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A Conversation About Weaning 

In a discussion about breastfeeding in France the other day, I was reminded of a conversation that I had many years ago. I thought it was worth sharing.

When Julian was 21 months old, we were visiting the in-laws in France.  On this trip, and others before it, I realized that attachment parenting in general and breastfeeding in particular were not as popular in France as in Canada.

Julian was still nursing, of course, but I had mostly avoided nursing him in public on this trip because he nursed primarily at bedtime and nap time, which we could do in the privacy of our bed.

One afternoon while Julian was napping at my in-laws house, a friend of theirs, a man old enough to be my father, dropped by. We were all sitting around the kitchen table chatting when Julian woke up from his nap. I went in to get him, asked if he wanted to nurse (he didn't) and then brought him out to the kitchen.

We continued our conversation while Julian played on my lap. After a while, he started tugging at my shirt. We were in the middle of a discussion and I didn't want to excuse myself but it was obvious Julian wasn't going to give up without a fight. Unsure of what the reaction would be, I nervously put Julian to my breast and let him nurse.

And then my in-laws' friend spoke.
 My mother breastfed me too and I didn't want to give it up. Nothing she could say or do would dissuade me. One day, when I was three years old, she put dijon mustard on her nipples.

I've loved mustard ever since.

It is amazing how a quick story like that can put someone at ease. Do you have a story of a time that someone made you feel comfortable in a parenting situation where you were nervous?

Image credit: Used with permission from Desiree Fawn  (of So Fawned) on flickr.
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Reader Comments (52)

Love this story. While we hear so many stories of people being offended of us nursing in public, it is nice to read a story where we are being encouraged.

Thank you.

My father-in-law let out a genuinely delighted laugh at my 2.5yr old's exclamation that she got to nurse at bedtime and naptime a few weeks ago. No words spoken, but a definite encouragement to me. :-)

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCasey

"I've loved mustard ever since." LOL-- LOVE it!!! That is so delightful. And I agree that it's terrific to hear an encouraging story.

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWordyDoodles

Over the holidays, we were visiting my parents, and at a party they hosted, Maddy, 21 months, was asking to nurse. Everyone present were long-time family friends who have known me since childhood, so I felt it would be okay to nurse without leaving the room. One of the women (a grandma) looked at me and said, "You're still nursing? Wonderful! You're a terrific mother." Put me at ease. :)

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmie Hood

My 3.5 year old just told me today that she was going to keep nursing "until I am a big girl like you Mama"! Better get me some Dijon!

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNatural Urban Mama

When AJ was still quite small, maybe 8 or 9 mos, I was out shopping with my Mom, who did not breastfeed any of her 4 children, and on the whole is not comfortable with it. We were sitting down to lunch and I got ready to nurse AJ. Mom while uncomfortable is supportive and we went about eating. I was nervous as I had few opportunities to nurse in public, and this was the first time I had done so in Canada and was unsure how it would be received. A lady in her 60's approached me and I braced myself for what I was sure would be some detrimental comment about my nursing my child in the food court of all places. Surprisingly this lovely lady said one sentence to me: "Good for you." with a smile and carried on her way to her table.

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAli

Made an offhand comment to our pastor about how I nursed my son during the Sunday school class so I wouldn't have to do it during church. Her immediate response was "well, it's not a problem to nurse him in church." I nurse him during church every Sunday. Keeps him quiet and happy during the sermon :-)

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSara

Took the words right out of my mouth! Lovely story...

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan @ The Sacred Mother

I was on a plane nursing my then 20 month old once, and as we were taxiing to the runway, a female flight attendant came directly to my row and kneeled down in the aisle next to my seat. I immediately braced myself for confrontation, and then she smiled and said that I was welcome to continue nursing him during takeoff, or if he stopped nursing, I should hold him snugly in my lap with my arms around him. I was so surprised - and grateful!

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

I am looking for some support.
I nurse my baby to sleep and she is now 8 months old and she will soon be starting daycare. How do I make the transition of not nursing her to sleep. She will not take a bottle but she will drink from a sippy cup. however she will not drink enough from a sippy cup to stop nursing all together and give it in a cup.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTammy Levy

I look forward to a day where wonderful stories like these will become so commonplace that moms nursing in public won't have to brace themselves for verbal abuse when people approach them.

My wife is thrilled that our 18-month-old son is still breastfeeding. Seeing the joy in her eyes and the utter contentment in his while the feeding is taking place makes me wonder how people could have a problem with something so natural and sustaining.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

I love reading all these sweet comments!

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErica Douglas

The very first time I nursed in public (with my newborn son) I was at a restaurant with everyone from my husband's family. I was nervous because I was still getting the hang of everything. But my husband's 80-something year old grandpa smiled at me and said "Everyone else is eating, I guess he wants to too!" :D

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGillian

I love this story so much!

The most encouraging comment I've received was also the most unexpected. At 2 months Eryn was still incredibly fusy at the breast and nursing was generally a nightmare. Once when shopping I took her to nurse in a provided nursing room. A mother of an older nursling who was on her was out looked at us, gave a winning smile and simply said "good luck."

It made my day.

Now Eryn is 30 months (ZOMG I'm nursing at 30 months!! I just realized!), and it looks like we'll be tandem nursing with the new baby. o.O

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWood turtle

No stories of my own, just wanted to comment, what lovely story of yours and what a lovely man!

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMrs Rochester

I think you will find that because the environment at daycare is so much different, she will not have a problem taking her nap there. She will simply have different expectations. My daughter always napped "better" (ie, went down easily) at childcare, but still nursed to sleep at home (until 3.5yrs) and rarely wanted to nap for me (unless we snuggle together).
She'd also never take BM from any other vessel, but would drink plenty of water and nettle or rooibus tea in a sippy.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMandyz

I don't know if my advice will be helpful, but it might take the start of daycare to make the transition. Our second son refused to take a bottle at 4 mos,(when I would try to go to the store or out with DH). At 10 mos, If I was around he just wanted me & didn't understand why he needed a sippy cup. It might take you to go a few times & not be available for her to drink from something. I would still expect a long nursing session when she sees you again though, lol.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOneika

About a year ago I went to visit relatives I hadn't seen in almost 15 yrs. I was still nursing my daughter who was about 27 months old, as well as bedsharing, and I was really nervous because I had no idea how they felt about that kind of thing. The first thing that put me at ease was my aunt telling me when her granddaughter, the same age as my daughter, stayed overnight with her she usually rocked the little girl to sleep. My aunt said her daughter-in-law was always dismayed that the girl slept so well at grandma's and my aunt's response was, "Well, I don't let her cry and scream for hours they way she (the mother) does. I hold her and soothe her." Wow! My aunt did not do CIO!

The second thing that happened was during a discussion with my older cousin about my picky toddler. She suggested pediasure if I was worried about my daughter not eating well, and I said since I still nurse her I haven't been worried about that. My cousin didn't even bat an eye.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

I had the same experience as Mandy. My daughter never had a problem going to sleep for naps at daycare without nursing and usually naps longer there then at home. At home, she still wanted to nurse to sleep.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

My husband was always my biggest supporter. Our first son was born 8 wks early & our second son was colicky, so we had rough starts. He was there to help we nurse both of our boys. I always enjoyed him making me feel better when we went out & I had to nurse. He would reassure me that if anyone ever tried to say anything, he would deal with them.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOneika

I was on a plane with my not quite two year old. She was an avid nurser and I was a bit nervous about breastfeeding with a stranger right next to me. The woman I sat next to was a grandmother. When she saw me getting ready to nurse she said, "My daughter is nursing her third child now. Such a lot of work, and so worth it." I felt instantly at ease. Especially because the woman was older and sometimes they have a "formula was good enough for my babies attitude." So great when people are positive. They don't even have to talk about nursing though - if they are positive or just act like nothing is wrong it helps a lot.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertembi

My son just turned two a couple of weeks ago and we are still nursing, maybe even a little more than the last few months, because those back molars are coming in. He is an agressive nurser, always wanting to switch back and forth between sides several times during nursing. And he is using his teeth more and more. He understands "owie teeth", and I firmly touch his teeth through his cheek. And then he lessens for a while. But I always eventually have sore nipple and deep teeth marks. My partner is pressuring me to wean. And I know it would be a struggle. I love to breastfeed, but it's not as fun as it used to be.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBK

My husband's family doesn't "get" extended breastfeeding, although they believe firmly in "live and let live", bless them. I didn't advertise the fact in front of them that I was still bf-ing my 3-year-old, however. Then we went the Breastfeeding Challenge in Ottawa and my friend and I ended up being interviewed about the fact that we were nursing "not babies". I realized after the fact that the TV channel was likely one that they watched.

A couple of days later it was Thanksgiving at their house, and I wondered if I'd hear anything about it. I did. When we walked in the door, they cheered "Here are the TV stars! We saw you! You were great!"

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJuliette

I remember that -- I was seated a few feet away from you. :)

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I Love this story! I wish words of encouragement like this were more common. Such a cute little anecdote.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrittany

We see our community organizer for our neighborhood fairly frequently because my partner's on the community council, and we attend lots of neighborhood events. I was sitting in the back of a hearing on road construction on our street, nursing our then-16-month-old, when she quietly circled around to me. "I was a La Leche League leader and nursed my kids until they were 3 1/2 and 4," she whispered. (Her children are in their 20s now.) "I am SO delighted that you guys have a good breastfeeding relationship! Just wanted you to know that you should feel welcome to nurse as needed any time you're here. Ask me if you need anything to make it easier." I was so touched. Since then, she's asked my partner a few times how we're doing and if we're still breastfeeding well, and he's actually gotten her advice on a few problems we encountered.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Love it! I've received several really lovely comments about breastfeeding when I've been in France. Some of them from older people who--it seemed to me--remembered fondly their day when more women breastfed.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRixa

That's right! I wish I had known it at the time. You should wear a sign :P

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJuliette

Such beautiful stories! I am crying as I read this! I want to acknowledge my mom, who is now 92. She had her children, all four of us, during at time when twilight sleep was the norm for birthing and formula was the norm for infant feeding. I wasn't sure how she would react to my choosing to bf my son (now 17 yo). She helped out so much with babysitting. She never ever once said anything about it. She never ever said, "Oh I wish I could feed the baby." She always held him and took care of him and she might have thought that, but she never ever once said that. I wanted to publicly acknowledge her for that. Thanks Mom. I love you.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Morelli

That is such a sweet story! Unfortunately, I don't have any wonderful stories like that, but I also haven't faced much backlash at all for publicly nursing my now 17 month old.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterColleen

Both my boys went to sleep so easily for the daycare workers... I couldn't believe it. At home we continued nursing to sleep but they both slept great at daycare.

They were both around 13 months when they started daycare.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRae

We were living in a small village outside Geneva, Switzerland when my now-4yo was born. Next door to our house was the village restaurant, and they had this great outdoor terrace. I think D must've been just a few weeks old when we went there one afternoon, and then he got hungry so I went ahead and started nursing him. I was a bit nervous, but then I noticed the table of older women sitting nearby-- they looked over and smiled, and I heard them say something like "Isn't that beautiful?" It was just about the best nursing-in-public experience you could have hoped for. =) I got a few other smiles and "aww" reactions while nursing in public in those early months, and that really helped me feel pretty secure about nursing in public whenever and wherever I needed to.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

Lovely story, thanks for sharing it. (Me, nursing my almost 3 year old and feeling like I am in uncharted waters for me).

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterblue milk

I just love this. I'm tandem nursing my 3.5 year old and 21 month old. Wow... never thought that would be 5 years ago!! I'm now pregnant and wondering when the oldest will wean.

I've been very lucky to have a supportive partner and family. But, I remember like it was yesterday when my oldest was 4 months old and we were out with extended family at a restaurant. I was petrified about nursing in public. Plus, he didn't want to be covered. I broke out into a sweat trying to manage it. When #2 was born, what a difference!! No cover, no sweating, it's nothing to do it now.

I try to give a reassuring smile to every nursing mama I see when out and about. I love to hear about the support. So. Freaking. Awesome.

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

The sentence that says, " we nurse both of our boys", was suppose to say, " me nurse both of our boys", lol

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOneika

I helped our second son wean because of the same issues. It was hard for me, but we are doing fine now. My husband didn't pressure me to wean, but was very supportive when I did & kept reassuring me that I was doing a good job & thanking me for nursing for as long as I did. I started a blog to help me with it. I am actually doing a photography collection about mothers who breastfeed & bottle feed. If you would like to share your story, just click my name & go to my blog.

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOneika

What a great story!! After all the horrific anti-bf stories, it's nice to finally read one like this. I'm nursing my 14.5 month old with no end in sight!! :)

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa

Thanks for sharing such a nice story. I'm going to keep it in mind whenever I need a little extra support for extended breastfeeding!

My own story is quite as heartwarming, but when I think of it I'm grateful. When my son was still a small infant, we stayed at my in-laws for a bit to get some extra help. Once, he started to cry as we sat down to dinner. Even though my MIL is super supportive of breastfeeding, I was unsure about table etiquette, especially in a household of all men. Plus, I was hungry, too! Fortunately, my MIL told me she used to BF her sons at the table, too. I went ahead and let my son latch on while I enjoyed a nice meal with the family. Everyone seemed fine with it :)

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia@MaMammalia

I don't have a story to share but I wish I did! I know in taking breastfeeding photos my favourite part is hearing why the photos are so important to them.

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSara

Really love that story!

February 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

That's a great story- thanks for sharing. I'm still nursing my toddler and do get the occasional look or "How long can you nurse a baby?!" comment, so it's great to hear how nice and understanding some people can be about it!

Glad I found your blog! I hope you don't mind that I'm going to add it to my favourites on mine!

February 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMM

Thanks for the great story -- and the many others in the comments.

My MIL suggested a few times that I tried mustard to wean my 2 1/2 year old son. She's from Japan, didn't nurse her children but that's how SHE was weaned (with wasabi).
Next time she mentions it, I'll remind her that she is quite fond of wasabi :).

February 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter'Away from your crazy mom'

Geez, I think that's actually a sad story... but I guess the good part is that the man spoke openly about breastfeeding.
Still, I don't want to judge anyone's decision to wean. Pretty awesome she nursed him til age 3!

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFancy Pancakes

My son's Great-Grandmother (on his father's side).. she did not breastfeed any of her babies past a week.. none of her 9 first-order grandchildren nursed at all to past about 6 months.. and we were having a conversation about pineapple allergies.. and then somehow to me having been sick with a nasty cold a couple weeks prior.. and she asked me if my son got the cold too. I said, no, thank goodness, it was an evil cold and I sneezed on him at least a few times and had to have gotten the virus everywhere despite crazy hand-washing. I thought for sure he would catch it, but he didn't. Then she asked if I was still nursing. I bristled a little at the question wondering why she was asking, but still said, "yes, some!" and looked at her in a "why are you asking me this question?" manner. (He nurses daily still but sometimes only once and sometimes a million times. Moods!) Then, she said "It's probably because of that... the nursing I mean.. that he didn't catch your cold.." (I don't know about that, I've had other colds and he's gotten them .. though, he never has been as ill as me! hah. I am sick for a week or more he is sick for 2 days.. that might be the breastmilk ;)), I smiled and suggested that might be it and added part of it may after all have been the way I washed my hands constantly trying to keep him from catching it, but... her of all people voicing obvious and to me rather surprising support of me still nursing my 3 year old completely caught me off guard and totally made my day. :)

March 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElaine

I went out with my husband, in-laws and week and a half old daughter for our first dinner out after her birth. She, of course, decided she was hungry right as our meal arrived and after feeling nervous and a little awkward (first child, in-laws, and crowded outdoor patio), I ended up nursing her. As we stood up to leave at the end of the night, the table of 5-6 women next to us, which was clearly a Girl's Night Out, asked how old she was, then each said something along the lines of "A week and a half and already nursing in public? You go girl!" then shared how many kids they had, and talked about their nursing experiences... Still makes me tear up to think about it. Went from nervous about nursing in public to 'Of course I'll nurse in public, duh' in the space of a 30 second conversation.

March 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Great story. So sweet and obviously a fond memory. I haven't heard any reassuring stories like that, but I always appreciate a smile when I'm out and about nursing my 14 month old. She nurses a lot (doesn't eat much for solids) so I can't just stay in all the time. I try to give those same reassuring smiles if I see someone nursing in public.

March 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobbin Abernathy

Love reading all your stories -- my 3yo nurses (that's her in the pic, a while back!) and I can't imagine stopping ;)

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDesiree Fawn

My 3mo son needed to nurse in a restaurant. I was still unsure about BFing in public. My companion, my 80 year old grandfather, told me, "You know, it wasn't until these prudes came along that boobs were seen as anything other than baby food factories." It reminded me the whole point of BFing: nourish my child (who needs to eat just like the rest of us) and encouraged me to continue feeding him in public.

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAsh

It had never occurred to me to BF in public until I was 8mo pregnant at a get-together in someone's backyard. A mom there just quietly lifted her shirt and nursed her hungry baby. That model gave me the courage to do the same once my own baby had arrived. I am so thankful for having seen that natural relationship!

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAsh

My first time breastfeeding in public was at my raucous local fresh food market - very multicultural, with people from every background. I wasn't sure how the old nonnas and covered Muslim ladies (or their husbands) would take it, but I couldn't find anywhere private, and anyway I don't think cultural sensitivity (or ignorance) is a good reason to censor a healthy activity. So I went ahead. An old Greek woman began to stare. She stood staring, unmoving, for close to a minute. I squirmed and hoped she wouldn't make a scene. Finally she approached me and deafly yelled something that has kept me going through the last two years of BFing: "YOU! GOOD MAMA. YOU VERY GOOD MAMA!".

July 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicky

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