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What's So Wrong With the Word Weird Anyway?

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

(I started this as a comment in response to Beth's post on the "Can You Believe in..." thread and quickly realized it would get lost in the comments. It needs to be a post of it's own, especially considering how much of the negativity these last few days comes from my comment about nursing toddlers. )

It's interesting to me how willing people are to take things out of context.

Beth just posted that she would no longer be linking to my blog because of the things I've said this week. While she's welcome to link to or not link to whomever she wants, she's taken my statements out of context twice. Thus, I feel the need to make corrections.

First, you'll note that I did not say "nursing a toddler is weird." I said "the idea of nursing a toddler weirds ME out."

There is, in fact, a distinct difference between the two. I have friends I've met through this blog and local parenting groups who nursed until their children were 2, 3, 4 and even older. I've hung out with women who were nursing four year olds. Doesn't bother me in the slightest. If mom and baby are happy, I'm happy.

If someone speaks up against them, I point out the benefits of extended nursing and explain the progression of nursing a child. Once you ask people "at exactly what age does it get "weird" most find they can't really answer it.

It's easy to look at a four year old and say "wow, that would be really weird to nurse a kid that old." But when you start to think about the fact that a child grows older one day at a time, it's easier to see how women nurse for so long.

I never breastfed Elnora. Breastfeeding tanked for us very early on and I ended up exclusively pumping for 14 months.

Until after Emmitt was born, I did not know anyone (outside of contacts on this blog) who had breastfed past a few weeks.

So to me, with no cultural context or example of anyone nursing beyond "infancy" the idea of nursing past six months seemed "weird."

Then I found myself nursing a six month old. A six month old who had aged one day at a time and there was NOTHING weird about it. In fact, it was beautiful.

And so we continued on with no end in sight.

Today, I find myself nursing a 14 month old and you know what? There's not a single thing weird about it. Not one. It's completely natural.

I look at Elnora, who just turned three and I think "wow, that would be so weird to be nursing her. She seems so old."

But I know that if I continued to nurse Emmitt and he got older one day at a time, each day would pass without being "weird."

One day, I'd be sitting here nursing an 18 month old and then a two year old and then a three year old. And it wouldn't be weird. It would just "be."

But without that experience, and with only a child who I've never breastfed to compare with, yes, it seems weird to me.

You want to think that's a horrible thing to say? That's fine. You're quite welcome to think anything of me that you like.

But let's stop and think about the word "weird" for a second.

I went and checked Google to call up some definitions of the word weird. Here's one that popped up.

strikingly odd or unusual

Now, let's look at the definitions of two more words.

odd: beyond or deviating from the usual or expected
unusual: not commonly encountered

Hmmm...my use of the word weird in the context of my life sounds pretty spot on to me.

Now if I'd said "gross" or "disgusting" or "wrong" I could understand people being upset with me. I'd understand them questioning me as a breastfeeding advocate.

I'd understand them being up in arms.

But because I've been honest about the amazing progression in beliefs I've had in the three years since I first became a mother, I'm suddenly unworthy to advocate for breastfeeding rights.

Yeah, that makes sense.

Now, let me point out that I've never said I'm weaning Emmitt because I think he's too old to nurse. In fact, the ONLY way in which age plays into this decision is the fact that he is over twelve months which makes him capable of making the transition away from breastfeeding without needing to use formula.

Now, on to point two.

Beth wrote:

After everything you have written on this blog, after all you have done to stand up for a woman's right to breastfeed, this is how you really feel? You truly feel that women lose their right to their body when they breastfeed?

Honestly, this leaves me wondering if Beth has *really* read and digested my posts on this blog. I've actually been pretty clear from day one that I feel it's essential to give mothers the space to make the decision that is best for their FAMILY.

In fact, I in no way said what Beth quoted me as saying. What I actually said was this:

How can you possibly think you'll encourage more mothers to breastfeed by telling them that the day they begin a nursing relationship, they lose their right to their body and themselves?

In other words, I don't for a MOMENT believe a nursing mother loses the right to their body when they breastfeed. However, I DO feel that many of the women who have been jumping down my throat for daring to wean think this way. When I read comments like "You OWE your child two years" and "You HAVE to nurse for two years" I hear women saying that a mother must nurse no matter what the cost. That the child's right to breastmilk supercedes any and all other issues in life.

Not only do I not believe that, I think it's that type of thinking that has made the battle to increase breastfeeding rates so difficult.

You want women to nurse to two years or longer? Fantastic! Equip them to meet that goal. Equip them by understanding that not every mom can nurse on demand for two years, nor should she have to. Help her to realize there's middle ground. There is not "nurse on demand" and "don't nurse at all." There's also "set limits." Give moms the honest and real information that will help them meet those challenging goals without sacrificing their ability to be a good mom.

You want to send women running to the other side of the fence with complaints about "those breastfeeding harpies?" Try telling them what a bad mother they are because they aren't willing to make sacrifices you know nothing about. I don't care how hard your life is. By it's very definition, there's only one woman in the world who has "the hardest life." Everyone else? There will always be someone with a bigger sob story. Since you don't know where on the spectrum other people fall, I'd suggest you reserve your judgement for something else.

You want to make a difference in the world and help more women breastfeed their babies for longer periods of time? Try having a little more compassion and exercising a lot less judgement. Try offering up education and advice based on real life and the place a woman is in at a particular point in time.

I didn't start this blog to make everyone in the world happy. I started this blog to share my honest thoughts and opinions on the life of a nursing mother. My hope was that as I grew and learned things, I could share them with other moms who would grow and learn as well.

If people have a problem with what I'm doing here, they're welcome to read other blogs or to start their own. I never claimed to be the one and only place on the Internet to go for talk about breastfeeding. I only claimed to be one woman doing things the best way I know how and as long as men and women continue showing up here to read what I have to say, I'm going to keep saying it.

So I suppose the one really great thing that came out of all this was the motivation to keep going and the realization that it doesn't matter one lick if I'm still breastfeeding or not.

I am and always will be "the lactivist."

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  1. Blogger Dorm Mom | 6:47 PM |  

    Jen, I think your willingness to find the middle ground is what makes your blog and your opinions so attractive. It really makes me sad the judgmentalism that has been weighed down up on you. No matter how hard a mother tries, she will never be good enough to someone's standards. Its apalling that mother's cannot be supportive of each other and share opinions without judement

  2. Blogger Mademoiselle Oulla | 7:16 PM |  


  3. Blogger Kristina | 8:05 PM |  

    I exclusively pumped my daughter for a year. I knew early on that I would not be comfortable breastfeeding. With 42J boobs, it just wasn't feasible. I remember being in the hospital with a baby born 4 weeks early via emergency c-section after 18.5 hours of labor and being told by the lactation nazi that my daughter needed my liquid gold and that I was doing a disservice to her by allowing her to have formula despite the fact that my milk had not come in. If I was not a smart, well-read woman who had 5 months of bed rest to research, I would not have learned about EPing.

    I totally agree with you- women need to be given the space to make the best choices for them. And if you find something weird or impossible for you- that is your right.

    No one! No one! No one has the right to make you feel bad for your beliefs. I can't stand that women are so judgmental of each other just to justify their own choices.

  4. Anonymous Please excuse the anonymity | 8:29 PM |  

    How dare you not live up to my expectations of how you should raise your child, regardless of the way that I've raised my child. Who would know better how to raise your child than me?
    Yes, it's a joke, and I agree with you 100%. The temptation that people have to judge and (especially) comment on the lives of others will, I fear, forever torment me.
    Either way, I think it's weird to breastfeed a kid who can ask for it in plain english. But who says you can't do what I think is weird?

  5. Blogger mamaloo | 8:42 PM |  

    There's nothing at all wrong with the word weird.

    Quite frankly, looking in on my 4year old son who is now in Junior Kindergarten and who I *gently* weaned when he was 23 months, I can't imagine myself still nursing him. I think it would be weird. I mean, he has an whole life away from me now, he is such a big kid - nursing and my 4yo seem like mutually exclusive ideas.

    Of course, another mother may not feel that at all and feel a continued nursing relationship would be just how her life is supposed to be - that's cool, I support that in theory and practice.

    I fought like heck to overcome supply issues to nurse my first son. He was always falling off the charts for weight while topping the charts for height. But, I fed him practically non-stop for 23 mths. Then I became pregnant and a couple months into the pregnancy, my nipples became so fantastically sore that nursing became torture. So, one night, when my nearly 2yo asked to cuddle up and nurse to sleep, I told him he had to wait a little while. He fell asleep before I could nurse him and that was the end of it. And then, a week later I miscarried. And I hated myself for a little while for weaning. But, I was happier for that week and ultimately, it was the right decision to make at the time in my circumstances.

    With my littlest son, his suck was bad and my supply couldn't build. I went to LCs constantly, took drugs, did tests, had out of town assessments - nothing helped. He was deemed failure to thrive and the by 3.5mths I had to finally deal with the reality: he was never going to drink more breastmilk than formula. Nursing him a last time through broken-hearted tears, I made the decision to go to formula full time. Despite the broken heart, I felt so much better almost immediately. I cried anytime anyone asked how I was doing, for about a week, but I no longer had an ongoing anxiety attack. Feeding him on-demand with the formula (because I had no idea how to take care of a non- breastfed baby) my son put on a pound in 4 days and half a pound every week for the next couple months.

    I am still a proud Lactivist. I still support the ideal of nursing until child led weaning - though I also know full well that a nursing relationship has to work for both mum and baby and that when one is unhappy or unwell, it may be time to find new solutions.

    I see nothing wrong with Jennifer's statements, observations and desires for her family and for other mothers. I see no hypocrisy. I see no conflict of interests.

  6. Blogger Billy and Michelle | 9:03 PM |  

    The AAP recommends one year. So why is everyone freaking out if someone is ready to wean? So many women today choose formula, I think you deserve credit for following AAP guidelines and giving both of your children breastmilk for the first year of life. Especially EPing, that is something that most mommies would decide is too hard, but you wanted the best for your daughter. I love your blog, it is nice to have a breastfeeding blog that is from a Christian point of view...I love how you don't bash formula feeding mothers and how you always state your opinion without malice.

  7. Blogger illahee | 9:39 PM |  

    i rarely comment here because i live in japan, almost a world away as far as breastfeeding goes. i think a lot of japanese mothers nurse their babies--a friend of mine was still nursing her son after a bath when he was three--but not so much in public. but i have never had a problem nursing in public. i have nursed in starbucks and tulleys, costco, in a furniture store (lovely couches) and the movie theater. and the restaurants? more than i can count. i enjoy your blog, but i have never been a nursing mother in the states (i'm american). funny thing: when my family came to visit when my firstborn was ten months old, they were taken aback that i would nurse in front of them. they weren't offended, they just thought i was more shy than i was.

    i nursed my first son until he wasn't interested any more at thirteen months. my daughter, sadly, stopped nursing at ten months, i think because of a decreased supply because of pregnancy. my second son is a month old today and i hope to nurse him as long as he wants. i don't see myself nursing a three-year-old, but who knows.

    the last couple of days and posts have really surprised me. your blog has always, always seemed to me to be about lactivism and protecting a mother and child's rights to breastfeeding. no matter what choices those pairs made. in a fair and level-headed manner. it is shocking to me the accusations and 'hurt' feeling by some. and makes me think, yet again, that nursing in the US has a long way to go before it is 'normal'. that makes me sad. :(

  8. Blogger evil cake lady | 1:09 AM |  

    Jennifer, I skipped over everyone's comments so I have no idea how out of context this may read but I only wanted to say to you:

    HOORAY!! You standing up for what is right for YOU and YOUR family in the face of judgment and rejection I believe is a great gift to give your kids, yourself, everyone. Thanks for that :)

  9. Anonymous Anonymous | 4:54 AM |  

    Controvery sells, doesn't it? You could say just about anything, it seems, and your supporters will rally around you.

    It doesn't change the fact that you are only reinforcing the negative stereotypes that come along with nursing an older baby. Those of us who nurse our children full-term, and let them wean when they are ready, get looks and comments from the rest of society as it is. It's either perfectly normal and natural, or it's weird. Clearly you think the latter.

    Before I had my son I'd never seen anyone nurse a baby PERIOD, and I don't think it's weird at all to nurse a toddler. I didn't come to this conclusion through experience, but through education. I would expect those who don't know better to say it's "weird", but not a lactivist. Dissect the word all you want... doesn't change a thing.

    And honestly, the way you are defending yourself here with excuses like "women should make the best decision for their FAMILY" (when really what you mean is make the best decision for THEMSELVES). You've not mentioned anything about the child's needs when it comes to the decision to wean - only the needs of the mother. I think that's interesting, and a little sad, coming from "the lactivist".

  10. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 5:14 AM |  

    I'm sorry, I dint realize you lived in my home and knew every facet of my personal lifefor the past 14 months. Silly me, thinking I had a better grasp on the needs of my daughter, myself, my husband and yes, my son than a random anonymous stranger.

    Beyond that, it seems you live in a world where you are either born believing something or you never will. There's no room for honest growth. The thing is, the real world doesn't work that way. In the real world, people grow through self examination and by challenging their own beliefs. I've been pretty clear about my process from the start and interestingly, I've heard from many who have begun challenging their own internalized ideas based on reading about myself and others doing it here.

    Perhaps you don't realize that we'll get their sooner if we stop lobbing insults at those in the early stages of the learning curve and start recognizing and encouraging personal growth.

    As to my readers, have you ever stopped and considered that they might actually agree with me? They are not mindless sheep. You don't have to agree with people here, but I do expect my posters to level a little respect at the community.

  11. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:37 AM |  

    I think that one of the reasons there has been such an uproar about this whole thing is that what Jen has said seems awfully close to the phrase "happy mom, happy baby" which many use to justify the choice to only formula feed from the beginning. This is clearly NOT what Jen is saying, but I think it makes many of us in the breastfeeding world nervous because it points to something that we are not comfortable with. The idea that women do have a choices when it comes to how they feed their children. Now, you can think they are shitty choices (sorry for the poor language), but they are choices non the less.

    What all this brouhaha has made led me to is this, What are we really aiming for? Are we aiming for all women nursing until 2? Until the baby weans? 6 months? I personally would say no, the numbers is not the point, and in fact it is irrelevant to the larger cause of Lactavism. What we are aiming for (IMNSHO) is to increase rates of breastfeeding overall. That all moms should have REAL information during preganancy and after, that all doctors should understand the dynamics of the nursing dyad so that they can really treat problems and help moms overcome difficulties, that the govenment and all places of work should help moms by providing real maternity leave, good access to facilities to pump, that the public places of our country should be welcoming to moms and their babies/children with safe and comfortable places to nurse, with a cover, without a cover whatever.

    By focusing on the numbers I see us setting so many women up for failure and creating a huge backlash aganist the idea of nursing at.

    The reality is, even with 100% of women nursing, there will always be women who struggle and are not able to fully breastfeed (obviously this is much lower than what many think, but there are some). And there are also women who struggle with what others find no big deal. Trust me, I know, I'm a breastfeeding counselor, I talk to women all the time, and when they call me, 2 weeks postpartum they don't want to hear crap about getting to 2 years. They want to hear how to get through the next 2 hours.

    Let's stop and think for a minute about what we really want from other moms and stop putting numbers out there as if that is the end of the story.

  12. Anonymous Abby | 7:15 AM |  

    While I think that the "happy mommy, happy baby" thing can be a cop-out for some, I think it can also be a very valid reason. My sil became very depressed because she had a very hard time breastfeeding. While I don't know all the circumstances, and I don't know who she asked for help, she chose to stop breastfeeding before she ended up so depressed that she couldn't care for her child. Do I think she made the wrong decision? NO, in fact, I think she made the best decision for herself and her baby.

    I think it's sad when people get hung up on doing the best thing for your baby no matter how you feel, because it completely invalidates the feelings of the mother.

    I think it's the equivalent of telling a wife to stay with her husband even though he's beating her.

    We do what we need to do for our own sanity and for the sake of our families. If breastfeeding for an extended period of time is coming between you and your spouse, then it would be a good idea to wean. Children's needs are important, but you wouldn't even have them without that wonderful husband. If he feels neglected, that could lead down another slippery slope altogether.

    Nursing ISN'T just about the baby. I think that if you are doing well with nursing, you should make it to a year, and anytime beyond that is great. Two would be even better if you really want to do it, but I think that WHO takes into consideration that most of the world doesn't have the benefits of bountiful food that the US has. That's probably why it's so important for an African mother to nurse for two years, but an American mother can get away with only one+ and her baby is not in any danger of malnutrition.

    That's something to think about.

  13. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:17 AM |  

    i thought the AAP recommended 2 years, and the WHO at least 7!

    My son weaned himself....damn it, at 10 months. It broke my heart. So for me seeing mothers nurse past a year is still for me unknown ground.

  14. Anonymous Jenna | 7:41 AM |  

    You hit the nail on the head here:

    "Not only do I not believe that, I think it's that type of thinking that has made the battle to increase breastfeeding rates so difficult."

    Two years can be daunting to a mother who hasn't ever breastfed or parented or done any of that and shoving it down their throat can be supremely counter-productive. Finding the right support for the unique mama's personality (because we're all unique) can help assure that a Mom breastfeeds for as long as her child needs/wants.

    Hang in. Those who are so vehement on the subject are often trying to prove something to themselves, not you.

  15. Blogger Lesley | 8:36 AM |  

    I wonder how many people here who are throwing insults and making assumptions and attacking Jenn realize that the formula companies are most likely cheering that we're so busy arguing amongst ourselves to rise up and put them in their place.
    You know, I used to think that the "Mommy Wars" were a myth, yet here they are in all their ugly glory.

    Jenn, you've got my support 100% and I say kudos to those of you who have read, thought and then posted a comment based on what Jenn's actually saying, rather than reacting to what you assume she means.

  16. Blogger Eilat | 8:43 AM |  

    I agree completely with commenter #11. Advocating for breastfeeding and making it possible for all women to make informed choices at the start will make it possible for breastfeeding to happen more often. Naturally, those women who have success and whose nursing relationships are good and pleasing will go on until they dont want to anymore. More nursing women at all ages will de-stigmatize toddler nursing, naturally.
    And those who for whatever reason, no longer enjoy nursing but are educated and informed enough to know that those first 12 months really are important will wean without problem... In a perfect world (toward which I think we should strive).

    Also, I think that this discussion over toddler nursing being weird to some is a healthy and needed conversation that is worth having. A while back, another breastfeeding blogger asked whether she was possibly alienating new moms in a breastfeeding support group by nursing her 2.5 year old at the meeting. She wanted advice. I left a comment which I will put here -- sometimes you find the right words once and it just seemed really relevant to this discussion ;-)

    "This issue came up at my last LLL meeting. The mix of people was unusual that night: three pregnant women and about 5 nursing toddlers all above 18 months old. One little girl even had a birthday; she turned 2. One of the pregnant women was a first time mom-to-be and the other had a 5 year old who was running around, but was not able to nurse him long, mostly because of lack of support. She was hoping LLL will help her go longer with her upcoming baby. The third pregnant woman was a doula and was still nursing her 3 1/2 year old. I was there with my 22 month old.
    We were conducting the meeting as usual but I sensed that the newcomers might be a bit overwhelmed by what they were seeing: walking talking small people lifting their mother’s shirts or asking “Can I nurse?”. I tried to put myself in their shoes. Even though I intended to breastfeed when I was pregnant (and I liked the way self-weaning sounded when I read about it) I had never really seen a toddler nurse. The first time I saw “big kids” nursing at LLL I was a bit “weirded out”.
    So I decided to bring it up. I said something like this:
    “I want to address the fact that we happen to have a lot of older kids nursing here tonight, and how that might seem to a mom who has never nursed a one month old, let alone a one or two year old….” Then we talked about how there is no pressure to nurse this long and LLL’s mission is to support every mom in her nursing goals, be they 3 months or 3 years.
    We also pointed out that these babies grow one day at a time. Its not like suddenly at age 12 months they become “too old” overnight. We talked about how nursing is a relationship and how it is really about “mutual desire” so that if it gets too annoying or bothersome for the mom, and she wants to stop then weaning is appropriate. Breastfeeding should never be something that is not mutual.
    The woman who had a hard time with her first son responded that she thought it was wonderful that we “were willing to put up with it for so long” (LOL) and so we continued the discussion by pointing out that no one feels like they are “putting up” with anything. That if that were the case, then the relationship would not be mutual, etc.

    I think these are fair things to bring up and discuss. I think by talking about it, it stops being the elephant in the room, and makes people more comfortable with it. My LLL meetings allow dads to attend and by the end of our discussion even the men were nodding and understanding. "

  17. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:49 AM |  

    I've been following this debate with great interest, but this is the first time I've commented. I'm an LLL leader, lactation consultant, and a mother of 3 children - the first 2 of which breastfed until 3 years, and the last of which is still going strong at 35 months and I used to think nursing a toddler was weird too). I hate to see women judging other women, but I was admittedly sad to hear you were weaning your son. I am comforted by the fact that you have the appropriate information and support for breastfeeding. That is what makes me most sad - when women are not supported or given accurate information to make informed decisions. But when they are and they make different choices than me, I am satisfied, but I can't help feeling a tinge of sadness. Maybe this is where some upset women are coming from. Once you've experienced the evolving relationship of nursing a toddler and beyond, it's hard not to think that most moms and many that you care about are missing out on somehting so wonderful.

    That being said, my guess is that there is another important and painful reason for all of this uproar. Moms nursing toddlers and older children are a great minority, but by all evidence, it should be the norm. We are discriminated against in just about every area of our world - by family, friends, neighbors, and even by doctors and other health professionals. We are usually forced to keep something that we believe to be normal, natural, and healthy a secret or be accused of being "weird" or strange or even abusive toward our children. The very thing we know is best for our children (and for ourselves) is turned around and made to be something perverted or some great folly on our part. It's not surprising that many of us have a chip on our shoulders, and it's not surprising that this has evoked such strong reactions in us. I think women feel (rightly or not) a little betrayed. I think most of us are looking for support and validation from people in authority and in health care and unfortunately, we rarely get that validation for our decisions. I get excited when someone I know continues to breastfeed past 1 year, thinking that maybe I won't be the only mom who nurses her kids this long in my circle. Words may not be enough for these moms to feel you are supportive of their decisions.

    I hope this helps those who have not walked in our shoes understand where these deep feelings are coming from. Yes, moms need to make their own best decisions about breastfeeding (with the adequate support and information), but women who are nursing toddlers and older children need to be accepted and validated as normal and healthy, and doing a good and healthy thing for themselves and their children. While I feel it is wrong to judge you and others and I completely respect your decision, I hope this may help explain these moms' reactions. No matter how strong we are, I think most of us have been deeply wounded by those close to us and by society in general. Please try to be understanding of these women. Jennifer

  18. Blogger HW | 1:17 PM |  

    I have always appreciated your passionate view point while still respecting the views of others. I thought when you wrote "Weirds me out..." you simply meant, "it's not for me." I don't understand why other women can't leave it at that.
    Some people become so militant about their views and demand their choices be respected - and they should be - but then they don't respect the choice of others. That kind of attitude is juvenile and self-centered.
    I think you express yourself beautifully and very clearly. Perhaps people that "misunderstand" are choosing to just so they can start a ruckus.

  19. Anonymous Anonymous | 2:05 PM |  

    I completely agree, #9. "The Lactivist" isn't considering the needs of her child at all. It really saddens me. This is not the kind of woman who should present herself as a voice of breastfeeding women!

  20. Blogger Steph | 3:47 PM |  

    I nursed my daughter for 3 weeks. Only two days of her life was she nursed exclusively - they wouldn't let me leave the hospital unless I supplemented.

    After may "glitches" she refused to nurse at 3 weeks, no matter what I did she would not latch on, with a nipple shield, without, in her sleep, whatever, it just wouldn't happen. Yes, there were things that could have been done differently to keep us from getting to that point, but once I was there it wasn't a choice between brest feeding or not breastfeeding, it was a choice between being depressed and resentful towards my daughter (I was depressed and couldn't bond with her) or nourishing her and working on the bond because in the long run that was more important. Pumping 2oz a day just wasn't enough either.

    Does it make me less of a mother than some of the rest of you breast feeding martyrs because I switched to formula? Not at all. I made the choice that wasn't just right for me, it was right for my daughter, and my husband.

    Never has Jen said she is forcing Emmit to wean - it seems to me more of a don't offer/don't refuse situation (he's not needing to nurse, and when he was because of being sick, she didn't push it).

    I think requiring women to nurse for any amount of time is unfair and can seem absolutely barbaric to woman who don't know if they can even make it through the first week. Every drop of breast milk is like gold, and if it becomes a choice between nursing for two years or not bothering at all, I know a LOT more women won't even try. How's that for shooting yourselves in the foot.

    The point is women have the right to breastfeed and breast milk is the best available nutrition for babies. If you're fighting for the right for women to choose to breastfeed you have to extend that right for them to choose when it's time to stop.

    Would you look down on a mother who isn't comfortable nursing in public and so gives pumped milk or *gasp* formula when she's out? Just because she can NIP doesn't mean she's less of a mother if she doesn't. I think this should be seen the same way.

  21. Anonymous Mandi | 6:13 PM |  

    #9 and #19 - Go get a life - YOU are what is wrong with breastfeeding advocacy. To guilt women into nursing for an amount of time that they are not comfortable with is (like someone else mentioned) equivalent to guilting some poor abused woman into staying with her abusive husband "because of the children..." Get off your lactating high horses and go find yourselves another place to cause trouble. You are not wanted here. Yes, I applaud Jen for her blog's candor and honesty. She stands for REAL nursing women, with REALISTIC expectations and experiences.

    I, like other determined-to-nurse 1st time mothers, was coerced into the famed "you can't leave the hospital with your child unless you supplement." Because of this - and a 2 month long, misdiagnosed milk duct yeast infection - my son was 4 MONTHS OLD before we were nursing pleasantly and without any gadgets (nipple shield, supplemental tube). He's turning 1 next week and I don't see any end in sight. He nurses during the day, right before bed, and first thing in the morning before we get out of bed (yes he still sleeps with us).

    We nurse in public when it is possible, but that isn't always a realistic possibility. He gets soy formula sometimes during the day when we are on the go or at night when his father gets the rare chance to settle him at bedtime. Do I feel guilty about that formula? Not a bit! If it is the choice between starving him or giving him a bottle, I'd rather nourish my child! And other women who do this should not be made to feel guilty. Shame on those judgemental few who are complaining about another woman's way of feeding their child (unless they are NOT feeding their child - that's grounds for some words).

  22. Anonymous Brenda Z. | 7:13 PM |  

    I had a very INTERESTING conversation with some friends of mine about bfeeding. I nursed both my boys and my friend has a 2 month old and is the 1st in her fam to nurse. Our other friend has never been comfortable with the idea of nursing any child but we try and kindly encourage her that maybe when the day comes she'll feel differently and that some things are worth a little sacrifice to at least try. But I heard something today that I have NEVER heard before and it brought this whole child led weaning debate to mind. My friend that has her reservations about bfeeding- shared some things about how some kids are nursed til they're "old" and how it "grossed her out". And I shared a little on how I think that some kids nurse longer than others and every mom and child are comfortable with different lengths. And she told me of a close friend of hers who was bfed til she was 4 1/2 (and wanted to at the time), but now she is adamently opposed to bfeeding her children ever in the future b/c she is so bothered by the fact that she can remember bfeeding. She has a great relationship with her mother still, but she said it just really bothered her that she can remember doing that and that she would never want to do that to her child. Just simply the fact that she can remember doing it and coming home from school and asking for it- and it's SOO fascinating to me, because she "chose" to do it- her mother kept doing it probalby becasue she enjoyed it, but now she HATES that she can remember.
    So here's a question for someone who thinks that a child should wean themself, and that a mother should not really have a say in this decision at all b/c they would be ignoring their child's "needs" (or wants, or desires).
    What would you say to someone who resents being bfed "too long"? Was the mom doing the right thing by letting them choose? Or maybe should the choice to wean be one that the mom should have a say in (Much like parents have a say in almost EVERY other decision in their young child's life)?

  23. Anonymous yogamom | 8:13 PM |  

    #9 and #19, even Dr. Sears will tell you not to forget "Balance" as one of the Baby B's of attachment parenting. He will also tell you that the time to wean is when the time is right for both people in the nursing relationship. Of course weaning your child is good for the family if it is what you feel you need to do. A mother who is stressed out and unhappy with her breastfeeding relationship is not capable of being a good mother to the baby and any siblings, nor a good partner to her husband or significant other. Nor is she capable of being good to herself. All of these people, not just the baby, are members of the family.

    I was fortunate to nurse my DD until she was 2 years old or so. I have made it to 13 months with my DS (who fortunately shows no interest in stopping, despite the fact that I've night-weaned him). However, for both of my children, I ran into supply issues when the balance between working full-time and pumping became precarious. Both times, my obsessive need to nurse exclusively rather than supplement led to some severe depression and anxiety. Is that truly what's best for my children? There are times when I wonder.

    While I continue to believe that the only choice for my children was/is breast milk, and while I wish all mothers had the desire and support to breastfeed exclusively, I certainly understand why some people just can't make it all come together for them. Cut mothers some slack. We all do the best we can with what we have.

  24. Anonymous natalie w | 8:13 PM |  

    There's one thing that is being left out of the debate over the word "weird" and whether or not you are supportive of toddler nursing--the true reason you are weaning! It's a rather important distinction, I think. You didn't begin weaning Emmitt because toddler nursing weirds you out, you're weaning him because you have been really unhappy with nursing for quite a long time. Everything you have written, if read carefully, leads me to believe that if things were going better, you would not find it weird at all to continue nursing him. I honestly believe that the negative posters aren't reading your posts in their entirety, because you explain yourself a lot, and you are so very NOT judgmental of other nursing relationships (which is what makes you such a great Lactivist!).

    That post last summer (The Dark Side...) made me sob uncontrollably because it was spot-on identical to my own experience, and I was feeling so alone at the time. Just knowing I wasn't the only person out there struggling with similar frustration and anger helped me immensely. I'm so sorry it never improved for you, yet I have to say WOW. Having experienced feeling that miserable myself, I am amazed and impressed that you continued this long. If I hadn't experienced some improvement, I definitely could not have gone on feeling that bad.

    Continuing to nurse through six months of unhappy nursing is more than enough proof that you are a true believer in the Lactivist cause (not that you should have to prove anything anyway). I'm completely mystified as to why your personal choices are interpreted as global judgments of other nursing moms. Nursing women need the support of someone real who knows how hard it really can be for some of us, so thanks for your blog. Many blessings and happy snuggles ahead for you and your very loved ones.

  25. Blogger Elizabeth | 10:31 AM |  

    Wow, I'm glad I was on vacation while all this was going down -- my blood pressure doesn't need the stress! Jenn, I am so glad you have found renewed interest in keeping up the blog. You are a voice of reason in a crazy world. Thank you for sharing so much of your life with us, and please keep up the blog!

  26. Blogger Robin | 2:59 PM |  

    #22: I have to wonder what other issues there are in the parent/child relationship with the situation you describe. It doesn't make sense that the daughter would be so resentful and disgusted by the nursing relationship if there aren't any other issues going on. In short, I think her revulsion at her extended nursing relationship with her mother is a symptom of a deeper problem, not an independent cause. She also seems to be using it as an excuse not to nurse, because if she thought about it for five seconds, she would know that nursing does not automatically mean "nurse until the child can remember" and that the vast, vast, vast majority of children who are breastfed are weaned long before they're of an age to remember nursing. So to say she's never going to nurse at all, even a baby, is rather absurd and seems like an excuse.

  27. Blogger Rural Mama | 3:46 AM |  

    Personally, the only time I have to really fight judgment is when someone isn't willing to even try breastfeeding. If a woman gives it an honest effort, and does the best she knows how, and it doesn't work, who am I to judge? My daughter just turned two and is still nursing. This does not mean that I have a right to judge those who wean earlier: every situation is different. Every child is different, for that matter.

    Compare my nephew to my daughter, for example: nephew was nursed against all odds by my SIL, despite her going back to work full-time at 4 weeks, and being a single mom with a lot less family support than I had. When she began to feed him solids, he soon preferred solids to the breast. By 7 months, he only nursed at night. She had planned to nurse him for 12 months, but after a long stretch of night shifts, her supply went way down, and she just didn't have the energy to pump to bring it back up. He weaned at 8 months. Do I have a right to judge her? No! Our situations were totally different. Nursing is not easy, and she did a wonderful thing for her baby by nursing him for those 8 months.

    Then you have my daughter, who barely ate any solid food before 9 months, and who *never* allowed me to feed her from a spoon. In our situation, this caused minimal stress, because I had the blessing of being home with her for the first 9 months. At age two, she still prefers the breast to food, and is only 24 pounds. I haven't pushed the issue of weaning, because I believe that at her tiny size, she needs all the nutritional boost she can get.

    The fact that I am nursing a toddler does not give me a right to judge those who wean earlier; we are all coming from different situations.

    And yes, you can still be a Lactivist without following WHO's recommendations to a T. Supporting other women is what lactivism is all about, and I venture to guess that this blog has impacted quite a few women in a positive way.

  28. Anonymous Ms Vandelay | 11:57 AM |  

    The lactivism I find in your blog is the refreshing, realistic brand that I can identify with. My group of friends / peer-moms are educated women, know the benefits, etc, and yet I am the only one that has nursed past a few weeks (9 months and going!)

    It's real, down to earth experience that the average new mom needs to feel encouraged that BF is worth a try, and worth the trials, especially early on. The evangelical types would have scared me off of even trying if breastfeeding had to be ALL or NOTHING.

    That said, I do appreciate what the LLL poster had to say in these comments. It would make me beyond edgy too if I had to constantly defend my BF choices to family, friends, etc.

  29. Anonymous Anonymous | 6:00 PM |  

    If I want to read about nursing a toddler wierding someone out, I have a broad array of places to choose from. Guess this is one of them. Yet another link my MIL can send to me with more proof that I'm a freak for nursing so long.

    I can do without that sort of advocacy, thanks.

  30. Anonymous homefly | 8:00 PM |  

    It seems to me where the division between the people who are appalled at the pro-forced wean and the child led weaning crowd is really not about breastfeeding, it's about parenting styles.

    From everything I gather, Jen is a conventional mainstream American parent. She's doing just what most white, middle class, college educated moms do with their toddlers/infants. They wean prematurely, and at least according to BIOLOGICAL norms, 14 months is early. Now, CULTURAL norms says she gave it a good run.

    I remember a playgroup I was in when my oldest son was born, all ten of them weaned the day of their child's first birthday. They felt it was good and right, and nursing children longer than medically indicated was "wierd". Jen is no different. Were they crunchy lactivist types? No, they were all typical conventional moms, and so is Jen. Unlike those other moms, Jen calls herself a lactivist.

  31. Blogger Sarahbear | 9:27 PM |  

    Geez woman! I thought you were on some sort of blogging strike and I come back and see 10 new posts! Lots of catching up to do since I was out of town.

    What it sounds like to me is a lot of bored SAHM's sitting around looking for something to be pissed off about. 'OMG *THE* Lactivist said she doesn't want to breastfeed her son anymore because she thinks it's weird. I know she gives 89345476 other reasons why and says there are other personal reasons she wishes not to talk about but I'm going to freak out about the word weird!'

    People are so damn hypersensitive.

    While these women are so busy being upset because someone chooses to wean their kid before they graduate college, there are women in low income areas that never get to give their children the benefits of breastfeeding because their jobs don't allow them paid maternity leave or pumping breaks. They should be thanking their lucky stars they have a life that affords them the luxury of being able to extended nurse, not griping about other mother's choices to cease a nursing relationship that's straining their family life.

    For what it's worth, Elnora and Emmitt look like happy, healthy kids and it seems like you're doing a fantastic job with them. Not everyone has a mom who makes the cutest cookie monster cupcakes! =p

  32. Anonymous Mandi | 5:40 PM |  

    Notice all the ones posting with critical words are too cowardly to post their names....

    Kudos to Jen and her stance. The term "weird" touches so many buttons, but for goodness sakes - let the woman blog about her experiences without the load of crap!

  33. Blogger Lloyds | 12:10 PM |  

    Hmmm... call me crazy, but I never had the idea that the nursing baby/child was the most important member of the family and his wants should be given priority over everyone else's.
    Jennifer- keep it up! I appreciate all you have written on this blog and from all I can tell, you're one great mother!

  34. Blogger JudyBright | 7:47 PM |  

    What I truly find "weird" is that you spelled that word correctly every single time you used it.

    And the only people that have misspelled it so far are two who have ripped you :)

  35. Blogger Ethel | 12:36 PM |  

    To be honest . . . I am nursing 20 month-olds, and sometimes it seems a little weird even though it happened one day at a time.

    I think it would seem more normal if there were just one of them.

    But it's not an "unhealthy" weird, just a "different" weird. And I think for me, the "weirdness" is a sign that none of us need this as much any more. Weaning isn't immediate, but it is in the air.

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