January seems to be a time filled with words of change. In relation to breastfeeding mothers wanting to know how to stop breastfeeding. Mothers who were probably quite happy to continue breastfeeding given the seed of doubt by those they have been around over the holidays.
“You can’t possibly be feeding again?!”
“Feeding to sleep? At THIS age?”
“If you stop breast feeding them, you’ll get some of you back”
Our culture doesn’t understand about what breastfeeding really is so let me try and explain it so hopefully you can feel a bit better about continuing to meet the needs of your child.
What is breastfeeding?
In this context breastfeeding is that human contact that we often all desire and need with our “person” (person being the one we rely on, the one we need to feel secure, the human that will be there no matter what) breastfeeding at its core is about attachment to another human in every way that attachment can mean. When a child breastfeeds, they do more than just take in milk. They get:
Body contact (translated in to adults that’s a hug, or a handshake, or the contact we get from loving relationships)
Soothing smells of parent (translated to adults, the smell of perfume or their scent from someone we love)
Soothing sounds of mother’s heart, voice, breath and body functioning (translated to adults the sound of the kettle boiling or the sound of some one you love coming home who you’ve missed)
Warmth (doesn’t need to be adult translated I hope!)
A chance to zone out of the environment they are in (translated to adult, probably now going on a electronic device, play a game, read a book)
And probably more than we even know to date….
Breastfeeding like, crawling, eating, walking, talking, riding a bike etc is a learned thing by doing and like crawling will naturally become unnecessary when the time is right for that human. We really don’t need to be adjusting it or halting it as adults. Simply, this isn’t our role, our role is supporting it until the stage progresses.
Why do words matter?
Words matter in so many instances. Words we use as mothers’ words we use to other mothers, they all make a difference.
Negativity towards the breastfeeding mother and child (dyad) with phrases like at the beginning of this blog post cause untold heartache to occur. Yes, babies feed frequently, thank goodness. Yes, feeding to sleep is normal and needed. I am still me, I don’t need to get me back. I’m a mother and I don’t need to forget it. But once those people have said their word us humans begin to use our beautiful brain and wonder and worry about why we’ve been given these words. We especially respect our peers and elders and their words have far more meaning to us. Then we feel we need to act, and we think about ending breastfeeding because we don’t have the hindsight but the others apparently do.
Breastfeeding isn’t always perfect, it isn’t always a bed of roses. Sometimes we need to halt it. But more often than not we don’t. We simply need some one to give us assurance that it will all be ok and their hindsight to show the possibility that actually we don’t need to do anything drastic.
I want to take a moment here to insert a bit about words and the use of negative words to do with babies. Namely “sleep regression”… this term I keep seeing pop up and find its tone very negative. Unless something is really wrong with your baby things can only progress, even if you are getting less sleep for a bit you child is still progressing. Growth Spurt seems more fitting for the frequent waking and feeding during early infant life. Also, babies aren’t “lazy” another term often used. Babies might be having a hard time feeding but are never “lazy” they need support to give them the energy. I’m sure there are many blogs about this so will attempt to link one here.
Back on to the previous part after the side-track there! The main theme here is positivity, mothers need it, often in bucket loads and negativity towards breastfeeding needs to become so uncool not even your grandma would do it.
Remember, your baby, your body, your breasts, your relationship, your choice. Breastfeeding is normal. Breastfeeding can be wonderful. Please don’t feel you have to give up breastfeeding when everything is going ok because you are being discouraged by those you’ve spent time with. I would love to say send them all my way but I have a suspicion my email would go bang because of how frustratingly common this seems to be.
Finding a mother to mother breastfeeding support group like La Leche League Groups can make these situations feel less alone. Having mothers around you who will give you the positive encouragement can be a life changing experience and give you the courage to help either deflect or re-educate those around you who gave you doubt with your breastfeeding relationship