I’ve been breastfeeding now for almost three years. It’s amazing. I never thought I’d go this long, to be perfectly honest with you. There are a couple reasons for that. One, it never occurred to me that one could breastfeed a child for three or more years. I thought it was just for babies. Two, we had a rough start. Very, very rough. You know, the kind of start that includes a screaming baby who won’t latch, cries to nurse every 45-60 minutes, has a horrible, painful latch and screams in pain from gas? Yeah, that was us.
My breastfeeding journey is a post in itself, so we’ll get back to that later. For now, I want to talk about why I was so determined to try, in spite of the difficulties we faced those first months.
I was raised around breastfeeding. I was breastfed and I knew it. I also knew that my mom, long before the laws that allow for pumping in the workplace, worked so hard to keep giving me breastmilk after she went back to work. Even though that meant sitting in the bathroom on her one break with an electric pump. It mattered to her, so she did it. Then, when I was two, my brother was born. By that time, my mom had stopped working. She’d always wanted to be a stay at home mom, anyway. I watched her breastfeed my brother for fifteen months. I’m sure he would have gone longer, but when his many allergies were discovered and my mom cut them from her diet, he protested the change in flavor by giving up nursing.
Since I was around nursing all the time, I nursed my favorite doll, much like kids you see pictures of on blogs now. Except there weren’t blogs to post pictures of me to. I had bottles for my babies and I know I used them, but then, I also knew that human milk could go into those bottles, since I’d had it that way. I was vocal and not-so-private about breastfeeding my babies. I’m sure much to the embarrassment of plenty of people.
Four of my cousins were also breastfed during my lifetime. The first is close enough in age to me that I never really thought about it, but the others I can remember clearly. My aunt believed as firmly as my mom did that breastfeeding is best for babies. My aunt had difficulties along the way, such as failure to thrive, but she still fought for breastfeeding and was successful.
Just two years before my own sweet baby was born, my youngest cousin came along. She has Down syndrome, which includes poor muscle tone. My cousins muscles were so weak that she couldn’t latch properly. After all sorts of adventures and fighting for the ability to breastfeed, my aunt ended up spending countless hours pumping, taking any supplement she could get, so that, while she couldn’t latch to breastfeed, my cousin would still get breastmilk. After watching my aunt work so hard for a breastfeeding relationship, all the difficulties I dealt with didn’t seem nearly so big, though insanely frustrating at the time.
You see, breastfeeding is normal to me because the people around me treated it as such. There was no hiding it from the rest of the family. We all knew that those babies were breastfed. We all knew as we got older that we, too, had once been breastfed. And we were so grateful to our moms for that blessing. I am pro-breastfeeding because I was taught its value. Not through words, but through example. Now, I am a breastfeeding advocate. I will fight for my right to breastfeed my son and I will help you fight for yours. I do this, not to make a name for myself or to prove a point, but because I see the value in it and have experienced the amazing relationship and experience myself. That is why I breastfeed.