My Life As A Nursing Mom
By Kay Bolden
Issue 119, July/August 2003
My son's first birthday loomed, and I braced myself for battle. Grandparents and aunts, in-laws and cousins, neighbors and friends-all descended upon us, all demanding to know when, when, WHEN was I finally going to stop breastfeeding this child?
"He'll be spoiled," I was warned. "You know, the milk goes bad after a while."
It didn't help that my son was not the sedate, quiet nurser my daughter had been. No, this child was born to lead the Olympic Breastfeeding Team to the gold. The sportscasters would love him: a double pike with a half twist without losing the nipple!
"Aren't you tired of this?" asked anyone who witnessed his rip-and-dive tactics on my clothes.
Tired? Well, it wasn't always easy. But I remembered all too clearly how I was pressured into weaning my first baby at three months-and the hormonal upheaval I endured for weeks afterward. No, I was determined to nurse this baby all the way to kindergarten, if necessary.
I knew I couldn't handle another tidal wave of plastic bottles, nipple brushes, and smelly spit-up stains. I knew I would miss those long nights under my grandmother's quilt, those sleepy, milky smiles, and those sticky fingers on my face. I would miss my secret life as a nursing mother.
So this time, I joined a mothers' group and kept my secrets to myself:
Secret No. 1: Bottle-feeding takes a lot out of a woman. It's a lot harder than it looks. It requires preparation, planning, and precision-skills I have in short supply. My first baby endured more than one 2 a.m. feeding in the parking lot of Safeway.
Secret No. 2: Nursing comforts and relaxes me. When I'm nursing, I can't worry about civil unrest in Peru, fret about the cable bill, or plot revenge against those hardheaded raccoons under my back porch.
Secret No. 3: I am perfectly comfortable nursing discreetly in public places-and people who are shocked and embarrassed provide me with hours of amusement. Like the inquisitive gentleman behind me at a movie theater, who choked on his popcorn. Or the lady on a cross-country flight who kept turning around to stare-and never saw the beverage cart coming.
I was so deeply committed to long-term nursing, so determined to ignore the family's complaints, that I neglected to verify my plans with my baby boy. I didn't notice his fascination with his sister's Cheerios and his cousin's sippy cup. I didn't see his eyes sparkle with the first spoonful of applesauce, his cheeks puffing for more and more strawberry yogurt.
Then, one dark and terrible morning, it happened.
He pulled away from my breast and plunged both hands gleefully into a bowl of oatmeal. "Mmmmmm!" he squealed, flinging sloppy fistfuls toward his open mouth.
Over the next few days, I tried every nursing secret I knew to bring him back, but he refused every time, howling instead for Jell-O, for apple juice, for banana bites. He never nursed again.
He was only 20 months old.
My friend at La Leche traumatized me further. "Have you thought about having another baby?" Leilani asked. "Lots of women over 40 are doing it!"
The family, not realizing I'd been cast aside in favor of a pudding pack, gave me full credit for weaning him. To this day, no one knows the truth except my son and me.
And it's going to be our little secret.
Kay Bolden writes about family travel and adventures in parenting from her home in Joliet, Illinois.