Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Changing Times?

Sometimes a supermom feels torn in different directions.  I love my baby and I want nothing more than to be home with him 24/7.  Still, he has a great caregiver who is nothing short of amazing. And I have a new job that I love and that gives me the opportunity to reach countless more children with my old-fashioned lifestyle than I otherwise would be able to.

Growing up I don't think I realized breastfeeding existed.  Yes, my mother breastfed me exclusively for a few weeks and then part-time as she had to go back to work when I was only 6 weeks old.  This was before the age of mandatory pumping breaks and "milk rooms."  I haven't asked how long I was breastfed, the answer doesn't matter to me.  What matters is that I am doing the same for my child, giving him a great start in life.  But back to point.  I thought babies were given bottles.  All the babies I saw got bottles.  Yes, I had seen quite a few litters of kittens and puppies as well as other farm animals suckling.  I just never considered it for baby humans - shocking, right?

I was a senior in high school before I heard of someone breastfeeding. My future sister in law was pregnant at the time and mentioned breastfeeding. I'm pretty sure my reaction was "Eww, I'm never doing that."  She assured me that I would change my mind.  I have and I'm thankful that she seems to have forgotten that interchange. 

When I was in college I thought "I'll breastfeed for whatever my doctor recommends and then I'm done."  At the time the recommendation was 6 months.  A few years later I got married and we were surprised with a pregnancy.  The recommendation had changed to a year and so I changed to a year.  Unfortunately that pregnancy ended in another surprise - a miscarriage - and my outlook changed again.  I began researching what was best for pregnancy, infants and children. About this time I got my very first glimpse at a nursing mother - I was 25. 

When I was in the hospital after W was born a year later the lactation consultant asked me how long I planned to breastfeed.  I said "18 months."  Now here I am, W is 20 months old and shows no signs of stopping.  DH is hoping that he will be weaned by 2 and maybe he will be, or maybe we will still be nursing at 2 1/2....

Still, I digress.  The reason for this post was to contrast my early experience with that of my current students.  I teach high school - I have 14-19 year old children who come from a variety of backgrounds.  I have students who were breastfed for more than 2 years (amazing!) and some who would consider nothing but breastfeeding.  I have students who have seen their mothers and their sisters breastfeed, who talk about it as openly and comfortably as I discussed babies and bottles.  

I'm fighting the fight on the front lines.  My students know that I breastfeed my 20 month old son and I teach them about the nutritional, developmental and psychological benefits it has. I'm encouraging them to research for themselves and praising them when they say with surprise "So why would you not breastfeed?"  I high-five a male student who says his future wife better breastfeed! I support a 15 year old mom who is pumping in a closet between classes. 

I'm fighting the fight and I think we are winning.