Partner Pressure To Wean
Pressure to stop breastfeeding before you and your child are ready is common.
It can come from multiple sources such as family, friends and even health professionals.
Pressure to wean is probably the most stressful when it’s received from your partner. After all, your partner is the person who is with you most of the time and who shares almost every aspect of your life.
You may have heard things like:
“He's too old to keep breastfeeding. He should just be eating real food like all other children his age.”
“You are just continuing for your own gratitude. You are making him turn into a dependent and diffident child.”
“I get a say in this too! He is not just your son.”
Such words can really taint your memories of the breastfeeding relationship with your child and create a great source of tension in your family unit.
So, what do you do if your partner wants you to wean before you and your child are ready?
What Leading Health Organisations Recommend
Leading health organisations around the world such as the World Health Organization, Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and America’s Academy of Pediatrics all recognise the importance of mutual weaning.
For example, the NHMRC indicates, “It is recommended that infants are exclusively breastfed until around 6 months of age when solid foods are introduced, and that breastfeeding is continued until 12 months of age and beyond or for as long as the mother and child desire”.
Importance Of Partner Support Recognised
These organisations also recognise the importance of partner support to breastfeeding.
For example, the NHMRC indicates “Fathers can influence the initiation of breastfeeding, contribute to maternal breastfeeding confidence, and influence decisions about duration and weaning. Without fathers’ support, there is probable evidence that duration of breastfeeding is likely to be shorter.”
Having the support of such organisations to continue breastfeeding may provide you with some solace. However, some of this solace may be lessened by these authoritative statements being a source of aggravation for your partner who may feel his or her opinion should carry greater leverage because it’s his or her child too.
Again, what do you do if your partner wants you to wean before you and your child are ready?
Here are five tips:
#1: Learn Together
It helps if you can be clear in your own mind about your ideas about weaning. Being clear in your own mind can help you be able to communicate your views more easily to your partner.
It may be you are committed to child-lead weaning and feel the decision to wean should come from your child, when he is ready, in his own time.
You may have come to the above view based on what you have researched about the importance of breastfeeding for as long as is mutually desired by mother and child. You may understand that many of the health outcomes associated with infant feeding is dose dependent, meaning that the shorter the duration of breastfeeding the poorer the outcome. You may fully comprehend about how breastfeeding is so much more than just about nutrition. Breastfeeding is also nurturing.
Perhaps even more valuable than your partner hearing from you about what you have researched, it can help to encourage your partner to do his/her own research about it and discover it for him/her self.
After each of you has researched, it can help to thoughtfully share what you’ve learnt with each other.
#2: Ascertain The Reasons
Figuring out reasons why your partner wants you to wean is important. If a specific reason(s) are found, this can then lead to specific things being done to help.
Does your partner feel the breastfeeding relationship you have with your child means you have less time for your relationship with him/her? If this is the case, there may be times you could mutually agree on to set aside to devote to each other without your child present.
Does your partner feel embarrassed by you breastfeeding your child? Perhaps the research your partner hopefully undertakes will help counter this feeling.
If your partner’s demands to wean feel like they are consuming you or feel threatening, seek professional help such as from a marriage counsellor (particularly one who understands the importance of breastfeeding).
#3: The Role Of The Sexualisation Of Breasts
Our society has a lot of growing up to do with regards to breastfeeding. Unfortunately, our society sees breasts largely as sex objects. Ironically, time and time again we see photos of naked women everywhere and people barely flutter an eyelid. But, see a mother breastfeeding in public, well that can be a completely different ‘issue’!
It may be your partner is caught up in many of our society’s flawed views about breastfeeding. It can take many generations until flaws are overcome. The steps you take now can affect your children and your children’s children and so on. You can be a world changer. One child at a time.
#4: Support Is Paramount
Feeling a lack of support from your partner can feel isolating and overwhelming. Hence, finding support in other ways becomes even more important.
Breastfeeding support organisations such as the Australian Breastfeeding Association and La Leche League offer many different options for breastfeeding support such as a breastfeeding helpline, local support groups and online forums. There are also some Facebook pages/groups that specifically support mothers who breastfeed older children (e.g. The Brave Breastfeeder, Evolutionary Parenting or Southern Natural Parenting Network etc).
Perhaps you have some supportive friends or other family members. It can help to spend as much time as possible with those around you who are supportive of your breastfeeding relationship with your child.
It’s important to know you are not alone in your experiences. You can discover this when you seek support in the above ways.
Likewise, your partner may find it helpful to reach out for support too. For example, many partners find Darren Mattock’s Becoming Dad extremely helpful. See BellyBelly's recommended Facebook pages for dads.
#5: Be Kind To Yourself
While you traverse these difficult times, be sure to look after yourself first and foremost. Surround yourself with those who give you strength and courage and do things that give you strength and courage too.
Eating well and exercise are a huge part of feeling good about yourself.
Breastfeeding is a chapter in life that is over in but a blink of an eye. This is true, no matter how long you breastfeed for. As leading health organinsations acknowledge, breastfeeding should continue for ‘for as long as the mother and child desire ‘. Hopefully this article will help encourage your partner to discover the real value and importance of the breastfeeding relationship you have with your child.