Friday, February 1, 2013

"Shouldn't He Be Weaned By Now?"

This is a note that I wrote on my personal Facebook page.  I thought it was important enough to publish on my blog.  Why am I so passionate about defending rights to breastfeed?  Well, that's probably another blog post but the simple answer is because it's my baby, my breasts, my choice.  Not your baby, not your breasts, not your choice.  End of story.


"Shouldn't he be weaned by now?"

Surely I'm not the only breastfeeding mother who has heard this question and here is my answer.  I will refer to this note each and every time I am asked the above question or any variation of the question that subtly implies I should not be breastfeeding my son.

The answer is the same if you're family, friend, or foe: I will do it until we're ready to quit and I have no idea when that will be so there's no sense in pressing the topic unless you're deliberately trying to antagonize me. There are zero negatives, it's so incredibly beneficial to child and mother, and he is barely even a year old so I haven't even once considered quitting yet. He won't be doing it forever and I'm so very glad that you're so concerned about my baby and me. The next time you ask, I'll be sure to gently enlighten you further that mammals are designed for this nurturing & nutritive activity and it is as normal a biological function as you eating your meal or drinking your beverage. Feel free to try to argue with me, but your problem isn't with me or my position- your problem is with science, history, and research. I know, I know, those darn pesky facts always getting in the way of an uneducated opinion!

Why is it that people feel that it is acceptable to ask such a question to a breastfeeding mother, but they wouldn't even think to ask a similar question to a bottle feeding mother?  A friend put it very well when she said:  my baby doesn't need to get off my boobs, but you need to get off my back.  Indeed!

I don't think that people are trying to be jerks (most of the time), but I do think that there is a not-so-subtle pressure to wean long before now. It is sometimes disguised as concern (you must want a break from that baby), sometimes it's justified by anecdote (I had formula and I turned out fine), sometimes it's just sheer ignorance of human biology (they don't need breastmilk if they have teeth), and sometimes it's just douchebaggery. I prefer to believe that most people aren't in the last category. It's aggravating nonetheless and, in a less determined mother, it would probably shake her resolve to continue her breastfeeding relationship with her child.  That is a shame and many women find their breastfeeding goals are subtly or overtly undermined by friends, family, and society in general.  I'm a stubborn old mule these days and I will keep on keeping on because I'm confident in my decision. :-)

I can't necessarily blame people for thinking it's weird because society thinks it's weird and most people don't care enough about human lactation to educate themselves about it. They are just uniformed. Society says breasts are A-Ok for filling out bikinis, selling beer, and generally being sexy. Baby attached to something "sexy" is skeevy because babies are not sexy so on some level I do get why people get weirded out.  However, someone with a hangup about basic biology is not my problem and it darn sure is not my child's problem.  Educate yourself about it and you'll quickly get over it.

Once upon a time I was slack-jaw shocked to happen upon my 10-month old niece breastfeeding.  To be fair, I was only 13-years old and I'd never seen such an old infant nursing.  I almost laugh that I actually thought a ten-month old was pretty old to be nursing!  I got over it. . .boy, did I!  As my husband once teasingly said, I'm like Ms. La Leche League.  Oddly enough, I've never once been to an LLL meeting.  I just have a passion for helping women achieve their breastfeeding goals because I know that there is tremendous pressure to just give in and pop a bottle of formula in your baby's mouth.  Unfortunately, it's sooo easy for that first bottle to be the beginning of the end of a breastfeeding relationship.

I have found that most people who get weirded out by seeing my son at my breast will be weirded out no matter how many facts and truths I present. Most of you guys have seen me breastfeed and I'm hardly a whip-out-the-boob type of nurser. I don't prefer to call a lot of attention to what we're doing when he's nursing. I will, however, absolutely not withhold breastfeeding from my baby if he needs/wants it no matter where we are or who is there and that is that.  His right to eat is greater than your right to not feel icky about seeing him eat.

Did you catch that last part?  His right to eat.  It's breastfeedingFeeding!  My son has a right to eat.  Just like you do.  Just like I do.  My son happens to get his milk from my breasts.  He still has the right to eat.  Period!

Part of the reason why I'm so vocal about supporting a woman's breastfeeding goals is because women who choose to breastfeed really do need a cheerleader to encourage them. It is not easy and society really does not encourage it. Things are better now in some ways (laws protecting the child's right to eat!), but worse in others because breasts are more sexualized than ever and you can hardly turn on the TV without seeing someone displaying their boobs. But a baby on the breast? Well, that's just gross & indecent! I've also heard people say they find nursing to be immodest, tacky, and classless.  I'm glad that such backward thinking will eventually die out and hopeful that upcoming generations will be less likely to keep breasts solely in the "sexy" category.  I'm definitely doing my part to normalize breastfeeding to my kids so they won't even bat an eye when they see a woman nursing her child.

You know, that's something that should outrage everyone: things are/were so messed up if you want to breastfeed your child that laws actually had to be enacted to protect your child's right to eat! It is a damn shame that laws had to be written to allow the feeding of another human being! No matter your position on breastfeeding, nursing in public, or anything else, that is an outrage!

Equally outrageous is that no one would say boo to me if I were bottle feeding my son at this age. Well, one or two might, but in general no one would have a single word to say if I were bottle feeding my one-year old. Society's bias against breastfeeding will change one day, but even my husband (hardly the most crunchy guy on the block) has noted that the pressure to remove your breast from your child is intense from the moment you leave the hospital. Frankly, I think his observation depends on the hospital as I happened to deliver our boys at a very breastfeeding friendly hospital with knowledgeable and supportive nursing staff.  Even then, it was a horribly painful struggle with my first child and there were times that I questioned why I was still moving forward and trying to make breastfeeding work.  I ended up nursing him until he was 13-months and I still regret that I weaned him at such a young age.

The easiest answer to your question is this:  I'm not sure when he'll wean, but it will eventually happen.

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