What Should You Say And When Should You Tell?

08.26.10: How to handle comments, secrets and news


I got the sweetest email from Lisa. She wants to know what she should say when people ask when she’s going to stop nursing her 2-year-old. She’s happy, her toddler’s happy and her fiancé’s happy. It’s everyone else who has a problem. I don’t suppose telling them to “mind their own damn business,” is really Lisa’s style.

Women all over the world nurse well into the second year and beyond. What’s the big deal? Frankly, I don’t know. It’s hard enough to get women in the US to nurse for 6-months. Anything beyond that and women ought to get a prize. I nursed most of mine for a year or two and only quit when my babies and I were ready.

There was a very old woman I chatted with as I nursed my daughter in the park. My daughter was two-ish and just not ready to let it go yet. The woman said, “Good for you sweetie. You nurse as long as you want. She’s not going to go off to grade school nursing so you might as well enjoy it now.” I loved that old woman. I used that advice for lots of things: They’re not going to go off to grade school ____(nursing, in diapers, waking up every two hours, holding their blanket, etc…. fill in the blank with whatever you want). When they’re in grade school and doing something “iffy,” just tell yourself, “They’re not going to go off to high school ____. Then bump it up to college. After that, you could amend it to: their first job, their wedding, the retirement center.

Her point was, don’t worry about what this child might be doing a few years from now or what anybody else thinks about it. She’s doing fine right now. So Lisa, I suggest the next time someone asks you that annoying question; you say: “I don’t know. He’s not going to go off to grade school nursing so I’m just going to enjoy it now.” Then, you and your baby decide when it’s time.

For one of my kids, it was time when she figured out how to unbutton my blouse in the grocery store. For another, it was when I was pregnant with another baby and couldn’t quite manage double nursing and working nights. Another called it quits when he was almost two, too busy to be slowed down by the breast when he could grab a cup to go.

With my last baby, we had to quit when she was only three months old and I got cancer. Turns out, chemo and breastfeeding aren’t much of a happy meal. Even then, women said, “Breast is best, you know.” Once or twice, when I was particularly bitter, nauseous or exhausted I’d snipe back – “not when you have cancer, lady.” Boy-oh-boy, that shut them up. Sometimes, I wanted to say, “mind your own damn business.” Mostly, I didn’t have the energy to answer their snide remarks or invest in their so-called concerns. I just let it go. If you can do that too, Lisa, you’re probably the better person for it. Bottom line – nursing a toddler is normal, healthy and fine as long as you’re both happy with it.

A friend just spilled her big secret. She’s more than three-months pregnant with a surprise baby. She wanted to make sure her early-pregnancy genetic testing was normal before sharing her news. She’s over 40 and knew if anything were seriously wrong, she’d have some big decisions to consider. You never know what people will say about that and she wanted to keep her pregnancy private until she was out of the woods. It’s personal. It’s intimate. It’s not really something she needed to hear a lot of opinionated chatter about. Not until she was darn good and ready.

The other reason she kept it quiet was because our daughters are very best, tightest, closest, friends forever. The kind that split necklaces; one wearing half a heart that says “best” and the other wearing the half that says “friends.” For little girls, news like this is too good to keep. When my friend told her daughter the news, there was so much jumping, squealing, laughing and dancing; I’m sure the neighbors are now in on the secret.

Of course, her daughter had to tell my daughter lickety-split. They clasped hands and jumped up and down until they fell down giggling. Then, they grabbed markers and made a long, color-coded list of baby names. Their favorites were decorated with stars. Here they are: Mollie, Bonnie***, Amber, Clementine, Opal***, Beckie **(no, not Rebecca), Dottie, Penny, Candy, Taffy, Susie…the list goes on and yes, there were hearts dotting every i. Odd but my friend wasn’t as crazy about those names as our girls. My advice: don’t tell anyone what names you’re thinking about until the baby is born and it’s a done deal. Then, no one with any common sense will say, “Oh I knew a mean dog with that name.” They’ll just nod and say, “Why that’s just wonderful.”

Women usually know what’s best for themselves and their children. They just have to trust their own voices and ignore the chatter.

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to labornurse@fitpregnancy.com and it may be answered in a future blog post.

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.