I didn't set out to breastfeed my son for 20 months (where we stand now). Before Liam was born, we took a breastfeeding class and my goal -- my husband and my goal -- was for me to breastfeed our child until he or she was six months old. I think I came up with six months because a good friend had breastfed her son for six months, and I thought that sounded like a good time frame. After a rough first day involving a low blood sugar, mandated formula, and a lactation consultant, Liam and I got the hang of breastfeeding. In the beginning, I wasn't particularly passionate about it either way: I knew that breastfeeding was best for my son and for me and I was going to try and figure it out.
From day one, my husband was incredibly supportive. He encouraged my persistence and my patience. Looking back, I see that he was suprised that his role was to support me caring for our son, rather than doing the direct care (feeding) himself. Despite the bumps and bruises to us becoming new parents and my adventures in breastfeeding, he never once uttered a word that was discouraging. I was always careful to say, "I'm not ready to wean yet, but man, I need to complain about how tough breastfeeding is right now." He would listen and ask what he could do.
My family is a different matter. Two of the people that I am closest to on this planet are less than supportive. Around the four month mark, I felt their support gradually fall away. Their comments are never directed at me, or if they are, the comments are passive.
"So what brand of formula are you going to go with? We really like ___."
"I can't believe my friend is still breastfeeding her son. He's almost a year old! Its time for her to knock that off. I'm going to talk to her husband about it."
"She's still breastfeeding and he's two!"
"He (Liam)'s still doing that"
Less than supportive comments or wayward glances are not easy when they come from the public, from people that you don't know. When those same comments come from people that are close to you, from the people that you have relied on for support for the past thirty years, it can be devastating. I wish I could say that I let those comments go, that I turn away without a thought and stay strong. But every time, those comments cut me to my core, making me question my decisions and my parenting. I run to my husband for confirmation that I -- that we -- are doing the right thing.
In the moment, my head is screaming with all of the research I have read of the benefits of "extended" breastfeeding (whatever "extended" means). As I stand there, I want to retort with a glib comment: "He needed it yesterday. He needs it today. He'll probably need it tomorrow." Or I want to spout that the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until two YEARS, not four months or one Year. I want to get on a soap box and educate. Yet most of the time, I stand there with my mouth slightly agape, mumbling about daycare and the winter (translation = this is his first winter in daycare and I want to assure that his immune system has my support for this first winter).
After the initial sting wears off, I realize that I am doing the right thing for Liam and for me. I will not give up our breastfeeding relationship until WE are ready. And WE includes Liam, my husband and me. I muster my own resolve to ignore the voices that are not my own (or my husband's). The comments hurt, sting and make me hesitant to bring up breastfeeding, but they do not change my decision. With every comment, my determination to continue breastfeeding is made stronger. And perhaps with every comment, I learn to ignore the outside voices just a bit more.