Woman called 'selfish' for breastfeeding her toddlers: 'Motherhood comes in many different forms'

Kate Thornalley, a mother-of-two in England says she’s been called “selfish” for breastfeeding her children as toddlers. (Photo: Facebook/Mrs. Bombastic)

Words: Elise Solé

A mother who nursed both her children into toddlerhood says the judgment against long-term breastfeeding must stop.

“Please don’t tell me that I’m only breastfeeding into toddlerhood because I’m selfish,” Kate Thornalley, 31, a stay-at-home mom in Cotswolds, England wrote in a November 22nd Facebook post with a selfie of her breastfeeding her 15-month-old daughter. “It’s absolutely not because I NEED HER TO. Don’t tell me that she is old enough to seek her comfort from elsewhere.  I don’t have some deep rooted issues and a longing to be needed by someone.  I am only doing this because SHE NEEDS IT.” 

Thornalley, whose children are three-and-a-half and 15 months old, wrote, “I continue to breastfeed when I’m ill. When I’m exhausted. When I’m touched out. When I’m having nursing aversion.  When I’m silently longing for five minutes to myself.  I continue to do it because SHE NEEDS ME. Not because I’m selfish.”

“But she’s old enough to seek her comfort from elsewhere?” she wrote. “What people often forget is, that other forms of comfort are there to replace breastfeeding. This starts from babyhood and goes right the way through childhood. Breastfeeding was not invented to replace them.”

She concluded, “And I respect that this would not be everyone’s way of doing things. I respect that the world is a very different place now.  I respect that a woman’s body is hers, so if this is not for her, she absolutely has the right to choose not to. I respect that motherhood comes in many different forms. I respect all other ways of doing things. So please could you kindly respect ours.”

Thornalley’s followers responded enthusiastically writing, “People have been trying to convince me to wean my daughter from breastfeeding as she’s ‘too big’ but in reality, when she’s cold, tired, ill or scared it’s THE perfect remedy as it brings her warm, close and into a secure place…” , “Thank you. I am exhausted from people making me feel alien for wanting to breastfeed to 2 years. He is 4 months,” and “Still nursing my 3 yr old I’m his safe haven…we have a deep bond because of it.” 

Thornalley tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she wrote the post after receiving an email from a woman whose family called her “selfish” for nursing her child beyond the age of one, a practice called extended breastfeeding that’s encouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“I was taking a walk through the woods with my kids when my youngest started fussing,” says Thornalley. “So I stuck in her a baby carrier and it was a relief to breastfeed with my free hands for my son. I took a photo while thinking of this woman.”

Calling herself an “attachment mother,” Thornalley says she’s been insulted for co-sleeping, baby-wearing, and breastfeeding. Six months ago, she launched a parenting blog called Mrs. Mombastic with posts such as “You don’t have to be perfect all the time” and “Who gives a s*** what people think?”

“When I became a mother, people said things like, ‘Breastmilk doesn’t have nutritional value beyond six months’ and ‘Your baby is just using you for emotional comfort,'” Thornalley tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “A friend also said she felt guilty for cosleeping and another called herself a ‘secret’ attachment parent.”

Thonalley breastfed her son until he was 2-and-a-half, motivated by a sense of guilt. “When my son was 6-months-old, I saw other moms breastfeeding their toddlers and thought, ‘There’s no way I could do that! Age one is the cut-off point,'” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Then while pregnant with my daughter, I went through something called ‘nursing aversion’ — I detested breastfeeding and I felt like a terrible person,” she says. “But it still didn’t feel right to stop.”

Once her daughter was born, Thornalley wanted to stop nursing her son however she continued in order to help assuage his sibling jealousy until he naturally self-weaned.

Thorneallay says people with and without children, including men, have all expressed surprise by her parenting style, but she doesn’t cast blame in return. “I’ve been told that people who judge are lacking happiness in their own choices, but I think there’s a fear of the unknown,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Far from selfish, breastfeeding is a selfless act.”


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