Yup, still nursing

It’s World Breastfeeding Week. With the exception of five months, I’ve been lactating for the past four years. I nursed my #1 son, who is now 4-years-old, until he was 2.5 and I currently nurse my #2 son (he is 15 months).

Without knowing much about breastfeeding, I dived into it with my first son. I ignored the dumb remarks such as one from my nurse, who told me, “Don’t let him use you as a pacifier!” Even being as ignorant as I was about nursing, that comment did not sit well with me and I put her on ignore.

I did what felt natural to me: I nursed him whenever he made a peep and always nursed him to sleep for naps and at night (and yes, he sleeps quite well on his own now, thanks). Yes, I was mildly confused as to why he wanted to nurse again after just an hour or why it’s been two hours and I’m still sitting here with a baby attached to my boob. I just went with the flow and read a book and dinner would be whatever the heck can be rustled up. No one will die.

I am thankful I was lucky enough to stay home with my babies and not worry about going back to work, having to pump. I bow down to women that do that because it’s hard as hell.

I have and still enjoy nursing. It’s relaxing for everyone involved. It forces you to slows things down. This is normal and always was. Now, yes, things are different, industrialized and faster paced. But we humans have the power to create a world where everything that I mentioned above about breastfeeding is all normal within our modernized lifestyles. We just have to do the work to achieve it.

International Babywearing Week 2011

#1 chillin in the Ergo and me, smiling really hard, in Cannon Beach, Ore.

 

This week is International Babywearing Week. I was very surprised to see there was not an Oregon chapter of Babywearing International. I know what you’re thinking…start one up yourself!

As far as I know, I am the first person in my family to babywear (and exclusively breastfeed, for that matter). When my #1 was born, we bought the obligatory Baby Bjorn. But as most parents know, your baby will grow out of that roughly five minute after they’re born. And your back will yell at you for the abuse being heaped upon it. I got a Moby Wrap, which I found is great for infants but for me, it got a bit cumbersome as the baby gets older (however, its still way more comfortable than a Baby Bjorn).

So when my son was about seven or eight months, we researched the best baby carriers and decided on the Ergo. Best investment ever. Awesome on the back and and you wear baby front, back and sideways. For a long time, I would walk #1 down to sleep for naps and night-sleeping in the Ergo. The same Ergo is still going strong for #2 (who is almost 6 months) who pretty much lives in it while I am doing things around the house (parenting #1, cooking, laundry, doing my hair, etc.). In fact, he is napping in it right now, as I am writing this.

There are plenty of other carriers that are good, too. Just depends on your preference.

Things like breastfeeding and babywearing are practices that folks in industrialized nations “rediscover” after abandoning it for decades (or even centuries). It’s definitely a step in the right direction, as our species has survived on raising our children like this for millions of years. But once our culture gets a hold of something, it inevitably gets commodified, like this article talks about regarding breastfeeding.

I hope more people discover the joys and advantages of babywearing this week. And maybe I should get started on that Oregon chapter…

The Breast Milk Baby

I heard about this doll a few months back, so now I hear the company, Berjuan, (based in Spain) is releasing it in the U.S. market. All over the Net people are weighing in about it, saying everything from it sexualizes girls, it’s perverted, over-pushing motherhood, or it’s gross.

My take? The only reason this doll is lame is that it costs $90. Why pay this, when your daughter can take any old doll and pretend to nurse it? This company is simply trying to take advantage of the increased interest in breastfeeding. They see a market share and want to make bank. I get that.

What I don’t get, are the reasons people are giving for why it’s inappropriate.

“Sexualizes girls, is perverted or gross.”

Honestly, if you’re thinking along these lines, you’re the perverted one. But it’s cultural. We’ve over-sexualized breasts. However, since more and more women are breastfeeding, this bit of cultural insanity needs to stop. We need to make an effort to change our thinking on this. Women’s breasts have had the ability to lactate since the beginning of time; our sexual objectification of breasts is a new phenomenon. It’s time to evolve, folks.

“Over-pushing motherhood.”

Meaning, to the exclusion of other life pursuits. Okay, I don’t even know where to start with this. The idea that motherhood is lesser than or not as important as a career or is a booby trap (pun intended) to be avoided is a very narrow-minded view to have. This reminds me of writer Rebecca Walker’s issues with her own mother, author Alice Walker; Rebecca reportedly says she was not allowed to play with dolls growing up because of Alice’s feminist views.

Bottomline: some women have insecurity issues as it relates to being genetically female and all that comes with having a uterus. They need to check that mess at the door and not project their own fears onto their daughters. DD can bloom with whatever path she chooses.

Daughters naturally copy their mothers. If she sees mom breastfeeding, she might try to mimic this with her dolls. That’s why we have dolls with bottles. So while I don’t advocate spending almost $100 on a doll, there is nothing wrong with the idea behind it and the company does not deserve the derision they are getting.

Like I said. It’s time to evolve.

Weaning our toddler

I don’t really broadcast it, but I have done extended breastfeeding with our son. It’s great living in a state like Oregon, where different forms of natural parenting is the norm. It’s not a huge deal to see moms breastfeeding in restaurants, parks, clothing stores, wherever. And it’s not a big deal to see a mom nursing a toddler.

So when I found out in late summer that I was pregnant again, I was educated and knew it would be fine to continue nursing. However, at this point in my pregnancy (19.5 weeks) my supply is pretty much nil, but that hasn’t stopped my son from wanting “nurses”. But nursing started getting truly physically irritating for me, so I knew I need to wean soon, but gently.

Fortunately, just as my supply had begun to decrease he had started to wean himself, with a little encouragement from me. Even before I got pregnant, I did the “not offering strategy” with him, but instead offered drinks or snacks. If he really, really wanted to nurse, then I’d let him. So within the last month or so, he has progressed to never asking to nurse during the day.

But he is having a hard time letting those night nursings go.

Nighttime isn’t really that bad. We make sure to give him a drink and snack before brushing his teeth. Then he’ll be fine until he starts to get sleepy, then he’ll want to nurse. I give him water and he accepts that. Then when he is just on the cusp of serious sleepiness, he really wants his nurses. He’ll cry and I will hold and soothe him until he falls asleep. This crying phase doesn’t last more than 20 minutes.

As of now, he has not nursed since Saturday evening. This is a record. Even if he is totally weaned, I have read that after baby arrives, he may become interested in nursing again, which I will be fine with.

SO and I are at the point where we accept some crying at night, until he realizes that he can fall asleep fine without nursies. In fact, some nights he has gone out like a light without much fuss at all. So I know that he is ready, just needs patience and encouragement from us.

The case against bitterness

When I saw the title of this article, “The case against breast-feeding,” I thought: okay. I am willing to hear where this woman is coming from. So I read the article and realized this woman has some personal problems she is blaming breast feeding on. In my opinion, of course.

Here is my re-cap of her article.

She is a mother and works at home (lucky her) as an editor for The Atlantic, nursed her two older children until they were one year, and is currently nursing a baby, her third.

Before now, she was a mindless peon/supporter of nursing. But after researching the scientific reports on nursing versus formula, she has concluded that there is not enough scientific evidence to support the shamelessly touted advantages of nursing, such as higher IQ, prevention of obesity and diabetes and other diseases, etc., etc. The people that are the chief proponents of these claims, she says, are bougie snobs that keep track of how much organic food you give your kids because it’s the new IN thing to nurse your baby until they are five.

Nursing keeps you tied to your baby when you could be out working, like her husband, for whom she holds barely disguised contempt because he can’t lactate and co-nurse with her.

So, in the end, she has decided that nursing has a small advantage over formula, but perhaps not enough to make up for the psychological damage that it may cause because you resent your baby for wanting milk and cutting into your down time.

First of all, this woman suffers from what many of us in Western society have to some degree: an over-reliance on scientific research. I worked for a medical publishing company for a year, and I can’t tell you how many times a research finding came out that completely contradicted an earlier report. It was quite ridiculous, actually. So any research I hear or read about, I take with the tiniest grain of salt.

My common sense tells me that breast milk is better than formula. My flesh and blood leg is better than a plastic one. Can I get through life with a plastic one? Sure, totally. But the original part is best. So it is with formula. Will your child grow and thrive on formula? Of course, they will, many of us have. But is breast milk better? Maybe even a whole lot better? Yeah, probably.

Now is it going to make your kid become a genius? Will they never get fat or get diabetes? All those reports may or may not have some truth to them, but it doesn’t really change the factoid that formula is great, but breast milk is better. Plain and simple. I don’t need scientific evidence to justify my decision to nurse my kid.

Second, women have been nursing for…FOREVER. During most of that time, humans have not had to deal with the trappings of modern life that makes everything really, really fast-paced and inconvenient. You got computers, email, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube. Everything happens almost instantaneously. Nursing doesn’t really fit into that framework very well. Nursing, especially in the beginning, can take an hour or two. And when you’re done, you might have to do it again 45 minutes later. A lot of it may depend on your kid’s ability to get efficient at sucking.

So the slowness of nursing is not the problem. It’s the rapidity of our lifestyles.

Third, this woman just seems bitter about nursing or maybe motherhood in general. She took a few potshots at her husband seemingly because she feels he’s not doing his fair share. She silently resents him when she has to nurse at night, while he turns over to go back to sleep. At other times, she taps her foot impatiently, waiting for her baby to finish nursing. Yikes, just read a book until he’s done!

Ironically, she still nurses part-time. When she is away, the baby drinks formula. To which I say great, cool, do what works for you. But she takes the time to write “a case against breast feeding” when in the end she still does it. Why does she have to demonize nursing to justify her decision to give her baby formula sometimes? This is exactly what she criticizes the bougie snobs for, except they are demonizing formula to justify nursing.

This is what I took out of her article, which is a valid point, amid all the personal resentment and bitterness: sometimes you can’t, or don’t want, to nurse and its OK. Yes, breast milk is best, but formula is not poison. Feel free to use it and your baby will be fine.

Hayek’s goodwill deed

Well, everyone was going psycho over Salma Hayek breast feeding another woman’s child during her trip to Sierra Leone last week. In the article, Hayek said she did it for two reasons: because the baby was hungry (the mother had no milk) and to dispel the taboo of breast feeding in that part of Africa. I guess not everyone is having a self-righteous meltdown; many women were moved to tears and thought very highly of Hayek. But others thought she was being “disloyal” to her own daughter (who is 14 months old) or made vague, foolish statements like “that’s just wrong”.

I know people are up in arms mostly because she nursed a child that wasn’t hers. But women have done that throughout history. What is the big deal, really? I think more of the problem is that people get so prissy and freaked out about breast feeding. Breasts, both real and fake, are flashed with abandon all over the media. Yet, when breasts are used in what I must argue is really their main function, it’s suddenly weird.

My son is almost nine months and I am still nursing him. There are so many benefits to nursing; immunological protection, no bottle prepping, and it’s free (that’s the part I like)! While more women are breast feeding now, many still get discouraged after the first couple of weeks and start using formula. And I don’t blame them; it can be difficult to get used to in the beginning. Others nurse for the first few months, then for whatever reason start formula.

Nursing becomes a lot easier as a baby gets older and starts solids. They don’t drink as long (although occasionally they may go for 30 minutes) and they become so efficient at it, you barely have to think while they latch on themselves. You can read, watch some TV, or just relax.

I think what Hayek did was great and I think it’s cool that she is still nursing her one year old daughter. People need to just get a grip.