Thursday, June 07, 2007

Breast Feeding Stella 101

Another long absence from my computer...
We returned from a 9 day trip to California (Los Angeles and San Francisco), part pleasure, part business. It was an exhausting week, in which every minute was scheduled with visits or work. Besides not really having access to a computer for much personal use, I really didn't have a spare minute. Since our late Sunday return, I am still catching up on crap, which involves reading dozens of my favorite blogs and watching all of my favorite shows which were recorded during the interim.

One particular blog entry from MOM101 has lingered on my mind so much so, that I have to elaborate here. Her story is a basic one of grappling with her negative reaction to the extended breast-feeding of a fellow mom/friend. She specifically states that she is all for breastfeeding, and that "This is just me, trying to figure out why I was so freaked out (entirely) by a two year-old running up to his mom at snack time and ordering a boobie with a side of absolutely nothing."
There are many more complexities to her essay, which I won't go into here, and last I looked, 92 comments on the topic, which support the gamut of opinions.
I didn't post a response myself, due to general inertia, but the whole subject has been bugging me so very much, that it is time for me to sort through my feelings.

As my handful of readers know, I am an advocate for breastfeeding, despite painful bouts of near mastitis. Stella is officially 18 months, and she is STILL nursing. It was never my intention to go this long, not because I think there is anything wrong with doing so, but probably because I thought at one, she'd be done, and I had definitely bought into the idea of 12 months as being the generic cut-off date. My Mother breast fed me and my two siblings until we were somewhere between the age of 2-3 (9 years of being a milk bar!). I have zero recollection of any nursing. All I know now, is that none of us have allergies, I hate milk, and I have a great relationship with my Mom. Whether those three facts have anything to do with nursing, who knows?
So, why am I still breast feeding? I'm not entirely sure, although I think the biggest reason is that Stella still wants to. If it weren't for her continual pleas, and the comfort I know that I can give her, weaning may have started earlier. I do think that the fact that I work out of my home, and have thus never had to deal with the hassle of pumping on the job, has made it a WHOLE lot easier. Stella never took to a bottle, and has always relied on me for these feedings. Nursing has been the ultimate soother through months of sleepless nights, and has been a very special time to bond one-on-one, in complete quiet and privacy, with my baby. It is also no doubt that nursing has insured that I can be confident that Stella is getting some required nutrients (leached from my bones!), when her picky eating habits have led to failed meals. When she turned 14 months, I began the very slow process of weaning her, which was fought with temper tantrum meltdowns. I had the intentions of sticking to my plan, and letting her 'cry it out', when she got sick and we spent that miserable week in the hospital. It took me a while to be ready to try again, and there always seemed to be another excuse.

This all brings me to today, and a time when I have started to feel embarrassed about my extended breast feeding. I feel horrible about this, because I know that is it all perfectly normal to Stella, and there is nothing 'weird' about it, but I also know that many others are not so understanding, and I don't know why I even give a shit. I am getting sick of trying to defend myself from the shocked responses I get from people when they hear that Stella isn't weaned. I'm not a nurse-anywhere, flash your tits kind of person, outside of my personal comfort zone, and have become more discreet with time. It seems that my own insecurities are pushing me into the closet and this really pisses me off... at myself.

One of the things that really irked me about the responses to MOM 101's story, were all of the "if they can ask for it, then they are too old" comments. The sad thing is, I think I said the same thing before I had my own baby. What a fool was I. What does the ability to express your wants have anything to do with weaning time??? Another mother was more eloquent than I, when she reminded us that there are many non verbal forms of "asking for it" and what makes a newborn's cries more acceptable than a 10 month old's sign language, or a one year old's "boobie" mantra? My husband and I worked hard to teach Stella some key baby sign language, so that she would not have to be frustrated about not being understood. She was pumping her fists (the sign for milk)at 10 months, and saying 'boobie' around 1 year (I think?). What was I supposed to do? - The minute she finally had a grasp on how to communicate with us and let us know what she wants, was I supposed to say NO??? That, my dear, is ridiculous.

Sadly, despite all of my anger at other people's judgement and personal conviction that there is nothing wrong with nursing my one and half year old, I have been weakened by peer pressure. Upon arrival back to New York, I have refused to answer Stella's cries in the middle of the night, and am only nursing her 3 times a day (morning, afternoon, and before bed). Believe me, this is a big reduction. Obviously, I also have good reasons for wanting to wean Stella, such as, hope for improved sleeping through the night, freedom to wear dresses (only other Mom's will understand this one!), getting my body back, and taking a much needed vacation with my husband - sans Stella. So far, the crying it out at night is REALLY starting to work. I'm going on 4 nights without leaving my bed. She still wakes up at least once in the night, but cries for a shorter period and eventually has found her way back to sleep. The reduced breast feeding during the day is harder, and involves a lot of purposeful distraction, some tears, and some giving in. It's hard to end those moments of having Stella curled in my lap looking up at me, and touching my face with her hand ... complete and utter baby worship.

July 2006


Blogger Swankyloma said...

I read Mom-101's blog about breasting-feeding a while back and thought it was awfully judgemental... It is an opinion afterall. I tried to see her point, but it kind of aggravated me. I think society has sexualized breasts so much that seeing a toddler breast-feeding makes people uncomfortable. It is not the bonding between mom and baby that people are grumbling and averting their eyes from, it is the naked boobie. Let's face it being remotely naked in the good U. S. of A. is like carrying a machine gun. "Don't point that thing at me!" Frankly, I think that the censorship in this country is ridiculous. You and every other mother deserves the right to decide when to wean your baby. Think about it, every human being grows at different rates and as a parent it is ultimately your choice how to raise your baby. I think that you are doing a wonderful job and there is nothing that you should feel ashamed of.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Reino said...

Oh Sarah, I hate to tell you this, but this is only the first of many judgements you will face as a fellow mom! Nursing seems to start the chain of them all!

You are your own mother to your own child. Do what you see best. Those people are not living under your roof and dealing with Stella 24/7. Their opinions are moot. Enjoy being you and enjoy Stella being her. End of story :)

3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

La Lechel League was big when you were a baby and Hippie women were thumbing their noses at the traditional sterile ways our mother's dealt with our infancy. So the pendulum swings. Why is the human race constantly fighting Mother Nature? Does Mom 101 have stock in a baby formula company? You did a great job revealing the deeper issues of nursing. Mom

12:45 AM  

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