A mother who still breastfeeds her two-year-old son has spoken out about why she lets him wear dresses and grow ponytails – after she was criticised on social media.
Shannon Walsh, 23, and her husband Jon, 28, decided to raise their son Logan in a gender neutral way, meaning they would not tell him whether playing in the mud, wearing colourful bobbles, or playing with dolls is for boys or girls.
The couple, who live in West Sussex, have also adopted natural term weaning, meaning Logan will be breastfed for as long as he wants.
His mother, who is seven months pregnant with their second child, said they are following this parenting approach in order to ‘free’ their son and let him be ‘who he is’.
Shannon Walsh, 23, is raising her two-year-old son Logan in a gender neutral way, meaning she doesn’t tell him what activities and objects are for boys, according to modern culture, and what items are for girls. (Pictured: Shannon breastfeeding her son Logan in a park near their home in West Sussex)
She and her husband Jo, 28, allow Logan the freedom of choice without gender stereotypes so that he can ‘be himself’ and because they want him to explore the world without feelings of embarrassment. (Pictured: Logan on a merry-go-round wearing a dress)
Logan enjoys playing in the mud, wearing coloured hair bobbles (pictured), dresses and pretending to be a fireman, his mother said
Speaking about the revolutionary approach to parenting, Shannon said Logan’s never been told that something is ‘specifically for boys’ as ‘nothing is only for one gender’.
‘We don’t create these imaginary boxes that everything must fit into,’ she said.
‘So, for example, many people think dresses are only for girls, however, our son chose a My Little Pony dress with a tutu in a charity shop and I bought it for him – he loves wearing dresses.
‘He’s also chosen clothes stereotypically associated with boys. We don’t assign genders to the clothes he wears – they’re just clothes. The same goes for toys, roleplay, hair, décor etc.
She said the approach is important as it allows children to be themselves ‘100 per cent’.
‘It gives them the opportunity to explore the world without feeling embarrassed by what they like.
‘They don’t have to hide or pretend to be interested in certain things, they can be authentic without conforming to stereotypes that people have made up for them.
‘Logan calls himself a boy; he knows he has a penis, he knows what he likes and dislikes, he knows that it is okay to want his face painted like a unicorn, because why should it be only girls who can enjoy mystical creatures, pink or glitter?’
When Shannon took him to a charity shop, the first thing he picked out was a My Little Pony dress with a tutu, which she bought for him. (Pictured: Logan in a woodland)
Mother Shannon also said that Logan, pictured in a colourful outfit, calls himself a boy and knows that he is a boy, but also that he knows what he likes and dislikes
Logan, pictured watering the plants in the garden, attends nursery for three hours twice a week and is not treated differently by other children
Shannon also said that Logan, who attends nursery for three hours a morning twice a week, is not treated differently by any of the other children.
‘Most of the children there are about the same age and so far, I’ve not seen or heard any real response at all,’ she said.
‘Which goes to show that it’s as we get older, and have society and older people forcing their stereotypes on us, that we start to believe them.
‘These children that are Logan’s age don’t care whether you’re a boy or a girl, they don’t care if you’re wearing a skirt or trousers, or if you like cars or princesses.’
Speaking about the decision to continue breastfeeding she said there is no maximum age or end goal. When she has her second child she plans to tandem breastfeed them both.
Most of the young family’s relatives and friends have been very supportive of how Logan is being raised. However, Shannon said there has been a couple of ‘unnecessary’ comments.
‘One in particular that has always stuck in my mind is someone saying that Logan being a boy and having a doll made him “a wussy”,’ she said.
‘When someone saw him with pigtails and bright coloured clothes on, they made a comment that he “looks like a gypsy”, which baffled me.’
Mother Shannon also said that most of their family and friends had been very supportive of how Logan has been raised. (Pictured: Logan has a go at gardening)
However, there have been some unnecessary comments. One said that Logan was a ‘wuss’ because he was playing with dolls. (Pictured: Logan inspects an acorn)
Another said that Logan’s brightly-coloured clothes and pony tails make him ‘look like a gypsy’
However, she added that it’s never really shocked her when Logan’s been mistaken for a girl.
‘I’ve grown up surrounded by the same stereotypes as everyone else, so I knew to expect this.’
Speaking about criticism she has had, Shannon said that one woman messaged her to say that she is ‘disgusting’ for ‘trying to force my son to be a girl’, because he had a ponytail and wasn’t wearing typical boy colours.
‘Most of the time, when I receive silly comments like these, I will either just delete the comment/message and move on,’ she said.
‘Or, if I feel like a comment needs a response, it tends to be a question as to why they feel the way they do?’
‘I challenge their beliefs and will prompt them to do some research. People my age don’t tend to know that only about fifty years ago, pink was the colour for boys and was considered masculine, while blue was considered more delicate and feminine.
‘Also, that dresses were originally worn by both boys and girls, especially in childhood because it made nappy changes and potty training easier.
Mother Shannon also said that it hasn’t really shocked her when Logan’s been mistaken for a girl because everyone has grown up surrounded by stereotypes
Shannon hopes that in the future her son will remember that he is himself and is ‘loved beyond measure’. (Pictured: Logan and his mother on a train)
‘You had easier access to nappies, they were able to sit on the toilet without the additional pressure of pulling down trousers and everything.’
Talking about the future, Shannon said that although her son may change his appearance when he’s older, she hopes he will continue to remember that ‘Logan is Logan’ and that he is ‘loved beyond measure’.
‘Let your child be happy, regardless of their hobbies and interests.. It’s about being less judgemental and teaching your child to do the same,’ she said.
WHY IS BREAST BEST, ACCORDING TO EXPERTS
Mothers are urged to breastfeed, if possible, in order to give their infants the maximum dose of nutrients.
Bottle-feeding can be costly for many parents struggling to cope with the financial burden of a new baby.
Formula milk also has varying levels of nutrients, decided by the provider.
And it is often not easy for babies to digest.
However, babies who consume both breast milk and formula may not get enough vitamin D and still need drops or mothers who take supplements.
Many women who breastfeed incorrectly believe that this gives babies all the nutrients they need, said Dr. Carol Wagner of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.