastfed baby possibly won't poop everyday. Another stress you don't need.
And they have those bright coloured poops because you're not feeding long enough on one side.
Even now coming up to having my third I wish the reality was what we were exposed to instead of just hammering us with the benefits.
13-05-2012 13:20 #10
I would question the 97% who want to BF also. Fact is, it's deemed completely unacceptable for women to just say 'i don't want to breastfeed' so instead, they make up stories to themselves and others about how their milk dried up, etc. I am NOT saying that people don't give up because they are not given support, I'm sure there are many in that situation and my heart truly goes out to them. But if someone doesn't want to BF, whatever her reasons, even if that reason is 'i want to go out clubbing every weekend' or 'i want to reserve my boobs for my husband and sex' then that is no-one's business but HERS.
So I will answer as I did in the 'how long should a woman feed' thread. However long she damn well likes. If she wants to at all.
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