So much of the (weird and annoying and unnecessary) controversy surrounding breastfeeding not only involves nutrition, but what defines appropriate breastfeeding etiquette. It seems that most everyone has an opinion and many insist on sharing their input on when, where, and how long moms should breastfeed. They are getting so caught up in the logistics and nitty-gritty details, that they miss the big picture: Breastfeeding can not only nourish a kid, but it can be a wondrously primal and unparalleled bond between that kid and its mom, and also that if someone chooses to breastfeed, how and when they do it should really just be left up to the two people on either end of the boob.
Between my two children, I have breastfed for a total of 42 months thus far, or about 3.5 years. To some, this extended breastfeeding might solidify my status as a card-carrying freak of nature—I’m OK with that. I’ll let that so-called freak flag fly high because obviously this judgement is misplaced and unwarranted, and frankly, it's almost nice when people judge my breastfeeding choices because it saves me the trouble of having to waste energy figuring out if those are people I want to be friends with. In any case, the breastfeeding relationship was hard-earned: I battled clogged ducts, mastitis, poor latches, tongue ties, and even a breast cancer scare.
After all that hard work—and possibly because of it—the outcome of being able to successfully breastfeed for as long as I choose to do so has been nothing short of magical. Still, it's amazing how many people ask me when I plan to be done. Like, hey, yo: I worked so hard at this—can we chill for a minute before asking me when I'm going to walk away from it? Also, it's not as if I have a secret date circled on my day planner. For now, there is no such date.
That said, the end will come, and there will be wonderful and also sad aspects to that. (I think one of the things that makes me love breastfeeding so much is knowing that it's not going to last forever. This is a finite time in my relationship with my kids, and it'll never happen again, so yes, I'm well aware that it's going to stop eventually.)
For those people for whom breastfeeding was hard or impossible or just not something they wanted to do: Respect. You don't have to do it, and you don't have to love it even if you do. But for those of us who do breastfeed, and do love it, there are just too many sweet memories that we miss when this chapter of our lives comes to an end.
The Overly Enthusiastic Initial Feeding Frenzy
When you’re brand new to nursing, the idea of trusting another tiny being with your nipple is actually pretty terrifying. (Even if they are toothless!) Both of my boys would initially approach my boobs like crazed, underfed piranhas. Fortunately, it was more laughable than it was uncomfortable and it would always gradually die down, giving way to slow, steady breaths as they ultimately succumbed to sleep.
The Hilarious, Acrobatic Positions
As they got older (and more mobile), my boys were desperately torn between needing a quick snack and yearning to explore their growing worlds. As a "solution" (ah, the underdeveloped problem-solving skills of babes) they had to devise some pretty unique positioning. Yoga gurus and Pilates teachers alike would probably marvel at the ingenious and impossibly flexible ways they could contort themselves while still remaining latched on.
Gazing Into Each Other's Eyes (Yes, Seriously, And I'm Not Sorry)
Sorry not sorry about the sentimentality here. Since the beginning, breastfeeding has been a way for me to pause the world around us, rid myself of distractions, and focus solely on my baby. There have been many priceless moments staring deeply into one another's eyes and catching a final glimpse of their baby blues before they nodded peacefully off to sleep. These days, nursing is essentially the only time I even get to admire my bustling toddler’s gorgeous eyes.
The Sweet Murmurs
I already miss hearing the sweet, contented murmurs of a newborn at my breast. Both of my boys always sounded as if they were trying to whisper sweet nothings to their best friends the boobs. To say that they were infatuated would be the understatement of the century. Their first, and perhaps most adorable love affair.
The Busy Hands
Whether it's during the newborn stage, when their tiny hands knead away like kittens, or a few months in when they’ll simply rest an open palm on your chest, as if to feel your heartbeat, to feel as close to you as they possibly can. How could you not miss that? These days my toddler is infamous for bringing toys to each nursing session. Before I know it, Thomas the Train will be chugging across my mouth, or impossibly stuck in my hair, and we both end up collapsed into a heap of giggles.
Memorizing Every Feature Of Their Faces
Breastfeeding allows you the time to completely absorb and appreciate every facet of the wondrous little being that you created. For me, this frequently meant tucking feathery soft, baby tendrils back behind their tiny ears. Reveling in their new baby smell, and caressing their sweet, soft cheeks was a favorite pastime. Or tenderly tracing the shape of a nose they got from daddy, adorably plump lips they got from mommy, and the charming cleft chins that grandpa passed on.
Just Being Totally In Our Zone Together
When I think of weaning, I know that there is an infinite amount of things I will miss. I know I will miss the weight of their heavy little heads in the crook of my arm. The tiny half smiles they shoot me, when their bloated little tummies are finally full. But most of all, I know that I’ll long for the shared (I think) feeling, during some nursing sessions, that all's right with the world.
Right with ourselves. Right with one another. Right with the universe. Absolute oneness.
For us, the breastfeeding relationship has truly provided a foundation and avenue to mutual moments of relaxation, warmth, tranquility, and happiness. I think they call that unconditional love.