Justifying Breastfeeding


So Time magazines cover of a three year old breastfeeding has made headlines the world over in the last few days. If you missed it. Here it is:

My own thoughts – I didn’t give it a second glance until I started reading the furore all over the internet. I went back for a second look as was wondering had I missed something. I hadn’t. I don’t like the headline and the child standing on a stool was a little odd but that’s about it.  Yet the comments I have heard and read on this image are absolutely crazy, slightly disturbing and in some cases downright horrifying.

It’s a mother feeding her child. That’s what breasts are for! Ok granted the child is a toddler and most people aren’t used to seeing older children being breastfed but the sexual references and comments regarding her child’s future mental health are completely ridiculous.

As parents we often have to justify our parenting decisions. To ourselves, to our peers, to family, to strangers and so on………I don’t know why but we do. Or rather I know I do. Breastfeeding is the one thing I have justified the most. Why? Because it is out of the norm.

I was never offended. I never really cared. By my third child, I had developed a thicker skin (particularly on my nipples!). So, comments bounced off me but I’m wondering now, did people, think these disturbing weird thoughts on seeing or knowing an older child was being breastfed? Again, I can’t say I particularly care and it says more about other people than me but I still don’t get the uproar?

I would never comment on how a mother chooses to feed her child. It’s nothing to do with me. Yet breastfeeding mothers field questions all the time. It just seems very wrong to me. Anytime, I had negative comments regarding feeding my children they were from other women, most usually, mothers themselves.

Why is that? I can’t think of anybody who would pass a negative comment to a mother bottle feeding a baby yet, in very simplistic black and white terms, bottle feeding is an unnatural way to feed a baby but its breastfeeding mothers who get the questions and negativity.

It’s a strange old world.

This article first appeared on The Clothes Line Blog on May 12, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Hi there. I couldn’t agree with you more. I am from Australia and my first child was born over there. We came over when she was 6 months old for her christening and I must say I got some very strange looks when I sat down to feed her. In the mother’s group I was in in oz, 9 out of 10 mothers were breastfeeding. ( The only one that wasn’t had premature twins so it was very hard for her) We would often meet in cafes or parks and everyone would be feeding away with out any care in the world.
    So when we moved to Ireland, it was strange when I felt I had to go into a different room to feed my child when there were older relatives over. I think there were a few generations here where the bottle was the only “acceptable” way to feed a baby. Some relatives had never seen anyone breastfeed, and my brother in law ( who was only 8) likend me to a cow.
    The other thing I thought was strange was how the hospital here ( or at least where my other two were born) came around and gave mothers FREE formula. WHY?? other than the big companies trying to get more customers??? I’d say there would have been a few mothers who might have considered b/f who changed their minds because it was easier to give their newborns this free formula.
    Thank goodness I found the La Leache League group and other mothers in my area- the extra support helped me continue, and my youngest is now 18 months and still loves his boobie! I’m happy to continue till he has had enough.