Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Breastfeeding guilt... or not?

Breastfeeding has been quite a hot topic recently, thanks to a TIME magazine cover depicting a mother with model-life figure breastfeeding her three-year-old boy standing on a stool. While this sensational cover is really talking about attachment parenting, which is about extended nursing and co-sleeping, it has somehow directed attention to breastfeeding. From those who support the idea of breastfeeding beyond the toddler years to naysayers who feel that the cover was, well, done in very bad taste, there are opinions coming from every direction.

Even our local media has their own views, with two responses dedicated to this topic.

As a breastfeeding mother, how does all these affect me? For starters, I admire the mother and son for appearing on the TIME cover and 'exposing' themselves to the whole wide world. I don't think I would be able to do that. There are mothers who bare the whole breastfeeding session to all, and there are those who do it behind nursing covers. I belong to the latter. I firmly believe that the bonding between me and my baby is just that, between the two of us. I don't need everyone around me staring at my baby suckling at my boobs. We may be in a room full of people, but for that moment under the nursing cover, it's just me and my baby. I don't need to make a statement and shout 'hey! I'm breastfeeding!'. A humble nursing cover will do. Thank you very much.

With a sensational cover comes the sensitive question: how long should one breastfeed? Reading the articles, I can't help but be struck by a sense of guilt. Oh look, this mother breastfed her child till he was five; this breastfed till she was eleven. 

I stopped breastfeeding EV when two months after she turned one. I could have continued, but she was biting me, and I felt that it was time to let go though I really did enjoy the bonding. Did I fail as a mummy for not breastfeeding her for longer, even though I was still lactating? 

Now with AA, do I intend to breastfeed him for longer. What if I don't? Will I fail as a mummy again? If I do feed him for longer, will EV feel jealous in future if she knows? If I stop lactating before reaching one year, will AA feel jealous that he didn't get as much bonding with me?

Are these 'experts' suggesting that if I stop breastfeeding, then I wouldn't be bonding with my child just as well?

No. What matters is not how long I breastfeed my child. Whether it is three years, or even three months, what matters is that as a mother, I give my child the best nutrition I can give, for as long as I can give, and treasure the unique and special bonding that only a mother and child can have.

And after breastfeeding is over, it is the kisses and hugs, a gentle hold of the hand, the fun times doing activities or nothing at all together and a listening ear that will keep the bond strong.

I proudly admit, I do miss breastfeeding EV. The sight of her in my arms and the closeness is something I will remember always. I am enjoying the same closeness with AA now, and I intend to continue giving him the best I can give, for as long as I can. And in future when I do stop, I will feel proud, like I did with EV.


  1. Breastfeeding is a lovely lovely thing to do and it's really not easy so kudos to you for even trying! So many mums give up without even trying and that's so sad. Whatever your decision, as long as it makes you happy, just do it. You're a wonderful mum, breastfeeder or not!

  2. A bond with a child does not start and end with breastfeeding per se. It's in the every day things... and it is cultivated through mutual understanding between a mother and her offspring. Of course, bf and its benefits help tremendously.

    I admire you for being able to bf for as long as you have, despite the odds and 'temptation' of giving up. Well done!

  3. I have to say each child is different. Initially I only wanted to breastfeed my child till 1 year old but then continued because 1) she wanted to, she doesnt drink any other milk no matter how I try to make her; 2) I kinda got used to it and dont want to let go just yet.

    But then she turned 18 months and rejected my boobs (sobs) and so I stopped breastfeeding her. Sometimes it's not want or dont want, or bond or dont bond.. life is not so clear cut. It's really up to you and your child =)

  4. Doing our best as mothers, whether in breastfeeding or any other duties, is what matters!

  5. Agreed with what Regina said that breastfeeding isn't the only way to bond. In fact I used to read on my iPad while breastfeeding to stay awake! :) You've done so well already, I breastfed for only a fraction of what you did.

  6. Thanks for all the encouragement! I will definitely jia you with my little boy. And yups.. the iPad is also my best pal while breastfeeding. Otherwise, will fall asleep! :)


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