Last week I covered Myth #1 in my series about extended breastfeeding misconceptions, so it’s time to move on to #2. Here’s the email I received that inspired me to write these posts:
What are your psychological reasons for continuing to nurse Katie? I’m asking because we were discussing this topic last week in my women’s group and a couple of my friends shared some stories about their friends who did extended breastfeeding. One of their daughters showed signs of homosexuality at an early age and did grow up to in fact become a lesbian. The other grew up to have much resentment for her mother because she actually thought it was strange and embarrassing that she breastfed her for so long.The third had separation anxiety issues until he was an age where that should not have been happening anymore. It was an absolute challenge to be able to leave her with anyone for a date night or even when he began school. It put a strain on that couple’s marriage.
Myth #2: Your Kids Will Resent You For Making Them Weird
Fact: Your kids will probably resent you for something no matter what. . . . at least a little bit for a little while. It could be that you drop them off at school in a big ugly brown van or wear a tube top when you’re painting pottery in the Texas heat (Gigi I’m looking at you!). No matter what you will probably embarrass your kids and they will resent you for it. But if your relationship is healthy they’ll get over it.
Growing up with a hippie mom brought me in contact with non-conformists of all types and this is what I learned: People make similar decisions for very different reasons. A women who has deep needs that are not being met may become overly-dependent on her relationship with her child. This may express itself in the nursing relationship but will certainly continue beyond that. To me, it sounds like the daughters resentment of being “weird” indicates there could be other unhealthy dynamics underlying their relationship . . . breastfeeding and otherwise.
Here’s what I mean: A few years ago I remember reading about this group of high school girls that started a pact to get pregnant together. They wanted babies so they would have “someone to love them.” In my opinion this is a terrible reason to get pregnant. Children are not born into the world to fulfill our emotional needs. We are there to fulfill theirs. In many ways it is a feedback loop . . . fulfilling my child’s needs meets some of my needs for purpose in life, emotional growth, et cetera . . . but the loop begins and ends with the parent.
Do all women choose to have babies to fulfill their own unmet love needs? Of course not. To imply that women choose extended breastfeeding to meet their own needs is just as silly. There may be a small percentage of women that are overly-dependent on their children for some reason and extended breastfeeding can get wrapped up in how that is expressed, but that’s as far as it goes.
Or my theory about the girl in the email could be totally wrong. The emotion that girl expressed is a snapshot in time. Maybe her relationship with her mom is fabulous and that she was just feeling awkward about herself at the moment. Who knows?
Today Katie tried to give Maxwell (our kitty) a hug and ended up with her first real scratch. It was a bad one very close to her eye. Obviously there were many ways to comfort her but Daniel brought her to me to nurse. As we sat there I watched her transition from terrified and hurt to calm and soothed in just a few seconds. There is no doubt in my mind that she will not resent me for meeting her needs in this way as she grows up. Did it benefit me to waddle away from the dinner I was making to nurse her? No, but I was glad to do it.
For the record, I try not to highlight that Katie is still nursing in situations where it is not considered appropriate to avoid future embarrassment on her part. She’s at the age where I can tell her no and redirect her to something that interests her. Her life is not a political statement for me and I try to honor both who she is and who she will become.
Truthfully, though, I am not raising her to fit in anyway. I am raising her to shine. She is one of my greatest gifts to the world. This is how my mom raised me and although I have been labeled weird all my life I just don’t care. So maybe the girl from the email didn’t like being weird right then, but end the end she might realize it’s not the worst thing in the world. She might discover the beauty of being an original and thank her mom for putting her on that path.
What do you think?
“Research reports on the psychological aspects of nursing are scarce. One study that dealt specifically with babies nursed longer than a year showed a significant link between the duration of nursing and mothers’ and teachers’ ratings of social adjustment in six to eight year old children (Ferguson et all 1987). In the words of the researchers, ‘There are statistically significant tendencies for conduct disorder scores to decline with increased duration of breastfeeding.” — Sally Kneidel, Nursing Beyond One Year