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The Mysteries of Extended Breastfeeding: From Family Irritation to Mother-to-Mother Comparisons

Breastfeeding is a personal choice for every mother, but it often elicits strong and controversial reactions from those around them. This becomes particularly evident when breastfeeding is extended beyond the period considered “normal” by society. In this article, we will explore the reasons why extended breastfeeding can cause irritation among some family members and how it can become a subject of comparison and opposition among mothers.

  1. Social Expectations: Breastfeeding is often surrounded by social expectations, which vary across cultures and generations. When a mother chooses to breastfeed beyond the period considered “normal,” she may challenge the traditional expectations of her surroundings. Some family members may feel uncomfortable with this deviation from the norm and react with irritation.
  2. Myths and Prejudices: There are numerous myths and prejudices surrounding breastfeeding, including the belief that extended breastfeeding is harmful to the child or detrimental to the bond between mother and child. These misconceptions can lead relatives to worry and criticize extended breastfeeding, causing irritation.
  3. Societal Pressure: Society constantly exerts pressure on women regarding their role as mothers. Mothers are often judged and criticized, whether it’s for their breastfeeding choices or other parenting decisions. Breastfeeding can thus become a subject of comparison, with mothers judging and comparing themselves, leading to tensions and opposition.
  4. Personal Projections: Some family members may project their own experiences, fears, or insecurities onto a mother’s breastfeeding choices. If someone had a negative experience with breastfeeding or felt unable to extend it themselves, they may react with irritation towards a mother who makes different choices. This can also lead to comparisons and opposition among mothers.
  5. Individual Differences: Each mother has different motivations for extended breastfeeding, whether it’s for health reasons, emotional bonding, or other personal factors. These individual motivations can be difficult for relatives who don’t share the same perspective to understand. Misunderstanding can then lead to irritation and conflicts.

Conclusion: Extended breastfeeding often triggers irritation among some family members due to social expectations, myths and prejudices, societal pressure, personal projections, and individual differences. It is important to recognize that each mother makes choices that are right for her and it is crucial to respect these decisions. Instead of fostering comparisons and opposition, it is better to support and encourage mothers in their breastfeeding choices, whatever they may be, as they are always seeking what is best for their child.

My Testimony: The Challenges of Extended Breastfeeding

I have two children, and both of my pregnancies were difficult. Each time, I underwent surgery and had a cervical cerclage to preserve the pregnancies. I also spent six months on bed rest for each pregnancy, with permission to get up for only five minutes a day. These pregnancies were challenging, and the first one ended with a postpartum hemorrhage that nearly cost me my life. In order to bond with my children and due to personal conviction, I chose extended breastfeeding. While doctors and pediatricians praised my decision, the same cannot be said for my family and friends. Many were irritated and would say things like, “I couldn’t do it because I have a real job,” or “You’re going to stop at some point, right?” One of my neighbors even said, “When I lived in Italy, there were mothers breastfeeding 5-year-old kids. Is that what you want?” Apart from my parents and my husband, I received mostly negative opinions about my choice. But within those opinions, I could sense a lot of jealousy and guilt: some of my friends didn’t have the courage to endure the challenges of breastfeeding, such as engorgement and the initial difficult days, so they transitioned directly from childbirth to bottle feeding. There is a lack of understanding about the incredible mother-child bonding process that breastfeeding represents. Strangely, I cut ties with those who criticized me because they didn’t prove to be true friends. I always felt bitterness when they mentioned their abrupt transition to bottle feeding. I believe we don’t emphasize enough to young mothers that they should listen to themselves and ignore the opinions of others when it comes to parenting. Even when you advocate for what is good and right, even when you offer the best to others, there will always be some who criticize you because they have experienced frustration and can’t tolerate seeing you succeed where they failed. This is simply my opinion.

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