Every now and then someone likes to stoke the flames and make wild claims perpetuating myths about breastfeeding. Today I read an article called 15 Negative Effects of Breastfeeding Too Long. I will not link it here because this so-called article doesn’t deserve extra clicks, in my opinion. I still wanted to go ahead and address the many harmful myths shared by posts like that.
Let’s start with the headline. “Negative Effects of Breastfeeding Too Long”.
The article itself touts the benefits of breastfeeding, and last time I checked there are ZERO inherently dangerous effects of breastfeeding. And there’s certainly no such think as ”Breastfeeding too long”. While the title of the article itself should be the waving red flag, we start to read and see that the article is truly stuffed with keywords and promos for breastpumps and other retail ads. So essentially, off the bat, we can tell this click-bait article was written to create fear around breastfeeding, and offer a solution that costs you money but doesn’t actually support breastfeeding mothers or babies.
Despite the obvious red flag, red flag, red flag, some moms might be tempted to read through the list of “negative effects of breastfeeding”. So I figured I’ll address each of these “negative effects” with the truth.
Extended Wait Time Between Pregnancies
Breastfeeding can delay menstruation for many women. This is called lactational amenorrhea. Some women begin to ovulate around 6+ months after giving birth, others may not ovulate until after they have stopped breastfeeding altogether. For some women this can mean breastfeeding delays their period and ovulation for up to 2 years or more.
This is how our bodies were designed. While there are wide variations of normal, if God designed your body not to reproduce while you’re breastfeeding, then that’s exactly what your body needs. While you may desire more children without such a long gap between, this is an opportunity for learning to accept God’s will for your family and discerning if you’re open to weaning to jump start a return of fertility. That said, many women do become pregnant while breastfeeding! Learn more about the risk of pregnancy while breastfeeding here.
Breastfeeding Can become Painful
The original article claimed that while sore nipples are typically related to bad latch, breastfeeding a toddler hurts because they have teeth and bite. Check out this article to learn more about painful latches and breastfeeding a baby with teeth.
By the time your toddler is breastfeeding, sore nipples might occur once in a while as they are teething, however, they rarely bite while breastfeeding. Often, sore nipples when breastfeeding a toddler are a sign of pregnancy.
Mom loses her freedom
Being a breastfeeding or formula feeding mom is exhausting. It doesn’t matter how you feed your baby, one thing rings true: you, as a parent, will lose some of your freedom. Your life is not your own anymore. Breastfeeding does not make that any more factual than formula feeding. The original article laments that breastfeeding mothers must stick to strict feeding schedules and over-plan for outings. This couldn’t be more inaccurate. While planning for outings does exist, if you’ll be away from baby, you have options. Also, as long as breastfeeding is going well, Traveling with a breastfed baby is frequently considered much easier than traveling with a bottle fed baby that reqhires a bag full of feeding equipment on the go.
F*&% societal opinions on breastfeeding.
Breastfed babies are more dependent.
The original article claims one of the wildest myths of all times: breastfeeding your baby too long will make your baby too dependent.
Human babies are dependent upon adults. Period. Dot. End of story. Breastfed babies are not more dependent than babies fed by other methods. In fact, breastfeeding helps create a strong and healthy attachment during the formative years that leads to a more well regulated and secure child, adolescent, teenager, and adult.
The next ridiculous claim the original article made is that you can’t care for your other children if you’re busy breastfeeding. Now I can only speak for myself, but once again, I feel like breastfeeding actually makes it EASIER to care for other children. As a mother of four, breastfeeding my younger children has not made it any more difficult to parent my older children, because, once again, mothering is hard no matter what. There’s no reason to make it harder by telling a mother that choosing to breastfeed her youngest will make her a worse mother to her other children. How sick.
The article continues to lament “The longer you practice a habit, the harder it is to quit“ which means weaning a toddler will be undoubtedly harder than weaning an infant.
Breastfeeding is not “a habit”.
Breastfeeding is not a “habit”
BREASTFEEDING IS NOT A HABIT.
Furthermore, again, I’m speaking as a mom here, not a Lactation Consultant, but I find weaning a toddler to be much easier than weaning a younger baby. Weaning is hard no matter what. No reason to stress yourself more.
Perhaps the most disturbing claim the article makes is that breastfeeding your toddler will encourage them to ask awkward questions and even touch others inappropriately. Every mother I know who breastfeeds her toddler has 1. Demystified breasts and 2. been an excellent teacher of boundaries and consent. Children who are raised around breastfeeding are actually less awkward than children who have never seen breastfeeding and then are exposed to it.
The article goes on to talk about all kinds of unfounded breastfeeding concerns including rumors about breastfeeding mothers needing to limit their diets, avoid medications, and even went so far to say that toddlers who are breastfed will likely be malnourished! One of the most entertaining claims is that a Lactation Consultant supposedly claimed that breastfed babies lack the ability to self soothe and will never be able to develop it because of breastfeeding. Any self respecting lactation consultant understands healthy attachment and knows this to be false.
Don’t fall victim to fear based marketing toward new mothers.
Articles like this one are clearly for one reason: fear based marketing. However, despite the red flags and bogus “facts”, articles like this are all over the internet. When you’re a tired pregnant mama or exhausted new mom looking for advice on breastfeeding, the last thing you need is to stumble across a garbage article perpetuating breastfeeding myths. In fact, I’ll be sure to do some deep dives into a few of these topics to reassure you that breastfeeding your baby is a wonderful decision that you deserve to be supported in.
Remember too, that almost any breastfeeding challenge has a solution if you have the right support system. Connect to your support team. Breastfeeding challenges are real and can be overcome, but they are not usually reasons you shouldn’t breastfeed.
Instead of scouring the internet for answers, use the internet to connect with truly supportive peers and providers! If you’re looking for advice breastfeeding, make sure you follow me on instagram @littlebearbirthservices . I offer free tips and tricks on social media and my blog, free resources in The Mama Bear Resource Library, online breastfeeding classes, and online lactation support.
What breastfeeding questions do you have?
Jaimie Zaki is a homeschooling mother of four dedicated to supporting women through their motherhood journey by supporting them during pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding as an IBCLC (Lactation Consultant) and Doula.