Breastfeeding is a subject I’m passionate about, so I was thrilled that this would be the topic for my very first MomsLA post.
I attended a breastfeeding sit-in today at a Los Angeles Target store. The “nurse-in” was organized when a mother at a Target in Texas was harassed by multiple employees for breastfeeding her baby in the store. When the mother called the corporate office to complain she was met with the same negative response.
The nurse-in quickly turned into a nationwide gathering of mothers supporting the right to feed their infants.
I attended because I am the mother of two breastfeeding children. My children are 3.5 and 5 years old, so they rarely want/need to nurse when we are out.
My children and I attended for three reasons:
- We were there to support a woman’s right to feed her baby anytime/anyplace he or she is hungry.
- We also attended to help normalize breastfeeding in public. The more people see it, the more normal it will become.
- We wanted to show people that breastfeeding past infancy is a relevant choice.
I have a really hard time with people that scoff at extended breastfeeding and give their reason as, “its weird,” or “that’s a little too old.” I’m sorry those aren’t legitimate reasons to be judging someone negatively for their choice.
What I do know is that the majority of people do the very best for their children. You enter dangerous territory when you start criticizing someone’s parenting choices. I believe that by choosing something drastically different than another mother and labeling it “best” for their child, that some mothers see this as an attack on their parenting choices. The harsh words and judgement come as a defense.
I have witnessed this with both formula feeders, breastfeeding mothers, and everything in between. No one is innocent!
My hope is that one day all mothers can get to the point that every family is different. What works with some families doesn’t work for others. We should consider it a blessing that we have options.
With that being said, I would like people to know that natural/sustained/extended breastfeeding is a reasonable choice.
The World Health Organization has a recommendation of AT LEAST two years of breastfeeding for all children. The western world is slowly realizing that cultural norms don’t always make sense with biology.
I believe historical events and western society’s oversexualized view of the body made us fearful of breastfeeding.
My mother taught me never to be ashamed of breastfeeding. It is normal and natural.
I was breastfed by my mother until I was six-years-old when I self weaned. I remember breastfeeding and how comforting it was to me. I never used a pacifier and was never a attached to a blanket or a toy. I had that kind of attachment to a human being, which my mom felt was important. My mom still went on vacation with my dad so I wasn’t overly attached. She described it as “healthy.” My mom believes the reason I was the most self-confident of all my siblings (the other two were older than me and my mother received ignorant advice to wean them at two months old) was because I was breastfed. We will never know, but it definitely left a lasting impression on my brother and sister.
My sister breastfed all four of her children past three years. After watching the emotional and physical benefits I received from breastfeeding she said it was an obvious choice.
My brother was killed at 25, but he spoke openly about wanting to marry someone who found breastfeeding as important as he did.
I spent time in west Africa doing women’s research as an anthropology major. I realized then that the majority of the world had the same view as my mother. During this time I read a lot of work by the physical anthropologist, Dr. Katherine Dettwyler. She is very well respected in her field and put my own research into perspective.
She wrote a great layman’s article called, A Natural Age of Weaning. She discusses the normal time frame for when Homo sapiens are biologically designed to wean.
My first son was born my emergency C-section two months early. I wasn’t able to visit my son for three days after he was born because I was so sick (I had developed HELLP Syndrome in my pregnancy.) The NICU nurses didn’t even want me to bother trying to nurse him. We had a lot of issues that were against us in trying to breastfeed. I was lucky that my milk came in at that point (sometimes no matter how hard women try, their milk never comes in) and that my son was able to latch on. I had a great support system or I probably wouldn’t have even bothered trying. I know without a doubt that breast milk was beneficial for my son, especially as a preemie.
We adopted our second son from Ethiopia. He was a month shy of his fourth birthday when he came home. We found out soon after he arrived home his mother had breastfed him right up until he entered the orphanage (at 3.5 years old.) From my own experience breastfeeding, my heart broke even more for him. Not only did he lose his mother (the most important and present person to him at that time), he lost his language, his country, and the only thing that would provide true comfort to him- breastfeeding. My son did not have a pacifier or a blankie that could soothe him.
My son came home only speaking Sidamic and a little Amharic. He saw me breastfeeding his brother one day and was interested. I asked him if he wanted to nurse and he nodded his head. I cannot tell you how much this action provided the comfort that my child needed. It aided in both of our attachment to each other. It also solidified his place in the family. My biological son saw that he was his equal, and my adopted son understood that he was just as important as his brother.
It is easy to judge things we don’t understand. I want to encourage everyone to keep an open mind about breastfeeding. Whether it be breastfeeding in public (cover or no cover), adoptive breastfeeding, or even extended breastfeeding. It may not be right for your family, but it might be the saving grace in another family. As mothers, we need to encourage each other to make the right decisions for our children.