By Rebecca Drew
THIS YOUNG mum’s decision to breastfeed in public has been called a ‘BOOB SHOW’ by her own family and attracted DMs from men with creepy fetishes online.
Stay at home mum, Anna Carthy (22), from Renfrew, Ontario, Canada, fell pregnant with her son, Winn, who is now 18 months old when she was 19, and Anna knew immediately that she wanted to try breastfeeding.
Anna didn’t know any other young mums who breastfed their children and she felt that healthcare professionals sometimes doubted her ability to nurse her son after he was born via c-section, as she wasn’t actively encouraged to do so.
This only made Anna want to breastfeed even more and she started to post pictures on social media to inspire, support, and educate other women about breastfeeding.
As Winn grows older, Anna has found that people are increasingly judgemental of her decision to continue breastfeeding, with one extended family member calling the natural act a ‘boob show’. Other people have told her that nursing her son is gross now that Winn is of an age where he can ask for milk himself, and she has even received a string of creepy messages from men on social media regarding her extended breastfeeding who say that they are jealous of her son.
These comments aren’t going to put Anna off doing something she feels will give her son the best start in life. She has no plans to stop breastfeeding and feeds Winn on demand, in public, and at home, whenever he is hungry – sometimes upwards of 10 times a day.
She hopes that by sharing her story, she’ll be able to empower other women.
“I think I always wanted to ‘try’ [breastfeeding] as people say, though I was made to feel as though there was a good chance I would fail,” said Anna.
“At first, it was a little uncomfortable, feeling kind of exposed and having nurses grabbing your breasts to help you learn is awkward, but I quickly overcame this and have felt completely comfortable since.
“It was definitely daunting, I knew some mums who breastfed, my own mum and stepmum for example, but I had never seen any, or very many, of my peers who were mothers do it.
“So while I knew it was possible, I was unsure if it would be possible for me. Even after my emergency c-section, they said I ‘may not want to’, which was discouraging to say the least.
“The reactions I’ve got are fairly positive, and those that were uneducated before quickly changed their thinking.
“This being said, there are some family members of my son’s father who said: ‘Oh we better leave before the boob show’ in reference to feeding my son, and have also asked me to nurse in a different room if I visit their house. They’ve commented on my posts, asking why it can’t be ‘a private thing’.
“It definitely made me upset, especially considering it came from an elderly male. The same man said that my son breastfed too often and needed a bottle, he was unsupportive in general, and refused to let me openly nurse in their house.
“It made me upset and feel objectified, and as though he was sexualising me and my child – especially considering he made that comment in my house which is a safe place. He made me even more determined to change people’s views on nursing.
“When Winn was small even well-meaning friends and family said: ‘I fully support breastfeeding but it’s weird once the kid can walk and ask for it’ or ‘it’s weird once they have teeth’.
“These people though aren’t openly negative towards me now, most of the time, though I and other extended nursing parents do often face criticism online.
“For the most part, my posts have been well received – though I’ve received some creepy messages on Instagram regarding breastfeeding, which is another disgusting thing entirely.
“Some of those include things like; ‘what a lucky baby’, ‘I’m jealous of that baby’ and ‘I wish I could be on your boob all night’.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend that children are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life and state that it is safe for children to still be breastfed past the age of two years – despite some societal misconceptions.
Anna refuses to let these messages get her down and she intends to continue breastfeeding Winn until he no longer wants breastmilk.
She hopes to inspire other mums but she respects mums who don’t wish to or are not able to feed their children in the same way.
“Nursing a young child has its difficulties – nipples cracking, regulating milk, latch. Nursing an older child has its own difficulties – it’s demanding, sometimes it’s emotionally draining for me to have another human trying to touch me so often so we are learning boundaries,” she added.
“He’s strong and sometimes he wiggles like a worm so I have to try and teach him to stay still because it hurts and he’s learning.
“There are many misconceptions about breastfeeding an older kid – in particular, for one, people think it’s completely abnormal. In some cultures it’s extremely common, and even here, it’s more common than people know but often parents keep quiet about it.
“My main goal is to show other mums it is possible, even if you’re young, and you can still be cool, fun, and yourself. Another major goal to open up a line of conversation so other people can message me and learn and ask questions and find support in their journey
“The two biggest things in being successful in nursing is education and support. I feel like people who want to nurse often fail just because they don’t have the education or support to be successful.
“So often you hear people say they couldn’t breastfeed and these parents often beat themselves up, and don’t understand why they couldn’t. In reality, nearly ninety-five per cent of women can breastfeed – women often lose supply because they don’t have all the information.
“Your body makes as much milk as a baby takes. Your body tailors your supply to baby’s needs. Sometimes, baby is given a bottle and mum does not pump, so the body doesn’t realise it’s time to make more, and thus there’s no milk for when the baby needs it.
“While breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok, it has many benefits and should be considered a positive thing.”