Breastfeeding is not the bad guy, at any age, at any time
I have this little growing human who needs constant loving care. It's quite a daunting task being someone's everything. Sometimes I don't feel up for the responsibility.
Luckily, though, just like the fairy godmother gave Cinderella her carriage and dress, someone gave me breastmilk. I can magically make a nightmare melt into peaceful slumber. I can feel my baby's body go from tense to relaxed in a matter of seconds. I am so grateful for this power. This power is more than me. This power is what makes me believe in the divine.
Any mention of breastfeeding in a negative light makes my stomach hurt a little bit. Makes my throat hurt like when you are going to cry but you don't because you are holding it in. Because I don't know what to say. Because breastmilk deserves respect and for some reason, it doesn't always get it. Nursing gets a bad rap after a certain age, at certain times, in certain places, and for certain reasons. This makes me oh so sad and oh so mad.
When my son was born, my 18 month old daughter was still nursing every day. She was so shaken to the core by his birth that she wanted to nurse more than he did. Her whole world had changed. Her mommy was falling in love with another baby. She needed reassurance that our relationship was still on solid ground.
Some people suggested that I should have weaned her before the baby came. That she was jealous because she was still nursing. That she was too dependent on me. Because she was still nursing.
These words are hurtful because they assume that my decision to continue to nurse my daughter is somehow the reason for her pain. Am I causing her pain? Is her suffering somehow my fault?
Even the pediatrician encouraged my daughter's swift weaning from the breast. His reason was her petite physique. He talked to me about growth percentiles and calories and weight gain.
Again, the power of the breast disregarded. The sacred milk stripped of its divine status.
I was so saddened and shocked by this disregard for breastmilk after a certain age that I started exploring my feelings with a postpartum doula. I was like a lioness who growled at anyone who touched her cubs. What was wrong with me? The doula invited me to journey into my past, to search for the trigger for these strong emotions around breastfeeding my children. Tell me about your childhood, she said. Tell me about your mother.
We talked, but I didn't get very far. Because I actually don't believe that something is wrong with me. That something happened in my past that makes me overly sensitive.
Women all over the world are born with the ability to make milk for their young, and some have an overwhelming, animalistic desire to feed their babies with their milk. Similarly, babies all over the world are born with an overwhelming desire to be near their mothers and drink their milk. It's just how we are made. And it's beautiful, by the way.
Encouraging me to ignore my instincts, to limit nursing or physical contact, and to accept that women everywhere are told to do this on a regular basis brings out the lioness in me not because something is wrong with me, but because something is right with me.
Saying that nursing can somehow have a negative effect on how a baby sleeps, or how a child grows, is a slap in the face at nature itself. Let's celebrate this gift instead of looking at it as the bad guy.
So if I am looking tired and like I need a break, thanks for your concern, but if you suggest that I stop nursing I will probably growl at you. Nursing is not the bad guy. It's the good guy. It is a very special gift.
When it comes to how you fed your babies, were you encouraged to follow your instincts?