Following with the topic of breastfeeding toddlers, I want to talk about another difficulty that these negative views around extended breastfeeding brings: the silencing of the emotions involved in weaning.
As I described in my earlier post, the main critique seems to be that women who breastfeed more than average are arresting the development of their child in terms of social and emotional development. This is total crap in my view.
This view is fed and comes from different normativities:
- one of the bad legacies of Freud in terms of the oral phase being over – and thus breastfeeding – and I think, so what about the majority of children in the world who wean at 4,5, 6, 8? (Before I get a load of comments on this, I do think he was amazing in other ways, but boy did he get it wrong with some stuff…and the ways it was popularised do not help, especially in stuff related to women)
- the weird and wonderful – and uncomfortable – feelings that breastfeeding seems to bring out
- the importance given to independence, and thus, to separation
- the notion of modernity as getting over our animal selves, other stuff as ‘she already has all her teeth’ – why do you think they are called milk teeth anyway?
- And the relative lack of examples in developed countries of this practise in public spaces. It is strange to see because it is not common to see. This happens with breastfeeding at any point in time, but especially so after the ‘magic number’ where something good transforms itself into something perverse, seems to have passed –be it 9 months, or a year.
All in all, a great cocktail. I encountered all this stuff through different comments and commendations. And it makes me turn into medusa, a silent medusa, because I diffuse it as many other women do, through humour, acting as if I don’t care, ‘pass the bean dip’, stating facts, just doing it with a smile on my face, and so on. Don’t get me wrong, these are excellent tactics which have served me well. But it avoids the issue I want to raise here: it is not ok for this to happen, and I do care. It enrages me in fact.
Other practices fall under the same umbrella – carrying your child, not leaving them to cry, not leaving them with other people, co-sleeping, for instance. Though for some reason, I feel this incences more. I know there are studies now that show that co-sleeping actually makes children, and (later) adults, more independent and confident. Even though women who breastfeed probably know this already, could we have some science to show that extended breastfeeding does not emotionally damage children? Not that this is a magic pill, as women who breastfeed know –since the health benefits have been shown already, but maybe it would help. Along with a whole load of other measures.
Feeling emotional about weaning would seem to confirm the statement that women continue to feed out of their own needs. But really, I feel this is completely normal, and healthy. And that breastfeeding is about a relationship, about us, so of course it affects me. And luckily I find it joyful for me too, it is kind of designed to be so (well, not so much at the beggining, at least for me!). But there is an issue there. As if this was not allowed. I realised that I have felt the need to act as if I didn’t care too much. But I do. It is hard. It is as if you were told you could not hug your child any longer, yes, you can kiss, and hold hands, but slowly, you have to stop hugging. Wouldn’t anybody find it sad? It is one of the ways in which you connect, in which you nourish your child – not only in terms of nutrition. And it is also one of your tools as a mother, such as singing, doing something together, or whatever calms and makes your child stop being upset. And it works really well.
In any case, I totally understand why women go and find their pack. You need to find people who think this is normal, who went through the same, and who understand. But I feel this rage, or more accurately, this outrage at the stupidity of it all also needs to find other channels. I will keep you posted.