Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"so, i breastfeed my toddler..."

this article in TIME magazine has me.... torn. and my friend over at "little froggy feet" has written and wonderful response to the uproar and i wanted to add my 2 cents.

i have no room in my heart to judge others on their parenting choices. it is not my place and i think that holding hostilities towards women we have have never met takes far too much energy. instead, i am going to share the story of my breastfeeding journey.

my story actually began before i even became pregnant. the only women i had ever known (or remembered) to breastfeed were my good friend tattney and my loving sister in law, becca. these women had easy easy stories and and i am blessed to have seen that side of the issue. but the woman who forever shaped my role as a "lactivist" was my best friend, shalane.

she did not have an easy go. it was not simple for her and my words will never be able to convey how hard she worked to nourish her baby with the best thing she could provide, which happened to come from her own body. her baby did not latch on right away. her suck was weak. but shalane was determined. she was blessed enough to have her baby in a hospital in northern colorado that had a breastfeeding clinic held from 10-2 every day in the week. my dedicated friend went in multiple times a week to work with lactation consultants to check brooke's latch, to see how much she consumed in one feeding and to get help with using a nipple shield (and eventually weaning off of that shield). she had bloody and cracked nipples. they were in constant pain. and her baby was NOT getting enough milk. the nurses at the clinic encouraged her and she pumped to help up her supply (while simultaneously taking supplements). her husband was supportive and knew that breast milk was best for their baby and so he never pushed formula and never suggested the easy way out. if i remember correctly, my friend had to nurse (which took almost 45 minutes on each side as brooke did not have a strong suck) and then pump afterwards to stimulate milk production for 3 months. for over 90 days. with each session taking at least 2 hours. and doing this 8-ish times a day! my friend just continued on her path of determination. i admire her more than she will ever know for this. because of her, i knew that breastfeeding was not easy. i knew that i would hit snags in the road. but because of her i knew that i could do it. not matter what lay in the way.

as it goes, my journey was not nearly as difficult as shalane's. lily was born via emergency cesarean section and while i was in recovery, my husband went with our baby to the nursery and let her suck on his finger until i could come up and latch her on. thankfully she was still awake when i got back to the room. and the latch was successful. her lips were exactly how they should look but it hurt. i had no idea what i was doing and even though the nurses said i was doing great it was shalane's kind words that reassured me. of course it hurt. lily was learning to nurse. until she got it, it was going to hurt. and my boobs would hurt when the milk came in. and i was going to smell like milk all the time. and i was going to feel like a human pacifier. and i would have this baby tied to me for a long, long while (during which time she has bit me more than once and even went on a nursing strike that we eventually worked through).

and none of that mattered. i was so utterly in love with this new little bundle that i had only known from inside my belly. every pre-conceived notion of how i would parent went out the window while i was holding her for  the first time. she was perfect. and our love was perfect. and i was terrified but i knew i would figure things out. my parenting style developed over the next few months. i had no name for it at the time. all i knew was that i was trying to do everything that everyone else had suggested for me. and i loved all of these people and wanted their approval. and was drowning in the lack of my success. finally josh grabbed hold of me and said "lesley. if you were on an island with just me and lily, how would you do it?" and that question has guided everything else. my friend holly broke it down even further. she said "remember the holy spirit? yeah, God gave us that so we can listen to his promptings. God gave you lily. He knows you are the best mommy for that baby. and of course, she is the best baby for you. you need to listen to that intuition because it is there for a reason.

and isn't that so true? shouldn't women be listening to that intuition more often instead of listening to media? and to what society claims is normal or acceptable? it is extremely difficult to parent outside of societal norms but as i have been listening to the holy spirit, and to my gut i have naturally developed a parenting style that many now call "attachment parenting" (this term is coined from dr. sears, whose whole line of books have been wonderful and i now consider my parenting style guru). and to be honest, before i was pregnant, i had heard the term and thought these parents were cah-ray-zee. i had no intention whatsoever of becoming "that kind of parent" but like i said, holding lily for the first time caused a major paradigm shift. and as i have done more research on everything related to parenting, it has only further affirmed our belief that the way we are parenting is the best for our little family. it works for us and it feels right (and of course, i am a big advocate for intuitive parenting).

the question i get all the time now is "so when are you weaning?" and this question makes me sigh. if you had asked me while i was pregnant i would have said "around a year." but that time has come and gone. so to this, i have no answer except: when lily is ready. we currently are doing the "don't offer, don't refuse" method to nursing and will continue to do so until lily doesn't want it anymore. i could go into the scientific reason why this is okay. and go on and on about how breastfeeding an older kiddo is normal and our bodies are actually made to do so, and how the united states has one of the lowest breastfeeding ages in the world. but this is not a statistical post. you know these things already. and if you don't, before you judge me or you judge the mom on the cover of time magazine. please do your research. and i won't get on my soapbox about the sexualization of breasts either.

i will leave you with this. before you get up in arms about the picture or judge attachment parenting, ask yourself "why does it matter?" "how does it effect me?" we all are just trying to parent in the best way we know how and shouldn't we support one another when we are doing right by our children? and if you are a breasfeeding mother, "how can we foster a community where breastfeeding is the new norm? how can we create an environment where it is the new desirable goal? how can we support other women who do not have a network of other nursing moms to lean on?"

and by all means. send me statistics and new studies. i am not one to sit in my ways simply because "that's how i did it with my first one." i am always up for trying something new if research shows it is better.


  1. Love, love, love it, Lesley!!! And I absolutely love that picture of you and Lily. It's so precious. I hope you have it displayed in your house somewhere! Your friend's struggles remind me so much of my own. Those were some HARD days and nights, but so worth it in the end!

  2. At least, all the hard moments are all worth it have.