I’ve never been overly sentimental about breastfeeding. In fact, I’ve often poked fun at la leche moms, because despite the fact that they are making healthy choices and encouraging our world to be more boob-friendly, they are also kind of annoying. I know I’m not supposed to say this.
The thing is that from the beginning, the whole business of breastfeeding has been a giant pain. Sometimes literally, with latch changes and teeth, clawing and scratching, and often figuratively, pulling me away from conversations and interrupting my life for yet another stop at the milk buffet. And yet for all its disadvantages, here I am soldiering on. One year later and I’m still feeding on demand, through the night, and in cramped bathroom stalls–all for the love of baby.
Or is it?
There’s no denying this past year of nursing has taught me a lot about patience and endurance, but it has also revealed to me a giant secret about babies: boobs = quiet.
Is baby hungry? Boobs. Is baby fussy? Boobs. Is baby tired? Boobs! Want a moment of silence? BOOBS.
Surprisingly, this breastfeeding philosophy is wildly unpopular these days. In fact, I’ve had people outright tell me I’m doing it wrong. Part of me agrees. For example, next time I will absolutely not forget to give the kid a bottle once a week. I didn’t realize that shying away from bottles would cause Waylon to refuse to take one all together, cornering me into a wall of dependency. I also agree with the camp who says that breastfeeding your babies to sleep prevents them from sleeping through the night. They are absolutely right. As of last night, Waylon is still getting mid-sleep nummies.
Here’s the thing, the pros of breastfeeding far outweigh the cons. Do I groan at 3AM when I hear Waylon fussing in his bed? Yes, but I’m almost immediately back to sleep when he’s nursing next to me. Am I annoyed when I have company over and he’s pulling at my shirt? Yes, but afterwards he’s much happier and playing with his toys independently. It’s a great trick and more than convenient having these baby soothers built into my body.
I think a lot of people who see me continuing to breastfeed and co-sleep assume that I’m an overindulgent parent. So far I’ve heard, “You’re going to spoil him!” “It’s obvious who’s in charge in your house!” and “Looks like Waylon has you right where he wants you.” I try to laugh off these conversations, but it does cause moments of self doubt. So much so that on a few separate occasions we’ve tried to let him cry it out or have skipped feedings to work on his patience.
Finally I emailed two mamas who breastfed and co-slept until their kids were well past a year old. I tried not to sound desperate, but I was little desperate. I told them I worried about the pattern I’d set up for Waylon, that he’d probably be sleeping with us when he’s sixteen, and that he was too dependent.
Much to my relief, they both responded with multi-paragraph examples of how their kids are fine, no longer breast-feeding, and perfectly adjusted to real life. One of them even lamented not breastfeeding longer. She said, “After I weaned both my boys started getting chronic ear infections and we dealt with tons of doctor’s visits/antibiotics/tube discussions. Around 2 the ear infections stopped. So, that’s more motivation. I say all this because weaning is really enticing when you have a baby who nurses all night and weaning might be the cure all. But man, nursing is the best, whether you feel all swoony about it or not.”
The other wrote back with specific examples of weaning, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping with all four of her children. She even had the decency to dig out her old baby books and copy down verbatim how she was feeling at the time and I noted that all her children were much closer to two than one when they were weaned and out of their bed. I breathed a sigh of relief.
What’s most ridiculous is that these moms were some of the only moms I felt comfortable asking. Breastfeeding has become one of those dicey topics that shouldn’t be dicey. I’m still confused what we’re fighting about. Are there really women out there trying to convince other women not to breastfeed past a certain age? Are we still throwing stones at those who don’t breastfeed at all? I’m honestly confused.
At least once a week someone asks how long I plan on keeping up this gig. Usually it’s non-threatening and, despite being a bit tired of talking about it, usually leads to a great discussion. But there are also the raised eyebrow conversations, the ones where I end up talking too much and making up statistics so I don’t look like a crazy la leche freak. It’s not my favorite.
Look, I’m going to nurse this kid until he self-weans or turns two, whichever comes first. And after it’s all over, you better believe I’m going to cry about it, because despite being an annoyance, it’s also really beautiful and unbelievably convenient.
And that’s all I’m going to say about that.