I still haven’t been able to write down my breastfeeding story with Starfish (mostly because of time!), but I’m still breastfeeding him twice a day and he’s just over 13 months old. I know some people have assumed I’ve stopped breastfeeding now that my son is 1 year old. As mums, we all know how controversial and diverse the opinions are between breastfeeding and bottle feeding. There are also differing opinions about the length of feedings. I wanted to share the story of my lovely friend Lauren, The Peaceful Lactivist, who is breastfeeding her children aged 2 and 5. Tonight on the blog she is sharing with us the 5 questions she’s frequently asked about breastfeeding baby over 12 months. I hope you find it as insightful as I have!
5 Questions Asked About Breastfeeding Baby Over 12 Months
I never set out to be one of those mums that breastfeeds her kids forever and ever. Before having kids I honestly thought that if you did things right, your kids would stop breastfeeding once they were 12 months old, and that kids who breastfed past that had been parented wrong. I was so naïve!
Remembering my own feelings about term breastfeeding from before I landed on this journey helps me keep my cool when people ask me questions about breastfeeding my older kids, that may feel offensive to other term breastfeeding mums. It’s never nice to feel like someone is challenging what I do with my kids, and perhaps suggesting I’m “doing it wrong”, but since I used to hold similar, uninformed opinions, I try hard to take the opportunity to present a different side instead of getting offended.
Here are five questions that I get asked most frequently about term breastfeeding: Do they have teeth?
1. Do they have teeth?
Yes, I breastfeed my kids even though they have teeth. My son popped his first tooth at 10 weeks, so we have been breastfeeding with teeth for a very long time! But teeth don’t really get involved during breastfeeding. Think about when you suck on a straw that’s in a drink – you don’t need to bite the straw to make it happen.
2. But can they talk? Isn’t that weird?
Yes, my kids can talk. I don’t find it weird when they verbally ask for their milk, any more than I do when they ask me for toast or ice cream. When you think about it, they’ve been asking for it since they were born, just not using words. Even a newborn can let us know they are hungry.
That said, I have always called breastfeeds “milk”. I avoided the use of words like “titty”, and “boobs” because I personally find them a little crass and didn’t really want to hear those words coming out of my kids mouths. Generally speaking, my kids just ask for “milk”.
3. Do they grab your boobs and pull them out in front of people?
No, they don’t. My kids don’t “help themselves”, they ask. How they ask has evolved and changed over time, and has included:
- Yawning, nuzzling and bobbing their head around for a lucky nipple that might happen to be close
- Crying if I missed earlier cues
- Gently placing a hand on the top of my breast, usually while looking at me with adorable, wide-open eyes (asking permission)
- Putting their face near my breasts and making suckling faces and noises (demonstrating what they want)
- Lying across my lap in the cradle position (showing me they are ready)
- Simply saying “Milk” and later “Mama, can I please have some milks?”
It isn’t this way in all families – some kids help themselves and some parents are OK with that – basically, if the person who owns the breasts is OK with it, then it’s their decision and we should respect that.
4. Why can’t you just give them a sippy cup or a bottle?
Let’s turn this question around. Instead of asking “why not”, tell me first, “why”? Why would I stop doing something that’s working for our family in favour of a solution that feels like more work? Introducing a bottle or sippy cup means I then have to spend money on buying them, spend more money when we lose or break them, and keep them clean and ready to go. I’m not signing up for that kind of workload if I don’t have to.
5. You’re doing it mostly for yourself though, right? I mean your kids don’t really need it.
It feels like this question is suggesting that I get some perverse enjoyment from having my boobs in my kid’s mouths, like I’m getting off on it somehow. I’m not.
Or is it suggesting that I breastfeed simply because I like to be able to brag about it? I’m not.
And how exactly do we define what another person “needs”? Who am I to draw a line in the sand when it comes to physical comfort? My daughter really “needed” 6 kisses before she went to sleep last night. Would it make sense to tell her she could only have 4? That seems unnecessarily arbitrary, especially when it’s not that hard to give a kiss, a cuddle or a breastfeed.
I don’t know exactly what people are implying when they ask this question, but I’ll tell you what – breastfeeding requires a certain amount of cooperation from my kids. I can’t force them to breastfeed when they don’t want to, anymore than I can force them to sleep when they don’t want them to, eat vegetables when they don’t want to, or wear shoes when they don’t want to. Any parent who has experienced a baby who can’t/won’t breastfeed should support me here – it takes two.
People will always have opinions about term breastfeeding, but I would encourage everyone to keep an open mind. One day it might be you who looks at your breastfed child, who is 11 months and 364 days old, and realise that they are still a baby. You may look at them, like I did, and realise that breastfeeding is too important to them still, for it to just be over simply because in one more day they will be a year old. My breastfeeding journeys with both kids have been so rewarding that I’ll always be thankful for my ability to let go of my opinions about age and breastfeeding, and just do what needed to be done.
Lauren is a passionate advocate of breastfeeding, and works with a number of associations to support mothers in their breastfeeding journey. She writes posts for Breastfeeders in Australia, and also has her own Facebook page for The Peaceful Lactivist.