Ever since I was pregnant, and even more so since Rowan arrived, a lot of people are eager to provide unsolicited input on how to raise a child. I try to politely handle such situations; most people mean well, and they may not remember what it’s like to be a new parent receiving constructive criticism or advice. Some issues are easier for me to move past than others. I can nod and thank people when they suggest rubbing alcohol on my child’s gums to ease teething. It’s easy to shrug and pass it off as parental pride when others note that their children reached certain milestones before ours did. But one discussion that is hard for me to get through is breastfeeding and weaning.
I’ve personally experienced two types of reactions when people find out I’m still nursing Rowan. They’re on opposite sides of the spectrum (and to be honest, I’m not really comfortable with either of them). One camp gives me a bemused look and says something along the lines of, “You’re still doing that?” The other is elated and starts talking about my breast milk, extolling the virtues of nursing for as long as possible and sharing a little too much about their experiences (“My mom nursed me until I was four!”).
To the first camp, my decision may disgust you, but your rudeness seems like a more grave offense. And to the second, I appreciate your support. Breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I’ve done (and I had it pretty easy in comparison to most), so the encouragement is heartwarming. However, I don’t want to talk about my breast milk with you nor hear about your family history of breastfeeding.
My lack of comfort isn’t with the people’s beliefs about breastfeeding – to each his or her own. What makes me uneasy is that they think it’s their business to comment on it in the first place. I consider nursing to be a personal choice involving the mother, baby, and to a certain extent, the father. The decision to begin breastfeeding didn’t include other people’s opinions. Why should they weigh in on the decision of when to wean?