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Thursday, November 22, 2007(I started this as a comment in response to Beth's post on the "Can You Believe in..." thread and quickly realized it would get lost in the comments. It needs to be a post of it's own, especially considering how much of the negativity these last few days comes from my comment about nursing toddlers. )
It's interesting to me how willing people are to take things out of context.
Beth just posted that she would no longer be linking to my blog because of the things I've said this week. While she's welcome to link to or not link to whomever she wants, she's taken my statements out of context twice. Thus, I feel the need to make corrections.
First, you'll note that I did not say "nursing a toddler is weird." I said "the idea of nursing a toddler weirds ME out."
There is, in fact, a distinct difference between the two. I have friends I've met through this blog and local parenting groups who nursed until their children were 2, 3, 4 and even older. I've hung out with women who were nursing four year olds. Doesn't bother me in the slightest. If mom and baby are happy, I'm happy.
If someone speaks up against them, I point out the benefits of extended nursing and explain the progression of nursing a child. Once you ask people "at exactly what age does it get "weird" most find they can't really answer it.
It's easy to look at a four year old and say "wow, that would be really weird to nurse a kid that old." But when you start to think about the fact that a child grows older one day at a time, it's easier to see how women nurse for so long.
I never breastfed Elnora. Breastfeeding tanked for us very early on and I ended up exclusively pumping for 14 months.
Until after Emmitt was born, I did not know anyone (outside of contacts on this blog) who had breastfed past a few weeks.
So to me, with no cultural context or example of anyone nursing beyond "infancy" the idea of nursing past six months seemed "weird."
Then I found myself nursing a six month old. A six month old who had aged one day at a time and there was NOTHING weird about it. In fact, it was beautiful.
And so we continued on with no end in sight.
Today, I find myself nursing a 14 month old and you know what? There's not a single thing weird about it. Not one. It's completely natural.
I look at Elnora, who just turned three and I think "wow, that would be so weird to be nursing her. She seems so old."
But I know that if I continued to nurse Emmitt and he got older one day at a time, each day would pass without being "weird."
One day, I'd be sitting here nursing an 18 month old and then a two year old and then a three year old. And it wouldn't be weird. It would just "be."
But without that experience, and with only a child who I've never breastfed to compare with, yes, it seems weird to me.
You want to think that's a horrible thing to say? That's fine. You're quite welcome to think anything of me that you like.
But let's stop and think about the word "weird" for a second.
I went and checked Google to call up some definitions of the word weird. Here's one that popped up.
strikingly odd or unusual
Now, let's look at the definitions of two more words.
odd: beyond or deviating from the usual or expected
unusual: not commonly encountered
Hmmm...my use of the word weird in the context of my life sounds pretty spot on to me.
Now if I'd said "gross" or "disgusting" or "wrong" I could understand people being upset with me. I'd understand them questioning me as a breastfeeding advocate.
I'd understand them being up in arms.
But because I've been honest about the amazing progression in beliefs I've had in the three years since I first became a mother, I'm suddenly unworthy to advocate for breastfeeding rights.
Yeah, that makes sense.
Now, let me point out that I've never said I'm weaning Emmitt because I think he's too old to nurse. In fact, the ONLY way in which age plays into this decision is the fact that he is over twelve months which makes him capable of making the transition away from breastfeeding without needing to use formula.
Now, on to point two.
After everything you have written on this blog, after all you have done to stand up for a woman's right to breastfeed, this is how you really feel? You truly feel that women lose their right to their body when they breastfeed?
Honestly, this leaves me wondering if Beth has *really* read and digested my posts on this blog. I've actually been pretty clear from day one that I feel it's essential to give mothers the space to make the decision that is best for their FAMILY.
In fact, I in no way said what Beth quoted me as saying. What I actually said was this:
How can you possibly think you'll encourage more mothers to breastfeed by telling them that the day they begin a nursing relationship, they lose their right to their body and themselves?
In other words, I don't for a MOMENT believe a nursing mother loses the right to their body when they breastfeed. However, I DO feel that many of the women who have been jumping down my throat for daring to wean think this way. When I read comments like "You OWE your child two years" and "You HAVE to nurse for two years" I hear women saying that a mother must nurse no matter what the cost. That the child's right to breastmilk supercedes any and all other issues in life.
Not only do I not believe that, I think it's that type of thinking that has made the battle to increase breastfeeding rates so difficult.
You want women to nurse to two years or longer? Fantastic! Equip them to meet that goal. Equip them by understanding that not every mom can nurse on demand for two years, nor should she have to. Help her to realize there's middle ground. There is not "nurse on demand" and "don't nurse at all." There's also "set limits." Give moms the honest and real information that will help them meet those challenging goals without sacrificing their ability to be a good mom.
You want to send women running to the other side of the fence with complaints about "those breastfeeding harpies?" Try telling them what a bad mother they are because they aren't willing to make sacrifices you know nothing about. I don't care how hard your life is. By it's very definition, there's only one woman in the world who has "the hardest life." Everyone else? There will always be someone with a bigger sob story. Since you don't know where on the spectrum other people fall, I'd suggest you reserve your judgement for something else.
You want to make a difference in the world and help more women breastfeed their babies for longer periods of time? Try having a little more compassion and exercising a lot less judgement. Try offering up education and advice based on real life and the place a woman is in at a particular point in time.
I didn't start this blog to make everyone in the world happy. I started this blog to share my honest thoughts and opinions on the life of a nursing mother. My hope was that as I grew and learned things, I could share them with other moms who would grow and learn as well.
If people have a problem with what I'm doing here, they're welcome to read other blogs or to start their own. I never claimed to be the one and only place on the Internet to go for talk about breastfeeding. I only claimed to be one woman doing things the best way I know how and as long as men and women continue showing up here to read what I have to say, I'm going to keep saying it.
So I suppose the one really great thing that came out of all this was the motivation to keep going and the realization that it doesn't matter one lick if I'm still breastfeeding or not.
I am and always will be "the lactivist."