Sunday, April 1, 2007

Long Term Breastfeeding

So I happened upon this article today in the Globe. It brings up an interesting issue. Basically, the article talks about the many women who continue to breastfeed their children into later years. We are not talking 16, but children around 4-5 who still nurse. As I was reading the article, I was looking down at my tiny baby, her eyes closed, her little cheeks moving in and out as she ate and it was hard to picture wanting to wean. All the benefits remain and the relationship stays strong. Still, it is also hard to picture sticking my boob in the mouth of someone who can ask for it by name (no comments please--we are talking babies and their lunch here, but this does prove the point about the oversexualization of the breast in our culture).

R and I used to babysit for a couple whose 3-year-old still nursed. At the time I thought it was weird that she could lift her mom's shirt and cry "nursie!' But now I think differently. The benefits--bonding and immunity--last throughout the time the child nurses and if both mother and child want to continue, how is it the business of others'?

The judgement around breastfeeding is so sad. And I am not immune to it. The other day we took Samara to a party and I ended up in the back room, feeding her alone. It was not because I was uncomfortable, but because I knew the dozen or so men (and probably some prude women) at the party would be. I am not advocating flaunting breastfeeding if it makes the mother uncomfortable. But if the mother feels fine about discreetly feeding her child in public, how is it anyone's business?

It seems like a number of breastfeeding relationships are cut short because the mother is afraid the busybody next door would judge her. An Indian friend of mine was saying that when her mother came to the US, she was shocked by how few mothers breastfed. In other countries, it is normal and perfectly natural for a mother to feed her child in the best and most natural way possible. Here boobs are made of silicone and paraded on billboards to sell cologne. G-d forbid they be looked at as functional, how would we sell orange juice?

I am not sure how long I will breastfeed Samara. Honestly, I am looking forward to having my body completely back to myself. My guess is that I will wean her sometime after her first birthday. But maybe not. Maybe I will feed her until she is three because it works for the two of us. And if I do choose that, I would like to do so with societal support. We are told to absolutely breastfeed, but then also told when we have breastfed too long. Does that seem weird to anyone else?

1 comment:

Kristi said...

I blogged about this topic before Isabella was born, in response to the "outrage" surrounding a BabyTalk magazine cover. It is absolutely ridiculous the extent to which society has sexualized the breastfeeding of babies.

I say good for you for wanting to nurse as long as possible. It is the best, most healthful, thing you can do for Samara, and while I want my body back too, I plan on breastfeeding Isabella at least until she's a year old as well.

Here's the link to my post, if you're interested: