I don’t know how it is in other countries and cultures, but breastfeeding brings out a lot of emotions in this country — mainly of discomfort. The idea that breasts, the symbol of female sexuality, should provide the ultimate nourishment to babies, the symbol of innocence, just seems, so, well, unnatural. Before I had children, I thought I was OK with nursing babies, but the idea of a toddler nursing was, if not obscene, at least weird — a kid being able to ask to nurse! I vowed to be discreet, not to make anyone else uncomfortable. I still remember my cousin feeding her baby during a wedding reception when I was a kid. While she was talking to my father! I wouldn’t do that in front of any of my uncles.
Despite all my hang ups, I always knew I would breastfeed my children. It’s customized food for my baby alone — it changes as she grows, giving her nutritious milk always at the right temperature and concentration, packed with antibodies from her personal environment.
After my first baby was born, I respectfully retreated to a bedroom to nurse whenever I was in mixed company. Now, newborns spend LOTS of time nursing. Consequently, I spent lots of time sitting in an unused room, while everyone else ate, drank, and was merry. I started to feel like I was ostracized to a reoccurring time-out, even at parties and family get-togethers held in my new baby’s honor.
Nursing my baby in public places was more problematic. I started wondering why my baby should have to eat in a public restroom, while everyone else got to eat at the table. All in all, I was tired of sitting alone in a room listening to everyone erupt into laughter while I missed out on the joke. I started realizing that nursing a baby was natural, healthy, and well, NORMAL. Of course, just because I had a transformation, didn’t mean anyone else had. But why did I feel a need to feed into others’ hang ups about how I fed my baby? So I started nursing in front of people. Guess what? They adjusted! None of my friends or relatives bat an eye when I nurse now and I’m nursing two! We continue our card game and conversation as if everything’s normal — because it is. I’m pretty sure I have desensitized/normalized a whole lot of college aged men and women that worked at our bar/restaurant over the last couple of years.
[related-post align=”right”]I’m still nursing my two-year-old partly because it’s the only time she will cuddle with me for 5 or 10 minutes without squirming. To those people who recoil at the sight of my two-year-old tugging at my shirt with a plaintive “Nursie? Please?” I ask: would you object in the same way to a two-year-old asking for a pacifier or bottle, which are rubber imitation boobs?
To my girls, breastfeeding is just something mommies do, as normal as brushing my teeth and complaining about socks thrown on the floor. I get a kick out of watching my oldest imitate me by breastfeeding her dolls and stuffed animals. Sometimes, she’ll bring them to me to nurse as well. I usually half heartedly oblige and play-nurse a bunny or Barbie. A few days ago, however, I had to draw the line. When Acy handed me “Pee-Pie the sailor man” and asked me to nurse him, I looked at that dirty old sailor man leering at me and loudly declared “dolls with pipes CANNOT nurse”.