Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Is Nursing Bad?"

children familyI have 5 children. Five girls. Yes, five. Yes, they are all girls. Yes we have certainly figured out what causes “that” and I have to say we’re pretty dang good at it. Obviously.

I want many things for my 5 girls when they grow up. In fact, I hope they have leaky boobs themselves one day. I know they may not, for whatever reason but it will not be because they think it is weird or gross or anything else other than normal. As their mother I’m doing everything in my power to hold breast-feeding up as normal and so far, it is working. Last summer I learned that my children didn’t even know what formula was.

"Mommy, why is she giving her baby a bottle? Are her boobies broken?" 6 years old Lolie asked loudly, much to my embarrassment.

I didn't know the woman in question, she was a stranger feeding her baby at the park.

"Maybe it isn't her baby and she doesn't have milk in her boobs yet." Earth Baby, at 10 years old, was trying to explain before I could jump in to quiet the conversation.

Breast-feeding is important enough that I didn't want the conversation to halt but I could tell the woman and others at the playground could hear us and I didn't want to make anyone uncomfortable. Talking softly I encouraged them to lower their voices but immediately regretted it when Lolie asked if talking about nursing was bad. After a short pause I returned my voice to a normal speaking volume, telling the girls there was nothing wrong with talking about breast-feeding. I did explain that I didn't want to say anything that would make the woman feeding the baby a bottle to feel bad. The conversation that followed continued at a respectful volume level, thankfully.

nursing breastfeeding baby
We discussed the possible reasons why a woman would be giving a baby a bottle instead of her breast. They were immediately sympathetic that perhaps her breasts were, in fact, broken and not able to produce enough milk. It was reasonable to them that maybe this woman was a babysitter, perhaps an aunt or friend and the mom was at work and had left a bottle of pumped milk. Or that the baby was adopted and could be drinking formula because there was nobody to give him breast-milk. This idea was very sad and after I explained what formula was they wondered for a bit as to what could have happened to the biological mother and why there was nobody to donate breast-milk. That conversation gave them a great idea, since I was no longer donating my breast-milk to one of the 3 babies I had been helping to supply they insisted I go up to the woman and offer to nurse the baby or at least give her some pumped milk. Pointing out that I was actually ok not donating any more and that I didn't know this family or that they would be interested I begged my way out of that potentially awkward situation. But it was my suggestion that maybe that mom never wanted to nurse and was choosing to give formula that got the strongest reaction. I reminded them a few times to lower their voices but by then a distraught Storyteller couldn't help herself and loudly argued that "every baby should get to have their mommy's warm sweet milk if they can!" At 8 years old she was already a breast-feeding advocate. I admitted she had a point.

The conversation ended shortly after that outburst and the girls moved on to playing. I noticed a short while later that The Storyteller was assisting Squiggle Bug off the slide and walking her towards me saying, a bit too loudly, “You want to nurse? You want sweet mommy milk? Ok, I’ll take you to mommy so you can have your special boobies. You’re a lucky baby to get to nurse instead of having yucky formula.” No, not passive aggressive at all.

rainbow child
I started out to write a piece about sharing breast-feeding with older children and ended up with this. Breast-feeding, in any amount, is worth encouraging and showing children as normal. In the recent Old Country Buffet incident a breast-feeding mother was told “this is a family friendly restaurant” as though breast-feeding isn’t family friendly. I beg to differ and so would my children. It is about as family friendly as one can get and the more families see it happening the healthier we, our children and our future grandchildren will be.

A year later, I realized just this morning how normal feeding a baby from my breast is for my daughters. I was pumping and Earth Baby asked: “Are you going to nurse her a bottle?” Anything other than nursing just seems strange. I love that.

13 comments:

  1. I love the little lactivists you are raising :). I always talk to my son (3) sbout how he will grow up, get married, and have his own kids. He was upset when he heard he would not be able to nurse his kids, but got excited when I told him his wife would be able to. Maybe we can hook our kids up ;).

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  2. That is so sweet :D! I love it when kids just speak their minds like that....even when it's a tad uncomfortable or not in the right place. it shows they're passionate!

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  3. The three year old that I babysit will regularly tell me that it is time for Aiden to have some "Momma Milk" when he is crying.. whether he is hungry or not LOL! :) She also has asked why the 7 month old that I babysit doesn't get Momma Milk from his mother (or from me).... I had to explain that his momma chose not to give him Momma Milk. She asked his Momma the next time they were both here WHY Aiden gets Momma Milk but not "T" and can I just give "T" some Momma Milk because she thinks "T" is jealous of Aiden LOL! :)

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  4. What a great story! I think its amazing that your girls are so supportive and aware of nursing at such a young age. My 10 year old step-daughter has gotten really interested in it since I had my son and it's always a fine line between telling her why breastfeeding is so important and not making her feel like something is wrong with her since her mom chose to formula feed her. I'm hopeful when she has the choice to make (many, many years from now) that she's remember the conversations and experiences she had with me and choose nursing.

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  5. That story absolutely just warmed my heart and gave me the warm and fuzzies. I always kid around with my friends and family that Abbey (19 mo.) will be an IBCLC by the time she's 7 with all the breastfeeding advocacy I do, and her being around while I work with breastfeeding moms. Your story was so nice. I'm so happy that there are moms like you! The next generation will be so much better for it!

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  6. Thank you all! I'm glad this little story is encouraging. It is my hope that we are bringing up secure, educated and sensitive girls that will one day be confident in the choices they make. That they see breast-feeding as normal and good makes me happy because I believe it is setting them and their children up for a positive future.

    Sheesh, I'm thinking about grand-kids already. What in the world...

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  7. Love it. Will feature it on Sunday Surf. Stop writing great articles this week, there's no room for more (already putting your facebook status one on too, that's enough)

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  8. I can't wait until both my girls are old enough to converse this way with me. Found you through mamapoekie's Sunday Surf. Love your blog!

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  9. What a wonderful story about how older kids could think about breastfeeding. I get so discouraged when I hear the comments of mothers w//older children who say "but I don't want my child to see your breast, what am I supposed to tell them?!"
    It's as simple as this: breastfeeding is the normal, natural way to feed little ones.

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  10. Friends of ours have a five year old daughter who breastfed until two, a two and a half year old son who breastfed until just over one and a fifteen month old son who's still going strong. Their mom and I shared a nurse together the other day and the older kids were watching my 8 week old breastfeed. The boy said, "Baby eating." patted him on the head and ran off. The girl said, "Your baby is eating boobie milk. Babies eat boobie milk. When I have babies I'll let them have as much boobie milk as they want because it will make them feel good." So sweet.

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  11. Alexandrea FinneyAugust 6, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    Amazing! I love this story and your endearing passive aggressive girl. <3 Like I told my sister yesterday, this generation will only be bearing little ones and breastfeeding for a few more years. The best thing we can do is teach our children so perhaps they can fix this mess our parent's generation made when boobs became solely sexual objects.

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  12. Awww... A few weeks ago my (almost) three year old got upset at a restaurant because a woman was giving her baby a bottle. She kept saying "Mommy has to be away!" Luckily I don't think the woman understood her and I quieted her pretty quickly. Its a line from a baby book we read about how baby might get mommy's milk from a bottle if she has to be away... At that point her little brother hadn't been away from to have one yet (has as of a few days ago) so it was still an abstract concept to her.

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  13. I'm late to the party but this was such an adorable story! I nurse my youngest around a couple of toddlers that otherwise don't see breastfeeding and they are always so curious. They just want to stand there and watch. It's cute. The two that have seen me several times have both now wisely patted my babe on her head and told me 'baby eating'.

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