Monday, August 31, 2009

You're Still Nursing?

Z2 made 20 months on the 29th of this month. I realized a few weeks back that I have been avoiding nursing him in public. Why? The reaction. Inevitably, someone will comment, "Wow, you're still nursing him?" which usually touches off a lively conversation about breastfeeding. Someone will invariably say they wanted to go as long as I am but "didn't have enough milk". Without a doubt, another will say, "Well, after 6 months, there's no real benefit to nursing . . . it's only comfort" which is usually a passive criticism of the fact that I'm still nursing. So subconsciously, I have been trying not to nurse in public. Z2 is old enough now where he can be distracted with games, toys and snacks so it's not imperative that I nurse him when he wants but it's just so telling of our society.

The World Health Organization recommends nursing up until 2 years of age and as long as mother and child are okay with it. Yet, it is still seen as an anomaly and very strange when folks see it.

I've always been one to be very open about nursing. I've nursed anywhere and everywhere and I don't believe in all these nursing cover up and nursing tents. I wear a shirt that I can easily pull up and a bra that easily pulls down. So it's discreet, if you will, but I'm not hiding. There's nothing to hide. I seriously and honestly believe that if Victoria Secret can run television ads and have billboards, no one should give me any flack about using my breasts for their intended purpose. Still, I am one of the very few folks I see nursing a child so big.

But I've been off my game about encouraging folks with breastfeeding. I've been quiet and just tried to keep the peace when folks come at me with stories about how "strong" and how "different" I am because I have been successful with breastfeeding since breastfeeding is oh.so.difficult. I always acknowledge that it is indeed hard for many in the beginning and so women can never overcome that initial challenge. Some women really do have supply issues or face the challenge of continuing a breastfeeding relationship while working. But I also acknowledge that there's a whole lot of sabotage going on including the taboo about nursing in public and making working mothers feel like they are not entitled to time to pump.

Now, me personally, I can't see myself nursing longer than a little over age two. I won't lie: I'm looking forward to having my body back. I want to do a detox and I really want to get serious about weight loss--which is something you can't really do while nursing. But I'm really annoyed with myself that I have let society's warped ideas about breastfeeding get to me.

Today, Z2 fell at the playground. Nothing too serious. I picked him up, dusted him off, and nursed him. Z2 loved it and was back at play in no time. I felt oddly . . . defiant.

Breastfeeding has become so political and such a huge arena for judging women as mothers. If you do breastfeed, you're heralded as a great mom but only if you don't do it too long or too openly or "militantly". If you don't, you could be seen as a liberated woman, undereducated or viewed as just not caring for your baby as much as the next woman. There's plenty, and I mean plenty, of judgment to go around which leaves most of us feeling like you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Here's a great take on the issue from Baj4Life posted on her blog Navelgazing.

Image courtesy of http://www.breastfeedingcafe.com/newsletterwinter.htm

4 comments:

blackgirlinmaine said...

I feel ya! I nursed girl child for 3.5 years, finally got to the point I could not take it anymore and the plans for her leading the way went straight out the window.

That said, folks would think I am a great lactivist...um, no. I do think women owe it to themselves to get informed and if you do it, make a committment. For me my intial plan was 6 weeks..yep, 6 weeks. Since I had read it takes at least 6 weeks to get it down.

From there, my next goal was 3 mos, 6 mos and a year...it turned out to be a work in progress.

My thing is all the die hard if you don't nurse you are damaging the baby folks, mess it up. Truth is its hard work and heck I gained weight that first year rather than loosing it plus I ended up needing to see a chiro since side nursing in bed was kicking my butt.

In the end its a mutual relationship and when it ceases to be mutually beneficial and you know you can wean the child and their nutritional needs can be met, then Mama has to remember herself in this situation.

That all said, hat tip to you Mama because it is harder for WOC to nurse long term for a myriad of reasons.

navelgazingbajan said...

Thanks for the link to my post :). My son is young enough and small enough that no one gives me flack for breastfeeding him but I do wonder how that will change once he's older. My goal is to make it to 2 years. Luckily, I have my younger sister as my role model because she nursed her son until he was about 1 1/2 - 2 years old. She and I didn't know it at the time but she helped open my eyes about breastfeeding past infancy, and she's no lactivist, she was just responding to her son's needs. That's how I hope to encourage others, by making it seem like the most ordinary thing in the world - which it is.

Chi-Chi, The Original Wombman said...

Thanks BGIM . . I'm no lactivist either. I just believe in getting the right information out there and supporting folks decision. Like you say . . . Mama has to remember herself too. There's sacrifice involved but a mama should feel free to draw the line when it just gets to be too much.

I agree Navelgazingbajan . . . let's make it seem like the most ordinary thing in the world! It is!! My 4 year old asked the other day (rather loudly of course) why a baby was getting milk from a bottle instead of milk from his mommy. I'm so glad that for him, milk from mommy is the norm. Hopefully that means his future wife will have huge support from him.

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