By Kate McKinney

 

 

So, you’ve probably seen the Time Magazine cover that’s causing people to foam at the mouth like Old Yeller right before Travis had to put the poor pooch out of his misery. And if you haven’t, here it is:

 

I don’t know why it surprises me that whenever anyone mentions the word breastfeeding the same people come out, trotting the same old opinions. And of course, we are all “entitled” to our opinion, I get told regularly. Although I am not sure we are. I’m not sure we should be entitled to believe things that have no basis in fact, but I see the same myths trotted out, over and over, especially about breastfeeding a child over the age of one. (For the record, the child in the picture is age three, not six. I had a kid who looked just that old at that age.)

Here are some of my favorites: “What are you going to do at a birthday party when all the other kids are eating cake and ice cream? Take your top off?

Um, no. Because a child who is old enough to have cake and ice cream at a birthday party will probably be eating that. Just because a kid nurses doesn’t mean they don’t also eat solid food and drink from a cup.

“If a kid can ask for it, then it needs to stop! ” Or the similar “Once they have teeth…can eat food…etc”

This one is great because it has no basis in ANYTHING. The World Health Organization recommends nursing until at least age two, and afterwards as mutually desired by mother and child. The world wide average weaning age has been reported to be anywhere from 4 to 6 years of age. It’s only in our backwards nation, where we are equally sexually obsessed and repressed, that breastfeeding a young child is seen as perverted or foolish. I keep waiting for someone to tell me the scientific reasoning for this one outside of their opinion.

“It’s fine if you want to give them breastmilk (past the age of one, in public.) But pump it and put it in a cup.”

Um, how about no? Pumping is a wonderful tool for working moms. It’s also hugely stressful, annoying, and frustrating. If I don’t have to be hooked up to an inefficient milking machine, why would I choose to be?

And here’s my favorite.

“Any woman who nurses past the age of ___ is just doing it for herself.”

I don’t know what this means. Because if they think it’s giving a woman sexual gratification, trust me, there are better ways to get that. And if a person thinks you can force a child to nurse, I have this to say. Hahahahahahahahah. If I a child is nursing, it means he or she wants to do it. I daresay, it means he or she needs to do it. There are other needs being met besides the basics of hydration and nutrition. But you know what? Maybe I am doing it for myself.

 

This is a picture of my two year old child that I am selfishly nursing while he was in the hospital.

When he entered the hospital, he was so dehydrated his lips were cracked and bleeding. He wasn’t drinking, eating, or nursing enough to sustain himself. It turned out he had pneumonia, which was secondary to a bacterial infection, which I believe was possibly caused by aspirating vomit into his lungs when he had a stomach virus a few days before.

The first day they gave him fluids, meds and breathing treatments. He didn’t perk up.  Soon after he entered the hospital he started refusing ALL food, ALL drink and ALL breastfeeding. He laid there, completely listless, except for when he was coughing. We had an amazing nurse who was very, very proactive in getting him extra treatment, and before you knew it, he was asking. Not for a popsicle. Not for yogurt. Not for cookies or Cheerios or Fruit Loops (all things that were used to entice him to eat in the hospital!)

He asked to nurse. And I obliged. Gratefully. For hours and hours.

My son slowly returned to himself. He wasn’t 100% when he left, and he wasn’t eating enough to keep a bird alive, but thankfully he wasn’t dependent on the Easy Mac they gave him in the hospital. For several more days, his primary source of nutrition was my breastmilk. The very milk people say is “no good” after the first year (or six months, depending on which ignoramus you are talking to) was what brightened my boy up and brought him back. He slowly eased back into “normal” food, string cheese and fruit leather being his favorites.

Obviously there was a variety of things working in concert that brought my boy back to health. His devoted nurses and techs. Our wonderful family doctor. The fluids and breathing treatments and antibiotics. But I know that my milk was also an important ingredient. The nurses agreed. Not a single one had anything negative to say about what we were doing. They were all relieved when he started up, and happy to see him fed and comforted.

So, I wanted a healthy boy. I looked at my lifeless, scrawny child and felt numbly terrified. I didn’t like that feeling. I wanted it to go away. And when my son asked to nurse after not eating or drinking for two days, I was joyous. I laid down in his hospital bed every time he asked, and he asked A LOT. And when his lungs improved and the pink returned to his cheeks, I was happy.

So yes, breastfeeding after two? It’s for me. It gives me peace, and joy, and happiness. It reassures me that my child will not starve. It makes me smile and laugh when he asks in his sweet voice to nurse, and points at my breast and says “Right dere, mom.”

Do I do it for me?

Absolutely.

But…

Not only.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Wow, Kate! That is a powerful message! I applaud you on your strength and determination. I often don’t understand ‘Mom’ related things and my opinion as a childless female often relegates me to the back of the line, but I wholeheartedly support you in your (and Hugh’s) choices. Good for you Mama!

  2. Thanks Heather! I appreciate you sharing it too!

  3. iGranny says:

    Amen and Amen…. thanks for writing

  4. Mark Soper says:

    You’ve put the naysayers right where they need to be…looking up at the ceiling and wondering what hit them.

  5. Jennifer Choisser says:

    Thank you for this encouragement!

  6. mandy says:

    Beautiful piece of writing here Kate!

    I’m always two weeks behind for time magazine; i get it from my grandparents when they are finished with it.

    Oh and don’t forget the helpful advice that instead of nursing in public you could nurse in the restroom. sheesh people, if you don’t want to eat a big mac sitting on a public toilet why would you want to feed a child in there!

  7. Allisonanderson Email says:

    That was beautiful. I nursed 2 out of my 3 children past the age of one, and it gave me peace, joy & happiness as well.

  8. Hugh says:

    There are things people say about nursing that I hear and my reaction is just to laugh, or sigh, or shake my head. Maybe they’re misinformed. Maybe they haven’t thought it through thoroughly. Maybe they have and I just don’t agree with them.

    But there’s one thing people say about nursing that makes veins bulge out of my neck and fills me with Hulk Rage, and it is that nursing is selfishness on the part of the mother. What a JOKE. Selfishness is cutting off your baby from nursing because you want to go back to work after a few weeks. Selfishness is depriving your baby because you don’t want your boobs to sag. Selfishness is shoving a pacifier in your baby’s mouth in public to fake out their natural instincts because god forbid you feed them when they’re hungry or comfort them when they’re scared, what would people think?

    And no, I’m not saying all of those scenarios are always selfish. There are valid reasons for them. But they should be the exception, not the norm, and I hate that those are what is considered normal, while my wife discreetly feeding my kid on a bench is supposed to be some kind of outrage. Or even worse, that SHE’S the selfish one, being judged by someone who cares more about their figure than their baby.

  9. Kinkywker says:

    I selfishly and forcefully nursed my little one until she was 3.5yo. And, I’d selfishly and forcefully do the same with any future children. Thanks for spreading the good word.

  10. Briody07 says:

    I did it! I breastfed till 21 months. I went back to my full time
    job to pump my milk every couple of hours. I leaked at work. I breastfed in public and accidentally flashed my boobs countless times. Opposite of selfish. In the end it was my decision.

  11. Talina says:

    I just think to myself… “they are stupid because they WEREN’T nursed enough” and I continue about my day. People can be so lame.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Ah, beautiful. There’s a gratification involved in giving our kids what they need, but the person making the choice to continue breastfeeding is our child. Thanks for writing this and sharing your story.

  13. Sara says:

    This, exactly this, Kate. Thank you so much. I know nursing helped a lot when we were going through really tough times and they could sense mom and dad’s stress. I can admit to a little tiny bit of ‘selfishness’ that my child was happy, sleeping well and spending time in my arms, but that wasn’t solely a breastfeeding thing, either, I don’t think.

  14. Wonderful comments! Thanks everyone!

  15. Coffeebeings says:

    Love this! So true. All my littles have benefited from breastmilk when ill. They’ve all weaned by their choice between two years old and three and a half. Just another one of those stereotypical debates which are by their nature, ridiculous. The “take their top off” comment makes me laugh. WHO removes their top when they breastfeed??? I have never met anyone who practised this. In fact, most breastfeeders are more discreet than those who have their tits out for a night on the town!!

  16. Houseprincess4 says:

    Awesome….Just awesome!

  17. Caseycat2003 says:

    Great message Kate! I wholeheartedly agree!!

  18. Jondi says:

    While I am among those who think older children shouldn’t be nursed I most situations, this is a very well-written blog and makes many very good points…none of which I could argue with. Well said and well written as usual.

  19. I appreciate it Jondi. It’s one of those western things…I probably would have agreed at one time. I love how science can turn our conventions upside down!

  20. Beth Kenney says:

    Loved this! I’m a mama that nurses well past two, as well. Beautiful writing, so thankful your son is OK. I am friends with Joel Thomas and he’s mentioned that we have a lot in common. Reading your blog, I think he’s right! We have four kiddos and I can so relate to your post on a messy house where the children “aim” for the trash can, etc. Thanks for sharing!

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