I wrote about the first ten months of breastfeeding my son in March 2011. My closing comments were: ‘I am looking forward to continuing to breastfeed Ewan as he grows into a toddler [… ] Like all journeys I am not aiming for the destination but the experience along the way. This journey so far has taught me more than I ever imagined, about myself, my baby, our amazing bodies, our culture, and opened me up to new ways of seeing’. Continue reading Mothering Through Breastfeeding Part Two: Ten to eighteen months→
Our babies are born with the same desires as a baby born in Stone Age times. It is our environment and culture which has so radically changed, affecting how we parent our children today. Living in a fast-paced, materially and technologically driven age we need more than ever to listen to our inner voice, for the sake of our children’s and our own wellbeing.
I am bringing up my son, Ewan, in the 2010’s in modern day Britain. However, in as many ways as possible I parent him as our Stone Age ancestors once did. This includes baby-wearing, sustained breastfeeding and baby-led weaning, bed-sharing, using natural toiletries and medicines and attempting elimination communication (also called potty or natural toilet training). Continue reading Reflections on the Continuum Concept→
I like to call breastfeeding past one year ‘sustained breastfeeding’, a term used by many in the breastfeeding community, including Anne Sinnott, which she discusses in her book ‘Breastfeeding Older Children’. Other terms, such as extended or long-term breastfeeding, carry the assumption that it isn’t ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ to breastfeed past one year. The term ‘full-term breastfeeding’ can also be used, meaning the child nurses until the point he/she naturally weans.
Whilst breastfeeding toddlers and pre-schoolers is a normal biological human behaviour, and common on a worldwide basis, it is a rare, often cloistered and misunderstood activity in much of the West, in particular the UK and the US. The reasons for this are complex and beyond the scope of this post, however, culture has a huge part to play in the rarity of this practice.
Welcome to the June edition of Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Vacation and Travel.
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting. This month our participants are sharing ideas, inspiration and information on travel and vacations! Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I could write a book or two about travelling; however, aware of my audience, I shall attempt to be brief!
The travelling bug
I have been described as a ‘roamer’ and a gypsy because of how much travelling I do. Indeed, I cannot sit still for long and love to explore. Perhaps this is why my son is so active, and why I married a fell runner and climber! I caught the travelling bug after completing a gap year at the age of 18, where I lived in Nepal, teaching Tibetan refugee children. This was a life-changing experience, which has greatly influenced my life choices. When I met Rich, my future husband, we pursued our shared love of mountaineering and travelling by escaping to the mountains of Wales, Scotland and France as often as possible. On graduating, disenchanted by a stressful job in London, I moved to Vietnam to teach English in Hanoi. Living in Vietnam gave me the opportunity to travel a lot in South East Asia. Richard joined me as part of his sabbatical from IBM, where we travelled together round Vietnam, China, Nepal and Tibet, before returning to the UK, where we shortly after got married, spending our honeymoon in Kenya and Zanzibar.
My son is my greatest teacher. In our first meeting our eyes locked as he looked, all knowing and serene, into my eyes shining with wonder. He communicated, with a depth amazing for a newborn, that it was all OK, that he would show me the way. Each and every day he keeps this first unspoken promise, teaching me to listen to him and to my mothering instincts, to really trust nature.
There are moments when I am swayed by mainstream society, becoming a sheep plodding along the well trodden, comfortable path, craving approval, normality and recognition. At such times all I must do is stop, question, and look to my son to steer me back to the right path. Yet this path is little travelled in this modern age, weeds tangle and knot as tree trunks lie haphazardly blocking the way, ancient wisdom and primordial practices, half lost, so difficult to find amongst the debris.
Walking this lonely path I eagerly look for other like-minded souls. I find a few and stumble upon others who are supportive and appreciative of this alternative style, even if they choose not to practice it themselves. I also begin to search the virtual world, one of the many wonders of our modern age, sharing my parenting style through writing. I find a growing online community who listen, applaud and reflect on my words, as I in turn listen and learn from theirs.
Support groups are also a lifeline to me, one an informal weekly meeting between local mum friends, the other a local La Leche League group. I also find wisdom in natural parenting literature, including research about the benefits of attachment parenting, which helps affirm my belief what I am doing is right. My cousin recently pointed out that my parenting is an example of research-based practice, which to a certain extent is true, although my son is by far greatest teacher, research often backs-up my practice.
I have made breastfeeding ‘the entire focus of [my] life’
This is wholly untrue. Nursing is a significant and integral part of my life, because it is one of the main ways I mother my child. However, it is not the focus of my life. It is one part of the whole, a part which enriches our lives, makes life easier and happier for us both.
I clearly have no time to inspire him with my efforts ‘to passionately pursue interests that can open up’ his mind to‘his own life possibilities’
This is an outlandish preposition. I hardly know where to start to defend nursing mothers from this slanderous attack. How you can equate breastfeeding with narrowing the life possibilities of their children is beyond me, but somehow you have managed to. Many women who choose to practice sustained breastfeeding are brave, passionate, strong women, who make the decision to carry-on beyond the prescribed social norm because of their convictions and knowledge of the many benefits. This in itself is a fantastic role model to follow, which cannot be faulted.
I have to carry Ewan ‘every single minute of the day’, and I ‘need to sleep with’ him in my bed, ‘even at risk of suffocating or crushing’ him.
I do not have the time or space to explore the fascinating topics of baby-wearing and bed-sharing in this post. Both these accusations again display your ignorance of attachment parenting. You are extreme in your views because you know so little about these behaviours, which again have been practiced for millennia and are still common in much of the world. Both baby-wearing and bed-sharing are hugely misunderstood aspects of human behaviour; bed-sharing like sustained breastfeeding a cultural taboo in our society, baby-wearing often viewed as a ‘hippy’ activity which few ‘normal’ parents would choose to do with the option of a pushchair available. These are highly variable, complex activities which cannot easily be pigeon-holed or judged.
I am ‘slavishly devoting literally’ my ‘entire daily life’ to ‘nursing and nurturing’ my son. I have no life outside of this.
These are preposterous, misinformed views. You need to find out a little about nursing toddlers and pre-schoolers before making such statements. Then you would know that as children grow up they nurse less and less. This makes it entirely possible for nursing mothers to spend huge amounts of the day and/or night away from their children if this is what they desire. Even when we are with our nurslings, we spend a lot of time NOT nursing them, just as any non-nursing mother would.
Please, also dpend a little time with a nursing mother to see the amount of tasks she completes without her child. It is entirely possible to work full or part-time and practice sustained breastfeeding. How is it that I am such an active person leading a fulfilled life, if I am breastfeeding my son? My life is filled with writing part time, with yoga, running, cooking, cleaning, running a household and caring for my son and husband, going out with my friends and family, reading, going on the internet, speaking on the telephone, travelling in the UK and abroad. Breastfeeding is far from a slavish devotion in my life.
I chose to put my career on hold before my son was born; this decision had very little to do with nursing him, more to do with financial security without a second wage as well as the desire to be with my child as much as possible in the early years.
Please, spend a little time with my son to get a feel of how his days are. He does not choose to feed for very long or very frequently, he is busy discovering the world, exploring as all toddlers are, secure in the knowledge he can return to me for nourishment and nurturing when it fits into both of our routines.
I spend my days ‘just sit[ting] around on the couch or on the floor playing with’ my son. I have given up my ‘career to breastfeed and slavishly devote every minute of [my] day to physically touching’ him.
This could not be further from the truth. I am an active person who rarely sits down unless it is necessary. Nursing takes up such a small part of my day. Ewan and I do a lot of activities together, but the majority of these are simple tasks which I do everyday which Ewan follows, observes or imitates, such as gardening, cooking or hanging up the washing. We rarely find time to simply play on the floor together. To say that as an attachment parent I spend my entire days touching my son is absurd. This is a simplistic, offensive and stereotyped view which has no bearing in reality. Parents who practice attachment parenting are just parents; we are as varied as any other group of people.
Even when I am nursing we can still do other tasks. I can write, read, speak on the phone and use the internet, when feeding. I carry Ewan in a sling and do basic household tasks, or go for walks, whilst feeding him. I am not chained to the sofa at home, but am out and about, or I am at home getting on with life, whilst feeding him. Or I choose to actually have a sit down and take a well needed breather whilst he nurses. Or I sit in the sunshine and relax for a few minutes, something we all need to do from time to time.