**Each Friday, starting Nov 7 and for the next 7 weeks, we will be posting a new blog post about breastfeeding and several different journeys our team has experienced.**
Breastfeeding is the strangest, most wonderful thing I have ever been blessed to experience. Becoming a mother has changed me – I know it changes most women, but I have never eaten more crow in my entire life, am I right? Phrases like, “when they can ask for it, they’re too old” or “nursing after one is disgusting” absolutely came out of my mouth pre-baby. Boy, did I learn how ignorant I was.
When my daughter was born – I was more than determined to breastfeed. I’m likely the most stubborn person you will ever meet and I knew that would work in my favor for success. We had our difficulties in the beginning: jaundice, improper latch, encouragement from others to supplement with formula, etc. But after that first week of the kind of pain you can only understand if you’ve been through it – we made it!
My daughter, being the extremely verbal child that she is, starting asking for milk at 8 months old. I remember the first time she said “maulk” thinking back to my comment about being too old to nurse if they could ask. So was it time for me to wean her? Should I stop giving her any kind of milk/formula/breastmilk since she could ask? Where is the logic there? Then she hit her first birthday, and there was no magical moment when it suddenly became disgusting. Oddly enough, she was still my precious girl, no different from the day before, and no closer to having any desire to wean. My thoughts about nursing were thrown out the window with each new milestone we approached. Even after getting pregnant again – she showed no signs of stopping.
My daughter and I successfully breastfed, with no major issues, until she was 21 months old. My original goal was one, and I would have never guessed we would have made it so long. The moments of bonding we shared during that time were beyond magical. I loved every part of nursing her, even as she was older. In fact, after one, the times were more magical since she was actually still and calm in my arms – a rare moment for a momma.
Our society is quite opinionated. We have our own ideas about how things should be and we unfairly expect other people to abide by our own rules. Unfortunately, our culture is also very ignorant about the benefits of breastfeeding, as well as extended breastfeeding. I could list all the articles, references, links to WHO/AAP, etc. but it still wouldn’t be enough to change certain people’s minds. Women are faced with the giant hurdle of overcoming societal pressure when they decide to nurse their child. People will put rules on them, such as “you should cover up in public” (disclaimer: though I am a mother who covers when she feeds, Oklahoma law actually protects a women to nurse when/how she wants). There is a huge gap in support of breastfeeding mothers in our culture. Though the law protects them, popular culture will throw their opinions at a nursing mother every chance it gets. I had no idea the judgement and opinions I would face just by doing what felt normal and natural to me and my daughter.
I loved our breastfeeding journey and am so thankful I was able to successfully nurse my daughter. With my son due any minute, I’m looking forward to starting again and experiencing it all with a bit more wisdom. I am also more prepared to face the stares, comments and opinions this time around.
I’m really not interested in breaking down every single negative opinion about breastfeeding and providing explanation and insight for each one – though I could. I just want to encourage us as a group of women, to support a mother in HOWEVER she chooses to nourish her child. When you see a mother nursing in public, consider that she’s possibly terrified of accidentally flashing someone, or offending someone, and is just trying to feed her hungry child on a day she choose to venture out in public. Raising a baby is tough enough as it is, let’s not add any kind of feeding shame to the mix. Be proud of how you nourished your child. We’re all just doing our best.