My son turned 5 this week. His fifth birthday also marks the day that I have been breastfeeding for five years straight. Followers may recall I recently wrote about my daughter’s second birthday. I see them doing the math – I breastfed him for 3 years or so, and have been breastfeeding her for the past 2, right? Actually no. My five year old son still breastfeeds.
I don’t talk about it as often as I’d like to. It’s not for shame – I am very proud of my breastfeeding journey. I love to call myself a lactivist and take any opportunity to discuss breastfeeding with anyone who wants to talk about it. I WANT to talk about it. I feel like a total fraud for NOT talking about it more. Normalising breastfeeding is hugely important to me and part of me feels like a gutless wonder for not being more open about my own circumstances.
But despite the best efforts of lactivists everywhere, “term” breastfeeding still a very negative stigma. And while I don’t mind copping flack from the keyboard warriors about my choices, I don’t want to offer my son up to be slaughtered by people who, at best, simply don’t know any better.
More so, I don’t want him to be judged by people who actually know us. It makes me really sad to feel like I can’t tell the people closest to us that he still breastfeeds twice a day (once at bedtime and again when he wakes). I wish I could talk about it with pride. They might look at me differently, and I could live with that.
But they might look at my son differently, and I can’t live with that.
It’s not fair. My son is perfect (well, as perfect as any five year old boy can be). My husband and I are often praised for raising such a great kid, but I know that if the people around us knew he still breastfed, things would change. I have felt part of my job as a parent is to protect him until he is ready to step out, take risks and move towards greater independence. What could be described as loving and attentive parenting would be twisted into a mother who is selfishly preventing her son from growing up. What they currently know as his and my close bond would suddenly become creepy, perverted and unnatural in their eyes.
My son has already felt the sting of this judgement, after a family member (who assumed weaning had already taken place) joked about mummy’s milk being for the baby. He has asked that we hide his breastfeeds and don’t talk about them with people outside of our immediate family. My beautiful, innocent five year old wants me to hide information from adults because he is afraid they will make fun of him.
Even in online spaces dedicated to supporting breastfeeding, I have occasionally been met with shock and disgust. Five years is too much even for some vocal breastfeeding advocates. I also feel safe enough talking about this on my blog, because even though it’s now out there for all to see, I’m small-time, and basically my blog is generally only read by people who are on the same page as me (although if this post is picked up and made viral, I’ll consider that divine intervention and a sign that I should be more open from now on).
Part of the reason why my son is amazing is because of the way he has been raised, and breastfeeding has been a big factor in it. I wish I could point that out to everyone, but it’s never going to be received the way I’d hope. So I’ll just have to be content with telling you.
Happy boobaversary to me.