The “I Told You So”

Welcome to the May Carnival of Breastfeeding! This month participants share stories related to breastfeeding (see entries at the end of this post). My story represents the end of the story — how it turns out when a mother practices extended breastfeeding.

When I had my first daughter, I fumbled my way around until I found my parenting style. It happened naturally. I couldn’t stand to hear my baby cry; what mother can? So I breastfed her on cue, wore her in a sling, and co-slept with her in my bed. Those things worked for me, my husband, and my baby. They continued to work for us, and we identified ourselves more and more with an “attachment parenting” philosophy.

'I Told You So' Photo by Marinka van Holten

'I Told You So' Photo by Marinka van Holten

Early on I heard whispers that my parenting style surprised and even worried others. The really bold people, the ones who thought they were doing me a favor by commenting on my parenting, harangued me with any number of myths: “You’re spoiling that baby by picking her up every time she cries! If you carry her everywhere she’ll never want to be put down! She needs to cry to exercise her lungs!” Sometimes I smiled and nodded and promptly ignored the advice. Sometimes I offered information and opinion. It depended on the person and the situation.

As my daughter got older and older, the admonitions became more urgent: “She won’t be able to separate from you. She’ll be clingy. You’re holding her back and making her dependent upon you.” Then came the disapproving looks and the stories that weren’t addressed to me but were meant for my ears. The message was clear: “Extended breastfeeding is wrong and you are harming your child.”

Well, let’s fast forward to the end of the story. My first “baby” is now a 7-year-old. She went to preschool after she turned three, and she didn’t shed a tear on the first day of school. I prepared her for the milestone and she separated from me easily. And guess what, she was “still” nursing at that time. I can assure you that her lungs work just fine. She is a happy, social, empathetic child, and I dare say that’s because of — not in spite of — attachment parenting.

As a new mother I was not armed with the information or ability to tell the naysayers that they were wrong. All I could do was listen to my instincts. I’d silently say, “Just you wait and see. The time will come when you realize that my way is not the wrong way. It might not be right for you, but it is right for me and my children.” That time has come, and look at that, I have a blog that lets me say a big fat “I told you so.” I say that “I told you so” not in the hope of reaching those who doubted me, but in the hope of reaching any other mothers who are struggling with naysayers. Listen to your instincts. Not only will you and your child benefit now from breastfeeding, but you will continue to reap the rewards long afterwards, and I won’t blame you one bit if you utter an “I told you so.”

Stay Tuned for Additional Carnival Entries: The Story of Hannah’s Weaning
Baby Carriers Down Under: Traveling to Kandy, Sri Lanka
Laura’s Blog: Weaning a Toddler
Stepping off the Spaceship: Life, Death and Nourishment
So Fawned: Sticking with It
Mommy News Blog: How Breastfeeding Changed My Life
All That Sazz: Flying Breast Milk
GrudgeMom: Breastfeeding Failures and Success
Massachusetts Friends of Midwives: Ben’s Story, The Best Breastfeeding Advice from the Least Likely Source
BreastfeedingMums: Breastfeeding Made Me the Mother I Am
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: “They Said the Latch Was Fine”
Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: Breastfeeding Is Not Easy
Breastfeeding Moms Unite: Can Early Public Breastfeeding Sightings Shape One’s Future Breastfeeding Practices?
The Towells: Breastfeeding after Breast Reduction
Zen_Mommy: Celebrating . . . My Chest!
Blacktating: Nursing in Public
Crystal Gold: A Found Memory

Share This Post:
    • Melodie

      Right on!

    • Jenny

      family members are usually well-meaning.. but most of the time comments like these just don’t help at all!

    • Judy @ MommyNewsBlog

      Great post!! I too am an extended breastfeeder and have done it all by instincts. I always thought I would breastfeed for a year, maybe 2 – but never dreamed I’d still be going at almost 4 – and I coslept – which I also never thought I would do – but it worked for us and our family. You can read about my breastfeeding journey here:

    • Penny Haines

      Children who have been “extended breast fed” and “demand fed” are very lucky indeed. They’ve never known the agonies of being left to cry for ages with hunger and thirst, they’ve been given all the protection of breast milk with its vital antibodies (making them less prone to diseases such as gastro-enteritis and ear infections, and even less prone to certain childhood cancers and juvenile diabetese, which can be devastating).
      It seems so unfair to critisize Mums for doing the best for their babies, when anyone who DARES speak out about the risks of artificial formula is vilified for “guilt-tripping” etc.
      Breast milk is “baby’s birthright” and formula feeding should be reserved for Mums who cannot, or have genuine difficulties, with breastfeeding. I don’t think Mums should “choose not to breast feed” any more than they should “choose to smoke” in pregnancy.

    • Clare

      Brilliant! A great read. I’m going through this right now and my LO is only 10 months (nearly). We have just worked out that feeding with her sitting straight up works for us at the moment (mainly because of her snotty nose) but I got a very strange look at the swimming pool the other day. I just smiled and looked down adoringly at my LO. My father is coming to visit in a couple of weeks and I’m dreading his reaction to me ‘still’ feeding (how on earth will I explain that i’ll be breastfeeding for years to come? If thats what my dd wants). I’m hoping if I don’t make a big deal out of it and just do it that they will go with it but pigs might fly…

    • Amber

      Having a healthy, well-adjusted older child does a LOT to silence critics. How can they argue that your parenting will ruin your baby, when it’s so clearly worked for the older one. I feel very self-satisfied these days, looking at my 4-year-old. ;)

    • Lori

      I saw your link on the Carnival email. It is important that we moms don’t force our opinions on others; I’m sorry that people did this to you. Whatever one’s parenting style is, though, someone will always disapprove of it. It is sad that that is how it is. I try not to do this.

    • Michelle

      I like your article, but be careful not to judge the other side as you have been judged (as some of the comments have done). I am a staunch breastfeeding supporter, but at the same time I value sleep training techniques (oh my)! I give full feedings and easy my babies into good sleep schedules. Yes, there is some crying at times (trust me, they lived and they thrive just as your daughter does). Attachment parenting is not for me, just as old school parenting is not for you. I see this in the same terms as the “Mommy Wars.” I sleep train, I spank, I breastfeed, I feed my children organic food…I describe myself as “a little crunchy.” My friends, who all bottlefeed (some breastfeed for the first few months) think I’m a hippie:) All out crunchies think I’m Satan incarnate LOL! I combine the methods I feel are best for my children after much research and prayer. And they turned out just fine:)

    • baby carrier

      i take time for some baby to just from breast feeding. not all mother can put up with the crying in the night……………

    • Crystal Gold

      Love the post! I think the best thing a mother can do is follow her instincts and naturally develop her own parenting style. Each child is different, each family is different, but EVERY one needs unconditional love! That is why attachment parenting is so perfect for us, it is an easy way to give that unconditional love (even at 3 in the morning after waking up for the 4th time!) :)

    • Jill

      I think sometimes “well meaning” is actually “self justifying” – having more to do with how that person feels about her own parenting style and wanting to reinforce and reassure herself than thinking you need “advice” that you clearly weren’t soliciting.

    • Rebecca M.

      I loved this post and also the comment by Penny. I’m nursing my 8 month old son (exclusively for the first 6 months, now gradually adding solids) and plan to continue until he’s about 2 years old (I’ll probably have another baby around that time and will not force my son to wean, but I don’t think I’ll want to full-time tandem nurse a toddler and a newborn). I’m already preparing myself for the negative comments and criticism I expect to receive from family members and others. I like to read positive stories and info so that I can hopefully respond calmly (or ignore) the comments.

      Thanks for writing this!