Even before I had children, I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed. My mother had breastfed me and my siblings when we were babies, and I grew up with it being a very normal thing. I was never aware of the stigma that mothers face when breastfeeding, particularly when you decide to breastfeed beyond infancy. After I had my daughter, that changed.
I remember a particular night nurse who kept showing her disgust and general uneasiness. She would question me repeatedly.
In the early days of my breastfeeding journey, I was never shamed or given a judgmental look while feeding my children. However, as the months progressed, I was met with much criticism. When you breastfeed past a certain age, all of a sudden it becomes taboo. You're told there are no health benefits and that there's no reason to continue. People want to believe that this nutritional food, created just for your child, suddenly is no longer beneficial. But the truth is that breast milk is ever-changing to suit your child's needs.
When my daughter was nearly 3, she got appendicitis. Her appendix ruptured while in the hospital, after repeatedly being misdiagnosed. Her little body was in so much pain, and the only thing that brought her comfort was breastfeeding. She wanted to nurse nearly nonstop while we were in the hospital. I hadn't been nursing her in public much anymore, yet here I was doing it in front of nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff. I remember a particular night nurse who kept showing her disgust and general uneasiness. She would question me repeatedly. She wanted to know why I was still nursing. She persisted in asking questions every time she walked through the door. I stood my ground and explained how much it comforted my daughter, and how I would not be stopping. But really, there was no reason I needed to explain myself. I was doing what was natural . . . something that brought my daughter comfort. It brought her more comfort than the pain medication.
Our breastfeeding journey naturally came to an end shortly after she recovered from appendicitis, and I will always be grateful that our journey lasted as long as it did. If not for her nursing sessions, her hospital stay would have been even more traumatic for her. Breastfeeding can be so many things — food, comfort, a bonding experience. Something it isn't, however, is other people's business.
A friend once told me that if a child is able to ask for breastfeeding, then they're too old. She said it's gross and makes her feel uncomfortable. When you grow up without seeing breastfeeding mothers, it can be surprising when you come across one. But in no way is it gross or something a mom should avoid doing just to make other people feel more comfortable. If you have a problem with it — look away! Mothers have a right to feed their child however they wish, and that includes beyond infancy. It doesn't suddenly become gross because the child can verbalize their desire to nurse. I encourage any mother who is nursing to get out there and help normalize it. The more it's seen and witnessed, the more normal it will become.
Editor's Note: This piece was written by a POPSUGAR contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of POPSUGAR Inc. Interested in joining our POPSUGAR Voices network of contributors from around the globe? Click here.