I'm not really an attachment parent. I've blogged about this a bit before. I'm more like a whatever-works parent. I co-slept a bit. But I like a little separation too, so the co-sleeping didn't last too long. I breastfed both my kids, because it was important to me. Boy-o self-weaned at 15 months and I so wasn't ready for him to be done yet. I craved that time that was just ours, the snuggles, the closeness with my toddler baby who was the kind of toddler who was wayyyyy to busy being busy to snuggle. And just a few months back, when Girlio was 18 months, I wrote a blog talking about beginning to feel a lot of external pressure to stop breastfeeding her. At the time, I argued that I would breastfeed until she and I were good and god-damned ready to stop.
And - here we are, three months later. I have a 21 month old who still wants to breastfeed as much as some newborns. And I have begun in earnest to crave having my body back in my own possession. That I love this connecting time of breastfeeding has begun to be outshone by that Jesus Christ - get off me feeling. And I do still love connecting and having a breastfeed here and there. But I'd like to not have to connect quite so often and quite so on command. As in, I've begun to feel like a dairy cow. So I've begun the process of trying to cut down the number of times a day Girlio breastfeeds, from anywhere upwards of 10 times, to, let's say, 4 ish times a day. My hope is that once we get this first cut-down under our belts, the eventual weaning will be simpler, gentler, easier on both of us. This process is not without some guilt. (read: a lot of guilt). No parenting decision is, really. But this is especially so when the decision is made for the comfort of the parent, to the 'discomfort' of the child. Selfish mama. Bad, selfish mama.
Lately, I've begun to be particularly irked by the pro-breastfeeding camp, whose literature cries: Breastfeed! Breastfeed for longer! Your babywill be smarter! Thinner!, More well adjusted! And then the studies are parroted from here until next Tuesday by every pro-breastfeeding site across the globe. It's not that I don't understand the need to encourage breastfeeding. I do. I get it. But what irks me about the breastfeed/extended breastfeed dogma is that the rhetoric is all about the children, and not always so much about the mothers whose bodies are doing the feeding. Believe it or not, I am not just a vessel for my child's growth and well-being. I'm an actual person. A person with breasts, raising children.
The rhetoric around the decision to breastfeed or not breastfeed, and/or how long people should continue to breastfeed, I believe, is damaging. When people who breastfeed feel it is their right to follow people who bottlefeed and question them about their choices, and conversely, when people feel it is their right to ask breastfeeding women to leave public spaces and/or question them about their choice to breastfeed or how long they choose to breastfeed, it is abundantly clear that we have a problem on both sides of the coin. It's one damn judge-y coin, no matter how you flip it. People who breastfeed feel judged. People who do not breastfeed feel judged. Everybody feels judged. Likely because everybody is judged. The mere sight or suggestion of a bottle/formula feeding should not be offensive. The mere sight or suggestion of breastfeeding should not be offensive. And yet....
That judge-y old coin makes us all more reactive than we probably need to be.
Case in point. Some friends and I and our respective progeny were hanging out at the Muttart Conservatory. We run the gamut of breastfeeding choices: one mama's babe is adopted and not breastfed, one mama is desparately trying to find ways to gently wean her not-quite two year old, and one mama is committed to extended breastfeeding, child-led weaning and still breastfeeding her three year old. Three wonderful, beautiful, thriving, happy children. Three different parents and perspectives. And while my friend was breastfeeding her daughter, and I was simultaneously trying, with some difficulty to distract my babe who kept shouting at me (and the rest of the Conservatory): "milky! milky! milky!", some dude starts up a conversation about how he and his wife believe in child-led weaning and breastfed their kids for four years apiece.
Now - for my friend breastfeeding on the bench, this was a lovely conversation to have, and rightly so. There is lots of pressure to wean kids early, and sticking it out with your kids requires lots of patience and commitment. I don't know how these kinds of comments make people who haven't (for whatever reason) breastfed their kids feel - I'll have to ask my friend how she felt about that. But I can tell ya - it made this trying-to-wean-and-feeling-tired-and-guilty-about-it mama feel like wiping the floor with his ass. I reacted. Bigtime. Like blood reaching boiling point, hair standing up on the back of my neck, reacted.
Because it felt like congratulating my breastfeeding friends' choice inevitably meant putting my choice down. I also reacted because who the hell is this dude trying to kid? He didn't freaking loan out his body for eight years to breastfeed anyone. I was also wondering if maybe he wasn't just trying to make conversation so he could check out my friends' boobs. Me- I'm not so trusting. I managed a tense smile and barked out a "your wife is a better woman than me" and I moved on fast before I could muster anything else (And yes - I probably said it witheringly. My filter ain't so great these days).
Anyways - I reacted so strongly because, no matter what choice a mother makes, someone's always going to be there to tell you, or at least insinuate, that it isn't the right one.
So - as with so many other things - we need to cut moms some f*cking slack. Give the information in non-judgemental ways. (Note here that pronouncing from the rooftops that breastfed babies are less prone to obesity*, less likely to flunk out of school, go to jail, most likely to attend Yale, bladdy bladdy blah is not, in fact, non-judgemental. Not to mention the rather obvious flaws in studies like these that look at one tiny factor in a childs' upbringing and pronounce it all-encompassing).
And we also need to recognize that ultimately, what's best for mama is also best for baby. There are so many many ways for parents to nurture, love and, yes - attach, to their children. How kids get fed is such a small part of the equation.
I believe in my feminist-mama-head that my toddler will be a happier toddler when her mama feels less like throwing her off every time she grabs for breasts, yelling "milky! milky! milky!"
But my feminist-mama-heart finds itself so easily subsumed by the guilt messaging about what makes a 'good parent'.
As always, this parenting business is a mine-field.
* which, of course, pisses me off for reasons entirely unrelated to breastfeeding