In the last week, many changes have happened in our family. Baby R has turned 1, going from a baby to a toddler, and with this milestone I too have changed – from a breastfeeding mum to an extended breastfeeding mum.
This has been an interesting transition. I have been aware for a while that my choice to continue to breastfed my now quite large and wriggly infant has met with some disapproving looks when out and about, and some family members have not been discreet in sharing their opinion that it is time to stop. It is a strange feeling that something that was once encouraged and praised is now frowned upon. This amazing gift which was once ‘natural’ and ‘beneficial’ and ‘miraculous’ is now damaging and strange and freaky. And just to make sure there is a clear distinction between the ‘good’ breastfeeding and the weird breastfeeding, someone has decided to give it a different name.
It occurred to me whilst thinking about this that there aren’t many good activities that get re-labelled when you decide to do them for a little bit longer. When I go swimming, I normally try to do 30 minutes of lengths. Sometimes I can barely manage this, but sometimes I have a little bit extra energy and try to keep going for another 5 or 10 or 15 minutes. Never once has a lifeguard approached me at the end of the 30 minutes and said “are you sure you want to continue extended exercising?”
I’m sure that if you’re reading this then you’re probably familiar with the breast vs bottle feeding debate, so I won’t bore you with details of the beneficial components of breast milk, or the bonding and attachment opportunities of feeding from mum, or the money and energy efficiency of direct breast feeding; just some of the reasons why I value and continue to breastfeed. I will, however, remind you that only 1% of babies born in England are breastfed beyond 6 months, despite the widely reported (and WHO recommended) benefits of breastfeeding for the first 2 years of life.
So I’ve decided that whilst I am elated at being able to continue breastfeeding my son, I am not so happy about becoming an extended breastfeeding mum. Instead I have chosen to just be a mum who is breastfeeding, plain and simple.