Monday, February 06, 2006

First Official Rant

This is "Clear Blue Water". (Here's a better copy) I really appreciate this comic strip. Last Friday's offering is a good example of why I like it.

And even though I can't think of an exact example at the moment, I too have been the object of this kind of bluntness. How ridiculous can people get? I mean, if I don't care how long I nurse my child, why should anyone else?? It's not like I'm going to be nursing when the kid's, like, 12 or annoying. How rude!

Not to mention, it would not surprise me if the women (surely not men) who initiate such rudeness have never actually breastfed. If they did, then maybe they would understand the bond that exists there. No, I'm not sicky-sweet about this. None of that "It's a Bea-u-ti-ful experience!!" from me. Breastfeeding a baby is just nice. And convenient. And inexpensive.

Sure, it has it's drawbacks, but they are far outweighed by the benefits.

And here's another little tidbit on this subject:

Why is it that people get SO OFFENDED by a mother breastfeeding in public, but not by that Playboy centerfold on the Hooter's billboard?? Huh? Huh? Absolutely outrageous. Breastfeeding is natural and what breasts are for. Why is it so bad for someone to "realize" that a woman is nursing in public? Gasp! We're not even talking about the ones who show off some skin (by chance). I'm talking about the ones who are covered up, and are STILL asked to leave the "public" area. It happens!

And, oh my goodness, imagine what would happen if the mother nursed her child past.....can you believe it? 1 year old?!?!?! How outrageous! [dripping with sarcasm]

Anyway, here's an article from Parent's Magazine That I found (mid-post, by the way) that really tackles this issue. You may be surprised what you read:

P.S. Even though this article is right on, in my opinion, and you could read it in the magazine, there are some comments that I don't agree with be forwarned.

Confessions of a Closet Nurser

A mother explains why she still breast-feeds her 2 1/2-year-old
-- and why she's in no hurry to stop.

By Holly Robinson

A couple of weeks ago, one of my neighbors asked me over for coffee. I brought my 2-year-old son, Aidan, with me. As she and I chatted in her kitchen, Aidan climbed up onto my lap and performed a sudden sideways dive, burying his head against my sweater. "Nurse!" he cried, sounding like a Brooklyn cabbie: "Noyse! Noyse!"

My neighbor, a mother of four, looked shocked. "You're not still nursing him?" she asked, raising her eyebrows.

"No, no, of course not," I said, peeling Aidan off my lap and distracting him with a toy tractor I'd spotted under the table. "But he still asks every once in a while."

Okay, so I lied. [Lying is not endorsed by the author of this blog ;)]

Aidan is my third child. He's eight years younger than my daughter, my next-oldest, and he is most certainly my last baby.

I tell people these facts to justify why, at 2 1/2, Aidan still nurses; I also hasten to add that both of my older children were weaned when they were less than a year old.

I tell people these facts, that is, if they discover my secret. Otherwise, I keep quiet. Like most women still nursing a child who can competently color, pull on his own boots, and eat with a fork, I'm sheepish whenever anyone finds out that I'm still at it. I will do anything to avoid detection -- even, upon occasion, lie.

Why is the truth so hard to admit? The answer is complicated.

I had no preconceived notions about nursing. Until I tried it myself, I had lived my entire life without seeing a woman breast-feed a baby. When I became pregnant with my older son a dozen years ago, I assumed I'd follow my own mother's lead and buy formula by the case. Then my midwives put me through a blitzkrieg promoting the superiority of breast milk, persuading me that nursing was worth a go.

And once the Breast Fairy waved her postpartum wand, it was a thrill to discover that my bosom now had a function as well as a form. As awkward as it was at first, breast-feeding soon became so natural that I could unbutton and unhook whenever and wherever the need arose. Moreover, I loved watching my baby loll like a drunken sailor in my arms after nursing, a portrait of absolute contentment. I also enjoyed the physical sensation. While I was nursing my son once on a flight to California, for instance, the hormones kicked in -- nature's own Valium -- and I relaxed on an airplane for the first time ever.

With all three of my kids, I've nursed in malls, parks, restaurants, cars, and once even in an elevator when I was trapped there with my daughter (and several red-faced businessmen) for more than an hour. I always had a blanket or a shawl draped over my shoulder, but people glancing my way knew full well what was hidden under it: not just a baby but a woman's breasts. Big, naked breasts.[Comment not something blog owner would say]

There are a couple of reasons people are so uncomfortable when women nurse in public. For starters, breast-feeding went undercover in this country for a long time and is only now regaining cultural acceptance. Though women in other countries have always nursed their babies and been supported for doing so, bottle-feeding -- once commercial formulas were developed and became widely available -- was promoted as the more modern option by the Western medical profession. Back in the mid-1950s, my mother-in-law was the only woman in her maternity ward to breast-feed, and her physicians even tried to talk her out of it.

But, of course, an even more basic reason for our squeamishness is the fact that breasts in this culture are primarily equated with sex. [Ahem. Like I said] So even though people may accept the sight of a tiny infant nursing, the idea of an older baby or, God forbid, a toddler at the breast turns them apoplectic.

This reaction irks Flossie Rollhauser, a lactation consultant at Mercy Medical Center, in Baltimore. "I believe many mothers nurse their children longer than we know but don't tell anyone because of the negative feedback they'd get," she says. "Because the breast is revered as a sexual icon, people can't get their minds around the fact that it is also a child feeder."

Then there's the argument that, as my baby-sitter put it one morning, when she arrived early and caught me nursing Aidan, "the kid will still be asking for it on the way out the door to college." [See comic above] Not likely. According to anthropologist Katherine Dettwyler, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University, in College Station, studies of societies where children are allowed to nurse as long as they wish show that most children wean them-selves between the ages of 3 and 5. In that way, human beings are not much different from other mammals, all of which have natural weaning ages.

"Weaning is not supposed to be something a mother does to a child," says Rollhauser, noting that the World Health Organization recommends breast-feeding for at least two years. "We've lost the true definition of the word: the point at which children stop nursing on their own." [I am guilty of this thinking. See? We're ALL learning something here!]

In the United States, our practice of early weaning is entirely in keeping with our cultural urge to get new mothers back in the workplace as soon as possible and to push children out the door early to attend everything from infant music classes to toddler gymnastics. [Uh, yeah, and there's plenty of other things that are based on this "cultural urge", ie. certain vaccinations (chicken pox?? come on people), but we'll save that for another rant perhaps]

American moms who return to their jobs from maternity leave soon discover that few workplaces support breast-feeding enough to make pumping milk feasible. Meanwhile, a child who is perceived as overly attached to his mother is thought to be weak or, at the very least, insufficiently socialized.

Even those of us who are convinced of the health benefits of breast-feeding (for both mother and baby) and who have angled ways to have our careers and be our kids' primary caregivers at the same time are tempted to stop. Indeed, only about 60 percent of American mothers try breast-feeding at all, and a mere 22 percent continue to nurse for as long as six months.

It's this lack of approval that drives mothers like me -- who are too relaxed or too rushed (take your pick) to move this weaning business to the top of our to-do lists -- to hang our heads and become closet nursers.

I had yet another occasion to muse about all this on a recent morning when I played tennis with a young mother I know. "Can you believe," she said, slamming a forehand cross-court, "that my sister-in-law nursed her daughter until she was nearly 3? Isn't that gross?"

I returned with my backhand, pondering how best to respond. Should I reveal myself and risk her censure? What on earth could I say?

Maybe this: Deep down, I know that older babies and toddlers nurse for the same reasons that infants do. For the nourishment, obviously -- their bodies tell them that mother's milk is a good thing for them to drink. But, more important, they continue to derive comfort from this emotional attachment to the one person in the whole world who loves them best. And mothers like me continue to nurse because we're in no hurry to sever this intimate connection. [Again, my point exactly]

After all, this relationship is like no other we'll ever have. Sticking with it a while longer gives us a brief respite from the world's demands, a few more tranquil moments together before our babies step out of our arms for good.

Copyright© 2004. Reprinted with permission from the March 2001 issue of Parents magazine.

Hey, my hubbie was nursed until 2 or so. And he turned out pretty good! No, he's not extremely attached to his mother, like you'd think. He's normal (well, in some things...)

And so ends my first official rant....I'm sure there'll be more to come.

No comments: