My mother breastfed my sister and me until we self-weaned just before our third birthdays. In a small town in Missouri, in the late seventies and early eighties, that was certainly not the norm. If she’d known about La Leche League, I can promise you that she would have been involved in it.
Having been raised in such a pro-breastfeeding environment, I always knew that I would nurse any babies I had. It was just a given. I was kind of oblivious to the undercurrent of conflict on the breastfeeding issue—until my son was born. Suddenly, this thing that was so personal and special to me was an identifier, a way to be categorized and sized up. I was a breastfeeder.
I didn’t really get it. I thought breastfeeding was great, for a lot of reasons, but I didn’t think it was the most important choice I could make for my baby. I thought the most important choice I could make was to raise him with attention, consistency, respect… you know, love him. It didn’t take long for me to realize why it was such a huge deal.
The women like my mother who were big time breastfeeding advocates a generation ago were met with a pretty harsh reaction from most people. They were basically complete freaks. They seem to have responded to that with a militant outcry for breastfeeding and the health community picked up the battle cry. Great. I’m glad that there is more positive breastfeeding information being circulated, I’m thrilled that new moms are told about all of the potential benefits of nursing their newborns, seriously… ecstatic about that.
What breaks my heart is that some of them have gone too far. Instead of offering new moms support and gentle, loving information–they have pummeled them with guilt-inducing sermons. Fire and brimstone, eternal damnation surely awaits the formula feeding mother. It’s humiliating. It’s cruel. It’s embarrassing.
It’s reached the point when I hear stories like this or this that I genuinely want to cry, it makes me have to qualify my statement when I tell people that I am a huge breastfeeding advocate. I hate that. I hate that I have to reassure mothers who are having a hard time nursing that they aren’t failures, and not everyone who has succeeded in breastfeeding is a smug, self-righteous jerk.
Hello, my name is Lerner and I am a complete and total breastfeeding advocate. I think that nursing was one of the best parts of the newborn/baby time. I think that in a perfect world if everyone was physically able to, as well as wanted to, nurse their babies that would be awesome.
However, more than that, I am a through-and-through advocate of happy mothers. Happy mommas mean happy babies. Pressuring a woman until she is stressed to her core has never facilitated a stronger bond with her baby. Guilting a mother until she’s a huge pile of postpartum self-loathing is shameful and inhumane. The backlash it has caused has been an alienating, toxic rift in the mothering community and I say Shame on you! to those who participate in it.
I nursed my son until he was ten months old and had enough milk frozen to last until he was a year old. I nursed my daughter without pumping (she hated bottles), exclusively until we started weaning just before her second birthday. I think we finished weaning when she was twenty-one months old. I am here to talk about the tips, tricks, highs and lows of breastfeeding with anyone who has questions, concerns or just wants to gush about how awesome it is.
But first and foremost, I am here to reassure the woman who can’t, who just reeeeeally doesn’t want to, that’s okay. I know some amazing mothers, with the most incredibly well-loved, well-adjusted kids I’ve ever met who have never experienced a latched on baby… who have never felt their milk let down… who (gasp!) formula fed. As long as she responds when her child cries, wakes in the night for feedings and cuddles, drags herself to the coffee pot in the morning after a sleepless night… then I call her my sister in motherhood, I tip my hat to her efforts and congratulate her on her success.