Addy is 10 months old and still breastfeeding. She’s big enough now that we’re starting to get the dirty looks if I breastfeed her in public. (And we live in Portland, Oregon which is supposed to be a bastion of progressive thinkers) Even when we are being super descrete we will get the “look”. My own children have picked up on it and one of them even said “do you have to do that here?” the other day. I was absolutely horrified! How could my own child have that attitude? A couple days later an acquaintance who espouses healthy living asked me how long I planned on breastfeeding. And she didn’t ask because she was being supportive, it was more a how long are you going to let that go on for, question. All I could think was so you eat organic, you find processed sugar repugnant, you won’t touch coffee or soda or fast food, but you think there is something wrong with breastfeeding a 10 month old?
After pondering it for a couple days, I think the answer is this. We all know the benefits of breastfeeding a baby if you don’t google “benefits of breast feeding” and you will find an arsenal of medical research on the subject. And many new mothers give it a go. Often new mothers even have some good resources available to them to help them through problems. But somewhere along the line they give up. They decide the bottle is easier. They decide that their baby will do better on baby formula. If you watch TV aimed at the demographic that comprises young monthers you see lots of commercials for baby products, baby food, diapers, forumla, toys etc. But you never see anything promoting breast feeding. The are no PSA’s for breast feeding.
On TV shows you never see mothers breastfeeding. And we never see older babies nursing. So eventhough everything we know about what is best for baby says that you should breastfeed until baby is at least a year. Our popular culture doesn’t in any way support that with the messages we send to people. Michelle Obama, you have taken on childhood obesity as your cause. Make a PSA about breastfeeding, breatfed children have a lower rate of obesity (read here.) Daytime soaps the storyline about the new mother with PPD is old news, do one about a mom who wants to breastfeed. Other media outlets, instead of using a bottle as a prop for shows/movies with babies consider showing breastfeeding. Celebrities out there, those of you that are breastfeeding show that you do it! Help break down the walls of our society so we embrace it as a norm and look at the bottle as the less desireable choice. As I was looking up some links for this post I noticed that the Advertising for the AAP website sections on breastfeeding was for formula. Maybe we need to get out there and promote breastfeeding the way we promote anti smoking and anti drug propaganda.
And you there, reading this post. Ask yourself how you reacted last time you saw an older baby nursing. Did you think to yourself that baby’s too old? The American Association of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding beyond that noting that “There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.” As a society we see nothing wrong with a toddler toting around a bottle but we frown on a toddler that is still nursing. This attitude needs to change. We need some PSA’s about breastfeeding.
Make sure you are supporting any breastfeeding mothers you might know. A small word of encouragement can help offset the negativity of our society.
Me and Addy when she was a newborn. Picture by the fabulous Shiela Nielsen. And yes I have now posted pictures of my own boob on the internet. Do you suppose I can now say I have naked pictures of myself on the internet?