Well, I finally got "the question" last week when I was out for dinner with people from work.
"But...you're not still
breastfeeding him, right?"
The look on my face must have answered her question, but she followed it up with this smart remark:
"But only a little, right?"
Again, my face answered that one, too. But I did offer the response, "Well, is 3 or 4 times a day 'a little' ?" I guess not, but that was enough to drop the subject, despite a few bottles of wine being consumed already.
The whole thing about breastfeeding, and how long a mother breastfeeds is such a loaded conversation. Even though I feel so passionate about it and sure of my decision to breastfeed and to continue to breastfeed, I still get all worked up when I see or hear people's reluctance about it. And it's not just about folks "doing what's right for them." I really think the whole question comes back to how we see ourselves as women, and what we see as our roles at home and in the world. And it really brings into focus the whole question of us "having it all."
One thing I've learned about successful and fulfilling breastfeeding is that you have to give yourself completely over to motherhood. Not forever, but for a while. Those first few months are all about feeding your baby, and learning to understand how he or she is communicating his/her needs. Trying to do that successfully while keeping the house clean, meals cooked and guests entertained ('cause you know folks LOVE to stop by just after you've had a baby and are more in need of rest than ever before in your life) is IMPOSSIBLE. Throw in holding down a job outside of home and you're setting yourself up for serious let down (and I'm not talking about tingly milk let down!). This idea of giving yourself completely to caring for your baby seems scary (I remember thinking in those early days "Oh my god, what have I done? I will never go out for a cappuccino again??!?!! How will I ever get my haircut?!?!?!). But it doesn't last forever; in fact, that time with a tiny baby is so short and sweet we need to cherish every minute of it.
Another thing I've realized is that breastfeeding women need support, and I ain't talkin' about a good bra. We need to talk to other women breastfeeding their babies, and we need to draw on their knowledge and experience. We need to be reassured that yes, our babies ARE getting enough to eat, even though we can't see and keep an account of how many ounces they've downed. And we need to be able to vent our feelings and frustrations without being told how easy life would be if we'd "just give that baby a bottle."
Now, before you get your knickers in a twist and think that I'm calling you a bad mother because you didn't breastfeed, or you had to return to work when your baby was still young or breastfeeding didn't work out for you...chill. I don't think that. I think all mothers love their children wholly and completely. What I do
want you to think about is how you respond to the next mother you see who is breastfeeding her baby, or her toddler...or her 4 year old. She's doing it because she believes in it and she knows what's best for her child. So give her a smile, or even a word of encouragement. She's doing her child a favor, and the world a favor by that act of giving.
So there...I'm sure there may be someone out there pissed off at what I've said, but fuck it (excuse me Mom, if you're reading this, but you know my language has gone to heck since I moved to Ireland). You're all welcome to comment and tell me to go to hell (all 5 of you that read this).
This is what I've learned and this is what I believe. I've graduated from feminist to activist to lactivist!
Baby Siofra takes a sip of the good stuff