When I was pregnant with Selah, first munchkin of our tribe, I remember an old friend of my mother’s visiting for the summer. Now this woman is one of the most outspoken, opinionated bold mommas you could ever happen upon. Basically an older, slightly crunchier version of me. At the time I was floating in the pool, gorgeous prego belly exposed to the sun. Complete bliss. She was interrogating me on my plans for how I would parent. Would I have a home-birth, would I go back to work… and the inevitable… would I breastfeed?
For me there was no question. There’s no doubt that it’s the best thing for my baby. I personally couldn’t imagine messing with bottles in the middle of the night when I can just break out the boob. The idea of ‘running out’ of formula sounded like a pain in the butt. No way, I’m way too lazy for that. Not to mention the fact that I’m seriously too cheap to pay for formula when breast-milk is free. I’m not judging anyone who chose differently. For me it was never even a question.
So, clearly the answer was an immediate yes. Then the next question was “How long will you breastfeed?” That one hadn’t really come to mind yet. I thought about it for a second. I have vague memories of this woman being the epitome of mother earth mixed with the whole “hear me roar” thing. Super power mom. I know she nursed her babies longer than I probably would. So I asked how long she did. She had 6 children (I think that’s right) but she said that the one she nursed longest she had to wean eventually because the dentist said his teeth were getting cavities. I looked at her in shock…
Me: Well how old was he?
Supermom: I think he was in first grade.
Me: Are you kidding me? (insert dumbfounded look of shock)
Supermom: Well, How long do YOU think you should breastfeed? ( justifiably defensive at my rudeness)
Me: Well I hope I stop before her teeth rot out! (paddling off to the deep end with brain reeling)
Now I think of this exchange often. First of all, I’m still embarrassed at my rudeness. (K and L, please don’t stop reading, I love your mom!) Sometimes I think I should carry around a shoehorn for how often I put my foot in my mouth. Yes, it was a bit extreme but was it really that bad to have extended breastfeeding?
I’m ashamed to admit that I nursed Selah to 9 months and then weaned out of laziness. Not saying that 9 months is ‘too short’. I just know in my heart that it was for me that I weaned her. Even at 9 months I would often have unexpected leakage issues. I was working part time and forced to pump in the car. It was embarrassing. One night a single guy at church pointed at my shirt and said “Um, you’re ahhh, ummm..”. When I looked down and saw the left side of my shirt drenched I knew then and there that I was done with it. Selah was an independent baby and didn’t seem to care. She’s not scared, although I wonder if the finger sucking issue is connected. I’m not getting down on myself. I just know that now I would do it differently. I have to be honest and say that my judgement on Supermom caused me to overreact and fear being seen as an ‘over exuberant’ nurser. I didn’t understand it.
With Jacob we went to 15 months, mainly because of his huge list of food allergies. It was quite convenient to always have something for him, ummm… ‘on hand’, so to speak. So when, at 8 months, I found out Lucas was on the way I kept it up as long as I could. At six months into my pregnancy the cramps I was having during breastfeeding started to worry my OB (having had both Selah and Jake on the early side, with preterm issues). So we weaned and he never looked back. Ironic is the hindsight. Maybe if I had kept up the breastfeeding I wouldn’t have been pregnant for 42 weeks that time! Who knew…
So here I am. Lucas. Last month we got down to nursing once every couple of days. I got irritated with the inconsistency, and the fact that my nips were starting to be tender. I decided he was done. And he didn’t protest much either. I was a bit shocked that we went all the way to 18 months without even thinking about it being any different. I thought about Supermom. I could see it. Just keep going and don’t worry about it. Somehow doesn’t seem like a big deal now.
Well, that was last month. We went about 4 weeks without nursing and suddenly I’m faced with the fact that my child actually has become UNweaned. Last week he got a cold and out of the blue he was begging to nurse. No big deal. It was probably soothing. I know my body will still make milk for months. So, nurse we did. And it really isn’t a big deal.
He’s back to nursing just in the morning when he wakes up. I never offer to, but he’s asking every morning. To be honest, I just don’t see the point in denying it. I look at Selah who is in kindergarten, and Jacob at three. Nope, I love me some Supermom but I still don’t think I can do that. On the other hand, what’s the big deal?
I think the only issue I would have is if breastfeeding is for your identity. Trying to prove something. Or some neediness on the part of Mom. I don’t think that was why Supermom did it. I think it just kinda worked for her and wasn’t a big deal.
On the other hand, I have seen a mom make it a big deal. Following her 4 year old around at the park offering to nurse at every turn ‘just in case she wanted it’. I mean, if the child still feels a need for it, let them ask. If mom feels a need for it….where does that put you? Do you need that to be important? Is it your soapbox, your identity? That kinda doesn’t sit so well with me…
As it stands, my unexpectedly un-weaned 19 month old is welcome to keep nursing for now. With homeschooling, working from home and general mom and wife duties, he may just see it as his best opportunity for some peace with mom. Why would I deny that? And I have to say, it’s the only time I get a glimpse of him as a baby anymore, rather than the toddler in constant motion. So nurse we will. Till….whenever….
I think Supermom would be proud.