So, how long did you breastfeed the others for?

Through our baby group I’ve made friends with a great group of mums all of whom are first-timers. To begin with, and surprising to me considering the breastfeeding rates in my local area, the majority were breastfeeders. This has changed slightly over time and I think we have a 50/50 split now as people have weaned onto formula for a variety of reasons. As our babies get older, the first two soon to hit the 1 year mark, there’s more talk of weaning and the question has been asked, ‘So how long did you breastfeed the others for?’.

The person who’s asked is handily the one who is most able to understand that everybody does what is right for them and my choice does not mean I expect you to do the same. I’m not ashamed that I fed the other two until they were a few months past their third birthdays but I know how strongly people can react to the idea of feeding a young toddler let alone a walking! talking! able to ask for it! pre-schooler. I’ve heard one person voice the idea that ‘it’s wrong when they’re bigger’ and it makes me sad and frustrated that it’s this attitude that can make extended breastfeeders hide away feeling that they are doing something strange and that they aren’t supported.

I hope that my answers to this question or its companion – ‘so how long are you going to breastfeed Eli for’ given truthfully puts a normal face to longer-term breastfeeding rather than the ‘look at the strange weirdos’ image the media likes to put across. I also hope that it shows that you don’t ‘have to’ wean at 6 months/1 year or which ever arbitrary milestone is reached whether or not mum and baby want to continue. Of course mostly I’ll be carrying on doing what works best for my family and me and happily supporting my friends in what works for them.

Yet another ‘expert’ at the children’s centre with the expertise of a banana

I like our local children’s centre. It is next to the big kids school so convenient and close to home. The woman who is in charge is friendly and fairly well educated (a bit obsessed with babies’ sleep but so are most of the parents she sees I suppose). I’ve met some good friends at the baby group (which we are now officially no longer allowed to attend but they’ve started a new session for us to go to so that’s nice) and we’ve had some interesting discussions there.

I do, however, take issue with the some of the ‘experts’ that we’ve had to talk to us about various things at the baby group. Many others truly were experts, the lady from the in car safety place was scary – don’t store car seats in garages or lofts! rear face forever! are you sure your seat fits in your car because even if it looks like it does it might not!! – but she did know what she was talking about. The lady from the speech and language team likewise although she did limit her scary talk to terrifying those whose babies used dummies. The PND counsellor knew her stuff as did the health trainer. There have, however, been a couple who have just left me wondering what exactly resulted in them being trotted out for the talk.

The first non-expert was the centre manager who came in to talk to us about treasure baskets. Now, years of going to a heuristic baby and toddler group has shown me how brilliant these can be and yet she did such a poor job of introducing them. She tortured us by making us talk about each item – OK for the first couple but then not much more could be said. She then tortured the babies but not letting them play with the baskets. She eventually left without saying goodbye probably cursing us for being a tough crowd.

Today was depressing too. A weaning ‘expert’ from another children’s centre who’s expertise was certainly doubtful as he:

  • stated that the guidelines are ‘always changing’ - well it’s been 6 months for almost a decade now…
  • stated that waking in the night is not a sign for readiness for weaning - great – then stated that it might be - huh?
  • couldn’t quite remember more than one of the signs of readiness
  • said that he didn’t know much about this new-fangled baby lead weaning thing - so new that the name has been around for at least 6 years, I first read about it in this Ask Moxie Q&A: Introducing Solids, and that ignores the fact that it’s a practice that’s been around much longer
  • gave some information but constantly ruined that with advice ‘well this is what the guidelines say but if I were you I’d do xyz’ - since he didn’t let us know any of the qualifications he has to be a weaning expert I can’t but assume that perhaps research studies are more useful than his gut feeling
  • insisted that you should always start with purées and never mix different foods because allergies scary! - really, so if you’ve no history of allergies and you’re starting at 6 months (oh wait he’s not too sure about the whole 6 month thing)…

At least he suggested that babies should be having table food as soon as possible (although did spoil that by insisting it should be mushed). He was also clear that milk should be a baby’s main food until they’re one thank goodness as that’s not the opinion of at least one of the local health visitors.

I don’t have the energy to write a complaint because really he didn’t say anything particularly harmful just disjointed advice and not particularly expert opinion. I think his main expertise came from having his own kid – not through any research or study on the subject he was supposed to be teaching. It’s probably a good thing we aren’t allowed to go to the group any more – not sure I could handle any more ‘expert’ advice.