‘Are you STILL nursing?!’, they ask with obvious surprise, and thinly veiled shock. ‘Yes, and I shall continue until he is at least 2 years old. That’s the recommendation, you know?’, I respond, without hesitation.
It’s a common occurrence, especially since I have returned to work and come in to contact with more people outside my breastfeeding circle.
I lug my ‘lunch box’ to the first aid room, not for my lunch, but my son’s.
It’s my twice a day sanctuary. At 10am and 2 pm, like clockwork, I head up to the 5th floor, unpack my bag of supplies – an electric breast pump, power supply, attachments, a couple of bottles, my iPad – and express milk for my toddler. Unless he is napping, I use the time to video chat with Harrison and Daddy, which helps increase the volume of milk I get. It’s a peaceful time, away from the hustle and bustle of a busy office, where I can focus on my most important job, ‘Mum’.
And it’s not just my son who will benefit from this milk. There are 2 local mums I donate milk to for their children. Grateful for the luxury of responding so well to the breast pump, I have the honour of sharing my milk with others.
This daily routine is an extension of my home routine, of breastfeeding my son on demand. It keeps me connected to him while I’m at work, and him to me. This is my ‘normal’, but, to many, it’s ‘weird’.
‘Strange’, ‘Odd’, ‘Yucky’, even. Though breastfeeding is a biological norm, and wet nursing one of the oldest professions, this natural act is now considered wholly unnatural. A strange turn of events, in response to a very changed society.
I find it sad that there is such unfamiliarity, nervousness, and distaste for breastfeeding, and that those feelings are magnified as children move out of ‘newborn’ stage, past weaning, and in to toddlerhood; is a great shame.
It’s due to a large number of factors that the encouraged (by the World Health Organisation) 2 years of breastfeeding is a rarely realised recommendation, but the societal ‘ick’ factor is the one that bothers me the most. It’s the reason I created these photos and wrote this blog post, which, subsequently, went viral – clearly I’m not the only one bothered by it.
Today, I look back on the last 14 and a half months of breastfeeding my son. So many benefits – the sickness bug he didn’t catch from his Dad and I due to the antibodies supplied with my milk, the tears I instantly stopped following a too-vigorous piggy back (both mine and his), the weight I lost following birth, the special cuddles that only I can give – these are the moments that the last 14 and a half months have been filled with.
I have been blessed with incredible support from my husband, family, friends, other breastfeeding mothers (who have kindly shared their knowledge with me). For this, I want to say THANK YOU!
Thank you for not suggesting an alternative to breastmilk when my son was in NICU and I was expressing milk every 2 hours for him to be fed via NG tube, thank you for celebrating each month’s milestone with me, thank you for responding with positivity when I post photos of my son breastfeeding.
It is this last thank you that I say the loudest. It has become an apparent rite of passage that breastfeeding mothers will experience some degree of negativity during their journey. Countless friends have had photos reported for ‘nudity’; beautiful, pure, natural images showing their child simply enjoying a snack. One even had a photo of expressed milk in freezer bags reported, proving that it was the concept of breastfeeding, and not the partial view of a mere flash of flesh, that was being objected to. I, myself, recently had a photo deleted from a local women’s group; it was ‘deleted before it was reported as would probably offend other group members’.
It is nothing short of a crying shame that the sight of breastfeeding evokes ‘offence’ when once it was an every day occurrence. Breastfeeding photos, which you may think of as ‘exhibitionism’, or ‘a private moment that should remain as such’, I see as an opportunity to restore the normality of nursing. A way to help this sight become average, unassuming, common, once again. A way to allow families to make the decision of how to feed their young based on their personal preferences, and not because of the opinion of the chap sitting opposite them in the restaurant.
Breastfeeding is, quite simply, feeding. It’s a human ingesting nutrients. You wouldn’t look away in horror at a woman eating a chocolate bar at the bus stop, you wouldn’t stare, aghast, at a child eating a sandwich in the park, you wouldn’t report the image of a man drinking a coffee on Facebook, so why do you do those things with nursing?
Perhaps these images will help remind people of the actual purpose of breastfeeding…