Thursday, February 02, 2012

It's my choice.

I started to fill this blog post with quotes from professionals, citation, and all kinds of MLA hubbub (that is surely way out of date since I haven't touched a writing handbook since college...eons ago).  I decided that that's not my style, plus it takes too much brainpower.  Instead, I'm going to go with what I know:  writing from the heart.

For the sake of those who may cringe at these statements, I'm going to lay it all out there from the beginning:

Punky is 2 (+ a couple months).  She is still nursing.  This is my choice.  I have the full support of my husband.  It is inappropriate and downright rude to call her a titty-baby.  I don't like that word.  The "T" word.  I find it offensive.  Especially if someone uses is in a derogatory manner toward my child.  

I am a proponent of breastfeeding.  Past infancy.  Past the 1 year mark.  Past the 2 year mark.  If it's for you and your family.  If it's not, I won't judge.  I don't.  I promise.  I have plenty of friends who, for whatever reason, did not breastfeed their baby/child.  They are not any less my friend.

What can jeopardize our friendship is you calling my daughter a t-baby.  Or, if you say something about my choice, my right, to breastfeed my toddler.  In my eyes, she is my baby.  She will always be my baby. Will I always breastfeed her?  Certainly not.  But I will right now, and that is *my* choice.

This is just another circumstance where the western world has made a normal subject taboo.  Where our society has made it inappropriate.  “Because our culture tends to view the breast as sexual, it can be hard for people to realize that breastfeeding is the natural way to nurture children.”  (Elizabeth Baldwin)  

Nursing my baby is not a sexual experience.  I'll tell you exactly what it is:

1.  Nourishment.  Breastmilk nourishes her rapidly growing body.  There will never be another time in her life (except when she, God willing, is growing another life in her own womb)  where she needs more nourishment than her infancy and toddlerhood.  On her first birthday, or her second birthday, a biological clock did not alarm telling her body that she didn't need the nutrients and antibodies she gets so easily from my breast milk.  There is no clock that tells us, there is no way to know when.  But, assuming that she still needs extra nourishment until she's at least 5 (which is what my personal college studies taught me), I am going to continue nursing my daughter without guilt.  Does this mean I will nurse her until age 5?  No.  But it means that I can nurse her now and know that she is getting nutritional benefit from this experience.

2.  Antibodies.  Yep, it's that immune system boosting benefit everybody raves about.  Does Punky get sick?  Yes.  Does she get colds?  Yes.  She even had RSV as an infant.  We do not live in a bubble.  But I strongly feel that when she does get sick, she doesn't suffer like the other kiddos (my other two, non-nursing, kiddos).  

3.  Bonding.  There is absolutely nothing sweeter in our relationship than when she's nursing and looks up to me with her beautiful, brown eyes.  She takes in every single word from my mouth, every song I sing, every noise uttered.  She flutters her eyelashes, arches her eyebrows, smiles & laughs without breaking her sequence.  My precious, beautiful baby girl.  

4.  Analgesic.  Breastfeeding has been the most effective analgesic we've ever used.  Head bumps, pinched fingers, scraped knees, hurt feelings.  I can fix all of those things in just the few seconds it takes to assume a nursing position (which, with a toddler, is pretty easy).  Mommy's magic medicine.  

5.  Mom's health.  There is evidence that shows extended breastfeeding reduces the instances of (several types of cancer) in the mom.  

6.  Oxytocin.  When I sit down to start nursing, I'm forced to relax.  When moms are nursing their bodies release the hormone oxytocin.  This hormone allows your body to relax so the milk will "let down" and flow to your baby.  This relaxation time often helps me regroup, put my day in the proper perspective, and move on happily to the next activity.  Not to mention those precious, non-verbal expressions of love from my baby girl.

If you've read this and you're still a naysayer, let me just clarify some misguided generalizations.  Punky is not clingy.  She doesn't nurse around the clock.  She is fiercely independent, she is confident, she is learning to make choices.  She is a great eater...she will chow down on meat, beans, veggies, fruit, cheese, and just about every single food item we offer.  She has a very balanced diet.  She is well-nourished.  She is physically strong & very intelligent.  She is a normal, healthy 2 year old.  We are blessed.  

If you're concerned that when I say it is *my* choice I'm not taking my husband's opinion into consideration, you couldn't be more wrong.  We discuss it often.  We are both educated on the benefits of "extended" breastfeeding.  We are both educated (through personal experience) on the pitfalls of "extended" breastfeeding.  Together, we make this choice, as we do others in this parenting journey.  He is a prime example of a well-rounded adult who was breastfed past infancy.  I think he turned out pretty well.  

If you're still not convinced here is a slew of resources and a list of benefits of extended breast feeding:

And...if you're still not convinced, we'll just have to agree to disagree.  And I won't judge you if you don't judge me.

PS: I nurse in public, too.  Without a cover, but I'm covered.  More than a lot of women who are perpetuating the stereotype that breasts are purely sexual.  

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