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Enough With The Mom Shame. I’ll Breastfeed As Long As I Want

And I’ll scroll Facebook while I’m doing it, too.
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I still breastfeed my 14-month-old son.

Not exclusively, obviously. My son can crush a bowl of mac and cheese like a college kid after a night of drinking. And our daycare provider regularly boasts about how my precious baby will wolf down two to three full servings of enchiladas in a single sitting. In fact, my son is such an enthusiastic eater — shovelling food into his mouth with such gusto — that I often have to pull his entire fist out of his throat at mealtimes lest he swallow that, too.

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But on top of all that, like a lot of mothers with babies past the age of one, I still breastfeed. That news shouldn't alarm anyone. After all, the World Health Organization now recommends that women breastfeed their children until age two and beyond.

And yet, as with most parenting decisions, I often find myself defending or, at best, explaining that choice (is it even a choice if my child throws a sh*tfit every morning and night, screaming like a car alarm going off until I pop a boob out?) to family, friends and (best of all) strangers. Recently, another mom wrote that shaming a breastfeeding mom is a form of sexual harassment.

As a lifestyle and parenting editor, and an avid news consumer, I'm constantly inundated with the latest studies, reports and trends related to child-rearing. As a mother, I'm constantly judged for how I choose to use (or not use) this information. All mothers are. It's included in the price of admission to the parents' club. Shame is handed out right after the mom jeans.

Not everyone will agree with my choices, and that's fine.

A 2017 study found that 60 per cent of moms report they've been shamed for their parenting choices, whether it's by family, other moms or social media comments. Discipline, eating and sleeping behaviours, and breastfeeding topped the list of finger-wagging topics, and 42 per cent who reported being shamed said it caused them to question their own parenting choices.

Shame is everywhere. It's on the playground, where a sympathetic grandma recently clucked that my son was too young to start full-time daycare when I told her I was going back to work. It's in the indirect judgment from friends who announce they've decided not to post images of their babies on social media — since it invades their privacy — as I gleefully and unapologetically spam Instagram with photos of my son frolicking in pumpkin patches. It's on Facebook, where I had to change my name following the outcry over an article about how I focus less attention on my cat now that I've birthed a human child (yes, I've been cat-mom shamed, too).

And it's certainly in the news, where stories about how much screen time we should allow for our children, the detriments of parental alcohol consumption, PSAs on distracted parenting (thank you very much, Will Ferrell), and studies on how extended breastfeeding can cause tooth decay dominate.

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I'm not saying these studies aren't important. I certainly read them, and — as a journalist — I often write about them. But what parents decide to do with this information is largely their own business, as long as it's not going against medical advice.

On some parenting points — those directly related to the safety of my own child — I do not waver. Car seats. Vaccines. Baby proofing. But on pretty much everything else, I'm a firm follower of the "do whatever works for you and your child" parenting style.

Not everyone will agree with my choices, and that's fine.

Not everyone had a baby that woke up screaming every 20 to 45 minutes overnight, every night, for nearly seven months until they finally gave in and sleep trained (*collective sharp intake of breath*), either. Not everyone was so sore and exhausted from the after-effects of a third-degree tear during childbirth that their baby had a favourite character from "The Wiggles" (*gasp* but the screen time!) before he could even crawl.

I'm just figuring out what works for me as I go along. And so is every other parent.

And do I even need a reason to occasionally scroll Facebook while I spoon-feed my son applesauce? Wasn't Generation X, of which I'm just on the cusp, the least-parented, least-nurtured generation in history?

I learned this last factoid from a new Netflix show, which I watched while drinking two glasses of wine (yep) while my sleep-trained child (yep) dozed in the crib in his nursery, where he sleeps on his stomach (*waves smelling salts*), no matter how many times I put him down on his back.

As far as extending breastfeeding goes: I didn't set out to be the boob-slinging milk truck to a wriggling toddler with the agility of a gymnast and six sharp teeth, but here I am.

I'm just figuring out what works for me as I go along. And so is every other parent.

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