I don't think it's a secret that I'm a breastfeeding advocate, right? I believe that breastfeeding is healthy and natural and a great choice for babies and mamas to make. It's important, though, that I emphasize that I don't think it's the only great choice for babies and mamas to make. I believe that there are physical, emotional, situational, etc. barriers that prevent some women from breastfeeding and that doesn't make them less of a mother than someone who breastfeeds their child for five years. Whether you breastfeed for a day or a week or a year or not at all - I support the choice you make for your child. (Also? It doesn't actually matter what I think. What matters is what you think and what your partner thinks about the choices you make for your child.)
I feel like society has placed this bizarre expectation on women. To be a good mother, you must breastfeed your baby (but not for too long or else you're creepy.) There's this goal we're all trying to reach - the shining-beacon-of-perfection-in-motherhood goal - that's completely unattainable and unrealistic and damaging ... yet we're all chasing after it hoping that someone is going to pin ten gold mothering stars on our chest.
When people use the term "breast is best!" (said in a sing-songy trill, of course) it hurts individuals and it hurts the cause. Breast is normal. If you say "breast is best!" what message does that send to women who can't breastfeed? Or choose not to breastfeed? Or feed their babies a combination of breastmilk and formula? Are they not the "best?" Does that make them the worst? Of course not.
So what message does the statement "breast is normal" send? Does it imply that formula is not normal? Well, yes. It does. And maybe that makes you feel uncomfortable or defensive or angry and if that's the case, I truly apologize. I'm not attacking formula. I don't think formula is a bad thing. I think that in some cases, formula is necessary. I think that in some cases, formula saves lives. And it's not up to me to determine the criteria of what those cases may be. The statement "breast is normal" is not meant to inflame or offend or shame. It just means that breastfeeding isn't some shiny, unreachable ideal. It's the biological norm.
Which is a really long way of saying: when I talk about breastfeeding and how great it is and how I chose to do it for specific reasons, I'm talking about myself and my kid. I'm not judging anyone's choice to breastfeed or semi-breastfeed or exclusively formula feed. I'm not comparing myself or my circumstances to anyone. I'm not implying that if you don't make the same choice I make you're making the wrong choice. We cool?
Grady is two years and eight months and two weeks old. Grady is still breastfeeding.
I never thought I would breastfeed a toddler. I didn't really research breastfeeding before Grady was born so I sort of went into it with an "if it works, great!" attitude with an arbitrary goal of breastfeeding for a year. I distinctly remember rolling my eyes at the breastfeeding counselor in the hospital who told me that the WHO recommends breastfeeding for two years and beyond.
So how did I end up here? With a walking, talking, decision-making, song-singing, bike-riding, breastfeeding toddler? I don't really know, actually. We just never stopped. I decided sometime around Grady's first birthday that I would not wean him. I would let him decide when to wean. There are so many things in Grady's life that are beyond his control. Some are scary (the horribly loud fan in our parkade!) Some are annoying (having to wear pants in public!) Some are sad (what do you mean we can't have cake for dinner?) Some are downright offensive (being served water in the red cup instead of the blue cup, dammit, Mama, we talked about this!) So I decided that I would let him decide when he was finished with breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding almost-three-years-old Grady is so different than breastfeeding infant Grady. He likes to breastfeed at night before bed. He'll usually breastfeed again sometime between 5:00 and 7:00am. Sometimes he wants to breastfeed before his afternoon nap, but not always. And sometimes on the really hard days, the throw-your-toys-at-the-wall-and-scream days, the lie-down-on-the-sidewalk-and-cry days, the fall-down-and-skin-your-knees days, or the sniffly-nose-and-sore-throat days, Grady needs to breastfeed more often. On average, I breastfeed Grady 2-3 times a day for 5-10 minutes per session. It's not time consuming is what I'm saying. It's a brief respite from the gogogo toddler energy. It's a time to cuddle and bond and be present in the moment. It's a way to calm the turbulence that is a spirited toddler, and reset his mood. I treasure it.
I will be sad when Grady chooses to stop breastfeeding.
I will celebrate when Grady chooses to stop breastfeeding.
I will be happy that I provided nourishment and comfort for my son. I will be proud that my broken body still managed to produce breastmilk - healthy, nutrient-rich breastmilk to help my son grow. I will appreciate the health, developmental, nutritional, immunological, and emotional benefits that breastfeeding gave to both me and Grady.
So this is me, coming out of the breastfeeding closet. I'm breastfeeding a toddler. I'm not ashamed (or creepy!) I don't think I'm a better mom than moms who decide to wean their babies. I don't think I'm a better mom than moms who feed their babies formula. I'm just a mom who is tired of the way society treats breastfeeding women. So I'm going to talk about my breastfeeding experience and I'm going to post photos on social media with the hashtag #normalizebreastfeeding and you can roll your eyes at me if you want to, I really don't mind. Or you can go here and learn more about full-term breastfeeding.