Wednesday, June 22, 2011


In the world of new motherhood nothing is as difficult to bear as unsolicited advice on subject which you are educated about and dedicated to.  Before W was born I had dedicated myself to a minimum of one year of nursing.  After the first day of his life that changed.  The lactation consultant who visited us in the hospital was speechless when my answer to her typical introductory question "How long are you planning to nurse?" was "At least 18 months".  Needless to say you don't often encounter individuals who are considering extended breastfeeding outside of a midwifery setting.  When W was 2 months old his pediatrician, who is also a friend of the family, asked me what I was enjoying most about being a mother.  My honest answer was "Nursing W."  As the other supermom was expressing in a recent post there is something special about nourishing and comforting your child at the breast.  Something natural and instinctive. It's a beautiful relationship.  And although we had a difficult start (engorgement, Mastitis, clogged ducts, thrush, latching issues, oversupply, jaundice) at no time did I ever consider giving up.  I wanted to make a point.  If I can succeed while facing every issue in the book in the first 2 weeks, anyone can. And here we are 373 days later and still going strong. 

And now for the unsolicited advice.  "You know, you are going to have a really difficult time weaning him now that you've nursed beyond a year."

Not only was this advice unsolicited, such talk should be banned.  No mother who has just successfully breastfed her child beyond a year while working full time should be told anything that might damage her future breastfeeding relationship.  Were I anyone but myself I could have been scared.  I could have thought "I'd better start weaning now if it's only going to get harder as he gets older."  Thank goodness I have my own experience and knowledge as well as the support of several extended BF'ers and one supermom who will, no doubt, breastfeed beyond toddler-hood. 

I simply looked this person in the face and calmly said "No, I expect it will be quite easy. W will most likely naturally wean whenever he is ready, sometime between 2 and 3 years."

Why is it that in this society, now that breastfeeding is becoming the norm, do we push for a weaning deadline?  Why do we begin to ask mothers when their babies are 6 months, 9 months, 12 months "When are you planning to wean?"  One of my favorite responses to this question is that a child should not be weaned until you can have an intelligent conversation with them about what is happening.  Most children will wean themselves.  Some need a little encouragement. But no child should be forced from the breast.  Then end of the breastfeeding relationship should be celebrated and rejoiced.

"Weaning is not a negative term, nor is it something that you do to a child. Weaning is a journey from one relationship to another. The Hebrew word for wean is gamal, meaning "to ripen." In ancient times, when children were breastfed until two or three years of age, it was a joyous occasion when a child weaned. It meant the child was filled with the basic tools of the earlier stages of development and secure and ready to enter the next stage of development."  Dr. Sears

"And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned." Genesis 21:8

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Sisterhood.

Very few things warm my heart quite like seeing a mama nurse her baby.  I am filled with joy when I see a woman who is comfortable nursing her child in public, and I find it hard not to run up and give the pair a hug.  Then I think about how I would react if a strange woman ran up to me while I was feeding E, and I usually settle for a knowing (and friendly) smile.

I love when I get these smiles while I'm nursing.  Today E was snuggled down in his ring sling, nursing happily (and noisily, as usual), as we perused the farmers' market.  A woman peered over her table and commented, "That's how I fed my babies - wherever they were hungry.  Good for you!"  We proceeded to have a short conversation, finding out we had the same midwife, and E made a new friend in her when he came up for air.

Nursing creates a sisterhood the way mothering does not.  Women who nurse their babies are different, but similar.  I feel an instant kinship when I find out a woman has held her baby to her breast, and I delight in hearing women (especially when their children are grown) speak fondly of their nursing relationships.  This simple act seems to bind women of all ages and experiences together in a way few other things can.

Yesterday I was treated to my favorite brand of "nursing fan," the toddler who remembers being at the breast.    As I was sitting in a corner nursing E during W's birthday party, a curious little pair of eyes found us, peeked in a few times, then came straight up to fully appreciate the situation.  This lovely little lady fondly remembers the beautiful gift her mommy gave her, and seemed to savor seeing another child experiencing the same gift.  It is always a heartwarming moment when a child can identify and bond with another child over something so simple as a meal, and it's a bittersweet moment when I realize that not every child gets this gift.  I'm so happy I've made the commitment to give E the best and longest lasting gift I can - health from my milk, comfort and security from being cuddled at my breast, and the fond memory of not being ashamed to feed my child as long as he needs.