I have always imagined being a mother and breastfeeding my children. In other words, I've never been anti-breastfeeding. I grew up with a mom who nursed my brother and sister and who, on top of that, was a bit of an all-natural, Earth Mama, hippie type, so nursing just struck me as a given. However, even in that environment and with my upbringing, I had some backward-ass ideas about breastfeeding. Like, actually embarrassing ideas, now that I look back on them. I want to share with you, friends, the stupid things I said about breastfeeding before I had kids for a few reasons. Seems dangerous, I know, but let me explain my reasons for opening up and, essentially, publicly eating crow.
For one, I want to simply atone. After all, I have children and they need a positive example. For another, I want to assure everyone that these things (which I still hear from others) are complete bullsh*t. No, seriously. They're just the most wrong. Finally, I want to assure you that people can (and sometimes actually do) change, so you should never give up hope, even on the idiots.
When I say "idiots," I'm not saying it in a completely uncharitable way. There's a lot of misinformation out there about nursing, not to mention a general lack of visibility. So, often, an idiot can't help being an idiot. It takes proactive research to realize a lot of what we hear or assume about breastfeeding, is inaccurate. Still, looking back on my naive ignorance is enough to give me the heebie jeebies.
"There's No Point In Nursing Beyond 9 Months Or So"
While most items on the following list of embarrassing statements date farther back and are therefore easier to blame on youthful ignorance, this is one I actually said not long before getting pregnant. My mom nursed my siblings until they were 9 months old so I figured, "OK, my mom is smart so 9 months is obviously The Only Correct Time To Stop Breastfeeding."
Of course then I started reading and learning and it's like, "Oh, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends nursing for a year and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends two years? Maybe this isn't as cut and dry as I'd once believed it to be."
"There's No Nutritional Or Health Benefit In Breastfeeding A Toddler"
If you think about this statement for more than a minute, you'll soon realize it doesn't make any sense. Like, can you think of other foods that stop being healthy? Barring allergies or particular medical conditions, that's just not going to happen, and it doesn't happen with breast milk, either.
Above and beyond nutritional benefits, there are numerous other benefits to nursing into toddlerhood, including a child's health and maternal health.
"Once They Can Ask, They're Too Old To Nurse"
Children can "ask" to nurse long before they can manage the words. To quote a friend of mine, "My 7 month old comes and 'asks' by latching onto any available body part. Toe? Elbow? Nose? Chin? Great!"
Mine would "ask" by pulling down my shirt, regardless of where we were or whom we were with. This was often accompanied by insistent grunting or squealing. So, why do words suddenly make asking to nurse weird? Oh. Right. They don't. It's just an arbitrary judgment based on nothing but the cultural bias of not being used to seeing verbal children still breastfeeding.
"Breastfeeding A Toddler Is All About The Mother"
I don't even know how one would breastfeed a toddler if they didn't want to. Trust: my toddlers were way more invested in breastfeeding than I was by the time they hit about a year-and-a-half years of age. I even had to instill policies to kick them off the boob because they sure as hell weren't weaning on their own (and I was ready).
"How Hard Is It To Cover Up?"
I don't think I ever felt a woman should have to cover up while nursing, but there was a time when I was boggled as to why it was such a big deal or why one wouldn't to.
Then I began nursing with a cover.
First of all, a baby is like a little furnace anyway. You put that little furnace under (essentially) a blanket, against your own body heat, and things get downright muggy pretty quick. Everyone is uncomfortable. And do you know what a baby does when they get uncomfortable under a blanket? They kick off the blanket. Or they rip the blanket off their head. The blanket is history, is what I'm saying.
So, to you, Past Me, who asks "How hard is it to cover up?" I assure you, it's harder than you'd think.
"Don't Let A Baby Dictate The Feeding Schedule"
"Just Feed The Baby At Home"
Again, it wasn't that I thought breastfeeding should only be done in the home, I just wondered, "Why wouldn't you just wait to go out until after the baby is fed?"
Well, for one, babies need to eat all the damn time, especially when they're infants. Coupled with the fact that doing anything takes way longer when you have an infant in tow and, chances are, a baby will need to be fed in public (unless your errand is especially brief). If nursing mothers only fed their babies at home, nursing mothers would never leave the house.
"Everyone Should At Least Try To Breastfeed"
Oh screw you, Past Me. Whether or not someone chooses to breastfeed is none of your damn business. Breastfeeding is great! Breastfeeding is healthy! Breastfeeding is a great idea! However, formula feeding is also great and healthy and no one should feel like they have to try something they are not interested (for whatever reason) in pursuing.
It's just. Well. Ugh. Look: I have called myself a human pacifier. But this is, like, one of those terms you cannot apply to someone else without it being mean-spirited and offensive. I can call myself a human pacifier, but using that term in reference to someone else is just rude and dehumanizing.
"I'm All For Breastfeeding, But..."
If there's a "but" in there, you're probably not all for breastfeeding. "All for" doesn't require (and in fact, cannot include) a qualifier like "but." It's like "I'm all for women's rights, but..." or "I'm not a racist, but..."
"It's Natural. How Hard Could It Be?"
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Oh, Past Me! You are a hoot! A hilarious, national treasure of preciousness. Never change.
Actually, no, I'm really glad you changed your mind on all of these things. You sounded goddamn ridiculous.