Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"A baby nursing at a mother's breast ... is an undeniable affirmation of our rootedness in nature." (David Suzuki)

By now you know my agenda. I'm all for breastfeeding. I don't think breast is best - I think it's normal. I think that despite the fact that formula is necessary in certain situations (and thank goodness it exists for those situations), people have to wake up and realize that it is not equal to breastmilk -- in fact, there are huge risks associated with artificial infant feeding. I believe that extended breastfeeding is as normal as breastfeeding a newborn. More than anything, I believe in the sabatoging power of "booby traps" and I think that if more women were aware of these, more women might choose to breastfeed.

Today was my son's 12 month developmental/vaccination appointment at our local community health clinic. We don't see our public health nurse often so she doesn't know us well and doesn't know about our nursing relationship. I knew the dreaded "whole milk" question was coming, especially since at our last vaccination appointment at 6 months, I was told that I must introduce cow's milk between the ages of 9 and 12 months so that it would not shock his system. ["Shock his system." This phrase alone speaks volumes! It (a) assumes that I would wean him by at least one year, and presumably overnight, and (b) unkowingly hints at the fact that young humans are not meant to thrive on cow's milk! But moving on ...] I tried to prepare myself with some statistics and facts regarding the benefits of extended breastfeeding, including a neat fact I learned the other day over at The Leaky B@@B: breastmilk contains a lot of cholesterol, which helps develop a baby's brain, but formula contains NONE!

She didn't ask the question until the end of the appointment. And it was phrased in such a way that I felt like I had walked into a giant bear-sized extended breastfeeding booby trap. "Is he on whole milk?" she asked. [Not "Is he on breastmilk, formula or whole milk?" Or, even better, "Is he on breastmilk or whole milk?", leaving formula totally out of the equation. Just a simple-yet-deadly "Is he on whole milk?"] To which I replied "No, he's still on breastmilk." Cue awkward silence. And then a barely audible: "Ok, that's fine. That's fine." Who was she trying to convince? Not me. I already knew it was fine. I knew it was much more than fine. I knew it was normal.

Perhaps I should give her the benefit of the doubt. Afterall, I do live in the province with the lowest initiation rate, so she probably wasn't expecting that answer. Perhaps she even had a mild panic attack that after my initial "No," I might go on to say, "he gets bottles of juice and Pepsi. And sometimes Tetley tea with lots of sugar." I'm sure it's been known to be said. I bet quite a few babies still come through who are reared on Carnation milk. But I know, in my proverbial heart of hearts, that the awkward silence spoke more than any words she might have chosen to fill the silence. She wasn't sure what to make of a 12.5 month old that wasn't drinking baby cow food. So all I got was a "That's fine."

Please know, dear readers, that I was not looking for celebration or shouts of "Hip! Hip! Hooray!" I didn't even want a pat on the back. I'm just trying to keep my babe healthy by doing what's normal -- breastfeeding him for as long as he'll have me.

"People need to understand that when they're deciding between breastmilk and formula, they're not deciding between Coke and Pepsi. They're choosing between a live, pure substance and a dead substance made with the cheapest oils available."  (Chele Marmet)

"When people set Booby Traps, I'll be the first to 'spring them' on my own and inform the trapper that this booby is not about to be caught." (Jennie Arnholtz, fellow "Leaky")


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  2. Love it! Whether you want it or not, you get a pat on the back from me!

  3. I'm sitting here reading your blog while I breastfeed my 16 month old son. I just wanted to tell you how awesome you are!

  4. Gotta love how shocked people are to hear that you're "still nursing" a 12 month old. Are you serious? That's the AAP's MINIMUM, but people act like it's such an above and beyond thing. No, it's just as you said, it's normal. It's what everyone should be doing, but mothers are booby trapped into thinking that it's way too long so moms stop before they should.

    I don't think people even realize that the language they use expresses how they feel about breastfeeding even when they're trying to be nice or PC. It's like the time that I was told Peanut was "doing so well for being ONLY breastfed" by a WIC employee. Are you kidding me? Rar!

  5. Thanks Cristin and Jessica.

    Lactating Girl, you've hit the nail right on the head. Words have power, and the words you choose (and the way in which you choose to say them) speak multitudes.