Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Stigma of Nursing

When I was pregnant, it didn't feel like there was a choice to be made--I was going to try my damnedest to breastfeed my baby.

Once I had her, even though I hadn't planned on it, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best breastfeeder in the world.  And, honestly, I was the best breastfeeder that my baby had ever had or needed.  I filled her needs, eventually*. 

I still, however, got jealous of those women.  Those ones who had thousands of ounces of extra milk to donate, to save, to take a bath in.  I also was jealous of those women who were fine to go out at night and "just give the baby a bottle".  I always felt like I needed to pump if I wasn't going to feed her directly and, well, if I could just make it work to feed her directly....I'd, of course, prefer that.  So I haven't missed a bedtime in almost 19 months.

I've worked my ass off to nurse Baby Girl.  I've sacrificed a lot.  And I like to celebrate that sometimes.  She's beautiful and intelligent and funny and hasn't been horribly sick (yet), so I must be doing something right.

Why, then, did I begin to feel guilty about nursing her once she hit a year old?  I was SO proud of how long I'd nursed until then.  But now?  I fear being chastized.

I was one of those women.  Before having Baby Girl, I'd always said, "If the kid can ask for it, they're too old".  I never planned on nursing this long.  My kid can say "milk, PLEASE", even.  She's been able to make the sign for it for half her life.  And yet, I still nurse her, as much as I'd been against it before having babies.  Just goes to show you can't judge anything until you're in the situation yourself.

Where is that line?  When does it go from "wow, you're a fabulous mommy for doing what you do and would be a failure to yourself and to your kid if you stopped"** to "oh.       gross."?  I haven't figured it out yet, but would love to know.  And why is it there? 

I still look at the 7 year old nursing and think, "not me", but when will we stop?  I have no idea.  I was just talking to The Hubby about this.  We'd like to have another baby...someday.  And I don't want Baby Girl to still remember nursing and dive in and take it from the baby.  Or to resent the baby for taking away her nursing.  The plan is to let Baby Girl lead, but at 19 months and still nursing twice a day...I don't know if she's ever going to give it up.  And I don't really know if I'm totally ready for her to, either. 

* My milk didn't come in until day 5 or so and, therefore, we were subject to a couple of weeks of weight checks.  She finally returned to her birth weight right at 2 weeks of age, so we didn't need to supplement.

** No, this is not the way I feel about it.  I get that feeling from other women, though, and, honestly, I would've felt like a failure if I hadn't been able to.  But I don't judge other women either way.  Seriously.


Mandy said...

Nursing's such a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't kind of thing. You're still my hero for nursing so long and with such dedication, if that means anything. The cashier at Walgreens today asked me what kind of formula I used with DS and I answered, but I'll admit I was kinda sad to not be able to say "None, I BFed exclusively." But then yeah, I look at him now and think it would be so weird (for me personally, because it's not been my experience) to still be nursing. But I know so many who have done it and I admire them for it.

Cassie said...

I think it's perfectly acceptable (and awesome, even) that you're still nursing Baby Girl. It's amazing! I know it's hard not to worry about what other people think of it, but you know what? Other people aren't YOU. And what you're doing now obviously works for you both. For now, I think letting her lead the weaning is perfectly fine. And your dedication is so incredibly admirable, especially to me, because I wasn't dedicated to nursing at ALL. (We'll talk about that, someday.)

osuraj said...

I think there is a stigma attached to "still" nursing past a year. I was at a mom's group and admitted (not thinking that it would be "weird") that I still nurse Claire six times a day. They thought that was the most bizarre thing you had ever heard...and they had little babies! I think it's something to be proud of, but obviously not everyone sees it that way. One thing's for sure--it's good for the kids, and THAT'S what matters!

Anonymous said...

chiming in late but i just now read this post and felt compelled to comment. i EP'd with M and guiltily stopped at 6 months because i just hated pumping. i was determined to make it work with G and i did and am so glad i stuck with it despite all issues i had again early on. i never thought i would enjoy nursing as much as i do. i cherish this time with G and already know i'll be so sad when it's time to come to an end. (my plan was always at 1 year but now i'm not sure). don't let what other people think make you stop if neither you or E are ready.