I never imagined that I would find myself nursing past a year, nursing uncovered in public, or advocating for breastfeeding. And I certainly didn’t expect to write about it or post pictures of myself nursing on the internet for all to see. And yet here I am. And I’m somewhere in this photo set from Gina’s 72 hour Facebook photo ban campaign. And if you follow me on instagram, chances are you’ve gotten a few peeks, too. So why am I sharing something I had always considered so private?
It’s been a hard road breastfeeding this
baby toddler, but one I’m so glad to be traveling. From dairy intolerance, to oversupply and overactive letdown, to thrush, to sleep deprivation, the struggle has been intense but the the payoff is enormous. Sleepy milk-drunk newborn smiles… snuggles given freely after a morning nurse… watching the numbers on the scale grow because of your milk… the first time my baby signed for milk… being physically connected to my baby long after she has left the womb. And of course the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child are well-researched and well-documented. Breastmilk is alive – full of antibodies, cells, and proteins. Breastfeeding has nurtured me and my baby for the last 12 months.
Let me say that though the benefits are great, breastfeeding or breast milk is not best for every baby-mother pair. Maybe a mother tries to nurse and has to stop because of supply issues, medication incompatibility, depression, her baby’s needs, or any one of dozens of reasons. Maybe she knows from the get-go that breastfeeding isn’t a match for her parenting style or lifestyle. Perhaps she just doesn’t want to. I fully support each mother’s choice to make such a personal decision for herself, and I truly understand why formula or bottle feeding moms sometimes feel defensive when faced with a statement such as “breast is best” or when a mother is nursing, uncovered, in front of her. After all, my first attempt to breastfeed fell apart (which ended up being the best thing for both of us) after a few months and I remember not understanding why breastfeeding moms thought what they were doing was so special. Now that I’ve been nursing for over a year? I get it. It can be magical.
Am I a better mother because I breastfeed my baby? Of course not. Just as a mother who carries her baby in her womb is not a better mother than one who adopts or uses a surrogate. Being a mother is about more than where your child comes from or how they are fed. But just because it doesn’t define me as a mother doesn’t make it unimportant or any less beautiful. Carrying my babies in my body felt empowering, and similarly, breastfeeding No2 has been a life-changing experience.
And so, I choose to share. I want to support mothers who are considering nursing or are currently trying to breastfeed their babies…I want to normalize something that carries stigma in our culture…and to celebrate checking something off my life-list. It’s been an enormous part of my daily life for the last 13 months and I don’t think this space would be complete without its story.