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Mom Shamed at Girls Night Out

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

There was a recent ad going around Facebook that caused quite a stir. The photo is to promote breastfeeding in public and shows a woman on the TTC breastfeeding her toddler. I immediately hit the “love” button and then made the age old mistake of reading the comments. The first thing I noticed was that almost all of the negative reactions weren’t from men as you would expect, but were actually from other women.

They ranged from amused “I would never breastfeed on the TTC – it’s so dirty!” to the sanctimommies,“I always make sure I put my baby first and plan ahead so that I never have to breastfeed them when I’m out”, to disgusted “Ewwww..that kid is like 3 years old!! How could she still be breastfeeding him??” It was this last comment that got me the most, because it took me back to a few months ago when I was mom shamed for breastfeeding my then 19 month old daughter.

I had been trying to see my girlfriends for weeks and we finally found a date to get together before Christmas. I was off call and my husband was going to wake up with our daughter the next day, so I was planning to get my drank on. We were all having a really good time, and my friend who was pregnant was asking lots of mom questions which I did my best to answer between sips of Sauvignon Blanc.

That’s when a friend of a friend, let’s call her “Marlena” overheard us talking and exclaimed with the biggest look of shock and repulsion “You STILL breastfeed?? That is so gross”. She then went on a ONE HOUR tangent about how wrong breastfeeding a toddler is, and how right she had been to wean her own children at 11 months. Since breastmilk has “no nutritional benefits” and my daughter “should be able to settle herself without breastfeeding”, then why on earth would I continue?

Plus, Marlena continued “You’re drinking, so she’s going to drink wine tonight too?”

I was stupefied.

I started with my usual “what works for you, doesn’t work for everyone” mantra but she was on a tirade. I tried my best to debate my stance on the issue.

- That breastmilk has enormous immunological benefits.

- That babies and toddlers learn how to regulate their emotions and self soothe by a caregiver who is responsive to their needs – and this can include breastfeeding.

- That studies show breastmilk past the first year contains a ton of nutrients including fats, proteins and vitamins. That the current Canadian Paediatric Society guidelines encourage breastfeeding to two years AND BEYOND and the worldwide average for weaning is 4 years old.

- That a standard drink of alcohol is out of your system and your breastmilk in two hours. And even if you are having more than that, the amount transferred to your baby is minuscule.

But it didn’t matter what I said. Marlena clearly had issues of her own with breastfeeding and wasn’t letting it go. I ended up leaving the party early, annoyed and upset that I hadn’t articulated myself properly and in shock that another woman, and another mom would ridicule me like that.

When I was pregnant with my daughter many people asked me if I planned on breastfeeding. At the time I remember jokingly telling them that since my sister Caitlin is a Lactation Consultant, I didn’t really have a choice. The next question (and one I would hear over and over again as my daughter got older) was when I planned on weaning. “One year?” I would say, thinking that was the right answer. But one year came and went and my daughter was still very much a baby and very much attached to breastfeeding.

And you know what? I loved it to. I loved the moments of stillness in our otherwise hectic, playgroup filled days. I loved how I could get her to sleep by nursing her and usually sneak in a nap myself before putting her in her crib. I loved how when she got hurt, because my wild child gets hurt A LOT, I could calm her down with about five seconds at the breast. She got older, the months went by and we slowly cut down to about three times a day, night weaned (finally she slept through the night, something I wasn’t sure would ever happen) and I debated when and if we were ready to stop. Breastfeeding is a reciprocal relationship. This means that if one person isn’t liking the arrangement anymore, it’s time to end it. But for us, it continues to work with no real end in sight.

I advocate for breastfeeding because I know that a lot of women end their breastfeeding journey prematurely because they don’t have the right support. But I want to come right out and say that whatever way you ultimately choose to feed your baby, is YOUR choice. As a doula and breastfeeding educator in training, I try my best to educate and empower women. And I would never in my wildest dreams imagine telling someone that they are wrong for formula feeding their babies. It doesn’t matter how you feed your child or how long you breastfeed them. All that matters is that you treat them with love and respect for their unique needs.

Maybe it’s time we started treating other women in our lives in the same way.


toddler breastfeeding in public
The ad in question with a mom feeding her toddler on the TTC



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