I have always said that I would breastfeed Olivia for 12 months. The other night I was sitting on the couch breastfeeding Olivia before bed when hubby asked, “What are you going to do in a couple of months when you aren’t breastfeeding any more?” As my baby’s first birthday approaches, the more I think that I would like to continue. I love the bond we have and the special moments we share and I know that it is the right thing for her.
This started me thinking about why is it that as a society we have determined that 12 months is the magic age mothers should breastfeed to? Perhaps it is linked to the 12 months of maternity leave we have as an entitlement as working women? But whatever the reason, the more conversations I have the more I realise that this “magic number” is so engrained in the way our society views breastfeeding. And I don’t like it. How many months to breastfeed is such a personal decision based on so many factors.
The first reason I don’t like it is for all the mums who, for whatever reason, stop breastfeeding before 12 months. Whether they don’t reach the holy grail of breastfeeding months by choice or not, surely they are left feeling guilty for not making it when society reasons that they should. Every breastfeeding relationship is different and by setting a goal that is based on who knows what, aren’t we setting mothers up for failure, or at least setting them up to feel like they have failed?
The second reason I don’t like it is because it frowns upon women who choose to breastfeed beyond the magic age. As I get closer to Olivia turning one and making that decision about whether to continue breastfeeding or not, I feel the pressure to stop. I had someone ask me recently how long I was planning to continue breastfeeding Olivia for. When I told them that I was planning to continue until she was at least 12 months old, the response I received was, “Oh well, I suppose if she likes it.”
Whether my baby likes it or not isn’t the reason I will continue breastfeeding. Sure it makes it a lot easier that she enjoys it, but the reasons I continue are for health, nutrition and relationship/bonding reasons. I might continue for only another month or two but whatever I choose to do is the right decision for myself and my family. I must admit that in the past I have been guilty of thinking 12 months was the magic age but after my experience with breastfeeding I have thrown that out the window and I challenge you to do the same. Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in life and we should allow it to take its natural course.
How long did you breastfeed your baby for? Did you feel pressure to stop early or continue when you didn’t want to?
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