Inflammatory Blog Post Pitting Parents Against Parents ... or not

If I wanted to, I could write an inflammatory blog post about forced weaning, nighttime neglect, and coerced autonomy. Most people call them by different, more socially acceptable names. I could expound on the many things that I might find wrong with forcing a child to wean from the breast before they are ready and before it’s biologically, nutritionally, and developmentally appropriate, or depriving a child of breastmilk altogether. I could find fault with parents who ignore their child’s nighttime needs. I could take issue with forcing children to be “independent” before it’s developmentally appropriate while not meeting the attachment needs that need to be met to more easily and naturally create an independent person. But what would that accomplish?

Would responding to recent parenting-related media with an attack of my own on a parenting style that differs from my own help the situation? I think not. Instead, I’ll talk to those who want to hear a different perspective. I’ll encourage parents to listen to their children. Listen to their hearts. Keep an open mind.

So instead, I'll write an inflammatory blog post about nursing homes ...or not.

If our grandmother was in the care of a nursing home and they said, "We know she prefers a natural diet that provides amazing nutrition, but we thought it was more convenient to give her nutritional supplement number one for all meals because it has most of what she needs and anyone can feed it to her," we'd be upset, as Grandma needs a proper diet of real food. If they told us she’s too old for real food, we’d think they had lost their minds. If we found out that our grandmother, who wears an adult diaper because she needs assistance to get to the bathroom and doesn't always make it, was left in a wet or soiled diaper for hours, we'd call it neglect. If we discovered she was calling out for help at night because she felt alone, scared, or hungry and no one answered her calls, we'd be livid. Should we find that she cried herself to sleep every night, we'd remove her from their care.

Yet people do this to their children and call it parenting, while at the same time, parents who hold their babies and young children close to their hearts and meet their needs in a timely, biologically correct manner are called extreme. Those parents who choose to keep their babies and young children close, nurture their children at their breast for as long as the child needs to be nurtured at the breast, and respond to their children's needs as they arise, are said to think they are in some way superior to "mainstream" parents. Those parents who meet their children's nighttime needs to feel safe, loved, nourished, and cared for; who nurse, cuddle, sing, read, or soothe their children to sleep, and those parents who hold their babies close to their hearts literally and figuratively are said to be abnormal, over-parenting, or just plain strange. They're accused of following a guru, of spoiling their children, of going to extremes, and the list goes on.


Mainstream media tries to pit parents against parents. Parents themselves judge each other, arguing over which parenting style is better than another.

Let’s take the concept of going to extremes. One huge perceived extreme, as illustrated by Time magazine’s recent cover, is “extended” breastfeeding. Personally, I view extended breastfeeding as what happens when a nursling gets distracted while nursing and turns to look at something, forgetting to break their latch first. The mainstream definition for extended breastfeeding seems to be along the lines of “breastfeeding past an age that is normal to breastfeed.” Many people define extended breastfeeding as nursing a child past a year … or eighteen months … or two years or some other arbitrary amount of time. Extend, according to Merriam Webster, means “to stretch out to fullest length.” That means that extended breastfeeding should really be defined as nursing for the full length of time, which for humans is between 2.5 and 7 years of age according to cultural anthropologist Kathleen Kendall-Tackett in “Breastfeeding: Biological Perspectives.” Nursing until the child is ready to wean. Nursing for the normal amount of time a child would nurse, not forcing a child to wean before they’re ready.

I readily admit that this is not for everyone. When I was in the first few weeks of nursing my firstborn, I was hoping to make it to three or possibly six months. I couldn’t imagine nursing a child over nine months of age. Gaining experience and knowledge, my perspective changed. Nursing is a relationship between two people – and they both need to be comfortable and respected in the relationship. There are many reasons for weaning a child, but why should those who choose to let nursing run its natural course be looked upon as somehow abnormal?


One thing many people don’t realize or seem to forget is that breastfeeding is about more than nutrition. It’s about nurturing your child, comforting your child, building your child’s immune system, protecting your child from illnesses, and promoting proper maxofacial development. It’s about giving your child what is biologically necessary to grow and develop normally. It’s about not putting your child at increased risk for getting certain types of cancer, diabetes, allergies, obesity, and other health issues. It’s about decreasing your own risk of getting breast and reproductive cancers, osteoporosis and so much more. And frankly, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, breastmilk doesn’t expire, go sour, or become non-nutritious. It changes to meet your child’s needs at their particular age.  

What kind of world would it be if we would stop judging, stop pitting parents against parents, people against people…if we would instead respect each other’s choices, even if we don’t agree with them. What a boring world we would live in should everyone believe the same thing and live life in the same way! 

Comments

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