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.
Bub and Pie wrote Weaning Without Warning
The Mad Hatter wrote Milk Let Down.
Karen wrote I Deserve a Medal