This is my boob. And this is my baby. They spend a lot of time together, and they have a message to share.
We live in a nice friendly bubble that is kind to pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, relative to the rest of the US. Yet, even in this accommodating environment, breastfeeding my toddler is challenging. It’s challenging because some folks feel uncomfortablewhen they see a kiddo who can verbally request milk, still on the boob. It’s challenging because much of the public has sexualized the breast to the extent that it is difficult to see it for what it is intended: a source of#liquidgold. And it’s challenging because I have to schedule my day around when/where I’m going to have access to a space to pump.
Now, I know that breastfeeding a toddler is not for everyone. Once a kiddo hits a year, it turns into an event akin to a cirque de soleil performance–she’s upside down one moment, contorting her body into a pretzel the next, all while precariously attached to my#nipple. But, I will continue to perform this feat of endurance and athleticism, seven nights a week, for as long as it works for my kid and I. That’s a choice my kid and I have made together.
I also know breastfeeding in general is not for everyone–it is a two way relationship, in which both parties have to be willing, excited and able to participate. In my circle of friends, I know folks that are still nursing their four-year-olds before bedtime, parents that chose to stop after 6 months, parents who’s baby let them know they were all done at 10 months, and parents who were met with a multitude of challenges that directed them to formula from day one. I want to REALLY emphasize this next point: These mothers and fathers are ALL good parents, who provide for their babies. All of these parents are super heroes. But I hope every parent has an opportunity to make that choice within their family, and that they are not discouraged because someone else is uncomfortable. Or because they cannot access a place to pump. Even in that happy little boob and baby bubble I mentioned earlier—Seattle—I had to fight for a space to pump that met the legal requirements in the state of Washington. Even in that little bubble, I have to plan my entire schedule around when and where I’m going to be able to pump. Even in that bubble, it was difficult to get the lactation support we needed after birth in the hospital, when latching was difficult.
In public health, we talk about default choices. The idea being that the options that are most convenient are the choices people most frequently make. If the default soda size at a fast food joint is a bucket, most folks will get the bucket-o-soda. As a society, we like the easy options. If we have to go out of our way for the more reasonably size beverage, or go out of our way for that lactation station, we are substantially less likely to do so. Let’s shift that default. Let’s normalize breastfeeding, and empower mothers to make a decision about breastfeeding based on THEIR personal preferences, not because of someone else’s opinion, and not because they just don’t have the access to resources and tools to maintain their nursing relationship.