I have gotten a lot of criticism on the photos of me nursing my 3 year old son that I use as promotional materials for Leche Libre. People say I should be using images of women breastfeeding babies. My son is just too old to still be nursing at 3.
I understand this thinking. I sometimes think it myself. We're taught from a very young age that women's breasts need to be covered and hidden away from view. There is something not OK about them. Try answering a 4 year old girl why she has to wear a bathing suit which covers her nipples and her brother doesn't have to.
Socially we are taught that we should be very insecure about how we use these problematic appendages.
When I started breastfeeding my babies, I thought, I'll breastfeed publicly when they are babies because they need to eat, but I'm not going to after they're older because they do not nutritionally need it. But when I had a two year old who had hurt himself and wanted to nurse, I was stuck in this position of being socially conditioned to be uncomfortable about it versus nurturing my child. I choose to nurture my child. I've kept making that choice.
I write about empowering women, but still, I second guess myself all the time when I'm nursing my son at 3. Part of this comes from the fact that I feel myself ready to be done with nursing. I'm ready to own my own body again. But the other insidious part comes from the social comments and critiques I get all the time. The direct negative comments are few and far between but there is the constant passive aggressive commentary on the internet. I can ignore those pretty well, but then there are the "jokes" I get from friends speculating about whether my kid will need future psychiatric care because of nursing. It all adds up.
Extended breastfeeding does not damage a child. The true psychological damage, we all experience, comes from the misogynistic social environment we are raised in, which makes us fear and hate (our) female bodies. I recognize my own hesitancy about extended breastfeeding comes from a cultural bias I don't agree with and so I reject it. It must be rejected because there is NO WINNING WITH MISOGYNY. Misogyny says you shouldn't breastfeed for too long because of psychological damage but if you don't breastfeed long enough, you're not a good mom.
The only two people who should have any say in how long we nurse is the mother and child. I hope women will see the Leche Libre images and feel empowered that they should make their OWN CHOICE in this matter. If you nurse for only one week or for many years, its your choice. Leche Libre supports you!