When It Comes To This Decision, Moms Face An Absurd Stigma

It seems that in recent decades, our culture has shifted to a point where mothers are under constant scrutiny.

Perhaps it’s because we’ve had our traditional values slowly ripped away by a progressive agenda, perhaps it’s that we are all far too concerned about what others think in this age of social media.

But one thing is certain – society judges moms for their decisions, and this one in particular seems to be a hot-button issue.

Breastfeeding, the most natural form of nutrition and bonding between mother and child, already seems to prompt people to make comments or give (mostly unwanted) advice.  Nursing moms often face a barrage of criticism based on misconceptions that are prevalent in our culture today.

Mommy Underground previously reported on the disturbing trend of moms who are criticized for nursing in public, and that is not the only issue people seem to have with this natural process.

Apart from breastfeeding in public – for which many moms have faced criticism, humiliation, and downright attack – the most polarizing issue about breastfeeding is continuing it past baby’s first birthday.

For some unknown reason, those who have made themselves judge and jury (and may have never even breastfed themselves) seem to think that breastfeeding a toddler or older child is somehow strange – if not completely wrong.

They seem to think the beautiful experience of nursing, including all of the physical and emotional health benefits that go with it for both mom and baby, seem to “poof!” disappear as soon as baby turns one.

In fact, extended breastfeeding is an incredible gift if you are able to continue nursing into baby’s second year – and even beyond.

The formative years, a child’s first three years of life, are when they develop a concrete feeling of trust and need to depend on their mother’s comfort and security as they learn to navigate the world around them.

The fact is, many women nurse their children long after the first birthday, and for a variety of reasons.  Many choose to breastfeed to age two or even three.  Yet, there is a huge stigma facing women who do so.

Why?  Well, for the same reason that moms who nurse their infants in public are often criticized – the sexualization of breasts, and women in general.

And though this is certainly a problem throughout western cultures, it is far worse in America.  Women in other nations, particularly undeveloped countries where nursing is an inexpensive form of nutrition, breastfeed well past two or three years of age.

Extended breastfeeding has all the benefits of nursing in the first year, and perhaps more.  It is a very personal decision, but one that no mom should be embarrassed or humiliated for.

The Mayo Clinic reports on the benefits of extended breastfeeding:

As your baby gets older, your breast milk will continue to change to meet his or her nutritional needs. There’s no known age at which breast milk is considered to become nutritionally insignificant for a child.

Research suggests that the longer breastfeeding continues and the more breast milk a baby drinks, the better his or her health might be. (Boosted immunity.)  Breast-feeding beyond infancy has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes [for the mother].

Modern moms are under more pressure than ever before, and unlike generations past, we seem to face judgment from every turn due to a breakdown in the traditional family and society in general.  The almost reverent admiration and respect that mothers received in previous generations has been all but lost.

The media’s sexualization of women, the left’s assault on traditional values, and the constant pressures that modern women face in balancing work and family seem to have opened a Pandora’s Box, where anyone feels they can criticize and condemn at every turn.

But the bottom line is, the choice to breastfeed for an extended period of time only depends on what mom feels is right for herself and her child.  We have no one to answer to for our decision, and no obligation to defend our reasons.

Moms who extended breastfeed say that it helps tremendously when their child is ill and cannot otherwise be comforted, during those toddler temper tantrums when a little one just needs reassurance in a way that provides them the most security, and that it is a completely natural extension of the bonding experience that enriches both mother and child.

Rebel Circus discusses the sexualization of women, particularly in American society, that has led to a culture of shame for moms who extended breastfeed.  A midwife and doctor, Aviva Romm, has some advice for those out there who think they have any right to judge:

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“The perception that a mother and child engaged in what onlookers perceive as a sexual act, rather than a normal act of mother-child connection and nourishment, is solely a western culture perception based on the sexual objectification of women (and breasts).

…this practice [extended breastfeeding]…has been the norm for humans globally since the beginning of our time on this planet.” 

They go on to say that it is absurd for anyone to think breastfeeding is a sexual issue, and that it is only an “issue” because people with “skewed views” make it one.

Mothers should never, ever feel shame for comforting and nurturing their children.  And if someone is offended by you breastfeeding your child longer than “they think you should,” remember that it is their problem – and their ignorance – and continue to do what you feel is best.

Breastfeeding is a gift – and God designed a woman’s body for the purpose of feeding and comforting the child she nurtured in her womb.

Not everyone is able to breastfeed, some women choose to do it for a short time, others for well over a “culturally-acceptable” period of time – and there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to being a mother.

So, mammas, do what is right for you and your little one – and know that you’re doing a wonderful job!

What do you think of the stigma that western cultures place on breastfeeding well after the first year?  Leave us your thoughts.