Category Archives: Culture
I seriously cannot even tell you how many times I have been asked recently, “You’re still breastfeeding?” Yes. I’m still breastfeeding. I don’t intend to stop anytime soon, either. In fact, I’m willing to let T nurse until this time next year. Yep. He’ll be 18 months old then. If you keep saying it like that then I might let him go longer.
It’s not the question that bothers me.
If someone asked me, “Are you still breastfeeding?” I would excitedly tell them that, yes, I am still nursing… It’s going great… T has transitioned back and forth from breast to bottle to sippy cup flawlessly. He’s sleeping through the night most of the time (Hallelujah! I never thought I’d say that!). We’ve started solids. He’s really enjoying trying new foods.
If someone asked me, “Are you still breastfeeding?” I would go on and on about how wonderful the experience of exclusively breastfeeding T for the first six months of his life was, even though it was truly exhausting at times, and then I would go on and on about how wonderful the experience of continuing to breastfeed T is. It really is a wonderful and rewarding experience. I love nursing him when I get home from work and he is so happy to see me… he snuggles in my lap and nurses and pulls at my face. Lately he tries to get my glasses off and giggles when he succeeds… which makes for a milky mess, but it’s pretty funny so I usually let it slide with just a little “no, no… be gentle,” for posterity’s sake.
But people don’t usually ask that question. Instead, they make a statement using the inflection of a question. They also tend to make this statement with a tone of voice that I don’t care for. “You’re still breastfeeding?” or worse, “You’re still breastfeeding?” Yep. I sure am.
If you were in second grade and you used that tone of voice with me, I’d take away your recess.
I’m not sure why the standard weaning age of the spectators of my life is 6 months… it seems to me that by 6 months breastfeeding is super-easy. At least in our case. If I ever thought of giving up, it would have been in those first three months when exhaustion and sleep-deprivation reigned supreme. Now this whole “main source of nourishment” gig is pretty sweet. It gives me an excuse to eat pie. I like pie. Plus, if I gave up breastfeeding now, I’d still have to buy formula for the next 6 months. That would cut my savings in half.
I understand that it is logical for some people to wean around 6 months– between work and family obligations, you’re usually away from your baby more by this time, so it makes sense that formula would be the more convenient option.
What I don’t understand is why everyone seems to think a baby older than 6 months doesn’t have any need for breast milk. I mean, if you fed your baby formula, you would continue to do so until she turned one. Then you’d introduce cow’s milk. Why is breast milk any different?
Who decided that all babies should be weaned at 6 months of age? Does nursing my baby past 6 months or past a year mean I’m too attached to my baby? Or that he’ll never learn to be comforted or cope without me? Or that I’m a psycho mom?
(Side-note: I am a psycho mom… but not because I’m still nursing my 6-month old. I am a psycho mom because I wholeheartedly believe that T will honor my request that he not date. Until I’m dead.)
So, to answer your question… Yes. I’m still breastfeeding.
Every small child I have ever known (myself included) loves a good streetcar ride. During my years as a nanny, I went on countless streetcar rides up and down St. Charles Avenue. We’d ride to the park, the French Quarter, and to (my personal favorite) PJ’s Coffee. Last night, while T’s Mai Mai was visiting, we decided to take a little streetcar ride to get some coffee. T was a HUGE fan. There was so much to look at, and so many people to flirt with. Couldn’t resist sharing a few pictures of the fun!
I’m a blur in this one, but T is clear as day.
Enjoying the breeze!
In the four months that T has been breastfed, I’ve discovered that many establishments offer “nursing rooms” for mothers who need to feed their babies… I’ve used quite a few of them, and I have developed some thoughts/ideas about them that I’d like to share.
The nicest nursing room I’ve ever used was at my parents’ church on Easter Sunday. They had a room off of their nursery that had two gliders set up (with rocking ottomans, too! Scooooore!) and a side table between them (which was perfect for the giant glass of water I had John fetch me). There was a bathroom available in the room, and a changing table in the nursery area that was easily accessible. It was extraordinarily clean. There was also plenty of room for any older siblings to play. It was lovely to nurse T there. There was only one other mother in the room while we were there. She wasn’t nursing, but her 6-day-old baby was upset so she left the service to comfort her.
I think these rooms can be so great for a woman who is not comfortable nursing in front of others or who has a very easily distracted baby who may need to be in a quiet, boring place in order to actually eat his meal.
I also think these rooms can be an annoyance/frustration to women who are comfortable nursing in public, but feel (or are told) that they must isolate themselves in a nursing room since it’s available… After all, public nursing should be avoided at all costs.
Personally, I fall into the second category. T is a champion nurser, and I’m comfortable discreetly nursing in front of others. I’m a social person by nature, and I’d likely be more of a mental case than I already am if I had to leave public areas every 2-3 hours to feed my son. The isolation would get to me very quickly.
There is also another reason I generally choose not to use a nursing room. It’s a far less popular reason, but I feel very strongly about it: Normalization. Breastfeeding will never be a socially accepted norm unless people see it more often. Growing up, I saw a woman breastfeeding exactly once. I was at the home of a childhood friend, and his mother was babysitting my sister and me for the afternoon. She was sitting on the couch nursing her youngest son while the rest of us played. I was confused by what she was doing, as I had never seen it before. She explained that babies are breastfed by their mothers, and that satisfied my curiosity for the moment.
After that experience, I was 18 before I ever saw another woman nursing her baby. I was the nanny for two wonderful little boys, who at the time were tee-tiny infants. About T’s age, actually. They were breastfed. I remember thinking it was weird and uncomfortable, and I felt awkward about it. Of course, after a month or so, it seemed like the norm to me. I’m quite certain that if I hadn’t seen those beautiful mothers nursing their babies on a regular basis, my own breastfeeding experience would be sorely different.
I know I’ve stated before that 75% of mothers in the US start out breastfeeding. By the time a baby is three months old, the number of breastfed babies has dropped to 33%. Anyone who has ever attempted to breastfeed can tell you: it doesn’t come naturally. Sure, it’s the most natural thing in the world, but because we don’t see it every day, it doesn’t come naturally. We don’t know how to position the baby, what a “good latch” looks like, how often or how long newborns feed, or how breastfeeding is supposed to feel. We don’t know these things because we don’t see them or talk about them. Breastfeeding mothers are sent to the “back room” to nurse, so we rarely have the opportunity to witness a nursing baby.
In other cultures, where breastfeeding rates are much higher, nursing in public is not taboo, breasts are not over-sexualized, and nursing mothers and babies are celebrated, there are very few women who “can’t” breastfeed. I’m convinced that this is because they don’t have to learn how to nourish their babies. It comes naturally because their entire community was breastfed. Seeing mothers nurse is a daily occurrence. They have an entire female population to go to with questions about the mechanics of breastfeeding. They don’t need Lactation Consultants. Breastfeeding is the norm.
Now, I’m not on a one-woman crusade to normalize breastfeeding in the US (okay, that’s a lie. I am on a one-woman crusade to normalize breastfeeding in the US), but I think there is something to be said when you look at those statistics. When the majority of women who want to breastfeed but feel they can’t because of cultural obstacles and medical misinformation give up within three months, it should be a wake-up call to successful nursing moms that we need to help each other out.
We have to teach each other and encourage one another through the ridiculous obstacles nursing mothers (and all mothers, really) face. We have to work together to help our society see that breastfeeding is the normal, natural way to feed babies. It may be cliched, but it’s true that we have to, “be the change we wish to see in the world,” so to speak. And that, my fair readers, is why I generally choose not to use a nursing room.
I’m a few weeks behind on posting this story… I read it shortly after it first came out, but I never finished writing about it until today.
If you don’t have time to read the link, I’ll give you a brief recap: A mother in suburban Detroit was kicked off of a city bus for breastfeeding her infant son. I’m not one to compare breastfeeding advocacy to civil rights, but I do think this story is ironic. 😉
Incidents like this happen every so often in the US, and it never fails to confuse me. Occasionally, it infuriates me. I mean, come on folks, it’s the year 2011. We should all know by now that breastfeeding is legal in all 50 states. The majority of states (I believe the number is 44? Don’t quote me on that. In any event, Michigan is definitely one of them.) have special laws that specifically exempt breastfeeding mothers from any public nudity/indecency laws. The great state of Louisiana is also among those.
My sweet husband took the time to look up the revised statute in our state and save it to my phone so I’d have it handy (just in case!). If you know my husband, this is pretty typical behavior for him. He’s Mr. Prepared for ANYTHING. Including a Zombie Apocalypse. But that’s another post. I have posted Louisiana’s breastfeeding laws here on my blog for your information.
Now, this story doesn’t specify whether or not the mother was using a nursing cover or blanket or anything… but since Michigan exempts breastfeeding mothers from public nudity laws, that doesn’t really matter. Although I’ve never seen a nursing mother expose much of anything when feeding in public.
Personally, I’m not ever going to expose anything when feeding T in public. Unless I’m wearing two shirts that cover everything T’s head isn’t blocking, I’m gonna throw a blanket over myself. I don’t really want Joe Schmoe peeking at the girls. That being said, I’m definitely not going to isolate myself from the general public because my baby is hungry. I intend to breastfeed for at least a year. I’ve got things to do, and I would miss my friends terribly if I had to stay home for that long! If you have kids (and probably even if you don’t!) you understand this. Motherhood can be a little isolating at times.
Say we’re in a restaurant eating dinner & T is hungry too. Which would you rather… the sight of me feeding T with a blanket draped around us, or the sound of him screaming until we get home? I mean, really, which is more of an imposition? If you don’t want to watch me breastfeed, you can look away, but it’s pretty difficult to enjoy your meal with a screaming baby in the background.
Just some of my thoughts on the subject. I had no idea that it was a big deal until T was born, and I would do a google search for breastfeeding information. I started reading articles about women being kicked out of public places for choosing to breastfeed, and it baffled me. I was never really exposed to breastfeeding until a few years ago, but as an adult it didn’t seem weird to me, and it certainly never offended me.
At the risk of losing some readers… and possibly some facebook friends, since this post will pop up in everyone’s newsfeed… how on EARTH is this inappropriate or offensive?
I’ve read a few articles recently that I thought were so interesting. Both are about parenting/breastfeeding in other countries. I thought I’d share them here.
This one is about breastfeeding practices in Mongolia. In their culture, breastfeeding is the solution to every whimper a child makes in his first few months. Breast milk is consumed for the first several years of life (and often beyond!), and the general public of Mongolia seems to view breastfeeding as an important and necessary part of childhood. Breast milk is celebrated in Mongolian culture… Mongolians say that the best wrestlers (wrestling is a wildly popular sport in Mongolia) are breastfed well into childhood.
My husband read this article, and now every time I feed T he says, “You’re gonna grow up to be a great wrestler, T!” I, of course, find that adorable. Don’t worry, friends, T will not be breastfed into childhood… We’re planning on weaning around a year. I’ll be honest, though, most of our reasoning for weaning him then is cultural. It’s weird to breastfeed a toddler. Or so I’m told.
The second article I found was also interesting. I stumbled upon it when I googled “Breastfeeding in Africa.” Why on earth would I google “Breastfeeding in Africa?” I’m glad you asked!
A good friend of mine (Rachel) was a missionary in Mali, West Africa for two years. She came by to visit recently and I asked her if mothers in Africa breastfed. She laughed, and explained that most children in Africa are breastfed… that it’s not just the babies. She also told me that in the villages, most women wear long skirts and are topless. Talk about culture shock! That would take some getting used to. But boobs are viewed differently there. She explained it to me this way, “In Africa, legs are like boobs. And boobs are like… arms.” I thought that was too funny.
I won’t lie, sometimes (okay, most of the time) I wish breasts were not over-sexualized in the US. It would certainly make breastfeeding in public much less awkward! I mean, clearly, I’m going to feed T when he needs to be fed. It doesn’t matter that much to me where we are. It does matter to some people though… and I think that’s mainly because our culture is inundated with sex. We forget that God created boobs, first and foremost, to feed babies with. Just my thoughts on the subject, though. Anyways, I thought this article was pretty neat… especially how African women don’t have to learn how to breastfeed. They see it so much throughout their lives that it just comes naturally. If only it were that easy here!