Yes, I Am Still Nursing
I don’t have a whole lot of “causes.” I know I seemed like a crusader for Ruby’s school last week, but that really is an exception for me. I don’t generally get involved in political campaigns, I’m very casual about religion, and I pride myself on being able to see the other side in almost every argument.
But there are a few things I am definitely passionate about: my kids (subset: Ruby’s school); my immediate family; New Orleans; coffee; Gilmore Girls; grammar and language; and children’s literature (subset: Babysitters Club, Little House on the Prairie, all Judy Blume); and, honestly, breastfeeding.
I understand that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for these things. I have three entire seasons of Gilmore Girls saved on my DVR in the dual vain hopes that a.) my husband will come to me one day and say: “Baby, I was wrong about how annoying I find the fast-talking. Please, please share the quirky, quippy world of Stars Hollow with me.” and b.) we would actually have the time, ever, to sit down and watch it uninterrupted. But I don’t really expect this to happen, nor do I imagine I will one day find him curled up under the covers with Dawn and the Impossible Three. Ruby, as I have lamented before, has no use for Little House on the Prairie; my mom hates coffee; and I have friends who would never want to live in New Orleans or send their kids to public school. I am fine with all of this.
Likewise, I am passionate about breastfeeding, but I absolutely don’t care if people feed their babies formula. It sort of baffles me that this is such a huge debate in the first place. You feed your kids; I’ll feed mine; the end. I am no more bothered by someone feeding a baby formula than I am by someone not laughing at my (clearly hilarious) grammar jokes.
But I am surprised by how weird I feel about the fact that Georgia is almost 17 months and still nursing. I don’t feel weird about it personally – I love nursing her and have no concrete plans to stop. But I feel weird telling people about it because I get raised eyebrows and well-meaning but nosy questions.
“Is she still nursing?” a friend of mine asked recently when Georgia started tugging at my blouse.
“When are you going to wean?” asked another, adding warily, “She sure has a lot of teeth!”
Yes, she is still nursing, and regardless of how many teeth she has, I plan to wean her sometime between tomorrow and when she starts college. I mean, honestly? She is still so tiny! And it’s none of your business!
I have never been much on nursing in public (not because I am modest but because I am so conflict-avoidant that I have no idea what I would do if someone said something to me), but now that she is over a year, I would never do it. Based on the comments I get from friends and family, I can’t even imagine what unpleasant strangers might say, and the truth is, she doesn’t need to nurse in public anymore – she doesn’t nurse for nutrition now so much as for comfort.
And I love that. I love that I can comfort her so easily. I have heard a lot of parents say a lot of silly things (myself entirely included), but one of the silliest things that I hear the most regarding nursing is that “when babies are old enough to ask for it, they’re too old.” That has never made one bit of sense to me. When Georgia asks for a cracker, I give her a cracker. When she asks for a hug, I give her a hug. In what universe does it make sense to deny toddlers something simply because they are able to articulate that they want it? It’s like punishing them for language development, something we should be celebrating. Besides, even nonverbal newborns can “ask for it.” That’s why infants root and nuzzle and chew on their adorable itty-bitty hands.
Every mother sets her own guidelines for if and when and how long she’ll breastfeed, so trying to have some sort of universal rule about how old is too old is just bound to fail. Don’t want to nurse? OK with me. Tried to nurse but couldn’t? I am so sorry; please don’t beat yourself up about it. Ready to wean at 6 months? Good for you; you gave it a good run. Still nursing your kindergartner? I’m glad it works for you.
But seriously: Stop telling me when to stop nursing my baby.
I think what brought this to the fore for me is that I just had a nasty bout of mastitis, and I was surprised by how reluctant I was to tell people what was wrong with me. “Oh, I had a fever and was just under the weather generally,” I said vaguely to anyone who inquired as to my well-being. Again, it wasn’t modesty – look at me, discussing my boobs with the entire Internet – so much as it was hesitance to have to explain and defend my breastfeeding choices.
Having causes, though, necessarily means being brave enough to stand up for them. So yes! Yes, I am still breastfeeding. It’s not National Breastfeeding Week or anything, but Personal Just Got Over Mastitis Week is a good enough reason, I guess, to express my commitment.
You’re allowed to think this is weird – hell, a lot of things about me are weird. It would be cool if more people could open their minds about breastfeeding, but if they can’t open their minds, they can at least shut their mouths. So please don’t say anything nasty to me or any other nursing women, no matter how old their nurslings are. We might say something nasty right back. And you know what? You would’ve been asking for it.