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“You’re not still breastfeeding, are you?”

The question took me aback. I looked down at my child cuddled in my arms — obviously nursing — and I wanted to respond with, “Why, yes, I am, ding dong.”

But of course I didn’t. I was too taken aback. My son had recently turned one, and I seemed to get this question more and more often. I found it odd, not to mention rude.

Image source via Shutterstock
Image source via Shutterstock

For the first time in my motherhood journey, I felt as if I should be apologizing for nursing — as if one year of age was the magic American cut-off date for breastfeeding your baby. I wondered how in world I missed the memo, and I wanted to know who wrote it and why.

It was ironic because up until this point I was indoctrinated with literature and lectures on the benefits of breastfeeding. I got the message from doctors, nurses, family and friends that I should try to breastfeed.

Well, I did try it, and luckily for me, the whole breastfeeding journey was easy for me. I knew that the journey was often not as easy for many women, including my own mother, and I felt blessed.

People complimented me when I breastfed my son during his first year. They said wonderful things like, “Oh, wow, you are amazing to be breastfeeding.” “Wow, that is commendable. You are awesome.” I got an entire year of people fondly admiring my mothering efforts when they saw me nurse.

That is until January 21, 2004, when my first son turned one. That is when things changed dramatically. All of a sudden, it seemed to surprise, if not bother, a lot of folks that I was still breastfeeding. Instead of receiving positive reinforcement, I felt like I was often looked upon as a woman with three heads.

And, of course, I was not prepared for this. The truth is I never planned to breastfeed for any specific amount of time. I did not have an end date in mind — it never dawned on me. Like many things in life, I decided I would try to give it my best, and I figured my baby and I would wean when we were ready.

Now after having three children, I know from experience that breastfeeding is about so much more than nutrition and health. As my babies became toddlers who learned to talk, walk, and venture away, they each have loved the sense of a safe home base that the experience of nursing provides. So I continued breastfeeding past their first birthdays because I could see how safe, comforted, and loved they felt when I nursed them in my arms.

Looking back, I am not sure how I answered that awkward question the first time. I think I stumbled through it, perhaps even apologizing. When I was asked similar questions later, my answer was usually that I wanted to wean naturally when my child was ready.

Unfortunately, though, this answer often got even more confused responses. There are not a lot of extended breastfeeders, and education of the masses is not an easy job. Often I was met with, “Well, that kid will never want to stop.” Once I was told,“ That child will want to go to college nursing.” I wanted to say, “Let’s put money on it.” If I had, I would be a lot richer today.

But now with more confidence and experience after having breastfed all three of my children through their toddler years, I know the perfect response to that question:

“Yes, I am still nursing. Isn’t that great?”

Moms, just leave it at that.

It is a simple, freeing answer. And you’re welcome to borrow it if you’re nursing and get asked a similar question. In one short sentence, you can clearly state your values and return the ball very gracefully to the other person’s court.

Alison Britt

Alison Britt

After the birth of her third child, Alison Britt was so fed up with having nothing pretty and functional to wear that she designed her own nursing clothes and launched Alison Britt Designs. In her roles as mother, teacher, actor, filmmaker and now clothing designer, the one constant has been Alison’s desire to try to make the world a better place. She proudly manufactures her clothing in North Carolina and hopes her designs help moms know they’re beautiful.
Follow Alison on:
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12 comments

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  • Would you mind if I re-posted this on my blog (link back here of course!)? I can totally relate. I have no end-date in mind (my son is 6 months old), but I imagine we’ll tailor off slowly when we are both ready. People are already commenting that I’m extended breastfeeding, and I only has his first solid meal last week!

    • Hi Bridget! I would love it if you want to re-post. I think it would be great if one day no mother felt judged on her ability to breastfeed or her choice to breastfeed and for how long. Whether we breastfeed for one week or three years doesn’t matter as much as whether we feel understood and supported. Support is what matters. So let me say I support you whenever you decide to wean!

  • I don’t see why there should be a debate about this. It’s your right to wean your child when you feel like it. There’s no law to stop you.

  • I love you comment– I really wish people would stop being so “judgy” about everything! I BF my kids until about 20 months and I pumped and put breast milk into their bottle/sippy cup until 3. As Moms we do what works for us and our kids.

  • I am so glad that you posted this information. There is so many benefits to nursing past a year old. My son’s pediatrician was urging me to cut the cord at a year old too. I knew better though. I nursed my middle son the longest. Fyi, the world health organization recommends extended nursing until the age of 2.

  • I never could breastfeed my kids, they never took to it. It’s so good for the babies and it’s your business how long you should breastfeed. I think it’s great if you can do it!

  • It’s a hot topic in the UK as well, I fed my son til he self weaned at 23 months and one person remarked “they do say they do it themselves don’t they?” Well, duh, how many adults do you know that are breastfed?

    I’m lucky, I have a brilliant support network and my mother in law also allowed self weaning for all of hers. My other half always tells me that he thinks she’s proud of me.

    I plan to go the whole hog next time too!

  • Great testimony Ali ! As a professional who returned to work after 8 weeks of maternity leave with both of my children, I confess – I probably am one of those women/persons who wondered about nursing for babies/toddlers who ” look” beyond age 1. At age 52, I am likely one of a generation that believed that age was the time to stop. I will say however, in the 27 years that have passed since my first child – nursing for a longer period of time has grown much more acceptance, and I support it! As there has been always – some people are just not as comfortable with this natural activity… no matter over or under age 1. Keep writing – next share some support stories for women who nurse as long as they can while working outside the home !!!
    P.S. Love your clothing line!

About Author

Alison Britt

Alison Britt

After the birth of her third child, Alison Britt was so fed up with having nothing pretty and functional to wear that she designed her own nursing clothes and launched Alison Britt Designs. In her roles as mother, teacher, actor, filmmaker and now clothing designer, the one constant has been Alison’s desire to try to make the world a better place. She proudly manufactures her clothing in North Carolina and hopes her designs help moms know they’re beautiful.
Follow Alison on:
Facebook | Twitter