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.