Thursday, August 07, 2008

"Shouldn't (s)he be weaned by now?"

I hear of people having this conversation with mothers of nursing 3 month olds, let alone mothers of nursing three year olds.

I've recently worked out a potentially wonderful response which I am calling the Mona Lisa response.

When people say challenging things about breastfeeding, I think it is worth quietly continuing to breastfeed, and breathe calmly, and just feel the tension. Because the person challenging you is the one with issues, and they are trying to tranfer their anxieties to you. So take time just to feel their tension, not to act on it, but being aware and conscious and fully present in the moment. It's not your tension, it's just crackling around in the atmosphere of the room. You don't have to engage with it in any way.

And when they have finished their rant, smile, like the Mona Lisa, and say "ah well, horses for courses, it's what suits us for now" in the tone of voice which signals clearly that the conversation is now over.

7 comments:

Leo said...

"I'm busy" would be a good response too.

It might not be a good idea to do extended breastfeeding. It's much better to not be dependent on anyone physically.

emma said...

"It's much better not to be dependent on anyone physically"

At what age, Leo?

Best for 4-week old babies to be independent physically? Ooops, no, that's not going to work.

Best for 18 year olds to be independent physically? Well, duh.

So independence is something which is good to build up somewhere between 4 weeks old and 18 years old. The precise details of how that independence is reached and who takes control of the process (child? parents? teachers? some random commenter on a blog?) is a different question.

"It might not be a good idea to do extended breastfeeding". Indeed. But it might equally be a good idea and, for any particular child, be a healthy part of that process of growing to full independence.

Leo said...

Four week olds can't help but be physically dependent and they are not the happiest people on Earth.

If your goal is to respect someone's autonomy, why turn yourself into their primary source of nourishment?

emma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
emma said...

"Four week olds can't help but be physically dependent and they are not the happiest people on Earth."

And your point is?

"If your goal is to respect someone's autonomy, why turn yourself into their primary source of nourishment?"

Because we're mammals. Because formula milk is freeze dried, UHTed, sweetened cow's milk with a few extra vitamins and omegas shoved in. It's a pretty poor second to human milk which is designed for humans. Once the artificial milk companies start using donor women and freeze-drying THEIR milk, maybe it'll begin to be close enough to human milk to seem to me to be an attractive alternative.

"Autonomy" is not the same as "detatchment", in the same way that "independence" is not the same as "friendlessness" or "loneliness". You can be autonomous and still drink human milk.

A baby simply isn't independent. They need someone to give them their milk. Are you saying it is better for them to be given artificial milk or expressed breast milk rather than getting it straight from the breast because of the danger that they might become too fond of the smell and feel and taste of their mother's skin??? What if it's usually the father, then, who feeds them their artificial or EB milk? Isn't there a danger that they will become too fond of his smell and touch? So your ideal, presumably, would be that the feeding and comforting of a small baby is best undertaken by a large and unpredictable group of caregivers so that a child does not become overly dependent on any of them. Like in a state-run orphanage, say.

I'm either missing some very subtle nuances in your argument, or it's unconvincing

Claire said...

"It might not be a good idea to do extended breastfeeding. It's much better to not be dependent on anyone physically."

Are we not all linked in a way that might be considered physically 'dependent'? I am physically dependent upon farmers and factories and truck drivers etc to get food to the store for me to feed my physical body. It might be 'better' not to have to rely on someone else to feed me but, er, self sufficency is a LONG way away from most people, including me.

When a child chooses to breastfeed it is not really something that can abide much distracting away from. Nor would any respecting mother try to persuade the child otherwise, I think.

Monica said...

'It might not be a good idea to do extended breastfeeding. It's much better to not be dependent on anyone physically.'

I do not understand this. The fact that an older child breast feeds does not mean they are *dependent* on breast feeding! There is a Huge difference there, IMHO.

I don't think one can draw a clean line between dependence and independence. The child becomes gradually independent... There is much more at play than whether they are breastfeeding or not.

I agree with emma's response on autonomy vs independance, I find it eloquent.


As to the original post, I like the "presence trick" suggested. I think its wisdom extends beyond extended breastfeeding, into any area where someone is judgmental about one's choices.