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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Quandaries? Oh, you mean boobs?

How long do you breastfeed? (This one's for you, Ash)

Ah, the age old breastfeeding quandary. Actually, it's not really age old at all--the quandary, that is. For how long do you breastfeed, and for how long do you breastfeed in public? I've been having this conversation recently with a few different friends, and it's always interesting to hear people's opionions on the subject. Most of my friends' opionions are along the same lines: when your baby is old enough to lift up your shirt himself and ask for a drink, it's time to stop. It's just weird.

I used to think breastfeeding until a baby was 4 or 5 was a little weird too. Until I had a baby of my own. And realized, "Oh--THAT's what those things were put on my chest for." I am obsessed with breastfeeding. I love everything about it. It was never painful, even at the very beginning, and Baby T took to it immediately. I always knew I wanted to breastfeed (even when I thought I didn't want kids. I still wanted to be pregnant and breastfeed. Go figure). I love how I can provide Baby T exactly what he needs, whenever he needs it. I love how cozy it is to be able to relax in a quiet room at the end of a long day, enjoying a bond with Baby T that no one else can replicate or interrupt (unless you make a loud, strange sound, dangle a colorful object in front of his face, or bark). I love how in the middle of a long, content drink, Baby T will look up at me and smile, as if to say, "Oh hi, mommy! I didn't know you were up there!"

I always said that I planned on breastfeeding until Baby T was at least 2 years old. If it was up to me right now, I would do it until he goes away to college. I'm weird. I know. I guess I will let him wean himself when the time is right for him. The question is, when he is running around hitting baseballs with his little friends, will I still breastfeed in public? The majority (as in, all but maybe one or two) of my friends think that is strange. Even my liberal sister, who still breastfeeds her 19 month old, only does it in private and offers him a sippy cup in public. She had the most reasonable comments in regards to breastfeeding: she understands the way society works, and to socialize her kids in a way that fits into society's ideals, she offers the sippy cup in public, and breastfeeding is her cozy, special activity that's done in private now. Whether she agrees with society's ideals or not isn't the issue. She just wants her kids to be perceived as normal and not be made to feel uncomfortable or ridiculed for breastfeeding in public.

I get that. I don't want Baby T to ever go through the torture that other kids can put you through. Even though it is inevitably going to happen at some point. But I want him to be unique. I want him to realize that what other people think doesn't really matter. During my middle school years, I was tortured. I know what it is like to try to fit in when you don't always have the right clothes, the right cars, or the right friends. You play the violin and speak a different language. Your parents have accents. "Cool" is not a word your parents use around you, and you don't care about it. Until everyone else does. I went through that phase. Where, to avoid having your locker decorated with maxi pads for your birthday, you went along with what everyone else thought and said.

And then as I got older I realized that no one really cares. And I did get weirder as I got older. But at the risk of sounding cliche, I found the people who liked me for who I was. It bugs me when people try to be just like everyone else, and it also bugs me when people try to be different just for the sake of being different. I just became who I was. That's who I want Baby T to become. That's who my sister is. Everything she believes, and everything she does, she believes and does because that's the way she wants to do it. She understands the idea that people think it's weird to breastfeed a toddler. She doesn't want to make people (or her son) feel uncomfortable. So she doesn't breastfeed in public.

When Baby T was first born I didn't want to make people uncomfortable either. Now, I'm not very shy about my body, and I personally didn't care about whipping my boob out in public. But I didn't want other people, like Big T's brothers, or random men in the park, feel uncomfortable. So I was always careful to cover up with a blanket. That lasted about a week. I'm just as coordinated as I am shy--not very. So trying to lift up my shirt discreetly, undo my nursing bra with one hand while trying to tame a writing infant with the other, get a glimpse of Baby T so I could latch him on properly while trying not to suffocate him, and avoid tiring my arms out by this whole process was quite difficult with a blanket tucked into my bra strap. And the Hooter Hider? Forget it. A strange looking, brightly colored apron hanging around your neck doesn't really blend into the background and give you privacy. Everybody wonders whether that strange new piece of clothing is part of the 80s trend or the bohemian look. And Baby T hated having his head covered anyway. So I finally gave up and just whipped em out. In public. Around Big T's brothers and dad. It was just easier. I was just feeding my baby.

Breasts are designed to feed a baby. That's what they are there for. They aren't sexy. Mine sure aren't. It's only society that makes them out to be. And if Baby T is still breastfeeding at age 4, I certainly hope he's not thinking about the sexiness of his drinking vessel. (Although he WAS enjoying flipping through Victoria's Secret catalogs at 3 months).

I don't feel weird about whipping them out in public now to feed my baby, and I don't think I will feel weird about it in two years, either. Part of me understands the socialization aspect of it, and I agree that our society in general perceives it as odd, but I don't agree that they should. So shouldn't I do my part in trying to change society's perception? When my baby is 3 and pumps his little fist in the sign for milk while we're at the mall, am I going to hand him a sippy cup or am I going to disrobe? I guess we'll find out in a couple of years.


abasham said... Best Blogger Tips

You forgot to mention that my always active, always curious, can't sit still son, wouldn't breastfeed in public for a second if I tried :) And I saw several pirates costumes on halloween with capes clearly made out of hooter hider material - at least they ended up serving some purpose?

Beth Smith said... Best Blogger Tips

I breastfeed in public, but only when they are young. They get crazy starting around six months. Good luck!

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