Oct 18, 201307:00 AM
Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

Yes, I Am Still Nursing

I don’t have a whole lot of “causes.” I know I seemed like a crusader for Ruby’s school last week, but that really is an exception for me. I don’t generally get involved in political campaigns, I’m very casual about religion, and I pride myself on being able to see the other side in almost every argument.

But there are a few things I am definitely passionate about: my kids (subset: Ruby’s school); my immediate family; New Orleans; coffee; Gilmore Girls; grammar and language; and children’s literature (subset: Babysitters Club, Little House on the Prairie, all Judy Blume); and, honestly, breastfeeding.

I understand that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for these things. I have three entire seasons of Gilmore Girls saved on my DVR in the dual vain hopes that a.) my husband will come to me one day and say: “Baby, I was wrong about how annoying I find the fast-talking. Please, please share the quirky, quippy world of Stars Hollow with me.” and b.) we would actually have the time, ever, to sit down and watch it uninterrupted. But I don’t really expect this to happen, nor do I imagine I will one day find him curled up under the covers with Dawn and the Impossible Three. Ruby, as I have lamented before, has no use for Little House on the Prairie; my mom hates coffee; and I have friends who would never want to live in New Orleans or send their kids to public school. I am fine with all of this.

Likewise, I am passionate about breastfeeding, but I absolutely don’t care if people feed their babies formula. It sort of baffles me that this is such a huge debate in the first place. You feed your kids; I’ll feed mine; the end. I am no more bothered by someone feeding a baby formula than I am by someone not laughing at my (clearly hilarious) grammar jokes.

But I am surprised by how weird I feel about the fact that Georgia is almost 17 months and still nursing. I don’t feel weird about it personally – I love nursing her and have no concrete plans to stop. But I feel weird telling people about it because I get raised eyebrows and well-meaning but nosy questions.

“Is she still nursing?” a friend of mine asked recently when Georgia started tugging at my blouse.

“When are you going to wean?” asked another, adding warily, “She sure has a lot of teeth!”

Yes, she is still nursing, and regardless of how many teeth she has, I plan to wean her sometime between tomorrow and when she starts college. I mean, honestly? She is still so tiny! And it’s none of your business!

I have never been much on nursing in public (not because I am modest but because I am so conflict-avoidant that I have no idea what I would do if someone said something to me), but now that she is over a year, I would never do it. Based on the comments I get from friends and family, I can’t even imagine what unpleasant strangers might say, and the truth is, she doesn’t need to nurse in public anymore – she doesn’t nurse for nutrition now so much as for comfort.

And I love that. I love that I can comfort her so easily. I have heard a lot of parents say a lot of silly things (myself entirely included), but one of the silliest things that I hear the most regarding nursing is that “when babies are old enough to ask for it, they’re too old.” That has never made one bit of sense to me. When Georgia asks for a cracker, I give her a cracker. When she asks for a hug, I give her a hug. In what universe does it make sense to deny toddlers something simply because they are able to articulate that they want it? It’s like punishing them for language development, something we should be celebrating. Besides, even nonverbal newborns can “ask for it.” That’s why infants root and nuzzle and chew on their adorable itty-bitty hands.

Every mother sets her own guidelines for if and when and how long she’ll breastfeed, so trying to have some sort of universal rule about how old is too old is just bound to fail. Don’t want to nurse? OK with me. Tried to nurse but couldn’t? I am so sorry; please don’t beat yourself up about it. Ready to wean at 6 months? Good for you; you gave it a good run. Still nursing your kindergartner? I’m glad it works for you.

But seriously: Stop telling me when to stop nursing my baby.

I think what brought this to the fore for me is that I just had a nasty bout of mastitis, and I was surprised by how reluctant I was to tell people what was wrong with me. “Oh, I had a fever and was just under the weather generally,” I said vaguely to anyone who inquired as to my well-being. Again, it wasn’t modesty – look at me, discussing my boobs with the entire Internet – so much as it was hesitance to have to explain and defend my breastfeeding choices.

Having causes, though, necessarily means being brave enough to stand up for them. So yes! Yes, I am still breastfeeding. It’s not National Breastfeeding Week or anything, but Personal Just Got Over Mastitis Week is a good enough reason, I guess, to express my commitment.

You’re allowed to think this is weird – hell, a lot of things about me are weird. It would be cool if more people could open their minds about breastfeeding, but if they can’t open their minds, they can at least shut their mouths. So please don’t say anything nasty to me or any other nursing women, no matter how old their nurslings are. We might say something nasty right back. And you know what? You would’ve been asking for it.

Reader Comments:
Oct 18, 2013 11:59 am
 Posted by  comet

Could not agree more! It's been a long time since I breast fed my babies...they are now 28 & 30 years old...but I felt exactly the same way......I will never forget one of my own sisters asking me, "How long are you going to breast feed him????" (For the record, it was 18 months....when he and I made that decision on our own) With my daughter, it was 12 months....it will be different for every Mama & baby. La Leche League was a tremendous source of support in a world that didn't always agree with my choices. Only in America, do people react in such a way...I think it makes them uncomfortable b/c they're uncomfortable with their own bodies.....by this I mean to say, negative reactions you may get speak volumes about the people who have these reactions and should not be taken as a reflection of you! I don't know you personally, but I feel like I know you, having read so many of your blogs. I was born in New Orleans, and even though I no longer live there, it will always have my heart. Thanks for allowing me a glimpse of life for a family in the Crescent City. Rock on, Mama.....your babies will only be babies for a little while, do what feels right for YOU. :-)

Oct 18, 2013 01:23 pm
 Posted by  BJinNM

Totally agree and only wish I had had that shirt you showed. I nursed my older son until he was 28 months old and my younger one until he was 25 months old. One is now 39 and one is 35. I wouldn't have changed a thing about what we decided together to do.

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Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

about

Eve is further proof, if any is needed, that New Orleans girls can never escape the city. After living here since the age of 3 and graduating from Ben Franklin High School, Eve moved to Columbia, Mo., where she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Missouri School of Journalism and became truly, unhealthily obsessed with grammar.

She had originally intended to strike out to New York City and work in the cutthroat magazine industry there, but after Katrina, Eve felt a strong pull to return home, to her roots, her family, her waterlogged and struggling city – and a much more forgiving work atmosphere that would allow her to skip a routine of everyday makeup and size 0 designer label business suits and enjoy the occasional cocktail or three with an absurdly fattening lunch. She moved back home in January 2008 and lives in Mid-City with her two daughters, Ruby and Georgia; her stepson, Elliot; and her husband, Robert Peyton.

Eve blogs about the joys and struggles of living in post-Katrina New Orleans, the unique problems and delights of raising a child in such a diverse and challenging city – including her experiences with the public education system – and her always entertaining and extremely colorful family.

Eve has won numerous writing awards, including the Pirates Alley Faulkner Society Gold Medal, the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for column-writing and Press Club of New Orleans awards for her Editor’s Note in New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and for this blog, most recently winning the award for "Best Feature Affiliated Blog."

She welcomes comments, advice, empty flattery, recipes, drink invitations and – most especially – grammatical or linguistic debates.

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