[guest post] common myths about
The pressure to wean for me came from the most unexpected sources and started far earlier than I ever expected.
By the time my little girl turned three months old, I had already been urged to throw some formula in there as either exclusive breastfeeding was not enough for her nutritional needs or because it would take the nursing “burden” off me. Mind you, the former suggestion came from a medical student who really should have known better. I was also told that my baby was too attached to me and that weaning would help her, at around six months old, become more independent. Finally, I was told to give her formula instead as she would sleep through the night that way.
1. Exclusive breastfeeding is not sufficient for a baby’s nutritional needs
Mamas, as long as you’re obviously producing enough milk and your baby’s growth is on track, this is a concern that you can ignore completely. The benefits of exclusive breastfeeding before six months have been well-documented. Keep at it as long as you feel able to do so and as long as you can tell that your baby is not interested in solids yet.
2. Weaning will take the nursing burden off your shoulders
Is it a burden? Have you sought support from your health providers on how to solve any lactating or latching problems you might be having? How long have you been at it for? If you’re sure you’re producing enough milk, have you sought the support of other breastfeeding moms, either online or in person, who may be having the same struggles getting going? There’s so much strength in being able to relate to other people in the same situation as you. You’ll find encouraging words to get you through those first few difficult weeks.
3. Breastfeeding has made your baby too attached to you
Who else should your baby be attached to? What exactly could be wrong with a baby being attached to his/her mother? This is one of the funniest and silliest reasons for weaning that I heard!
Of course babies will come to know who they need to go to if they want milk if they’re breastfed. But even if they’re not breastfed, if they want their mom 24/7, that’s just who they want. There are many a clingy baby out there who have never had breast milk before. They won’t be unable to go off to university in a different city because they’re still attached to you at the nipple. You’ll be looking back at these times fondly in only a few years when they don’t even want you to tuck them into bed anymore.
4. Switching to formula will help a breastfed baby sleep through the night
Many medical literary resources make this claim but you only have to speak with a handful of moms who have tried this to find that it does not always work. Making that switch to formula could cause more problems for you by way of constipation and gas than it’s worth. Nothing wrong with trying of course, but if you’re one of those rare women out there who actually enjoy your night breastfeeding sessions, don’t let formula or weaning stop you.
The World Health Organization advises exclusive breastfeeding up to six months and continued breastfeeding up to age 2 AND BEYOND. Unfortunately, in many societies, even where women are able and willing to breastfeed, they are discouraged from doing so by scornful comments, annoyed stares and not-so-subtle urges by family members. Sadly, a lot of moms can’t even rely on their own mothers to be a pillar of strength with sticking it out.
It is absolutely a cultural problem because there are some societies where you’ll be applauded for (extended) breastfeeding. But I think it is also a problem of a lack of education about the benefits of breastfeeding. There’s also a lack of awareness by mothers-to-be themselves of just how difficult the start to breastfeeding can be for the majority of mothers and how good the experience can become if you keep at it. I know this is something I’d have loved to be more aware of before I had my baby.
If you’re a new mom and just starting out on your breastfeeding journey, don’t let anyone talk you out of it unless your baby isn’t doing well. If you’re more than six months into breastfeeding and getting the pressure to fully wean your baby off breast milk, don’t feel like you must do it unless you want to or need to. There are many moms who still breastfeed their 1 year old around the clock because they’re able and willing, and their child wants it.
The point here is to do what is comfortable for you and your baby. Block out the extra voices and unwanted opinions. The life of a mom is stressful enough as it is!
Have you or did you breastfeed despite the pressure to wean? How did you react to the pressure?