Thursday, November 19, 2009

On Nursing

I breast fed Oscar for 12.5 months. I stopped because I was three months pregnant and my nipples hurt like a bitch. He was kind of over it too. It wasn't hard or sad for me to stop. I was in pain. I was glad for it to be over.

Breast feeding was hard with Oscar. He was sleepy and jaundice and I had to wake him for feedings for his first two weeks. He had a poor latch; there were lots of blisters and cracking and bleeding. My first month was hell and I almost quit. But, it got better and I grew to really enjoy that time with him. He started on solids at four months and his nursing began declining. He weened gradually and naturally and I was okay with that. Particularly because of the pain.

Miles was a completely different story. He latched on within seconds of his birth. It was like one of those videos they show you - he inched his way over to my nipple and just grabbed on. And he pretty much didn't let go for the first four months of his life. He nursed every hour and a half for FOUR MONTHS. He had a fantastic latch and a great appetite, but it was tough with the every ninety minutes for 17 straight weeks. He wouldn't even touch solids until he was nearly seven months. Miles was tough in ways too, but I'll take a hearty eater over a poor start when it comes to nursing any day.

So, here we are. Miles is eleven months. He's nurses less these days - every three to four hours - but still quite a bit for a baby of his age. He eats plenty of solids, drinks water, but he really enjoys nursing. Like, he latched on and hunkers down for a good 10-15 minutes at each session. By the time Oscar was four months, it was all I could do to get him to nurse for five consecutive minutes. Miles just loves it. He loves nursing.

And, truth be told, so do I. The moments I spend nursing Miles are often the only moments in the day I get to spend focused just on Miles. He looks at me, he smiles. His had seeks my lips for kisses. He grabs on to my index finger to pull me closer. These are sweet, sweet moments. I'm nowhere near ready for them to end.

My pediatrician (and the AAP) recommends breast feeding for a baby's first year of life (exclusively for six months and with complimentary solid foods after that), and for as long as is mutually desired by mother and baby after that points. The World Health Organization actually recommends breast feeding for up to two years and beyond, with complimentary foods.

Where am I going with this? I'm getting there.

I intend to breast feed Miles beyond a year. I intend to do it until he and I are both tired of it. Maybe it will be for 18 months. Maybe it will be for 20 months. Maybe 26. Who knows? I'm just going to do it for as long as he and I both want to, and to be honest I don't really care what the AAP, the WHO, or anyone else thinks about it.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, a few weeks ago we were at a get together where people were discussing breast feeding and how they all though it was important that women be able to nurse in public. I couldn't agree more. I'm a championship public nurser. I'll do it anywhere, anytime, anyhow. I've done it in museums, in Target, in restaurants, at my father-in-law's sportsman's club,. I could give two shits. If my baby is hungry, I feed it. End of story.

Then some of these same folks expressed disdain for extended breast feeding, to the tune of a kid should no longer be nursing if they can ask for it. I didn't say anything, but I wish I had because I could not disagree more.

And, that's not to say extended breast feeding, or even breast feeding period, is the right choice for everyone. Here's the thing though: It's a personal choice. Breast feeding is a personal choice. Do it, don't do it, I don't care. What I do care about is my right to breast feed my kid for as long as I want.

You know what the real rub is? Most of the people having this discussion have never breast fed a child. That's not to say they can't have an opinion; of course they can. I just don't think they have a full grasp of the issue.

I'm not going to sit here and extol the benefits of breast feeding and extended breast feeding. The benefits may be why I started, but they are not why I've continued. Because, for me and for many women who choose breast feeding and extended breast feeding, breast feeding is about more than nutrition. It's about the love and closeness I feel with my babies. It's about the comfort and safety they feel being breast fed. It is about the bond breast feeding has helped establish. It's about my boobs and my kids and I don't give a shit if it makes anyone else feel uncomfortable.

It is not "weird" or inappropriate to breast feed a kid into it's second or third year. It may not be the norm in the U.S., but it is pretty much everywhere else in the world. What is weird and inappropriate is thinking you have a say in someone else's breast feeding decisions. Think what you want, but keep it to yourself because I don't care and neither does that woman over there nursing her 2.5 year old. We are happy and comfortable with our decision. You don't have to be.


Supermomof3 said...

Well said! and I couldnt agree more!

Anonymous said...

There was a time, even in this country, when children were nursed until they were old enough to make their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Then came WWII and all the mommies when to work and bottle feeding became popular - and stayed popular until the 70s.

I was absolutely APPALLED to hear my MIL tell how each of her children were bottle-fed from the day they were born, and not necessarily because they were bottle-fed, but WHAT they were fed: a homemade formula that consisted of cow's milk (yes, the kind that you keep in the refrigerator), diluted with water and mixed with Karo syrup to make it more palatable for the baby. A little research showed me this was VERY common in the 50s and early 60s, especially before commercially prepared formulas became so ubiquitous. I sometimes wonder how we ever survived.

It really and truly is no one's business but yours how long you choose to nurse your baby. Don't be afraid to tell the naysayers that, either.

Jan from the Sushi Bar

VandyJ said...

Wonderful post! I am looking at a more extended BFing than with my first too. Turbo was done at around a year. Bruiser however just loves the nugs. He will eat solids but he's not crazy about them. He wants to eat what we eat or nurse. I'm going to go with it as long as he does.

Petra a.k.a The Wise (*Young*) Mommy said...

It is nobody else's business how long you choose to breastfeed, but I do have to admit that I felt uncomfortable with my friend's 5 year old daughter walking up to her and lifting up her shirt at my house and saying "I want your boobie mom." Just sayin, NOT trying to cause drama or criticizing anyone's decisions, but I think there is something to be said for discretion.

Sprite's Keeper said...


blissfully caffeinated said...

Amen and hallelujah. Glory be.

blissfully caffeinated said...

I have to say, I do agree with Petra also. And that's coming from a dedicated breast feeder.

Keely said...

Good for you, mama. It only makes people uncomfortable because it's not the norm. Just like people used to assume doctors were male or Latinas were someone's maid. Perceptions will change - again - because women like you will insist on it :)

I dearly wish I could have nursed X longer than I did. But each nursing relationship is different.

Cara said...

Amen to all of this. Especially the line "What's weird is thinking you have a say in someone else's relationship." Loved that. I didn't have a nursing relationship at all with Claire. The one with Carter was only 4 months, way too short for as much as we both loved it. I'm hoping for a nice, long one the 3rd time around.

Veronica said...


I was nursed until I was 3. TBH I don't remember much of it, although I do remember the comfort and the weaning. I nursed Amy until she was 19 months and stopped because we wanted to conceive. She was ready to stop and I was ready to be done. With Isaac, we'll see where we end up. But at 10 months, he is still very much loving the boobs.

Becky said...

Miles is such a sweetie. And amen to everything you said. I nursed Hank until he was two. I don't mean several times a day, but we had a long long period of tapering off. I think that's the easiest kind of weaning. I still miss it. You never get that particular closeness with your baby back, so why not keep it up as long as you both want to?

Momma Mikki said...

I love this post!!!! I have learned what I know of breast feeding through watching my mostly-butch wife who said she probably wasn't going to breast feed do it for going on nearly 9 months now, with absolutely NO end in sight. I am proud of her and proud of you for making the choice that is absolutely right for you and your child. No other choice matters. None.

Mrsbear said...

Well said. Absolutely 100% an individual choice. All you have to worry about is doing what's right for you and Miles.