Natural Term Breastfeeding – Stop The Shaming

You know that thing where a woman supports her friend’s choices in Motherhood, whether or not she would make the same decisions herself? Yeah …. that ….

I watched a programme on Saturday night (well, it was on in the background whilst I was writing), hosted by Alan Davies. He and three guests sit around a table and chat. Isy Suttie was one of the guests on this edition of the show and quite unconnected to anything else that was being said she started talking about a friend of hers.

She was saying how outrageous it was that this friend was still breastfeeding her child, who had teeth and could talk. She didn’t say how old this child was but in reality, we could be talking about a baby under 12 months, or an older child. Either way, she was outraged that her friend would still be feeding her child. She kept going on about it, trying to get agreement from the three men around the table, all of whom looked uncomfortable and kept fairly quiet.  She then went on to say her own Mother breastfed her until she was three (again, outrage), and it was no wonder she had turned out to be so odd.

natural term breastfeeding

What now? Your “friend” can choose when to wean her child, without your input. And I’m sure she was really pleased to have you trying to shame her on TV. How supportive of you.

I tweeted Isy about her stance, and she immediately said she was all for breastfeeding, that she herself was breastfed until she was three (not sure how that demonstrates her support for breastfeeding – surely it shows her Mother is rather more supportive) and that she was “just trying to find a way into the article”. No idea which article, but that suggests that she’s taken this stance more than once. She declined to reply to my further (polite) tweets. But you know what, I’m sick of women feeling the need to breastshame other women.


I wrote a Facebook status about it, and there was some general grumbling about what she had said, and then someone who was an old school friend popped up to tell me that I had no right to bully women who don’t agree with breastfeeding, that everyone has the right to their opinion, that I was a militant breastfeeder(!) and just because I don’t think extended natural term breastfeeding is weird doesn’t mean it isn’t. Wow.

She went on to say that I was “bullying people into believing that breastfeeding is the only way and you are wrong if you do not agree or cannot do it”. Hmn. An interesting, if somewhat misguided point, since at no point did anyone (other than the person in question) mention women who could not or chose not to breastfeed. The discussion was entirely about natural term breastfeeding and whether it’s OK to criticise someone for doing it. It would seem that, for some people, the mere mention of breastfeeding is tantamount to bullying anyone who uses formula (or in this case, weans their child at a time that suits them).

Well you know what? That’s bullshit. And it’s clear that my “friend” (who unfriended me, by the way) is the one with the issue here. It’s true, I believe “breast is best”, but it’s not my place to criticise the decisions other mothers make. It’s true, I think it’s odd that someone would use follow-on milk, or toddler milk – but because it’s no different to stage 1 milk, it costs a fortune, and it exists only so that formula companies can market their brand, since they are prohibited by law from advertising stage 1 milk. If you are not breastfeeding a child who is over a year old, you may as well give them cow’s milk (or soy milk, or whatever) and save yourself a fortune. But you know what? It’s not my place to criticise ….

I really look forward to the day when someone can defend their decision to breastfeed or breastfeed past 6 months/a year/[insert age here] without being accused of attacking women who don’t breastfeed. In fact I really, really look forward to the day when women don’t have to defend their decision to breastfeed. Full stop.

And as for my friend and her issues …. not my circus, not my monkeys.

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8 comments on “Natural Term Breastfeeding – Stop The Shaming

  1. It is a shame that people feel they are not allowed their view either way. Let us just support people’s choices whatever they are..

  2. I find it shocking that people still choose to moan about things that aren’t ANYTHING to do with them! Amazes me.

  3. Breasts are there to feed our offspring. That is their only purpose. If some mums choose not to breast feed then that’s fine, it’s up to each mum to do whatever suits THEM best.

    Do I find it weird that a toddler is still being breastfed? Yup, I sure do, but that is MY choice to make. Just because I think it’s odd doesn’t mean it is. 🙂

  4. I find it absurd that the breast vs bottle debate is still newsworthy! Same goes for how long a woman chooses to feed for. While I’m a huge bf advocate, and have bf all three of mine, I understand that it’s not for everyone. This had to stop being a room divider, and us mums need to start singing from the same hymn sheet as far as i’m concerned… great post! #letkidsbekids

  5. It’s amazing how some people feel they know what’s best for other people. My son is 14 months old and I’m still breastfeeding, I wonder if/when I will start to feel pressure from people who “know better” to stop. It’s amazing this is actually a mommy war-I believe “breast is best” for my family, but I truly believe “fed is best.”

  6. Very thought-provoking post Zena. I get a lot more comments about perhaps it being time I stopped breastfeeding now that Sophie has teeth (especially with her tendency to bite). I know that she is not ready to give up breastfeeding yet though and although the biting isn’t pleasant, it tends to come in very short-lived phases and I can generally grit my teeth and wait for it to pass. I breastfed Jessica until she was 17 months and intend to feed Sophie until she is ready to be weaned off breastmilk. I’m not a fan of toddler milk either – have always thought it was just for the formula companies to make money out of trying to persuade mums that they needed something better than cows milk (despite this being fine for children over 1).

  7. Can’t believe I missed this show. What a well written post, I couldn’t have put all your points better myself especially when it comes to monkeys and circus’s. Thanks so much for sharing this with the #BFingdiaries. It’s not about being on one side of the fence of the other, but obviously there are still people who don’t understand why it’s such a positive choice, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is being disrespected or judged in the meantime

  8. Totally agree with you – what a well written post. It’s about respect and understanding – all too often missing when parenting differences are discussed.

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