Tomorrow (August 6) is the Big Latch On. Designed to raise awareness of breastfeeding, events like this don't necessarily position nursing as normal in dominant culture, but they provide a sense of community and belonging for mothers (especially those who otherwise aren't surrounded by a supportive, like-minded community).
Personally I never felt uncomfortable nursing. It never occurred to me to cover up or watch for scornful eyes or worry what others might think. It was just what we did. No one ever openly questioned my choice (even when nursing my toddlers) and the only feedback I ever got was positive. I never hid my choice to breastfeed. It just seemed perfectly natural in every way.
I appluad my mother for nursing in the 1970's when she knew exactly one other nursing mother. One. I am amazed beyond words that she was able to honor her truths and nurse my sister and I, me until I was toddling and verbal. (You were a radical, mom. I love you.)
I remember nursing my children…
in the woods,
in the swimming pool,
on hiking trails,
at my great-aunt's, my grandmother's, and my grandfather's nursing homes,
on my grandma's couch (My adored grandma – who bottle fed her kids – and was sincerely worried that my A-cup breasts "weren't big enough" to make enough milk for my already breast milk fattened boy),
at my grandpa's funeral and my best friends' weddings,
on the dock at the river,
In a moving car, hanging over a car seat with my face pressed against the backseat window,
at the grocery store,
and the museum,
and the library,
and the coop,
and the hardware store…
Where I nursed really comes down to one simple question: Where did we go before either of my kids weaned at 3 1/2? Then that's where we nursed.
Below is a re-post from last August when I realized that Lupine was weaned. Enjoy, and happy World Breastfeeding Week.
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Nursing has been on my brain lately. Because, for the the first time in almost eight years I'm not nursing anyone. Or I don't think I am. (I know. That sounds strange. But natural child-led weaning isn't a cut and dry nursing/not nursing relationship. It's fluid and transparent and ever-changing.) But I'm fairly certain that we're done. Forever.
Since late 2001 I have been either pregnant or nursing. Until right now. Sage nursed until he was 3 1/2. He weaned around the time I became pregnant with Lupine. And she is now 3 1/2. And she'd done. Weaned. "A big girl" as she would put it.
Why child-led weaning? For me it is an extension of how we have chosen to parent both of our children, gently and with the minimal intervention possible. But in truth (if I look deeper into the shadows) there is more to it than that.
When Sage was almost two I started to feel done with nursing. (There is often an increase in the intensity and frequency of nursing when a child reaches 18 months old, and we were there. I didn't know it would pass and we'd hit our groove again.) I started to move towards gently weaning Sage.
But then Sage got really sick. And as I lay by his side in the pediatric ICU, wires and machines and nurses and neurologists everywhere, we nursed. All night we nursed. All day we nursed. And as that long week wore on I felt gratitude hour-after-hour for nursing. It was all we had.
And after we went home, nursing – so vital all along – became unsurpassed in its importance because if things ever went terribly wrong again (fingers crossed) I wanted that safety net available to us – for comfort, security, and nourishment.
I decided that Sage would know best when he was ready and I surrendered to that. And he did. No, we never needed nursing again like we did that week, but we still needed it – for overstimulated afternoons, for connecting after a hard day, for hydration and natural immunity during colds and flu, for a physical manifestation of mother-child love. And when he was ready it was over. It was so gradual I can't remember the last time we nursed.
Lupine was a different story in that she arrived with no baggage of something-might-go-wrong. Just bliss, joy, and the now. While I was free of worry, I still carried the gift of surrender that I learned with Sage. I gave myself up to her babyhood in a peaceful and joyful way, knowing that these moments were fleeting. I was happy to have her in my arms, in my bed, at my breast for as long as she chose. And while I didn't know what that would mean I was game. It just felt right.
And now? I have a big girl. In her words, "Mama, do you know why I don't love to suse (nurse) anymore? No milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk – for like five days."That was this June. Since then she has halfheartedly nursed for a brief second on each side, once a week.
Yep. It's over.
As for me, it feels good. Like both my kids (in this department anyway) had their needs met and we were all happy with the journey. Now everyday Lupine nurses her dolls and talks about all the babies she'll have when she is "a real mama."
And so this chapter ends and the next begins.