When I got pregnant with my first son Dax, I made the decision to try to breastfeed. While I knew it was supposed to be the best thing for him, if I’m totally honest, the main reason was way less admirable – my husband and I were just so broke that we couldn’t even begin to fathom adding formula to our already laughably meager grocery budget.
From the minute he was born Dax was a champion nurser. He had no problems latching, and I had no problems producing. By his first pediatrician appointment just four days after he was born, he was already up and above his birth weight of 8 lbs 4 oz. (Oh, and, did I mention that hunk of chunk was even born a whole week early?)
Because nursing worked well for us, I decided to try and go as long as 12 months (as is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics) even after I went back to work outside the home full time when Dax was eight weeks old. While my employer neglected to give me a raise for creating a new human life, they still let me pump as frequently throughout the day as I needed, so I was still able to successfully avoid ever having to drop a single dime on formula.
I never imagined I’d be someone who falls into the “extended breastfeeding” camp, but Dax’s first birthday came and went and neither of us was really ready to wean. By that point, I’d transitioned into working from home part time, so I figured it wasn’t hurting anything to keep breastfeeding (especially because of his stubborn aversion to most healthy foods) because it was good for him and (here I am being selfish again) it meant I didn’t really have to work out at all because breastfeeding apparently burns a zillion calories a day or something. (Hey there, high school weight!)
Dax’s second birthday came and went and we were still nursing with no plans to stop. But then, I got pregnant with his baby brother Case, and literally couldn’t fit him on my lap anymore. One night before bed, Dax asked to nurse, and I told him that I was sorry, but he couldn’t nurse anymore. He looked up at me, clearly unfazed, and said, “Okay, Mama.” And he put his head on my chest and he fell asleep while I silently cried golden rivers into his blonde hair.
My tears showed me that what started out as merely a feeble attempt at keeping my grocery bill down ended up being one of the sweetest ways I bonded with my first child.
Since I was the first person in my family to really breastfeed (my mother didn’t do it very long and none of my aunts did, and I was the first of the children to have babies of my own) I tended to get a lot of questions about my decision to breastfeed, mainly when I would stop. At first I was so self-conscious, because I could tell that nursing Dax made these people around me uncomfortable (even if I used a cover) and so I’d dance around the questions or just avoid them all together by gathering up my baby and nursing him in the bathroom (gross).
But every so often, I’d find a glimmer of hope – at the park, the mall, or grocery store – in other nursing mothers I’d see out and about. Every time I discovered one it was all I had in me to not run up to them in solidarity, grateful to have found someone on my team.
I’d like to reach out to those nursing moms who might feel like they’re constantly battling opposition right now just to say, Hey, sister, nurse that baby. I’m on your team. Pope Francis is apparently on your team, too. You’ve got a great team. Get down with your bad nursing self.
Please hear me – this is not an attempt to shame anyone who doesn’t breastfeed. I know plenty of mothers for whom breastfeeding never worked, or who decided they didn’t even want to try for various personal reasons, and I completely, 100%, respect them. I respect any mom who actually feeds their kid, so long as they are actually feeding their kid. But for those moms who chose to breastfeed and face opposition from glaring strangers, misunderstanding but well-meaning relatives, or flat-out jerks, I just want to give you a little internetty fist bump.
At nineteen months old, my second son Case is following in his older brother’s footsteps. Another chunker at birth (8 lbs 1 oz a whole TWO weeks early) with no problems nursing, he’s even more attached to me and dependent on nursing than Dax ever was. Even when he was a newborn, he wouldn’t take a bottle of pumped milk or a pacifier (two things baby Dax happily employed) if I had to be away. He’d wait for me to come home to nurse straight from the source, and while I hated to waste the bottles I left for the babysitters, I loved that he wanted me and only me.
This time around, I’m much more confident as a nursing mom, because nursing works for us and I don’t care if someone else doesn’t like it. I never even tried to use a nursing cover with Case (though I did discover fashion hacks to nurse without flashing) and, unlike I did with Dax, I don’t cower in fear of questions about how long we’ll nurse. I happily welcome the conversation, because the closer we get to his second birthday – the age his brother was when I had to wean – the more I savor nursing Case. Kids are only so little and so in love with their mamas, once. Why rush to end it, just because someone else wants you to? Do your thing, ladies. (Also, shout out if you read this entire thing with one hand while nursing in the middle of the night. How appropriate! I hope you know that you’re doing a great job!)