The Extended Breastfeeding Issue At Our House

A friend of mine (not naming names) shared a picture on Facebook of her breastfeeding her three year old.  I was trying  think of a topic to write about at the time and that picture inspired me.  I know that breastfeeding is not really a fatherhood type of topic except for the fact that it is a reality for today’s family and there is a lot of misinformation out there that father’s are a bit more susceptible to.  The first fact I would like to deal with so that I can handily get it out of the way is this: To dudes everywhere “Yes! Boobies are sexy! WooHoo!”.  Alright, do you feel better now?  Deep breaths, and we’re moving on.

My wife and I have decided to practice what is commonly called extended breastfeeding.  We aren’t really practicing it yet since our little girl is only fifteen months old, but we will be.  The one problem with extended breastfeeding is the perception of others; this may seem strange to you (or maybe you’re reading this thinking exactly what I’m about to talk about) but some people really seem to think that breastfeeding after a year is wrong, and I’m not talking they think it’s a mistake, I mean that they accuse mothers of child abuse or being mentally ill for doing it.  Accusations fly like poop at the monkey cage and, much like the analogy I’m using, it stinks!

The World Health Orginization (http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/) recommends breastfeeding until at least two years of age and beyond if possible; it also recommends exclusively breastfeeding until six months which goes against what our public health nurses were recommending.  How did we deal with that?  We lied:  when the public health nurse recommended to start feeding her solids we said we would and when they asked us if she was eating solids at six months we said she was (she actually had her first solid food that night, fresh garden lettuce, and I’m fairly sure she didn’t swallow any of it).  In reality Mia didn’t really start eating solid food (other than for fun) until almost a year old at her own choice.  We provided her with solid food as much as she wanted while my wife continued nursing and when Mia finally did start eating solids regularly it was because she wanted to, not because we were forcing her.  We definitely did so having been well educated about our child’s needs; we knew that it was good and healthy for little Mia to continue breastfeeding along with the introduction of solid foods.  So why did we not get the same advice from our health care people?  As I mentioned above, there is a lot of misinformation out there.  The medical profession is operating on a paradigm that is only about one hundred years old (and hasn’t really been updated since), whereas real actual women operate on a paradigm that is millions of years old.

Getting back to my original point, there seems to be a stigma attached to breasts in the public eye (pun intended).  People in North America have been bamboobled (I’m sorry, I can’t stop myself) into somehow believing that breasts are dirty little secrets!  That they’re bawdy sexual organs that we are all better off pretending don’t exist outside of the confines of consenting adults in their own home with the curtains drawn and the lights out.  As a man, I would like to weigh in here: breasts are fantastic and I love them! (okay, I guess I didn’t get it all out before, now I promise I’m done)  I would also like to say a few words about what breasts are really all about:  the female mammary gland nourishing a child is pretty much as close as anyone can come to having a bona fide superpower!  Really think about it, most of the time they’re just there hanging out, then a woman gives birth and all of a sudden they spring into action and she’s walking around every day with perfectly prepared and nutritious baby food ON TAP!  If that doesn’t just impress the bejeezus out of you I would like to suggest that you are too jaded!  Does Optimus Prime have working mammary glands?  Can Superman feed a crying baby without notice 24/7?  No to both, and believe you me, at three a.m. when you are holding a screaming baby you would kick Superman square in the love spuds with a kryptonite wingtip if he was standing between you and the lady with the equipment!  So men, stop and take a moment to really appreciate the sweater-swaddled miracles on the lady in your life (Okay, I realize I just told you to ogle breasts, I may have a problem!) because when you really think about it, it is truly amazing.

I guess the real question comes down to: where did we go so wrong in our understanding of breastfeeding?  Our culture makes such a big deal about the sexualizing of breasts; they’re everywhere in the media, print ads and television feature them quite prominently and cable TV and movies can even show them completely uncovered, yet, when was the last time you saw them being used for their actual purpose in any of those mediums?  If you are reading this then you’re on the internet; approximately a quarter of all internet traffic is dedicated to some form of research into human sexuality (now there’s a political evasion for you).  Sex as an issue is just not avoidable (and honestly, who wants to avoid it?  there is nothing wrong with sex!), however, breastfeeding has nothing to do with sex!  If you checked the World Health Organization link above you might have noticed that they didn’t spend any time talking about the possible sexual implications of breastfeeding.  The act of breastfeeding is not sexual.  Breastfeeding IS an amazing way for the baby to bond with his or her mother and for the mother to bond with her child, it is an act of love.    There is an increasing movement of people that see no reason to stop that love at an arbitrarily determined time just because some people might think less of you for it.  Personally I’m proud of my wife for deciding to extend breastfeeding and I fully and wholeheartedly support her, she is simply an amazing mother.

I would like to clarify one thing before I go.  I realize that this blog has been very, very pro-breastfeeding.  I don’t want to leave anyone feeling weird or as if I am judging them.  I only wish an earnest congratulations to all you parents out there who are doing their best to raise their children, give yourself a pat on the back.  Our choices may not be the best for you and your child.  Any amount of breastfeeding is good, even a week is better than never!  However, as long as you love your child I would never judge you for your choices.  I guess the real point of this blog is that I would kindly ask for the same consideration.

As always, I am honoured that you took the time to read my article.

Thank you

P.S.

My wife and I were very lucky that we were with a midwife service that had a lot of information on the ins and outs of breastfeeding and could help us understand what was misinformation and what was good. For women who aren’t as fortunate there is help:

Contact La Leche League for help on breastfeeding and deciding what is best for you and your child. This non-profit international orginization is dedicated to helping you and almost certainly has people in your area.
online at: http://www.lllc.ca/
By Phone at: Breastfeeding Referral Service 1-800-665-4324
You can also find them on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Leche-League-International/121276329602

Advertisements

About crunchydad

First and Foremost I am Husband to Sonya, my lovely better half, and father to Amelia Parvati Benson, my beautiful little girl. I am a "crunchy" dad in the sense that I parent in a fairly non-traditional way in North America. I use cloth diapers, not out of any environmental concern as such but because my daughter is wickedly allergic to disposables. I babywear because I love it and it is the best thing I've ever discovered; I have literally never used a stroller in my life and, unless I decide to use a stroller when I jog, I never will. We cosleep (go ahead and look it up) and it really works well for us. Finally, and these four are just the major points, we practice baby-lead solids, which means our daughter feeds herself (most of the time) and eats all the foods we eat. I have A Bachelor of Religious Studies degree from the University of Calgary; if you are wondering, no, that does not mean I am becoming a priest (seriously, you have no idea how often I get that question). Studying religion is my passion and I have continued with it after my formal education ended. I have two great dogs, Scotty and Baxter, that round out my little family unit and that is the broad strokes on what makes me the very happiest Crunchy Dad that ever did crunch!
This entry was posted in A man's two best friends, Bias and intolerance, fatherhood, motherhood, Not being a sissy, The Human Condition, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Extended Breastfeeding Issue At Our House

  1. Amanda says:

    Can I just tell you how amazing you and your blog are? Oh wait, I think I might have on a previous post. Ok then, let me tell you again!

    As a bad-ass breastfeeding mama (ok, all breastfeeding mama’s are badass), I admit that I still feel weird reservations when I go out with the family and may be placed in a perdicament of having to breastfeed in public. I have on a handful of occassions, but there is still that voice saying I’m doing something that people would totally not approve of….no matter how proud I am to be doing it.

    I have relentless faith that when my daughters grow up and breastfeed that the voice in their minds will be little more faint..and maybe my grandchildren won’t hear it at all : )

    Rock on crunchy dad!

    • crunchydad says:

      Thank you Amanda! You totally Rock! I will wholeheartedly support you breastfeeding in public and if people don’t approve that’s their problem. My wonderful wife (as you might have noticed from my picture) is brown (she’s half Indian and half German) and my daughter is as white as can be, you can imagine some of he strange looks she gets when she breastfeeds in public! In a world where it isn’t strange for men to have their nipples out for no reason at all it should never be strange for a woman to bear her breast for the best of all possible reasons.

      All The Best!

  2. amy says:

    hey Travis, splendid as usual! We are proud of Sonya too.
    For me this was a non issue, as Aiden weaned himself at 9 1/2 months (though he got frozen milk with homo milk for another month) and Addy and I stopped just short of a year due to an illness (I needed antibiotics that I could not breastfeed with). She got frozen milk up until about a month ago…I had no problem with Aiden stopping, but i did have problems with Addy as it was a decision that was made for us. 😦
    The only thing I have to say is that there are many moms out there who are not willing to try, true, but also many women who CAN’T. These women often try too hard, and it does not help anyone! I know you had your disclaimer at the bottom, just wanted to add that supplementation is not bad, and the women that do need to supplement should not beat themselves up for it.

    • crunchydad says:

      That’s very true and a good point that I missed Amy, and the reverse is far more common. Many women stop nursing early because of well-meaning but uninformed friends, family members, nurses and doctors as well as their own uninformed insecurities. Particularly companies that sell formula have spread out a lot of nonsense; Sonya and I got a coupon from a formula company (I won’t name names but shame on them) three weeks before Mia was born that said, and I quote “sometimes breastmilk alone isn’t enough” (this in my opinion is truly repugnant exploitation of a pregnant woman’s insecurities!) which is true in less than one percent of cases. Luckily, we were with a midwife service that had a lot of information on the ins and outs of breastfeeding and could help us understand what was misinformation and what was good. For women who aren’t as fortunate there is help:

      Contact La Leche League for help on breastfeeding and deciding what is best for you and your child. This non-profit international orginization is dedicated to helping you and almost certainly has people in your area.
      online at: http://www.lllc.ca/
      By Phone at: Breastfeeding Referral Service 1-800-665-4324
      You can also find them on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Leche-League-International/121276329602

      I will also post this on the article for anyone who wants to know

  3. Alice Gabriel says:

    Hey Travis,
    I would like to say again how happy I am that you have decided to blog on your experiences as a father and man with your daughter and Sonya. It’s nice to see a perspective from a males point of view and brings great laughter at times.
    I wanted to comment on this last blog as I am one of those people who had a difficult time breastfeeding due to blocked ducts both natural and from a medical breast reduction I had in my late teens, and a low milk supply. I also had difficulty with Kinsey and the twins, Samantha and Lily as they decided to go on a nursing strike. Kinsey after 3 mths and the girls around 4mths. We did push through and attempt, I mean REALLY attempt, to get through it , but unfortunately we weren’t able to get past it. There were many tears involved and a lot of frustration and I have learnt to let it go and be thankful for the time I did have with all three of them.
    But let me tell you, it is so true that even though I wasn’t able to meet my expectations as to the length of breastfeeding, it was so rewarding and amazing the time we were able to do it. And might I add, you have never experienced breastfeeding until you’ve had two little ones nurse at the same time. Sure it was awkward the first few times getting them on, but it was amazing when they were settled and content. (Yes, I felt like a super hero!)
    I also had AMAZING support from a lot of friends and family and our local La Leche league was there anytime I needed. They were fantastic! I lucked out and there was one woman who had twins herself that had a lot of suggestions.
    My main point is that I was one of those women who desperately wanted to breastfeed for at least one to two years and wasn’t able due to different things. But, as a mother who had to supplement due to medical reasons (both myself and the girls) and low supply, it is possible and so very, very rewarding no matter how short it is.
    so thank you for doing this blog and Sonya your an amazing woman!

    • crunchydad says:

      Thank you for that Alice, what an amazing comment! The one thing I can’t speak about is all the emotion that can be tied up in breastfeeding for a woman. I want to congratulate you on both trying so hard and on doing it with twins; you ARE a superhero! Stopping breastfeeding and not meeting your own expectations isn’t something to be ashamed of or disappointed in (though some disappointment is a natural part of that adjustment); sometimes parenthood doesn’t go as planned (For more see my “Inagural Post”). Not I nor anyone else has the right to look down on you for anything, you are doing a great job, keep up the good work!

  4. Alice Gabriel says:

    WOW! Ok, so I’m kind of hooked on pintrest. There was a post about an article and cover page of a ‘Time’ magazine that was disusing Breastfeeding and the parent attachment to the child and the age of the child. If you haven’t seen it, the cover shows a mother breastfeeding her about 3 yr old son. I was shocked and horrified by some of the responses! They totally missed the point of the cover and what it was featuring. There seems to be such a strong adverseness to breastfeeding a child past the age of 1 yr. I guess I’m just one of those people who’s ok with it and I don’t think a mother should be judged and ridiculed for breastfeeding they’re child because someone else is uncomfortable with it. It just goes to show how narrow minded a lot of our society really still is.

    • crunchydad says:

      I’m right there with you Alice. I was, however, fairy disgusted by the title “Are You Mom Enough?”, What? if you aren’t willing to breastfeed a three year old in your yoga clothes on the front of a nationally published magazine you’re just not that good a mom? I think Time magazine really missed the point with that title.

      • Kelie says:

        YES YES YES!! That’s what got me about the cover – if you are loving and caring for a child then you are mom enough!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s