Recently, one of my friends posted about an experience she had of overhearing a group of moms negatively talking of breastfeeding past whatever age; rudely laughing about babies lifting moms shirts and talking of stopping nursing so moms could get drunk. She is currently tandem nursing a 2 year old and an infant so obviously this hit her wrong. She bravely said something to one of the moms of how it hurt to hear these moms talk this way. She knew if she didn’t she would regret it. Later, she posted on our LLL Facebook group page about the preconceived notions we as “lactivists” had. I asked the momma’s, who are all LLL leaders, if I could add their responses to this blog post. One momma said, “I always said I would never breastfeed because it was gross…”. Another momma said, “…I got totally judgey that a woman next to me popped her 4 month old son under a cover to nurse while we were all eating…that’s what bathrooms and cars are for.” I, too had a preconceived notion that breastfeeding over one year of age was inappropriate. I have struggled with the guilt of what this notion caused me to do for almost 10 months now. I struggle, because I lied about breastfeeding my son. It’s time to come clean and I am choosing to do it with you.
When my son, Owen, turned 11 months I began getting the question, “Are you going to stop breastfeeding him?” I received the question from mainly my co-workers, but even from family and friends. I know the benefits of continuing on, and I convinced my husband with no problem. However, it was a lot harder having to convince my co-workers. These women know nothing of this “crunchy” lifestyle I try to live and especially the attachment style parenting I share with many of the TMD readers. The world of working moms and stay-at-home moms are vastly different in my experience and I’m stuck riding both trains. I was still pumping once or twice a day at work. I would pump at my desk in an office of all women and I would cover myself with a nursing cover. Owen was 14 months old when one of my co-workers approached me while pumping, “Why are you doing that Sarah?”
I just looked at her a little dumbfounded and I thought to myself, “Really?! Why the F would a woman stick her nipples in a sucking device for no reason?”
She then said, “You don’t still breastfeed, do you? You just give it to him in a sippy cup?”
Hesitantly I replied, “Of course I don’t still breastfeed him!”
From that moment on I hid the fact from my co-workers that I still breastfed my toddler. I began hand expressing in the bathroom to avoid “pumping in public” and before long I could go all day without needing to express at all. I wasn’t ashamed of breastfeeding my toddler, but I was deeply ashamed of myself for not standing up and teaching others what breastfeeding is all about. Me, the woman who was working to become a La Leche League Leader and starting my own group in a county that has no support. Me, the woman who works with her midwife carving up placentas. Me, the only woman in the building to work part-time to be home with her kids and I couldn’t be brave enough to be me. It was the look on her face of pure disgust at the possibility of me nursing my toddler. It was the look of one of my co-workers, a very good friend, agreeing with her comment. I felt backed into a corner with my boobs hanging out, literally.
I am proud to nurse in public and frequently do. It’s an art I have perfected and am proud to say that my momma bear face steers negative glances away. So why in the world could I not stand proudly and say, “Yes, I do still breastfeed my son.” The answer, I had no support. I didn’t want to be judged or looked down upon. I am a strong individual but even the strongest need a voice standing with them. I don’t have one there, I stand alone.
Since then I have found my courage to be who I am. I have found an amazing support system and the confidence that has grown from it takes my breath away. I want to thank my La Leche League family. They have given me real life support that I needed so desperately to know I wasn’t alone in how I choose to parent. Even social media has given me support; Facebook pages such as, The Leaky B@@b and The Badass Breastfeeder remind me I am not alone. Over the past year I have journeyed a long way to accepting myself for the mom and the woman I want to be. Most importantly, I have learned how much it means to accept people, especially mothers. You know better, you do better and no one likes to feel judged or put down. I have also learned how important education is. The lack of education equals lack of acceptance and this needs to change. The best way to change this is to normalize breastfeeding.
From this day forward I will not hide from them or anyone else. I AM breastfeeding a TODDLER who will be 2 years old in 2 weeks. I don’t know when he will stop and that is OK for us. It is NOT gross or scarring my child. I WILL be a role model to other mommas wanting to breastfeed. I am PROUD to be able to do this for my child and will no longer be ashamed of who I am and what I do. I will BE a proud lactivist!