Monday, May 14, 2012

The other 1% - Fullterm breastfeeding

On Friday, a good friend in my mothers' group asked if I'd see the cover of Time Magazine with the woman breastfeeding on the cover.

I hadn't, so she described it to me. A woman, standing up, with her almost four year old child at her breast while he stood on a stool in front of her.

Associated Press / May 11, 2012
She found it a bit icky. And that's OK. I'm in the glorious position of being a supportive and diverse mothers' group where just because we have different stories and different ideals doesn't mean we one-up and think our way is best. We have breastfeeders, bottle feeders, caesarian births, vaginal births, epidural births and drug free birthss. Between us we have eight beautiful kids; day care kids, grandparent care kids, dairy free kids, nut free kids, shy kids and outgoing kids. It's a mish mash microcosm of society in one little group. It's perfect. Bit I digress.

Back to the photo. It's a rather provocative cover. I expect it rubs a few people the wrong way because in our rather sheltered culture it's not common to see women breastfeeding their older children. I wonder how much of that is because the child doesn't take much milk any more and it's less likely to happen outside the home, and how much of it is because those who do feed their older child feel the stares of passersby and hide away for fear of comments?

The photo doesn't bother me. But I'm slightly crunchy and have been around full term feeders at the ABA, so I understand I'm biased.
Some of the very vocal backlash to the photo (including it being taken of stands in some supermarkets) has been because the woman is wearing tight, sexy clothes (yes, jeans, a singlet and ballet flats are totes sexy)... because obviously anyone breastfeeding should automatically become asexual. Surely she should be wearing frumpy maternity clothing with bows on it? Newsflash: breastfeeding doesn't stop you being a sexual person - see those people with two children breastfeeding? Or pregnant and breastfeeding? OMG THEY HAD SEX! 

Other comments have been centred around the look to camera... because shouldn't they be looking adoringly in to each others eyes if it's genuine bonding and not some debauched sexual act? Newsflash: I've not seen a child stare in to it's mother's eyes while feeding much past the six month mark where the world suddenly gets really interesting. Tricky looks anywhere but at me unless he's really tired.

In Australia (according to the ABS), by age two, only 1% of children are receiving breastmilk. In less than a month, all things remaining equal, Tricky will fall in to that 1%.

I think I deserve to get some sort of prize for breastfeeding this long. Like a boob shaped trophy or something. Or at least a nice, new bra.

When the majority of people find out I'm still feeding the Trickster they looked surprised. Then, inevitably, the very first question is "when are you going to wean him?". I don't see how it's anyone else's business, really, but depending on my mood I'll either answer "when he's ready" or "when he's 17, because feeding an 18 year old would be TOTALLY GROSS!".

When I was pregnant, my goal was to feed for twelve months. That was quickly reassessed to "please let me feed til three months" when nipple thrush and a staph infection (yes, in MY NIPPLE!) had me in tears every hourly feed (yes, HOURLY!).

But through perseverance, education and a lot of fear of failure stubbornness, I got there. And then some.

So here I am feeding a (not quite) two year old. It is very different to feeding a newborn, and it's very different to feeding a twelve month old.

He feeds every morning when he wakes up which guarantees me an extra half hour to an hour of sleep as he lays there, dozing on and off at my breast. An hour is a long time at 4:00am when you're sleep deprived.

Sometimes he'll feed after a nap, and he gets free reign if he's sick, both for the comfort and to keep his fluids up. Recently when he was unwell and he was refusing food and water, he would breastfeed and I knew he was at least getting something.

He will pull away from one side and ask for "More milk?" before latching on to the other side. I wonder if it tastes different?

I understand that some people think it's weird, and that if a child can ask for milk then they're too old to have it... Tricky, thanks to baby sign language, has been able to ask for milk since he was six months old. Should I have weaned him then?

I don't know when we'll wean. There's been a few times when I thought it was the end of our journey, like when I was going away to conferences, and savoured the closeness of our "last feed", only to have him eagerly return to the breast as if nothing had happened.

For now, I'll relish the fleeting moments we have together... and quietly revel in my ability to provoke awkward looks from others.

Did the Time cover make you squirm? Why? Why not?
All opinions are welcome here, but please be respectful.


  1. It didn't make me squirm... but it sure did make me roll my eyes, knowing that all the idiots were going to come out and comment about it being sexual & bla bla bla.  Anyone who makes comments like that is either sick in the head or has never bf'd themselves!
    My little miss has been breastfeeding now for almost 14 months & doesn't look like weaning anytime soon ... it shits me when people ask why she's still "on the boob" ... especially when their own kids were still drinking from a bottle until the age of 3 or higher!

  2. It's interesting how preachy people get when it comes to parenting. I'm yet to have kids and I have no idea what I will do when it comes to feeding. I like to think I will breastfeed but then I have this fear that I won't be able to. I also have a stupid fear that I actually won't even be able to have kids. 

    Mum and I were talking about this cover yesterday and she found it extremely creepy. She personally feels that almost 4 is too old, but she also says that she wished she had been able to feed me "on the boob" until 12mths instead of going to formula because she just didn't have enough milk and I was a chewer. Poor mum.

    Another blog I read today from a news site talks about the "creepiness" of kissing your kids on the lips. Apparently the majority of people that this blogger spoke to said it was weird and creepy. I must be a huge deviant in their eyes because my godson loves nothing more than a peck on the lips. Heck I kiss both his folks on the lips when we see them. Have done for years. That's just the way we have always been. Some other friends I am like that with, others it's a cheek kiss.
    Now I digress....

    At the end of the day from what I have seen, as a parent you are going to do what you are comfortable with. I don't see a problem with that. But why do others insist on making you feel bad about it?

  3. It annoys me that Time was obviously deliberately inflammatory with the cover. It had only a tenuous link to the actual content of the article, and I am so strongly against breastfeeding being made into a competition. Frankly, if you are female with a child as part of your living arrangements, and that child is thriving due to your influence, then yes, you are "Mom enough". That includes bio mums, non bio mums, step mums, adoptive parents, caesars, vaginal births, extended feeders and those weird spartans* who left their kids on mountains.

    I wanted to tandem nurse my two (22 months apart) but the eldest became a chronic boob-biter just as I was getting excruciatingly tender from the pregnancy, and so I pulled her off at 16 months. The tears and squealing (mine) were totally ruining it as a warm, loving, bonding moment! We snuggled better with a bottle.

    Number two, on the other hand, shows no signs of stopping At All. Eighteen months and counting. I kind of want to wean her so I can occasionally go out of an evening, but I figure she's only young once, a couple of years of cloistered living won't hurt.

    *Ok, maybe not the Spartans.

  4. Breastfeeding is breastfeeding. There isn't really any if's, but's or betweens for me x

  5. Sorry Glow - I may have had a slight case of the cranky pants when writing this. I still stand by it though!

  6. Actually I don't see anything wrong with that. I bfed til Lil Pumpkin was 27 months but if I could and she wanted, I would have continued on. I don't see anything wrong with having a mummy look as hot as that too. Does motherhood means the end of individuality and style? Sorry, I didn't catch that memo.

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

  7. The cover didn't make me squirm. The reactions to it did. Don't like it? Well I don't like those playboy covers but I'm not running my mouth off about it all the time.
    Thing is, breastfeeding isn't going to be seen as normal. The bottle is fine, we've all accepted it's role in our society. Not everyone can or wants to breastfeed, that's fine too. But when are we going to add that breastfeeding is fine? Have you noticed that?
    Both are ways a child is fed. Neither are sexual. People just need to get their minds out of the gutter.

  8. Jess@diaryofasahmMay 14, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    Homestly it did make me squirm a little, because I wonder if at some age the cons of full term breastfeeding outweigh the pros. At two or three I think it's fine, but I think after about 4 the kid is likely to going to remember that, and particularly if it's a boy, does he want to remember sucking his mums nipples?
    Having said that, I have no problem with people who choose extended breastfeeding. I fully believe that it's anyones choice and there is no judgement here. Everyone knows their own kids.

  9. The cover shocked me at first, but only because I first saw only the top half, without the chair!  I thought the kid was tall enough to reach her breast. That made me squirm!
    I fed my first son until he was 6 mths and my second for 11 mths.  In both cases it was them who decided they had enough, not me.
    Each child is unique, each mum is unique and each circumstance is unique. Would be nice if society would stop judging and just get on with it. 

  10. No issue with long term feeding or the photo. Major issue with the hideous tagline

  11. No - it didn't make me squirm 
    but I did squirm when a 5 year old lifted her mothers top in my Beauty Salon one day as I was waxing the lady client.
    The child wanted boob! (in her expression)
    that was a moment of oh my god, where do I look and what do I say.
    The child had been to school and this was an after school appointment.
    I wondered - how can the mother keep it up - it must be exhausting. 
    I hadn't had children nor any experience with children at the time - oh how times (in my life) have changed now.
    After 1 miscarriage, and 2 children, All pre-conceived thoughts have gone out that window and now I do not judge - I do not know what the "other side" could be like unless I have walked in that mothers shoes and god forbid, if someone judges me - well.... please, they are best to keep their thoughts to themselves.
    I often have breast feeding envy as I couldn't keep it up for very long - even after private lactation nurses were hired and a friend in the ABA came and helped often - so I had the mothers lack of breast feeding guilt!

    have a happy day Glow

    x  Loulou

  12. It made me squirm..... but mainly because the image is TRYING to be provocative and i find that icky. 

    I mean, it's not just a picture of a mum feeding her child, it's a picture of a Mum staring straight into a camera and having a picture taken... and then there just happens to be a child clambering up onto a stool trying to feed while the mum is focused on something else. In this image, its almost as if rather than being a nurturing mother, she's a distracted mother, she's focused on herself and getting attention and although she's technically doing something we associate with 'good' doting mothers, she's actually not being doting at all, he's doing all the work. I know that's just the way the shot is staged, not necessarily what's really happening, but when society can barely tolerate a picture of a loving mother nurturing her newborn baby through breastfeeding, then a picture where a mother will allow her pre-schooler to feed but in a distracted way- well of course that's going to be controversial and I feel thats the point... which is kind of cheap when you consider there's a kid involved who may grow up and not be happy that a picture of him hanging off his mums boob was a worldwide headline. He probably isnt actually feeding (unless they timed it), he was probably only really posing which is also slightly creepy. 

    So no, I don't have a problem with public breastfeeding or extended breastfeeding (within reason... no ten year olds, thanks, haha) but I do have a problem with a picture whose whole aim was to say "look at meeeeeee, look at meeee..... oi, what you looking at? You wanna fight?" 

  13. I was hoping someone would bring it up the headline - I found it appalling & deleted it from this post because it was getting really long. Even as a long term breast feeder I find it offensive that the longer you feed the better the mum. It's ridiculous and encourages the competition between mothers. If your kid is fed, that's what matters!

  14. Awesome point, Miss Pink! You're likely to see more flesh on a mainstream popular mag touting a celebrity diet!

  15. If you don't do it "long enough", IT'S TERRIBLE, if you do it "too long", IT'S TERRIBLE!

  16. I was a little iffy about lip kissing, because I only remember through my "teenage self" what it was like... but try telling that to Tricky who wants nothing more than to give me a giant smacker right on the lips every time! He's such a pasher!) I figured he'll stop doing it when he's not comfortable - probably middle school!!!

  17. I must have missed the memo too! Though by my outfit of track pants right now, you'd think I got it loud and clear :P

  18. It's so culturally specific it's hard to say. In other places where it is the norm to wean around five, and the children remember it, there isn't an ongoing taboo because breasts are sexualized as much as they are here.

  19. What a lot of people don't realize, is that if your child self weans at 6 or 11 months or whenever it's actually classified as full term breastfeeding because the child has chosen to wean for whatever reason. Yet a lot of the staunch lactivists will admonish people in that situation for "giving up". Ridiculous.

  20. It's a disgusting tag line. As if breastfeeding for any amount of time makes someone a better mother?

  21. I didn't have a problem with the picture. I had a huge problem with the headline. It pissed me off, I felt it was the media being deliberately provocative in stacking women up against each other. That happens enough without provocation!!

  22. Good for you for having the courage... I know, it shouldn't take courage. But sadly it does.. and that cover was a blatant grab at sensationalism. I had to have a whinge too... though more from a "media commentary" type perspective, was good to hear what someone breastfeeding an almost-two-year old thought of it.

  23. Exactly. My grandparents were big on it when we were kids, and my mum too. But then my bro and I got to the point where it was "gross" to kiss your mum on the lips. I love it when I see lil Calvinator go and give his mum a big cuddle and kiss bang on the lips. He always does it with the biggest loving smile.

    Breastfeeding - I have no idea how that's going to go when I get to the kid stage. I just hope by the time I get there the media and society as a whole would have got over all this judgmental stuff. 

  24. Awesome points, Laura. As I look at it more I'm both loving and hating the provocative nature - hate that it's just trying to shit stir but love that it's creating a conversation.

  25. AMEN, Vicky. The headline is a cheap ploy, and I find it really derogatory against anyone who hasn't breastfed or hasn't breastfed "long enough", whatever that is.

  26. I just finished breast feeding my 17 month old baby son. He is my third and last child and i have been a bit sad and emotional with this last link and quiet time with him gone. i did not wean him it just sort of happened. I went out with my husband one night and he missed his feed(which has happened a number of time before), then the next night I was late coming home from a movie with my mum. By the third night he was not seeming to ask for it and I did not push him. By the fourth night I realised this was the end and generally I was happy but it still feels a little sad. I would not have stopped feeding him had he still been keen but I don't know what age I would have stopped. Even so this add initially freaked me out and perhaps because it was so staged for the photo? I have not read the article. Good luck with your breast feeding journey, it is such an honour and privilege. 

  27. Wombat is 18 months old and is still breastfeeding. I hope to be breastfeeding when he reaches 2 years of age, although I have to go away for 11 days for uni residential school/clinical placement a couple of months before that and we have decided that I will be going by myself this time. I figure that I can pump and dump while I'm away and if Wombat wants to continue breastfeeding when I get back, then I am pleased to accomodate him.

    I firmly believe that full term breastfeeding deserves more media coverage. The more people talk about it, the more chance there is for people to eventually accept it as normal. As much as I don't like the way TIME have promoted it on the cover of their magazine, at least we are all talking about it and hopefully that conversation contributes something positive overall to the perception of full term breastfeeding.

  28. Some of us did not get to breastfeed! So at least these kids are getting their mothers' milk! 

    When my son was born, it took 2 weeks trying to feed his poor soul, no milk came, we had to put him on formula! He was crying so hard because he was starving. Being a first time mum I had no idea what to make of his crying, I thought he was being a pain in the arse. Doc game me some pills to try and boost my boob milk, but the milk only came when it felt like.

    Got milk? It's your milk, do what you want with it. You don't know what you've got that others don't have. So appreciate... otherwise move on.

    --END-- now I need a Kahlua.

  29. It is sad that it takes courage :(

  30. An honour and privilege, indeed, Rosemary. I'm so thankful for the opportunity. I have no idea when Tricky will wean, he's missed up to four days at a time and then just jumped right back in and shows no signs of stopping.

  31. That it has everyone talking about it is brilliant. Sadly the most recent media exposure was with The Slap which equated full term breastfeeding with lack of discipline and out of control children :(

  32. I have a different perspective because I was unable to breastfeed. I do, however, believe in choice. And I believe there is no "right" or "wrong" way to parent. It works for you and it works for Tricky, so it's nobody else's business, really. Society should stop putting us in boxes, and let us get on with parenting.

  33. I think because breastfeeding didn't come easily to me, and that so many of my friends have had difficulties, that I appreciate this precious time we have together even more.

  34. The reaction to this article is probably exactly what Time were aiming for. Even if their motives were purely commercial, and the provocative styling was not integral to the substance of magazine article; the discussion generated is healthy.  
    I haven't been reading your blog for long and would love to hear more about how baby sign language worked for you.  Can you refer me to a previous post?

  35. I thought it was odd, our of the ordinary,but not disgusting.
    Good on you for breast feeding so long, a stronger woman than many to get past the hard times because you wanted to. (not that anyone with an open mind would have looked down on you for switching to bottle feeding)
    I am congratulating on you for your strong will and perseverance, regardless of breast feeding or horse riding :p

  36. The image is no doubt intended to provoke controversy. I didn't like it, because it doesn't look natural at all. And completely staged, voyeuristic images are just ridiculous. Had it been a natural shot of an everyday occurence, then I'm sure I wouldn't have had a problem.

  37. I totally agree. That copywriter should be fired but will probably end up with a bonus!

  38. Honestly, the cover does bother me a little bit but that is just me.  I personally would feel uncomfortable breastfeeding that long, but I do not care if anyone else does it.  If that is right for them and their children then I support their right to breastfeed for as long as they want.  I think the cover was shot to evoke a strong reaction and that kind of bothers me.  Simply because I think we as mothers need to stop attacking one another and telling everyone else how they're doing it wrong because they aren't doing it like us and start supporting one another and encouraging every mother to do what is right for them.


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