Here’s an article that came out on the Manila Bulletin on May 19th. Jenny of Chronicles of A Nursing Mom and myself were interviewed on our thoughts about extended breastfeeding, attachment parenting, and that controversial Time breastfeeding cover. Original article here.
Note: I have something to say about this part of the article: “It’s a well-known fact though that not all mothers can or want to breastfeed, and Teacher Eli believes they shouldn’t be condemned for it.” For me, it’s actually a MYTH that some mothers believe they can not breastfeed. I learned in breastfeeding class that only about 1% of mothers are actually not physically able to breastfeed, due to a medical condition. For a lot of women who believe they CAN’T breastfeed, most of the time it’s due to a lack of information, guidance or support. I can’t emphasize this enough: If you want to breastfeed, do your homework while you’re pregnant. Most of the problems we encounter as counselors occur from not knowing what to do or expect in the first few days after giving birth.
Anyhoo. Here’s the article! I would love to hear your thoughts!
MANILA, Philippines — Breastfeeding is a practice widely praised and applauded by many. But when TIME magazine displayed on its cover a skinny young woman with her almost-four-year-old son suckling on her breast alongside the provoking question, “Are You Mom Enough?” for its attachment parenting feature, numerous moms reacted negatively.
“I was a little appalled at the cover,” admitted my friend, Beng Meneses. “It was very controversial, actually, and of course, received a lot of attention and publicity, good and bad. It was shocking to see an almost four-year-old boy still breastfeeding, because honestly, I can’t imagine my kids doing the same. But as is the case with everything else, the point of the article, which is “attachment parenting,” is a growing trend. Whether it will have lasting power or is just a fad, I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”
Eliza Santiago-Ypon or Teacher Eli, another friend of mine who teaches at Gymboree and has a two-year-old son, had this to say, “At first it was, “Oh great!” and then it was “Oh no.” I loved the picture. I thought it was great that extended breastfeeding was being put into the spotlight, but combined with the headline of “Are You Mom Enough?”, it became inflammatory. I didn’t think it was appropriate for attachment parenting at all. No mother should be made to feel she’s inadequate, no matter what parenting style she chooses to practice. I think it’s journalism meant to pit moms against each other, which I don’t agree with. I don’t like mommy wars.”
Different strokes for different folks
My two mommy-friends have dissimilar experiences when it comes to breastfeeding. Beng recalls that she did breastfeed her firstborn Justin, but due to some health issues, she didn’t produce enough milk to sustain him. “So my experience with breastfeeding was not really extensive,” shares Beng. “Although looking back, I wish I would have been able to breastfeed my children for nutritional value, since mother’s milk is reputed to be healthier than formula.” This working mom, whose kids are now grown-up and in college, is also not a fan of extended breastfeeding. “No, I don’t think I would have breastfed them until they were four. That’s simply too big already for me. As for attachment parenting, I think my kids turned out pretty well adjusted and normal for being raised the old-fashioned way.”
Teacher Eli, on the other hand, totally enjoys breastfeeding and intends to do it for several years. “Breastfeeding Basti to four years was always my intention, even when I was still pregnant. Attachment parenting supports extended breastfeeding. In fact, there are times that we already look like like the couple on the cover (of TIME),” she says.
The experience of breastfeeding wasn’t smooth-sailing in the beginning for Teacher Eli, but she kept at it nevertheless. “Now at two years old, I would have to say it’s probably one of the biggest and best choices I’ve made for Basti.”
It’s a well-known fact though that not all mothers can or want to breastfeed, and Teacher Eli believes they shouldn’t be condemned for it. “No one should be made to feel they’re less if they don’t breastfeed. As a breastfeeding advocate, I will always try to promote breastfeeding and its benefits to anyone I meet, but at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to be good parents. I’ve met some who express regret and guilt that they didn’t breastfeed but have learned to move past it. They have great, healthy children. No one should make them feel they didn’t do the best they could.”
To new mothers who plan to breastfeed, Teacher Eli gives this valuable advice: “Educate yourself. Be informed on the basics of breastfeeding, know what to expect, involve your support system in the decision, and keep a positive mindset.” If breastfeeding is a constant struggle for you, “Don’t hesitate to ask for help,” says Teacher Eli. “We’re fortunate that breastfeeding advice is so easy to find these days. Organizations like L.A.T.C.H., La Leche League, and the growing number of breastfeeding moms are all sources of help, guidance and information. Breastfeeding may be natural, but it’s a skill that needs to be learned and mastered by both mother and child.” In addition, she lauds moms who are already breastfeeding their babies, congratulating them on doing a good job, and urging them to “Keep it up!”
On attachment parenting, Teacher Eli gladly observes that many Filipinos already practice it. “Attachment parenting is actually not uncommon to us Filipinos. When I was reading on it, the practice sounded very Filipino and much like the way I was raised. We are a breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping family. Those three are the most obvious ways we “practice” attachment parenting, but there’s so much more to it than just that. It’s a whole philosophy built on positive discipline, nurturing, empathy, and balance. It doesn’t mean that if you don’t breastfeed, babywear or co-sleep, that you’re not an attachment parenting advocate anymore. That is what I don’t like about the TIME cover. It suggests that people who don’t do otherwise aren’t sufficiently parenting. It’s preposterous.”
Is EB for you?
Only a few mothers would continue to breastfeed their children well into their preschool years, or beyond the age of three. But while it is ultra challenging, extended breastfeeding can also be tremendously gratifying, according to Atty. Jenny Ong, a L.A.T.C.H.-accredited breastfeeding peer counselor, lawyer, and government employee.
Jenny, who is currently breastfeeding her five-month-old son Erik, recounts that she breastfed her firstborn Naima until she was three years and five months. She says that her daughter, now four, still breastfeeds occasionally –once or twice a week for five minutes or less – usually when she sees her brother breastfeeding. Here, she shares the pros and cons of extended breastfeeding.
Pros: “A big pro is the comfort that I am easily able to give my child. We love traveling and she doesn’t have any difficulty adjusting when we go to new places or meet new faces. She also easily sleeps at night, which I attribute to nursing. I also believe that she has grown to be a confident little girl because of attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding. This summer, teachers at her art school and ballet classes informed me that my daughter comforts other four-year-old classmates who are crying or do not want to be left alone during class.”
Cons: “Acrobatic positions. My daughter nurses in whatever position she feels like. Plus since she can walk and move independently, one con was when she wanted to nurse in public – she simply lifts my shirt or pulls down my top. Dealing with comments from people around me, particularly from colleagues at work, is another…what I dislike most is the comment, “She’s still nursing until now?!” with raised eyebrows and an incredulous voice.”
Jenny’s advice to moms who plan to breastfeed for as long as possible is to “Take it one day at a time. Don’t compare yourself with other moms. Each mom has a different parenting style and we all parent the best way we can to our children.” She adds that preparation, patience and perseverance are the keys to breastfeeding success. “It pays to be well read, well researched and well-informed so you can properly address the issues raised by naysayers.”