January 27, 2015

Question asked of a mother who breastfed her son until he was 3: "At this point, don’t you think it’s more about your needs than his needs?"

And her answer was to laugh, "because they wouldn’t have said that if they’d ever seen my son ask to breastfeed."
He would catapult himself into my bed every morning, smush himself up against me, and gleefully ask, “Can I have some mama’s milks?” If it had really been about all my needs, I would have kicked him out of my room so that I could get more sleep.
So they wouldn't have said "At this point, don’t you think it’s more about your needs than his needs?"? I sort of think they would, because they were the kind of people who say things like that and see things that way. Also — and sorry if I'm a big stickler about rhetoric (perhaps because I didn't get enough (i.e., any) breastfeeding as a baby)) — but the meanies were asking about the balance of interests — more about you than about him — and you've switched it to whether it's all about you. I noted the more/all distinction.

And I think the bed scene described — complete with the sleep sacrificing — does reveal the mother's pleasure in the relationship. I must say that I read it 3 or 4 times before I realized that she did not — after giving the child what he wanted — proceed to kick him out of the room so she could get some more sleep. She sounds proud of her maternal ministrations, even as she downplays the benefit to her. Is there some reason why women are supposed to not enjoy their side of the relationship with their children?

Wouldn't you prefer to think your mother loved doing the things she did for you? Or would you value her more to know that she did them in a spirit of service or necessity and, if it had been "about her," would have chosen entirely different activities.


tim maguire said...

Her explanation of why it is not about her needs, but about his, does not actually say anything about either one's needs. He NEEDS to be raised in a healthy manner, he WANTS to be catered to. She says she wants to sleep; maybe so, but she NEEDS to be needed.

Breastfeeding serves his wants and her needs, which is exactly what the questioner is concerned about.

Vet66 said...

I would say to anyone who asked; It's none of your business. The mother/child relationship is special deserving respect and support. If Mom doesn't want to turn the "spigot" off when some women's magazine says to do exactly that, I would encourage her to follow her instincts.

MayBee said...

Of course her description shows precisely it is about her needs more than his. He wants the milk, she needs him to say those - what she sees as cute- words to her. She needs to be be that important to him.

Mary Beth said...

When I hear of a woman breastfeeding her child past infancy I think of Lysa Arryn and Robin. Thank you Game of Thrones.

mc said...

If you have memories as an adult of muckling into your mama's teats and gleefully feeding it was done wrong. Really wrong.

Anonymous said...

There is something about breastfeeding past about 18 months that makes my skin crawl.

MadisonMan said...

Really none of my business. But since she is putting it out there:

My favorite moments were the ones that came in the middle of exhausting, harried days when, needing a rest, I would suggest that we nurse. Then we would lie down on the couch or the bed and I would close my eyes and take a short breather while my son breastfed. When things felt overwhelming, taking a pause to breastfeed always made both of us feel calmer.

This really was about her needs, not the child's.

A parent's role is to draw boundaries, set limits, and propel a child forward towards the next stage of life, even if the kid doesn't want to. The writer reads like someone who likes attention. I was surprised that she mentioned her husband.

Eleanor said...

Will she breastfeed him every morning before he leaves for school?

Ann Althouse said...

"I would say to anyone who asked; It's none of your business."

If it's none of our business, why write a long column about it?

I would ordinarily refrain from telling any parent they're not parenting right, but if they're going to put their opinions up on the internet, the etiquette flips.

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...

I would say:

Enjoy it while you can, kid. It'll be 16 years before you get to do it again.

John Henry

jr565 said...

Does she wipe his butt and pee pee place too?

jr565 said...

So women have a bugaboo about not being allowed to breast feed in public. How about this woman? What if we saw her son breast feeding from her teat in the middle of the mall and he was three?

Wince said...

"Toughened your nipples, didn't it?"

FullMoon said...

Had a neighbor breast feed her 5 year old boy. The kid could eat off a plate and use a fork or spoon and get his own cereal or make a sandwhich.
Now I wonder if it was a "treat " for him.

Jenny said...

Considering the biological norm for nursing extends to age five, I don't think nursing a three year old even comes close to the line of being all about the mother's needs.

The problem with the question is that usually it is asked with an undercurrent of assumption that the mother is getting her sexual jollies from nursing. As if it is somehow sexually thrilling for a two year old to do gymnastics while trying to snack.

Nursing is pleasant but not sexual. I see no reason to obscure this fact. There's nothing wrong with it being pleasant. Why shouldn't the mother enjoys the benefits of her motherhood?

Tibore said...

Meh, much ado about nothing more than someone oversharing.

Was her decision more about her needs than her son's? Arguable, but I'd still say yes. At the same time, though, who gives a damn? The son eventually weaned, and no harm or even anything remotely close to harm appears to have been done in any way, shape, or form to either party. If it worked for them, it worked, end of story. There'd be nothing to gawk at had she not written the article.

But that's the issue: She wrote the column. She chose to throw something very personal out to a world full of strangers. And to compose it in a way that dared people to voice their opinion on her choice. There's something close to arrogance in doing that. I don't care about her choice one way or another, but like the Professor said, if she's going to make it public, she's essentially begging for commentary. And at that point, there's no being offended at opposing opinions from the internet on her part because in a very real way, she did ask for it.

Being reticent about very personal issues is not the same as hiding or being ashamed about them. Rather, it's being respectful to others. Oversharing by it's self-involved, near narcissistic nature has never been a virtue.