By Sofie Thomson, 3rd June 2016

Breastfeeding a 5 Year Old

Why we Shouldn't Judge

Why we Shouldn’t Judge

Rebuttal to Miss Pollyanna
Note from The Editor: On the 18th May, 2016, we published an article by our own Miss Pollyanna entitled “Is Breastfeeding School Children OK?” The piece sparked enormous debate which highlighted to us that there are more than a few opinions out there to explore.
At The Glass House, we strongly believe in providing a safe and friendly platform for opinions on all topics, no matter which side of the fence you find yourself on. Being transparent and honest are values we hold dear and we are adamant to be a place of non-judgement. After a healthy debate and a few heated responses, I asked if anyone would be willing to pen a rebuttal piece for publication. Sofie Thomson wrote this piece.
At The Glass House – we believe everyone has the right to an opinion. If you feel strongly about an article you have seen on our site, please feel free to get in touch.

I am sitting here, breastfeeding my little one off to dream land. I stroke his golden blonde locks and cannot believe that it has been 2 years since we started our breastfeeding journey. I always knew I wanted to breastfeed but I did not realise that it may not be as easy as simply wanting to breastfeed… and as such it just happens.

As a naive first-time mum, I held my daughter in my arms and attempted to latch her on but was met by a newborn, screaming in frustration as a midwife repeatedly jabbed her little head towards my chest. Apparently, my inverted nipples were the issue, so my body had failed me and my firstborn.

I was struck with grief – the midwife who delivered the news was very matter of fact! My daughter had jaundice and was promptly given a bottle, without my approval. Had I been given the right support and the right encouragement I would have likely been able to breastfeed, instead I was bottle feeding and expressing. Bottle feeding was hard. Expressing was hard. Not being able to breastfeed was heartbreaking.

Breastpump

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When my son was born, three years later, I arrived at the hospital loaded with information. Endless articles about the breast crawl and natural feeding positions and sterilised nipple shields ready to go. I was determined to breastfeed this time.

My son was born with the umbilical cord around his neck, he was weak and swiftly taken away. No skin to skin, not even a newborn baby cry. Amazingly he became stable quickly and the relief was endless but there I was, lying in a bed with my breastfeeding friendly nightgown unbuttoned, nipple shield in hand but no baby.

I thought that my chances to breastfeed this time were again slim. Hours later I got to see my little boy. He was so soft as he lay in my arms. Instinctively, I opened my shirt, put him to the nipple shielded breast and he latched.

I cried happy tears, overwhelmed that he had latched.

baby boy

The first 4 months did not come easy and I was in a lot of pain but I persevered. Suddenly at 4 months it became a breeze – we moved pass the nipple shield and breastfeeding my son became the most rewarding thing. Time suddenly passed very quickly and as I look down on my 27 month old son, falling asleep on my breast, comforted and safe I cannot imagine removing this comfort and source of nutrition from him. After all, he is only just a day older than yesterday!

I have stopped feeding him in public. I am ashamed to say that I am scared that someone will comment on it, upset my son, or even that it would lead to me finding an article written about how I am setting my son up to be bullied, as a result of nurturing him in public.

Is it more important that we comply with the norm than support our children biologically and emotionally in a way that’s correct according to nature?

My daughter has a friend who is (very sadly) being bullied. She has had a tough time and as a result she has regressed somewhat and is starting to wet herself. A few of the children have said that she smells bad. That she is gross. No-one wants to play with her.

So Pollyanna, please explain to me what you believe should be done here? It is not the norm for a 5 year old to wet herself. It is not really socially acceptable, is it? So what should we do? Will we remove the little girl from a school, that she loves? Isolate her at break time?

Child alone

My daughter asked me why people are being mean to her friend. I could have replied “because she is weird, she stands out, she’s not part of the norm. She shouldn’t be allowed out if she cannot pee on the toilet like everyone else.”

Thankfully, I’m not a bully so I said, “because some children have not been taught to be nice and to show empathy. Some children haven’t been shown how to embrace diversity and how to spread love.”

I focused on the problem. The problem is the bullies.

The reality of life is that we never know what goes on behind closed doors. We will never know why that child wets herself, what trauma may be causing it, in the same way that no one knows for sure why the mum of the 5 year old you talked of still breastfeeds her child.

Maybe, like me, she suffered and for her it is important to feed as long as she is capable. Or maybe she simply doesn’t care about the pressures society puts on us to conform to the social norms. Either way, who are we to judge?

The mum you saw feeding her 5 year old, has given up so much to be able to do that for her son. She may be well aware that she is exposing herself to ridicule from ignorant people. I would like to believe that her son must be a very confident little boy who is able to do what he feels is best for him regardless of the opinion of the children around him.

Who knows – maybe in 3 years time I will be breastfeeding my son in a play area. I truly hope so. And if you see me, please come over and have a cuppa with me. I am no different from any other mum.

Mother and Baby

Like you, I am doing what I think is best for my child, my opinion on what is best may simply be different from yours – but then isn’t that what makes this world such a varied place?

(Note from The Editor: Not only is Sofie now a regular columnist for The Glass House, she also runs her own ‘gentle parenting’ blog. Pop over to thegentlemumblog.com to read more of her musings.)

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