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?