Dear Mr. Maher



I wrote this piece four months ago, but today I am breaking from my usual content to post it in response to this (only watch the last 3 minutes of the clip).  Lawyer Mama brought it to my attention with this post.





Today was my last day of breastfeeding.  I had intended to nurse my second child for a year, just like his older brother.  But it had been getting increasingly difficult.

I am not talking about the fact that he had to be fed in a quiet room with no distractions.  True, this is no easy feat when there is a pre-schooler in the next room screaming that he has to go to the bathroom.  Nor am I referring to the fact that he has the suck of a Hoover, which explains how he manages to eat broccoli without any teeth. 

It had been getting difficult because he was not interested anymore.  He dropped one feeding after another, until we came down to just the morning.  Then, he did not want that, either.  I tried to be stern, insisting that the American Pediatric Academy recommends breastfeeding for a year, or telling him that La Leche League wants him to breastfeed until he gets his driver’s license.  But, no dice.  After a few minutes, he would pop off, look around the room, play with my hair, then turn to suck on his blankie.  I was being rejected for a giraffe blankie.

It could be worse.  I have a friend whose daughter rejected her for a muffin.  One day, she stopped feeding after a few minutes and asked for a muffin.  You can imagine how guilty I felt when I heard the story.  I had baked the muffins.

Today was the final straw.  My ten-month-old just flat-out refused to continue nursing.  I suspect he wanted to go investigate whether his brother was out of bed yet. 

I would classify myself as a moderately militant breastfeeder.  I try my best to be non-judgmental in so many parenting matters, but when it comes to this one area, I fail spectacularly.  I am not alone.  It seems that, when it comes to what you do with your bosom, everyone has an opinion.

If you feed in public, you are indiscreet.  If you do not feed in public, you are denying something natural and beautiful.  No matter how long you nurse, someone will tell you it was not long enough.  Someone else will ask you when you are planning on stopping.  If your child is tall, short, fat, thin, smart, stupid, or purple, someone will tell you it is because of your breasts.

Before I was even a mother, people were trying to size me up and label my breastfeeding attitude.  They would ask me how long I intended to nurse for.  “I don’t know,” I sometimes replied.  “I’ve never had a baby before.”

I could not be so flippant with my second child.  I had had a baby before, and I had breastfed for a year, exclusively for six months.  My husband and I are both second children, and we are keenly aware of how second children can feel like they are not given enough attention.  I might have to put the poor baby in his playpen for ten minutes while I hold his brother’s hand on the potty (don’t ask), but I damned sure was going to give him all the breast milk he wanted.

I just never suspected he would stop wanting it so soon.  I had wanted to keep it going for at least a few more weeks.  If a full year was impossible, perhaps eleven months was close enough. 

But, this morning, he just said “no.”  When I fed him yesterday, I did not know it would be my last time ever nursing a baby.  If I had known, would I have paid more attention?  Would I have marked the occasion somehow?

I suspect that parenting is going to be a long series of just-missed lasts.  I may not regret some rituals passing with no ceremony: the last time I wipe someone else’s poopy bottom, the last time someone throws up in the bath.  But how about the last time someone falls asleep in my arms?  Or the last time I am called “Mommy” instead of “Mom”?  Or the last time my little boy, now far too old to be picked up, will convince me to carry him up the stairs? 

I hope I can remind myself that my children’s lasts are followed by new firsts, that my sense of loss is balanced by a sense of gain.  The last gummy smile is followed by the first bite of an apple; the last day of preschool is followed by the first day of kindergarten. 

Plus, there is a great deal to be said for the last package of diapers.


Now, I’d like to link to other posts on the topic of breastfeeding.  I know — this is not my usual method of operations, but I’d like to hear other people’s breastfeeding stories.  Lots of people have responded to Maher, and I’d like to link to those, too, but I’d also like to link to your personal stories in the way of a response.  You do not have to have breastfed, you do not even have to be a mother or a father, to have something to say on this topic.  After all, I have never so much as French kissed another woman, but I have some pretty strong opinions on the legal impediments to gay marriage and could talk about ways this has affected people close to me.

Join me in responding to Mr. Maher and others who want babies to wear blankets over their heads while they eat.  Send me your links (emily dot r dot rosenbaum at gmail dot com) and I’ll post them below.  Please link back to this post, and please check back to read what others have written.

Tomorrow, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

People Shouting Out About Breastfeeding:

Ashley wrote And Now For Something Completely Different 

Angela wrote Fed Up 

Julie wrote  Discreet, Discrete, Euphemisms

Jen at Problem Girl wrote How I Became One of THOSE Women 

Lawyer Mama wrote Suck It Bill Maher

Magpie Musing wrote several good posts, but the ones Maher needs to read are about pumping at work and extended breastfeeding.

Bub and Pie wrote Weaning Without Warning 

The Mad Hatter wrote Milk Let Down.

Karen wrote I Deserve a Medal

Kevin at Life Has Taught us wrote: Give it Up for the Booby, Y’all, Breastfeeding Soapbox, I Support My Little Man, and Corporations Hate Babies

18 responses to “Dear Mr. Maher

  1. Hey, Emily, link away. I’ll be back to read your post in an hour or so once I get the girl off to day care.

  2. Great post Emily. I always feel a tinge of jealousy when my wife breastfeeds our son. It is such a magical bonding moment. He is so happy. He stares up at her. It is really beautiful. So, I understand your feelings when it ends.

    But, it seems like this was about as “natural” as possible. It seems that the decision of when to end is made between the mother and child. Well, I guess usually the mother makes the brunt of the decision. But, something seems so right that your own child say, “No.”

    Thanks for sharing and for keeping the breastfeeding discussion going. The way Bill Maher and other perceive breastfeeding mothers is absolutely ridiculous. In fact, in the state of Tennessee, you can be charged with indecent exposure if you are breastfeeding a child older than one in public.

  3. Hi Emily,
    I just read the post. How bittersweet. That last time is one of the more difficult goodbyes. In the light of this post, I’d rather you link to both my breastfeeding posts b/c they tell the whole story. I had a hell of a time breastfeeding. It was the hardest thing I ever did. That story along with the picture I posted yesterday can be found at:

  4. Ah, I didn’t know the last time would be the last either. It’s probably best that way, but still….

    Thanks so much for writing this. Apparently you’re still entertaining as hell no matter what you write!

  5. I wrote down the last time each baby nursed in their baby books. it is kind of sad when they move on from the breast, huh?

  6. My boys both nursed, and when I weaned Ben (at 22 months, I believe), there was no fanfare whatsoever. He never once looked back. I might have stopped that once-a-day feeding weeks earlier for all he’d have cared.

    But my Jack broke my heart (as he has done for other reasons, too). He was 14 months, and it was I who had to initiate weaning, for various reasons. I thought he was ready. But for weeks afterward, he was sad, so very sad, and kept patting my breast, looking questioningly at me, as if to say, Why no longer? What happened?

    Oof. I can’t even write about it.

    As to Bill Maher, I wrote this on someone else’s blog this morning, but here goes:

    Bill Maher’s initials are perfect, because he is nothing more than a big TURD.

  7. I love how this post is, in part, about your tendency to judge breastfeeding-related issues, without ever actually promoting a judgmental agenda.

    I went through something similar when the Pie weaned herself at nine months of age – except in our case she went from three times a day down to zero. Ouch. I wrote about it in my very first post. Here’s the link:

  8. mmm. I may have more to say, but this morning I came up with this:

  9. I emailed you. I’m happy that you posted the link the Maher clip – I’ll watch it later. I haven’t seen it; just heard a lot of squawking.

  10. Oh yes, you will celebrate the last diaper day. It’s such a huge relief, no more carrying huge packages, no more smelly garbages and so much money is saved – lol.

    Honestly, there is nothing better than a baby who weans himself off on his own – be proud of him!

  11. great post. And sometimes I have to hug my daughter ON THE POTTY while she poops. Lovely, I know.

  12. I wrote about my own experiences nursing and how I became comfortable nursing in public. (I would email you the link but my email is acting hinky and people don’t seem to be getting my email ….. or so they claim.)

    I enjoyed your post a great deal but then I like pretty much everything you write.

  13. Emily, I loved this post. My girls did the same thing– dropped a feeding here and there, weaned me as if they’d read a book on how to do it, both of them at 9 months, despite my fervent wish that they nurse until 1 year. Now I’m nursing Eli, who is almost 2, and wondering when we’ll be done (but not yet wishing it). So much of it is beyond our control. I know that none of my babies would nurse under a blanket. But neither do I bare my entire breast in public. But if I had to in order to nurse my baby? I would.

  14. I broke down and weighed in instead of just linking, but I added in your link and didn’t add some links b/c you linked and oh my now I have link anxiety.

    Using My Words

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  16. Emily knows this so this is just a comment to add to the breastfeeding discussion. I have never been pro-nursing. I don’t see myself as what I’d always assumed was hippie, crunchy, liberal or anything close. Cynical and vain, that’s me. Nursing didn’t seem to fit. Yet, like a good girl, I tried it because everyone begged me “just try it for the first few weeks”. So I did. And after the mini was born I spent every day in those first few weeks cursing my breasts and vowing it was just one more day until the bottle.

    My, how “never say never” is true. At the end, I cried the first time I replaced a feed with a bottle (around six months). I cried when I made the decision to quit entirely (around 9 months). I became one of those “exhibitionists” who nursed in the middle of the day while dining al fresco on Second Avenue. I was eating lunch, why couldn’t my kid? Not to mention, Poker Chick is cheep cheep. And nursing is FREE!!! But mostly, I was shocked by how much my daughter loved it. Man, did that kid want the boob often.

    It’s not for everyone and it’s not easy so I never look down on those who choose not to. It’s such a personal choice and there are so many pros and cons to doing it. But damn, baby, don’t go knocking other people’s boobies if they’re successful! They’re doing an amazing thing!!!

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