If you ask question about breastfeeding on social media or post a picture of yourself nursing, it’s a sad fact that you should be prepared for an onslaught of shaming.
Irish Blogger and comedian Riona O’Connor shared an image of herself breastfeeding her four-year-old son on Facebook a couple of days ago—and was met with accusations of bad parenting. O’Connor shared the image to celebrate her son’s birthday.
“I never thought that when the midwife first laid him on my breast that I would still be doing this for years later. I was innocent and clueless and fully prepared for it not to work out. The biggest surprise was that it did and that it’s given me a sense of pride and joy I didn’t think was possible,” O’Connor wrote in the caption.
“Jesus is there any need to breastfeed still he’s going to be starting school soon how embarrassing for him,” wrote one follower.
“Breastfeeding is natural and beautiful, but I hate when mums extend it until the kid is old enough to eat a steak. That’s sick. A kid needs to grow and cut the cord. They can’t be babies forever,” wrote another.
Nursing is already such an emotionally fraught, intimate, and complicated act without all the editorializing. When I gave birth, I remember being almost more concerned with lactating than with welcoming my son into the world. There were books, breastfeeding consultants, specialists, and—to my eventual horror—the Mommy Boards. Everyone had an opinion.
The only opinions that matter is your own, your doctor’s, and your child’s.
Luckily, O’Connor had way more support than not. Mothers flocked to her post to share their breastfeeding journeys and birthday wishes.
“I couldn’t do this, I struggled with breast feeding try though I might. But it is so beautiful seeing you do mothering this way. Look at your gorgeous wee man.. so contented. I love watching mothers do parenting proudly their own way. We should all be cheering each other on.”
Other followers used the space to talk about their anxieties about breastfeeding and praise O’Connor for challenging others’ preconceptions about nursing.
“I still remember days of hiding breastfeeding my just shy of 3 year old to sleep out of fear of ridicule. Wish I had the strong mental health that I do now 3 years ago to have just confidently done it,” wrote one follower.
“You’re amazing my friend!! Happy Birthday to your wee man and keep fighting the stigmas and making us all feel great!”
Many mothers stop nursing due to lack of support, health issues, or other difficulties. When and why a mother chooses to stop—or continue—nursing is her business. O’Connor’s photograph is helping to normalize nursing in a society that is still unfortunately squeamish about women’s bodies. Ultimately, we need to empower women to make the choices best for their health and the needs of their child—and stop with the shaming.