A friend of mine (not naming names) shared a picture on Facebook of her breastfeeding her three year old. I was trying think of a topic to write about at the time and that picture inspired me. I know that breastfeeding is not really a fatherhood type of topic except for the fact that it is a reality for today’s family and there is a lot of misinformation out there that father’s are a bit more susceptible to. The first fact I would like to deal with so that I can handily get it out of the way is this: To dudes everywhere “Yes! Boobies are sexy! WooHoo!”. Alright, do you feel better now? Deep breaths, and we’re moving on.
My wife and I have decided to practice what is commonly called extended breastfeeding. We aren’t really practicing it yet since our little girl is only fifteen months old, but we will be. The one problem with extended breastfeeding is the perception of others; this may seem strange to you (or maybe you’re reading this thinking exactly what I’m about to talk about) but some people really seem to think that breastfeeding after a year is wrong, and I’m not talking they think it’s a mistake, I mean that they accuse mothers of child abuse or being mentally ill for doing it. Accusations fly like poop at the monkey cage and, much like the analogy I’m using, it stinks!
The World Health Orginization (http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/) recommends breastfeeding until at least two years of age and beyond if possible; it also recommends exclusively breastfeeding until six months which goes against what our public health nurses were recommending. How did we deal with that? We lied: when the public health nurse recommended to start feeding her solids we said we would and when they asked us if she was eating solids at six months we said she was (she actually had her first solid food that night, fresh garden lettuce, and I’m fairly sure she didn’t swallow any of it). In reality Mia didn’t really start eating solid food (other than for fun) until almost a year old at her own choice. We provided her with solid food as much as she wanted while my wife continued nursing and when Mia finally did start eating solids regularly it was because she wanted to, not because we were forcing her. We definitely did so having been well educated about our child’s needs; we knew that it was good and healthy for little Mia to continue breastfeeding along with the introduction of solid foods. So why did we not get the same advice from our health care people? As I mentioned above, there is a lot of misinformation out there. The medical profession is operating on a paradigm that is only about one hundred years old (and hasn’t really been updated since), whereas real actual women operate on a paradigm that is millions of years old.
Getting back to my original point, there seems to be a stigma attached to breasts in the public eye (pun intended). People in North America have been bamboobled (I’m sorry, I can’t stop myself) into somehow believing that breasts are dirty little secrets! That they’re bawdy sexual organs that we are all better off pretending don’t exist outside of the confines of consenting adults in their own home with the curtains drawn and the lights out. As a man, I would like to weigh in here: breasts are fantastic and I love them! (okay, I guess I didn’t get it all out before, now I promise I’m done) I would also like to say a few words about what breasts are really all about: the female mammary gland nourishing a child is pretty much as close as anyone can come to having a bona fide superpower! Really think about it, most of the time they’re just there hanging out, then a woman gives birth and all of a sudden they spring into action and she’s walking around every day with perfectly prepared and nutritious baby food ON TAP! If that doesn’t just impress the bejeezus out of you I would like to suggest that you are too jaded! Does Optimus Prime have working mammary glands? Can Superman feed a crying baby without notice 24/7? No to both, and believe you me, at three a.m. when you are holding a screaming baby you would kick Superman square in the love spuds with a kryptonite wingtip if he was standing between you and the lady with the equipment! So men, stop and take a moment to really appreciate the sweater-swaddled miracles on the lady in your life (Okay, I realize I just told you to ogle breasts, I may have a problem!) because when you really think about it, it is truly amazing.
I guess the real question comes down to: where did we go so wrong in our understanding of breastfeeding? Our culture makes such a big deal about the sexualizing of breasts; they’re everywhere in the media, print ads and television feature them quite prominently and cable TV and movies can even show them completely uncovered, yet, when was the last time you saw them being used for their actual purpose in any of those mediums? If you are reading this then you’re on the internet; approximately a quarter of all internet traffic is dedicated to some form of research into human sexuality (now there’s a political evasion for you). Sex as an issue is just not avoidable (and honestly, who wants to avoid it? there is nothing wrong with sex!), however, breastfeeding has nothing to do with sex! If you checked the World Health Organization link above you might have noticed that they didn’t spend any time talking about the possible sexual implications of breastfeeding. The act of breastfeeding is not sexual. Breastfeeding IS an amazing way for the baby to bond with his or her mother and for the mother to bond with her child, it is an act of love. There is an increasing movement of people that see no reason to stop that love at an arbitrarily determined time just because some people might think less of you for it. Personally I’m proud of my wife for deciding to extend breastfeeding and I fully and wholeheartedly support her, she is simply an amazing mother.
I would like to clarify one thing before I go. I realize that this blog has been very, very pro-breastfeeding. I don’t want to leave anyone feeling weird or as if I am judging them. I only wish an earnest congratulations to all you parents out there who are doing their best to raise their children, give yourself a pat on the back. Our choices may not be the best for you and your child. Any amount of breastfeeding is good, even a week is better than never! However, as long as you love your child I would never judge you for your choices. I guess the real point of this blog is that I would kindly ask for the same consideration.
As always, I am honoured that you took the time to read my article.
My wife and I were very lucky that we were with a midwife service that had a lot of information on the ins and outs of breastfeeding and could help us understand what was misinformation and what was good. For women who aren’t as fortunate there is help:
Contact La Leche League for help on breastfeeding and deciding what is best for you and your child. This non-profit international orginization is dedicated to helping you and almost certainly has people in your area.
online at: http://www.lllc.ca/
By Phone at: Breastfeeding Referral Service 1-800-665-4324
You can also find them on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Leche-League-International/121276329602