Thursday, August 9, 2012

Guest Post :: Nursing Normal

The following guest post is written by Mary Ann from A Cloth Life.

When I became pregnant with G, there was no question that I would breastfeed him. Honestly, the thought didn't even occur to me to use formula. I didn't have anything against it, but it just seemed natural to do... well, what comes naturally. Then, when my son was about 3 months old, I was visiting my parents. I was always discreet while nursing but my grandma, who is VERY young for a great-grandmother made a comment which basically went something like “You're not one of those women that bares her tits out there for everyone to see, are you?” The gist was nursing + in public = unnatural + exhibitionist behavior. When my nephew was born 3 months later, my mother-in-law went on and on to me about how his mother used formula and how great it is and how EVERYONE should use formula instead of nursing. “You can just feed them anywhere and anyone can do it for you.” The message being conveyed repeatedly was that breastfeeding is bothersome, cumbersome, inconvenient, and occasionally even offensive.

By G's first birthday, I was only nursing him at night and something clicked in my head. I decided he was too old to nurse. I had him completely weaned before he was 14 months. When I had my daughter last year, I counted on breastfeeding for the same amount of time – weaning on the same schedule. Because, you know, all your babies are the same, right?

N has been a completely different child in every way. She has been more demanding, more needy, more snugly, more temperamental & feisty, and... she LOVES to nurse. She is the type of baby that pulls at my shirt collar while babbling “mamamamamamamamama” and signing for milk all at the same time. Of course, she wasn't always so vocal about this particular preference (OK, she was, but I only realize that now), so when my parents took the kids and I to Chuck E. Cheese when she was a few months old – I didn't think anything of my mom asking if I wanted to go to the bathroom to nurse her. Worst nursing experience ever. It seemed like a reasonable suggestion at the time, although I'm not sure how. Standing up in a bathroom stall while trying to nurse is... indescribable.

 I had a nursing cover and blankets. I could have used them to nurse at the table and still be discreet, but I was concerned with what my parents would think. I was worried that my casual attitude toward breastfeeding would make them uncomfortable. I was afraid of them speaking or even just thinking all the grossly exaggerated stereotypes that people have about natural parenting. To be fair, I should say that my mom did breastfeed my older brother 12 months and myself until I was 6 months. So it’s not like they are anti-breastfeeding. They just have certain expectations for how one should parent.

N turned a year old on July 5th of this year. I still nurse her a few times throughout the day, and as often as she demands at night, but I feel like it's our dirty little secret. I know there is nothing wrong with it. She is seriously still just a baby, but I feel like it's something shameful I don't want people to find out about. Remember all the commentary when Time magazine published their cover story “Are you Mom Enough?” Yeah, I try to stay away as far as I can from controversy. EXTREMELY far away.

Every baby really is different. Somehow, the general public seems to understand this when it comes to us as individual adults, yet babies should all be parented the same. Mother knows best, and Grandma knows even better, and the stranger at the mall knows more than everyone. Except, N likes to nurse. She's a snuggler & a cuddler. She loves that extra one-on-one time. It soothes her. It also feels good in her tummy, apparently, because I am still definitely producing milk that nourishes her, despite what some may argue.

So how do I respond when my husband asks the question “How do you plan on weaning her?” The truth is, I don't. Not at this point at least. For now, I just plan on letting her lead the way, even if I feel like I need to be secretive about it with everyone else. I'll keep introducing fun new foods, and eventually, she'll lose interest in “milkies.” It really isn’t for anyone else to decide or judge anyway, but it should be normal. I mean, we should let moms know it is normal, because it is.

Mary Ann is a SAHM who blogs about two gorgeous kids, a messy home, and cloth diapers at A Cloth Life. She has visions of a time when she’ll actually be able to finish a project, any project, in one sitting. For now, she’s enjoying the joys and chaos of having young children. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook


Gwendolyn T said...

I agree. I actually do all those annoying whats your baby eating surveys that come in the mail simply to say he is bf so that they will report higher numbers so more people will know its normal. With baby #1 I told myself I would bf for 6 months. 6 minths came and I didnt see the need to stop. Daddy kept asking when I was going to stop. Looking back I think he was just asking, not questioning, but it did feel like a tiny attack. We nursed for 14 minths and stopped onky because I had a cercelage put in for baby #2, who is 8 minths and stikk nursing. Nurse on mama.

Mary Ann said...

Thanks! Everyone chooses what is best for them & their family, and I would just like less stigma from "mainstream" for choosing to nurse however long we end up.

crunchyfarmbaby said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I also have gotten not-so-supportive comments from family members about BFing my now 13 month old son. He loves to nurse, it's good for him, and I'm definitely of the mindset that I don't care what others think, haha! We nurse in public and I stopped using the cumbersome covers a long time ago. I know some people freak about seeing a boob, but I'm using mine for their nature-intended purpose - people need to get over it!

Celebrate Woman said...

I could not breast feed, as I did not have milk at all. And I tried and did all the things out there. I tried for 3 long months. Nope. Milk never came in abundance.
I applaud your effort to breastfeed your children, Mary Ann!

Sarah @ made in usa challenge said...

It's sad that we are still having this debate and there is still a stigma about something that is the most natural thing in the world. Good for you for doing what is best for you and your baby.

Silent Springs said...

I agree with the above post. It's sad this is still a debate. It's real. It's natural. It's healthy. It's right.

Kelley @ Kelley's Passion for Nutrition said...

You are doing what is right and natural. You are also showing her support to grow not her readiness. I allowed my children to wean themselves. They all knew when theybnilonger wanted to nurse. Thank you for sharing this. I know it is a hard walk to walk, but you have lost of support :-)

Tanya said...

I love this Mary! I support you and Nyree in however long you decide to nurse her. How could anyone ever say no to such a little sweetheart!?

Jena said...

I'm sorry you feel the need to be secretive about nursing your daughter. I am totally one of those moms who doesn't worry about "baring my tits" in public when my 19mo wants to nurse. But it's wonderful being in a supportive environment; here on the West Coast (specifically, the Pacific Northwest & BC), it's almost uncommon to see BFing moms covering up. I wish it were a normal sight everywhere.

Mary Ann said...

Thank you so much everyone for all the supportive comments! I know not everyone is able to breastfeed, and I am so grateful that I am able to do this for my children.