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Monday, February 28th, 2011

Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan

By
mongolian_breastfeeding/ Eva Lemonenko - Fotolia.com

In Mongolia, there’s an oft-quoted saying that the best wrestlers are breastfed for at least six years—a serious endorsement in a country where wrestling is the national sport. I moved to Mongolia when my first child was four months old, and lived there until he was three.

 

Raising my son during those early years in a place where attitudes to breastfeeding are so dramatically different from prevailing norms in North America opened my eyes to an entirely different vision of how it all could be. Not only do Mongolians breastfeed for a long time, they do so with more enthusiasm and less inhibition than nearly anyone else I’ve met. In Mongolia, breast milk is not just for babies, it’s not only about nutrition, and it’s definitely not something you need to be discreet about. It’s the stuff Genghis Khan was made of.

 

Like many first-time mums, I hadn’t given much thought to breastfeeding before I had a child. But minutes after my son, Calum, popped out, he latched on, and for the next four years seemed pretty determined not to let go. I was lucky, for in many ways breastfeeding came easily—never a cracked nipple, rarely an engorged breast. Mentally, things were not quite as simple. As much as I loved my baby and cherished the bond that breastfeeding gave us, it was, at times, overwhelming. I was unprepared for the magnitude of my love for him, and for the intensity of his need for me and me only—for my milk. “Don’t let him turn you into a human pacifier,” a Canadian nurse had cautioned me just days after Calum’s birth, as he sucked for hour after hour. But I would run through all the possible reasons for his crying—gas? wet? understimulation? overstimulation?—and mostly I’d just end up feeding him again. I wondered if I was doing the right thing.

 

Then I moved away from Canada to Mongolia, where my husband was conducting a wildlife study. There, babies are kept constantly swaddled in layers of thick blankets, tied up with string like packages you don’t want to come apart in the mail. When a package murmurs, a nipple is popped in its mouth. Babies aren’t changed very often and never burped. There aren’t even hands available to thrust a rattle into. Definitely no tummy time. Babies stay wrapped up for at least three months, and every time they make a sound, they’re breastfed.

 

This was interesting. At three months, Canadian babies are already having social engagements, even swimming. Some are learning to “self-soothe.” I had assumed that there were many reasons a baby might cry, and that my job was to figure out what the reason was and provide the appropriate solution. But in Mongolia, though babies might cry for many reasons, there is only ever one solution: breast milk. I settled down on my butt and followed suit.

 

A Working Boob Hits the Streets

 

In Canada, a certain amount of mystique still surrounds breastfeeding. But really, we’re just not very used to it. Breastfeeding happens at home, in baby groups, occasionally in cafes—you seldom see it in public, and we certainly don’t have conscious memories of having been breastfed ourselves. This private activity between mother and child is greeted with a hush and politely averted eyes, and regarded almost in the same way as public displays of intimacy between couples: not taboo, but slightly discomfiting and politely ignored. And when that quiet, angelic newborn grows into an active toddler intent on letting the world know exactly what he’s doing, well, those eyes are averted a bit more quickly and intently, sometimes under frowning brows.

 

In Mongolia, instead of relegating me to a “Mothers Only” section, breastfeeding in public brought me firmly to center stage. Their universal practice of breastfeeding anywhere, anytime, and the close quarters in which most Mongolians live, mean that everyone is pretty familiar with the sight of a working boob. They were happy to see I was doing things their way (which was, of course, the right way).

 

When I breastfed in the park, grandmothers would regale me with tales of the dozen children they had fed. When I breastfed in the back of taxis, drivers would give me the thumbs-up in the rearview mirror and assure me that Calum would grow up to be a great wrestler. When I walked through the market cradling my feeding son in my arms, vendors would make a space for me at their stalls and tell him to drink up. Instead of looking away, people would lean right in and kiss Calum on the cheek. If he popped off in response to the attention and left my streaming breast completely exposed, not a beat was missed. No one stared, no one looked away—they just laughed and wiped the milk off their noses.

 

From the time Calum was four months old until he was three years old, wherever I went, I heard the same thing over and over again: “Breastfeeding is the best thing for your baby, the best thing for you.” The constant approval made me feel that I was doing something important that mattered to everyone—exactly the kind of public applause every new mother needs.

 

The Lazy Mum’s Secret Weapon

 

By Calum’s second year, I had fully realized just how useful breastfeeding could be. Nothing gets a child to sleep as quickly, relieves the boredom of a long car journey as well, or calms a breaking storm as swiftly as a little warm milk from mummy. It’s the lazy mother’s most useful parenting aid, and by now I thought I was using it to its maximum effect. But the Mongolians took it one step further.

 

During the Mongolian winters, I spent many afternoons in my friend Tsetsgee’s yurt, escaping the bitter cold outside. It was enlightening to compare our different parenting techniques. Whenever a tussle over toys broke out between our two-year-olds, my first reaction would be to try to restore peace by distracting Calum with another toy while explaining the principle of sharing. But this took a while and had a success rate of only about 50 percent. The other times, when Calum was unwilling to back down and his frustration escalated to near boiling point, I would pick him up and cradle him in my arms for a feed.

 

Tsetsgee had a different approach. At the first murmur of discord, she would lift her shirt and start waving her boobs around enthusiastically, calling out, “Come here, baby, look what Mama’s got for you!” Her son would look up from the toys to the bull’s-eyes of his mother’s breasts and invariably toddle over.

 

Success rate? 100 percent.

 

Not to be outdone, I adopted the same strategy. There we were, two mothers flapping our breasts like competing strippers trying to entice a client. If the grandparents were around, they’d get in on the act. The poor kids wouldn’t know where to look—the reassuring fullness of their own mothers’ breasts, granny’s withered pancake boasting its long experience, or the strange mound of flesh granddad was squeezing up in breast envy. Try as I might, I can’t picture a similar scene at a La Leche League meeting.

 

When They’re Walking and Talking…and Taking Their Exams?

 

In my prenatal class in small-town Canada, where Calum was born, breastfeeding had been introduced with a video showing a particularly sporty-looking Swedish mother breastfeeding her toddler while out skiing. A shudder ran through the group: “Sure, it’s great for babies, but by the time they’re walking and talking?” That was pretty much the consensus. I kept my counsel.

 

It was my turn to be surprised when one of my new Mongolian friends told me she had breastfed until she was nine years old. I was so jaw-dropped, flabbergasted that at first I dismissed it as a joke. Considering my son weaned just after turning four, I’m now a little embarrassed about my adamant disbelief. While nine years is pretty old to be breastfeeding, even by Mongolian standards, it’s not actually off the scale.

 

Though it wasn’t always easy to fully discuss such concepts as self-weaning with Mongolians because of the language barrier, breastfeeding “to term” seemed to be the norm. I never met anyone who was tandem breastfeeding, which surprised me, but because the intervals between births are fairly long, most kids give up breastfeeding between two and four years of age.

 

In 2005, according to UNICEF,1 82 percent of children in Mongolia continued to breastfeed at 12 to 15 months, and 65 percent were still doing so at 20 to 23 months. A mother’s last child seems to just keep going, hence the breastfeeding nine-year-old, and if the folk wisdom is right, Mongolia’s renown for wrestling.

 

As three-year-old Calum was still feeding with the enthusiasm of a newborn and I wondered how weaning would eventually come about, I was curious about what prompted Mongolian children to self-wean. Some mothers said their child had simply lost interest. Others said peer pressure played a part. (I have heard Mongolian teenagers tease each other with, “You want your mommy’s breasts!” in the same way Canadian kids say, “Cry baby!”) More and more often, work commitments force weaning to happen earlier than they would have otherwise occurred; children will often spend the summer in the countryside while a mother stays in the city to work, and during the extended separation her milk dries up. My friend Buana, now 20, explained her gold-medal breastfeeding career to me. “I grew up in a yurt, way out in the countryside. My mom always told me to drink up, that it was good for me. I thought that’s what every nine-year-old was doing. When I went to school, I stopped.” She looked at me with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “But I still like to drink it sometimes.”

 

Pass the Milk, Please

 

For me, weaning from the breast seemed a fairly defined event. I always expected that, at some point, feedings would decrease and continue to taper off until they ceased altogether. My milk would dry up and that would be that. Bar closed.

 

In Mongolia, that’s not what happens. Discussing breastfeeding with my friend Naraa, I asked her when her daughter, who was then six, had weaned. “At four,” she replied. “I was sad, but she didn’t want to breastfeed anymore.” Then Naraa told me that, just the week before, when her daughter had returned from an extended stay in the countryside with her grandparents and had wanted to breastfeed, Naraa obliged. “I guess she missed me too much,” she said, “and it was nice. Of course, I didn’t have any milk, but she didn’t mind.”

 

But if weaning means never drinking breast milk again, then Mongolians are never truly weaned – and here’s what surprised me most about breastfeeding in Mongolia. If a woman’s breasts are engorged and her baby is not at hand, she will simply go around and ask a family member, of any age or sex, if they’d like a drink. Often a woman will express a bowlful for her husband as a treat, or leave some in the fridge for anyone to help themselves.

 

While we’ve all tasted our own breast milk, given some to our partners to try, maybe used a bit in the coffee in an emergency (haven’t we?), I don’t think many of us have actually drunk it very often. But every Mongolian I ever asked told me that he or she liked breast milk. The value of breast milk is so celebrated, so firmly entrenched in their culture, that it’s not considered something that’s only for babies. Breast milk is commonly used medicinally, given to the elderly as a cure-all, and used to treat eye infections, as well as to (reportedly) make the white of the eye whiter and deepen the brown of the iris.

 

But mostly, I think, Mongolians drink breast milk because they like the taste. A Western friend of mine who pumped breast milk while at work and left the bottle in the company fridge one day found it half empty. She laughed. “Only in Mongolia would I suspect my colleagues of drinking my breast milk!”

 

Living in another culture always forces you to reevaluate your own. I don’t really know what it would have been like to breastfeed my son during his early years in Canada. The avalanche of positive feedback on breastfeeding I got in Mongolia, and Mongolians’ wholehearted acceptance of public breastfeeding, simply amazed me, and gave me the freedom to raise my child in a way that felt natural. But in addition to all the small differences in our breastfeeding norms, the details of how long and how often, I ended up feeling that there was a bigger divide in our parenting styles.

 

In North America, we so value independence that it comes through in everything we do. All the talk is about what your baby’s eating now, and how many breastfeedings he’s down to. Even if you’re not the one asking these questions, it’s hard to escape their impact. And there are now so many things for sale that are designed to help your child amuse herself and need you less that the message is clear. But in Mongolia, breastfeeding isn’t equated with dependence, and weaning isn’t a finish line. They know their kids will grow up—in fact, the average Mongolian five-year-old is far more independent than her western counterpart, breastfed or not. There’s no rush to wean.

 

Probably the most valuable thing about raising my son in Mongolia was that I realized that there are a million different ways to do things, and that I could choose any of them. Throughout my son’s breastfeeding career, I struggled with different issues, and picked up and discarded many ideas and practices, in my search to forge my own style. I’m glad I breastfed Calum as much and as long as I did – it turned out to be four years. I think breastfeeding was the best thing for my son, and that it will have a lasting impact on his personality and on our relationship.

 

And when he wins that Olympic gold medal in wrestling, I’ll expect him to thank me.

 

If you liked this article, we think you’ll love Why African Babies Don’t Cry! Check it out!

 


1 UNICEF, Monitoring the Situation of Children and Women: Infant and Young Child Feeding (2000-2007).” 2009. http://www.childinfo.org/breastfeeding_countrydata.php

Reprinted with permission of the author. Originally published in Mothering Magazine, issue 155, July-August 2009 as well as The Natural Child.

© 2011 – 2013, Ruth Kamnitzer. All rights reserved.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Ruth Kamnitzer lived in a traditional felt tent in the Mongolian countryside for three years while her husband, Steve, conducted a wildlife study on the Pallas cat of Central Asia. She has an MSC in Biodiversity Conservation and currently lives in Bristol, UK with her husband and son.

Leave us a comment!

66 Comments
  1. CommentsMongolia and Breastfeeding   |  Thursday, 17 March 2011 at 1:48 am

    [...] shows how different the breastfeeding culture is in other countries and it is a really good read. http://184.168.83.107/2011/…-genghis-khan/ [...]

  2. Commentskristina smith   |  Thursday, 17 March 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Totally brilliant article – the best I’ve ever read about the subject. I’ll be recommending it to everyone I know :))
    Kristina

  3. CommentsDharmavandana   |  Thursday, 17 March 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Brilliant, long live bio-diversity and responsive parenting. I too had the good fortune to work abroad a s a young midwife, with Lao people in N.E. Thailand, so saw & observed how babies were never left to cry; this influenced my breastfeeding style, responsive, when I had my own babies in UK. The only difficullty is that in a non-traditional society, Uk, the support was just not there.
    It was heartwarming to read how many people prized and encouraged your breastfeeding efforts; thanks for this article
    Dana

  4. CommentsHayley Carter   |  Friday, 18 March 2011 at 5:20 am

    Fantastic piece of writing. Have shared on Facebook – have several friends who’ll appreciate this :) xx

  5. CommentsFiona Hermann   |  Friday, 18 March 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Great article – I’ll direct my midwifery students to it later this year.

  6. Commentslaura m   |  Saturday, 19 March 2011 at 1:04 am

    fantastic, i believe we all have so much to learn about parenting from other cultures. Have shared on facebook. Thank you

  7. CommentsSiobhan   |  Saturday, 19 March 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Hi Ruth,

    I read this at some stage last year and adopted it as a technique to ward off ‘disagreements’ between my two sons (3 and 1). At the first sign of fighting off the same toys I waggle a breast at them and 90% the younger is distracted and comes for a feed. So for all the peaceful times in our house (which are greatly appreciated by me!!) Thank You!!!

  8. CommentsHelena   |  Monday, 21 March 2011 at 4:40 am

    Wonderful article! I would really be interested in more parenting comparisons between the cultures.

  9. CommentsLessons from Mongolia and Other Places « parenture   |  Monday, 21 March 2011 at 7:31 am

    [...] breastfeeding Baby E for about 8 months, I found this article particularly interesting: Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan, by Ruth Kamnitzer, a Canadian who lived in Mongolia from the time her son was about 4 months to 3 [...]

  10. CommentsGinger Baker   |  Monday, 21 March 2011 at 8:46 am

    I LOVED this article. I breastfed both my daughters, the eldest to 5 (which was my official cutoff date for her – she cried) and the younger till 4 and a half-ish (she was much less interested at that point and it just dropped off eventually). Absolutely, I used the boob for soothing, for comfort, for getting them to sleep. It was amazing what some nursing time could do! And if anything,my kids were far more capable of doing things on their own than many of their peers. I’ve often felt (and explained it) that, when kids KNOW they have that safety net to return to at any time, they are fearless!

    I had some helpful support from my husband, my family is pretty bohemian to begin with, and I had a great group of online breastfeeding communities, but what made the biggest difference by far was meeting a girl who, at 11, walked up and commented that “she remembered doing that” when she saw me nursing my younger one. The older one was 2 1/2 at the time, and I was really starting to wonder if she was getting “too old”, but when this lovely 11yo told me she nursed till 4 1/2 (“my mom had to stop me!”), I realized that HELL YEAH my kids would be fine if I nursed them till 5. (It didn’t hurt any that this 11yo was the epitome of the girl you want your 11yo daughter to be!)

    I got a chance to thank her (she’s now 17) the other day, and I was happy to hear later that it *made* her night. :-)

  11. CommentsZoe   |  Wednesday, 23 March 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Great article! I’ve enjoyed it so much! Approval and encouragement are so important when you breastfeed and you definitely had enough!

  12. CommentsBreastfeeding and weddings: let’s be Mongolian! | KORA Organics Blog   |  Sunday, 27 March 2011 at 11:21 pm

    [...] This week I read the most hilarious and heart-warming article about breastfeeding in Mongolia and I just had to comment on it: http://184.168.83.107/2011/02/breastfeeding-land-genghis-khan/ [...]

  13. CommentsHappyMum   |  Monday, 28 March 2011 at 12:35 am

    Thank you for sharing this!
    We’re still going strong with our bubs at nearly two and people here in Australia are generally shocked he still breastfeeds.
    Support and encouragement like that would be simply Utopian for mums!

  14. CommentsLaura Marusa   |  Monday, 28 March 2011 at 11:06 am

    Wow, I think I need to move to Mongolia! I live in Pennsylvania and still nurse my son at 14 months. I get a lot of strange looks and disbelief when I share that he’s still breastfed. What disturbed me the most was when the Nurse Practitioner at my Pediatrician’s office told me to stop nursing at 12 months. Uh, no thanks. :)

  15. Commentsjmm   |  Monday, 28 March 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Truly great article. Thank you!

  16. CommentsKirsten   |  Monday, 28 March 2011 at 8:34 pm

    Here Here! Still feeding my 2 and a half year old third child and so wish I had fed my first two for longer than the accepted idea of 12 months!

  17. CommentsDeirdre Sheridan   |  Tuesday, 29 March 2011 at 1:19 am

    Thanks for sharing such an amazing experience.Not only living in Mongolia for 3 years but being able to communicate on such a level with other mothers and parents. Babies and love are the universal language.

  18. CommentsCherie Raymond   |  Tuesday, 29 March 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Great article! What a wonderful culture we in the west need to learn from.

  19. CommentsKati   |  Tuesday, 29 March 2011 at 9:29 pm

    WOW! Thank you so much for sharing! An awesome story that needs to SHOUTED from the roof tops!!

  20. CommentsEma   |  Thursday, 31 March 2011 at 1:44 am

    Excellent article Ruth, a really good read. One I will be sharing with everyone I can! Would you mind if I posted a link to this on my blog?
    I was going to say how lucky you were to get such encouragement and support but it wasn’t luck it was as it should be.
    Maybe a stint in Mongolia should be compulsory for all health professionals…. maybe include this in secondary education too!
    Thank you for sharing this

    Ema

  21. Commentssay what?! « the birth anarkissed   |  Thursday, 31 March 2011 at 10:27 am

    [...] first time I have read Kamnitzer’s essay about her experience of raising her son in Mongolia was about two years ago. The image it left me [...]

  22. CommentsCJ   |  Friday, 01 April 2011 at 4:51 am

    What a great article, really enjoyed these fascinating insights!!!

  23. CommentsWhat’s new in breastfeeding? | Baby Friendly Newfoundland   |  Wednesday, 13 April 2011 at 7:24 am

    [...] Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan I think you will enjoy this article about breastfeeding culture in Mongolia. “The value of breast milk is so celebrated, so firmly entrenched in their culture, that it’s not considered something that’s only for babies. Breast milk is commonly used medicinally, given to the elderly as a cure-all, and used to treat eye infections, as well as to (reportedly) make the white of the eye whiter and deepen the brown of the iris.” [...]

  24. CommentsIs Breast Best?? TONIGHT BBC THREE   |  Thursday, 14 April 2011 at 7:31 am

    [...] all learn something from here, breastfeeding until 9 and not being scarred for life? Surely not! Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan | InCultureParent Reply With Quote + Reply to [...]

  25. CommentsKim   |  Tuesday, 19 July 2011 at 11:30 am

    LOVE THIS! Oh, how I wish the US could be even a little more like Mongolia when it comes to breastfeeding. Makes me want to start looking for my yurt in the countryside :)

  26. CommentsLinda   |  Saturday, 23 July 2011 at 9:04 am

    Great article! Thank you for sharing! I bf my son for 4,5yrs, I’m looking forward to his wrestling career ;-)

  27. CommentsKathie Jones   |  Saturday, 06 August 2011 at 10:46 pm

    I FREAKIN LOVE this article. ::high five::
    Or boob slap. Whichever is more appropriate. ;)
    Katt…who is nursing her almost 19m old.

  28. CommentsAugust is Breastfeeding Awareness Month « Memorial Mommy Blog   |  Tuesday, 30 August 2011 at 11:15 am

    [...] only quit because of outside pressure to do so and this time around I am feeling strong. (Click here for an article from InCultureParent entitled, “Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis [...]

  29. CommentsAn ode to my girls | mommygolightly   |  Wednesday, 21 September 2011 at 3:13 am

    [...] then my friend Yasmin sent me this article and it made me smile and feel happy about [...]

  30. CommentsCora   |  Thursday, 10 November 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Laughable. The reason for which Mongolian women breastfeed for so long is the scarcity of food. That’s pretty much it. Loved how her sheltered Canadian mind couln’t even entertain the notion that they couldn’t aford feeding the child. I come from a society in which people can’t aford to buy kid food, so, guess what …. tada, they breastfeed as much as possible. Breast milk decreases in quality over time, plus there is the mental scarrign factor so yuck!

  31. CommentsFrancesca   |  Thursday, 17 November 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Absolutely amazing and humorous article!

  32. CommentsChristine M of Hartlyn Kids   |  Tuesday, 13 December 2011 at 10:23 pm

    What an amazing post? This just shows how different perceptions are in the world.

  33. CommentsOur Top 10 Articles in 2011 | InCultureParent   |  Sunday, 01 January 2012 at 11:28 pm

    [...] InCultureParent readers’ favorites over this past year. 1. Why African Babies Don’t Cry 2. Breastfeeding in the land of Ghengis Khan 3. Reunited Outside the Orphanage Walls 4. Falling off the Opol Wagon 5. Best World Maps for [...]

  34. CommentsJulie   |  Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 6:05 am

    Very nice article, so interesting, so rich. Thanks a lot for sharing this with us. Julie, from France, went on holidays in Mongolia and foud its culture very inspiring.

  35. CommentsLeah   |  Tuesday, 03 April 2012 at 10:59 am

    this made me cry…how wonderful…!

  36. CommentsSeven surprises about breastfeeding an older baby | Circus Queen   |  Tuesday, 17 April 2012 at 1:38 am

    [...] she is across the room and fussing, I lift my shirt and wave my breast at her (I read about this in Breastfeeding in the land of Genghis Khan). It’s the best joke. She cracks up everytime. Squealing with delight she hurriedly crawls [...]

  37. CommentsJulia   |  Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 10:55 am

    I am still breastfeeding my 31/2 year old and am faced with so much critism. It is so nice and refreshing to read such an honest and unusual article that has a positive view on it. I live in England and am 22, I would love for people to be so open-minded and upfront about it here. I feel very much in the minority (especially among fellow young mothers) I would love for it to be as socially acceptable here to have the freedom to be open about my breastfeeding my son at what is considered such an ‘old’ age. Thank you so much for a fantastic article!

  38. CommentsKayla   |  Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Fantastic article and very well written. I love reading about breastfeeding from the perspective of other cultures

  39. Commentsmarisol   |  Wednesday, 09 May 2012 at 7:48 am

    LOVED YOUR ARTICLE! in reading the part about the normalcy with which everyone takes part in drinking breast milk i found myself saying that it makes much more sense to drink the milk from a person as a human being than the milk of a cow if you think about it. The disgust associated with breast feeding and breast milk is really sad. This really made a couple of valuable points. thank you!

  40. CommentsMommy wars and the boob heard ’round the world » Blessed Little Thistle   |  Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 8:46 pm

    [...] like this would garner much less attention in many other countries. Just take a little time to read Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan and you might find the Time cover to be mild. And, yes I realize we might think of America as a [...]

  41. CommentsJoille Mckain   |  Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 9:26 pm

    This private activity between mother and child is greeted with a hush and politely averted eyes, and regarded almost in the same way as public displays of intimacy between couples: not taboo, but slightly discomfiting and politely ignored. !!!

    Really ? public display of affection is like breast feeding in public ???…… this is either silly or just super conservative stupidity

  42. CommentsWRG   |  Saturday, 08 September 2012 at 12:49 pm

    I just finished reading an article about how women feel browbeaten into breastfeeding, how their babies are starving due to inadequate milk production and how ultimately relieved they feel to finally go over to the bottle. I can’t help feeling that all these problems breastfeeding are ultimately linked to a culture that still does not really accept the practice. I doubt the percentage of unsuccessful breastfeeding moms in Mongolia is 1/1000th as high as it is here in North America. There has to be a cultural element at play here. It’s not just “the milk drying up, not coming in, baby wouldn’t latch” etc.

    I did not have perhaps quite as easy a time when I started breastfeeding my first child, but after six weeks we made a pretty good team and I cried the first time I had to give him a bottle when he was about 8 months old. I had become severely hyperthyroid and desperately needed medication. I had no choice but to wean my baby but it was tough psychologically.

    My second son weaned himself at about ten months, an incredibly short time by Mongolian standards, but not too shabby here in Canada.

    Thank you for this article, for giving me a good laugh (stolen breastmilk from the company fridge!) and for taking me back to a wonderful time in my life!

  43. CommentsKate   |  Sunday, 09 September 2012 at 9:48 am

    Great article, had me chuckling away…mongolia sounds like a country we could learn from!

  44. CommentsNessa   |  Sunday, 09 September 2012 at 5:36 pm

    This is a spectacular article. Thank you so much for writing this!

  45. Commentsof boobs and academia | adventures with bobo   |  Monday, 10 September 2012 at 9:38 am

    [...] it be great to live in a society where breasts aren’t automatically sexualized, and women are supported when the [...]

  46. CommentsJulie   |  Monday, 10 September 2012 at 8:11 pm

    I would love to have that level of support! We are going till she loses interest, and it’s very strong at 2.5. Thanks for sharing. I’ll be thinking of Mongolian women the next time the extended BFing topic or pressure not to do so comes my way. It helps to see BFing from other perspectives!!

  47. CommentsLiz   |  Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 7:27 am

    Thank you so much for writing this article Ruth! It made me feel good about the chooses I am making for my 7 month old and to not think about the question that everyone inevitably asks, “how long do you plan to breastfeed.”

    You have a great sense of humor! I love the part that the co-workers drake the women’s breast milk! I feel like my co-workers wince when they just see the little 2 oz bottles of breast milk in the fridge or when they see me cleaning my pumping supplies in the kitchen!

  48. CommentsJOANIE   |  Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 5:42 pm

    ITS a wonderful article i love every word of it my son breast feed till he was six and his dad took over when he went to school

  49. CommentsLW   |  Saturday, 15 September 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Twenty years ago I nursed my baby until he was 2 1/2. Geez, the comments I got from people who felt entitled to tell me off about doing so! However, my baby was a very healthy, happy, and confident baby and toddler who grew up to be a healthy, happy, adventurous and responsible young adult (unlike some of the fretful anxious babies I saw at the time who grew up to be insecure unhappy teenagers with risky behaviours). Perhaps mothers who breastfeed, even for just a short period, turn out to be better parents because they trust themselves to make better parenting decisions for their kids, rather than just following the fad technique of the day.

  50. CommentsAmber   |  Saturday, 15 September 2012 at 8:50 pm

    This is such a great article! I would love to visit a place like that for a month or so at least. My son is almost six months old and will continue breastfeeding as long as he wants to :) I would really like to know more about how to increase the brown in your iris with breastmilk lol

  51. CommentsKristen   |  Wednesday, 19 September 2012 at 5:28 pm

    This was passed on to me by another breastfeeding mom that I talk to a lot but this is a great story. My son is 17 months old and I love in nj and get people that tell me my son is too old and give me funny looks when they hear I still breast feed. My sons pediatrician told me just the other day I need to stop breastfeeding my son it no longer has any nutrition for him. I asked him why does wic encourage people to breastfeed until at least 2 years old and longer he told me he don’t know. This Dr pissed me off but let’s say we will not be seeing him again thanks this helps me a lot

  52. CommentsA Closer Look at Cultural Issues Surrounding Breastfeeding |   |  Tuesday, 30 October 2012 at 7:02 am

    [...] a fabulous article by a breastfeeding mum named Ruth Kamnitzer which I would encourage you to read. In it, she talks about her experiences [...]

  53. Commentssophie   |  Tuesday, 06 November 2012 at 1:12 am

    Thank you for this article! I hope many mum will read it! A breastfeeding mum

  54. CommentsBreastfeeding in Mongolia, Kids and “Kid Food,” and Formula for Moms?! | thebeetingheart   |  Thursday, 06 December 2012 at 3:48 pm

    [...] you thought the cover of the Time Magazine was surprising, you haven’t seen anything yet. This article about breastfeeding in Mongolia had me laughing out loud it was so hilarious (and accurate). We’re one of the only cultures [...]

  55. CommentsBreastfeeding Community of Practice : A Nurtured Life   |  Monday, 31 December 2012 at 6:56 pm

    [...] wouldn’t have happened were we a true utopia of a breastfeeding community.  To contrast, Mongolian mothers will commonly lift their shirts, grab their breasts and wave them at their hungry child [from birth [...]

  56. CommentsBorstvoeding is het geheime wapen van Mongoolse worstelaars | Mongolië   |  Tuesday, 01 January 2013 at 1:33 pm

    [...] Ruth Kamnitzer, een Canadese moeder die enige tijd in Mongolië heeft gewoond, geeft een mooi verslag van haar ervaringen met borstvoeding in beide landen. Zo vertelt ze dat borstvoeding het geheime wapen is van Mongoolse worstelaars.  Lees haar verslag.  [...]

  57. CommentsBlue   |  Tuesday, 15 January 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Hi Ruth, I think this article would stand true only in the countryside in Mongolia. Born and raised in the city I certainly don’t believe all Mongolians are comfortable breastfeeding in public. Whilst I agree that majority of people are for breastfeeding not everyone “likes the taste of breastmilk” and definitely no co-worker of mine would ever steal my breastmilk from the fridge had they known it was breastmilk.

  58. CommentsInCultureParent | Why African Babies Don’t Cry   |  Friday, 15 February 2013 at 12:15 pm

    [...] [...]

  59. CommentsKate   |  Saturday, 04 May 2013 at 5:11 am

    Brilliant!!! Love to hear the cultural perspective! Hmmm… might be more willing to let my three year old at it more often! Tandem feeding with her little sister, I go bonkers sometimes!

  60. CommentsErotisk Laktation – første introduktion | erotisklaktation   |  Tuesday, 14 May 2013 at 12:06 am

    [...] Der findes kulturer, hvor børn ammes til de ikke vil det længere – se denne artikel: http://www.incultureparent.com/2011/02/breastfeeding-land-genghis-khan [...]

  61. CommentsInCultureParent | Breastfeeding Around the World   |  Monday, 27 May 2013 at 10:03 pm

    [...] in children’s health, well-being and life expectancy. InCultureParent takes a look at the beauty of breastfeeding in pictures, together with facts and attitudes, surrounding breastfeeding [...]

  62. CommentsFriday Favorites: Breastfeeding Articles | "Just" a Mom   |  Friday, 09 August 2013 at 10:36 am

    […] Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan InCulture Parent […]

  63. CommentsJenny   |  Sunday, 08 September 2013 at 8:48 pm

    My son weaned shortly after turning 5 and he is 15 now and is, in fact, a great wrestler! So funny, I’m going to show him the article tomorrow. I’m in the USA, so he was breastfed much longer than the norm.

  64. CommentsDani   |  Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 8:58 pm

    I loved this article! My little sister is birthing her first baby in the summer and between me and her oiler sister nursing long term I hope she feels like she has great support.I sent this article to her, hopefully it will comfort her

  65. CommentsThe Rich Culture of Breastfeeding Around The World - Myrtle Beach Birth Services   |  Tuesday, 04 March 2014 at 6:13 am

    […] http://www.incultureparent.com/2011/02/breastfeeding-land-genghis-khan/ […]

  66. CommentsStephen   |  Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Living in Oaxaca, Mexico, a large urban center, I see mothers breast feeding in public everywhere, on buses, in restaurants, in the parks, in the markets. At first, as a as white male raised in the USA, I felt I should look away, but I’ve come to realize nobody even cares what I do or don’t do. I’m irrelevant









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