Breastfeeding: We CAN Change our Culture

I’ve been trying to teach my now one-year-old son the sign for nursing since he was old enough to open his eyes for longer than a minute. I squeeze my hand together in a “milking” motion, and I ask if he’d like milk. I’ve had other mothers giggle at my sign choice, as it’s actually the sign for cow’s milk, which is something Andrew’s tummy is not designed to be able to process, as he is not a calf. But I chose the “milk” sign over the “nursing” sign because I didn’t want to assume that my baby would always be able to breastfeed. I didn’t want to take for granted the health of my body, my ability to stay off medicines that would transfer to my infant via my milk.

I’ve had a wonderful first year of breastfeeding exclusively, and I’ve been able to give my third child all the milk he could want or need–just as I was able to do for his sisters–for his first year of life. I hope to continue for as long as it works for both of us.

I realize the privilege inherent in those last few sentences. I know that not every new mother can breastfeed. I know that a lot of parents find other ways to give their babies human milk. And I know there are parents who don’t, for whatever reason, have the resources–who turn to formula because of a health challenge, or financial resources, or geographic difficulties. There are just not enough human milk banks. Nor is there enough awareness about the benefits of mother’s milk. And, sadly, there are far too many hospitals that don’t support breastfeeding. Just reading about my friend Sarah’s amazing fight to breastfeed her baby in the NICU was enough to make me wonder if things will ever change in the hospital environment in favor of the nursing infant and her mother.

My hospital experiences with childbirth were far easier, and for that I am thankful. But even so, I had to adamantly refuse formula with the births of my babies. I fought well-meaning nurses who wanted me to get some sleep, and that meant taking my babies into the nursery and giving them formula. My babies slept in the room with me, and we only separated long enough for me to shower.

Today, with my crawling chaos of a son, separating long enough to get in a shower is STILL a challenge, but breastfeeding isn’t. It’s the easiest thing in the world. And all my attempts to teach him how to communicate his need for sustenance were unnecessary. He tells me what he needs, and he always has. I just had to learn his evolving means of telling me. At first, it was a particular cry. And then, it was rooting. Biting was next. Eventually, he started pointing at my breast and saying “That!” And THAT is what we do.

So, do what you can to support nursing mothers. When you see a mother nursing her baby in public, give her a smile and a wink. Offer her a glass of water. Allow your children to see how human mothers nourish their young. It’s not something to be kept behind closed doors. Teach women through your words, through your actions, that this is something worthy. It’s worth the effort, the time, the discomfort, the inconvenience. We are a generation of change. Let’s stop this culture that discriminates against the biological rightness that is breastfeeding. In our hospitals, in our shopping malls, in public places all over this country.

About Terry L. Holt

Writer. Mother. Goddess. President of the Save the Dandelions Club. Climber of trees.
This entry was posted in breastfeeding awareness, Change, Journal. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Breastfeeding: We CAN Change our Culture

  1. Megan says:

    My one year old finds it hysterical when other people offer her nursing (via sign). She knows they never come through! She signs “milk” for nursing sometimes, but she is more likely to pull on my shirt.

    Discrete is not one of my character traits, and I gave up trying when I read that seeing women breastfeed makes them more likely to breastfeed themselves.

  2. Pingback: Fighting for breastfeeding | Reproductive Rites

  3. Anna Quigley says:

    I love this!

    I've been trying to teach my 17 month old how to sign milk. He usually signs “more” and says “mamama” while grabbing at my shirt if he wants milk.

    By the way, I put him in his bath chair in the shower with me. It keeps him from crawling under my feet and he's happy to play with bath toys while I shower. It's also great if he has a cold as the warm steam helps. Then, if he needs a bath, I just pick him up when I'm done showering and wash him down too.

  4. Guest says:

    I was saddened when both of my daughters weaned their children after one year when the children didn't wish to be weaned and mostly from peer pressure. Our family also encourages the family bed and it is unbelievable the negative feed back from that. Nurses and pediatricians almost universally condemn children sleeping with parents citing infant deaths as the reason. One pediatrician actually told me that it is unusual for a parent NOT to roll over on an infant! I told him I didn't believe him and to cite the study. He couldn't. He just said it was a “well known fact”. No, it isn't a fact. Just as there are misconcepts with breast feeding their are misconcepts with family beds. Only a parent that is medicated (intoxicated or incapacitated in some manner) rolls over on their child and should obviously not be in that bed with the family. When we raise our children in isolation how can we be shocked when they grow up selfish and self-centered? If a child, from the moment it is conceived, always hears at least two hearts beating, it always knows there is more than its self in the world. There is more than just one to care about, think about, plan for, with and about.

  5. Pingback: Breastfeeding & Birth

  6. Ghiuzan says:

    stacie, i think it’s fantastic that you took this image and are sanirhg it with us now. and it is still moving people. i had problems nursing my now 4 year old and belatedly tried an sns but intervention like that was very new at the time (at least in my circle) and it wasn’t suggested until it was too late to help her. when i got pregnant with my now almost 2 year old i did bunches of independent research and really discovered supplemental nursing. i nursed my baby’ for over a year and a half thanks to a product similar to the sns and always wished i had gotten photos done. i have snaps (although in retrospect i think i may have lost them all when my hard drive crashed) but i was always so proud of my fight to feed my baby and never hid the lact-aid and couldn’t be bothered with a cover and i wish desperately that i had documented it. i’m just crazy enough to want another baby; come take my picture when i do?

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I have never used SNS, but this hits close to home for me because of my nunsrig relationship with my second son. I was just talking to my sister about this the other day. I had a case of postpartum depression with him; it wasn’t severe, but it was hanging on tenaciously with its little teeth sunk down into my heart. I firmly believe that nunsrig helped heal me. And this might sound weird, but one piece of the puzzle for me was sitting in front of a mirror while I was nunsrig him, and seeing how it looked from the outside, and seeing from another perspective how I loved my baby. I could always look down and see him nunsrig, but seeing it from another perspective really helped me grasp that I was holding and loving and fighting for my baby. That is when I felt the sunshine start to creep back in and drown out the depression.Thank you for sharing, Stacie!

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