Why I breastfed my 2 year old on a crowded public transit train

by Jessica Martin-Weber

This isn’t a statement, it’s not even as significant as a photo op. It’s just a moment. An average, regular, normal moment for my daughter and me. In 2 years of breastfeeding, she and I have had thousands like it. Taking public transportation on our way for a day downtown with the family, she got tired, wanted a cuddle, and a little mama milk. And I snapped a few breastfeeding selfies because this regular, normal moment is important to me and a big part of my life. A life I share with my online community and when something is important pretending it doesn’t exist and never happens is lonely.

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Would you, could you, on a train?

At first I distracted her and put her off. I didn’t want to breastfeed my 2 year old in public and face possible harassment for doing so. Though I know the law protects me, I also know many people are uncomfortable with breastfeeding babies in public let alone toddlers. I didn’t want to be the source of the discomfort of others or worse, possible conflict. At 2 she’s old enough to wait and can have other food and drink for snack.

But I had just returned that morning from a three day trip and my littlest missed her mama. Being close, having mama milk, was all a part of our reconnecting. Could I really place the possible discomfort of others above the need my little girl had for comfort and closeness? Yes, we could have comfort, connectedness, and closeness in other ways but breastfeeding was still her favorite, should my 2 year old forgo what she enjoyed the most because some strangers may not understand what a woman’s breasts are really for?

I decided no, I would not do that to her and my daughter would come first. And I breastfed her. On a packed train headed downtown on a Sunday afternoon. There was no agenda, no ulterior motive. In that normal moment with my daughter, though I had a pinch of anxiety that someone may take issue with me feeding and comforting my daughter at my breast, my focus was on her, not normalizing breastfeeding. Because that’s not why I breastfeed.

It isn’t normal to see breastfeeding still in most western societies. Though breastfeeding is elevated and preached, it’s hardly visible enough to be considered normal. We’ve allowed ourselves to accept a definition of the female breasts limited to just the sexual nature the mature mammary glands can have. With that we’ve lost sight of the biological and anthropological norm. Something I write and speak about often. Working to change such perceptions is part of why I do The Leaky Boob at all.

But still, that’s not why I breastfed my daughter that day. Or any day. I fed her because she needed it. Because I’m her mommy and feeding and comforting our children is just what moms do.

And that’s just… Normal.

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What does it look like to breastfeed a 2 year old?

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Child with birthday balloon

What does it look like to breastfeed a 2 year old?  Is it gross?  Creepy?  Or is it just a continuation of the sweet and simple nurturing experience the mother and child already have together?  I can’t keep her safe and protected from everything but while she still wants to be in my arms and finds comfort at my breast, I’ll continue to do what I can.

What does it look like?  This:

This past weekend we celebrated Sugarbaby’s 2nd birthday.  The day was fun, special, and she understood it was all about her.  And cake.  With 6 big girls in the family, it was a loud and energetic, ushering in her next year of life with enthusiasm.

And without much notice, I now am breastfeeding a 2 year old.  This doesn’t feel significant to Sugarbaby, nor to my family.  The only reason this is noteworthy is because breastfeeding beyond the first 12 months is hardly normal in our society, let alone breastfeeding beyond the first 24.  Many myths surround breastfeeding in general and they just increase after the deadline some have assigned (see Six myths about breastfeeding toddlers and preschoolers).  For many, breastfeeding this long is strange, extreme, extended, and questionable, at best.  Abusive, pedophilia, and psychologically damaging at worst.  A view point I don’t understand and research doesn’t support and when I asked a 12 year old that breastfed until she was 4 to share, she didn’t see what the issue could be either.

Breastfeeding beyond the first year makes many, many people uncomfortable.  Breastfeeding a child that walks and talks and plays, going well beyond the 2nd year makes most people uncomfortable.  It’s understandable too.  In our culture the majority of babies aren’t breastfed past 6 weeks and of those that are they usually are weaned off the breast by 12 months.  It’s rare in the majority of western culture to see a child over the age of 1 breastfeed, let alone 2.

But imagine you were in a different culture.  A culture where the average age of weaning was between 2-5 years old.  It would be common place to see a young child breastfeeding and nobody would think it’s odd.  In fact, if those people were to come here they would probably wonder why our children don’t continue breastfeeding at that age and perhaps find it unsettling and concerning.

What it boils down to in many ways is what we’re conditioned to.  The WHO and the AAP both recommend breastfeeding until it is mutually agreeable to the mother and child.  Which, for a good number of families would be well beyond that 24 month mark.  But we rarely get to see it.  For that to become an acceptable reality in the States it needs to be seen and not just as something to be laughed at in movies.  In other words, we need to start conditioning our culture to accept a new normal and we need to start doing it ourselves.  Which is totally possible.  Just look at standards of dress.  What was once considered inappropriate attire is now every day wear.  Adjusting our standards to accept a new normal is something that happens in culture on a daily basis.  Over time, we’ll get there and it may not ever be common place (though I sure do hope so) but it will seem less odd.  So while I don’t breastfeed to make any kind of point or in pursuit of any particular agenda, I do share the breastfeeding images and videos to help bring about that change.

breastfeeding 2 year old

This isn’t to say that women have to breastfeed beyond any point at all.  In fact, women don’t have to do anything and manipulating, shaming, or attempting to force someone to do something they really don’t want to do only serves to make the issue a controversial one and doesn’t help society to accept it as normal.  How could they when a portion of the population would resent it.  The messaging isn’t that it’s better to breastfeed longer or that those that don’t aren’t loving parents willing to sacrifice for their children.  The message is simply that there are reasons to and every family has to weigh those along with their personal reasons to make the right decision for their situation.

For our family it is simple.  Breastfeeding beyond societal accepted norms isn’t about anything but the simple, sweet, loving continuation of what we already have.  As I shared on Facebook, the decision to continue wasn’t about or for anyone else but us, and at 2 years old now she’s quite happy with our arrangement and blissfully unaware that others may look down on her continuing to find nourishment and comfort at my breast. A strong and confident little girl, I know that when Sugarbaby is ready to move on, she will have no problem doing so. For now though, I won’t be cutting her off even though some don’t understand. No arbitrary deadline can dictate how I care for my daughter and continue to meet her needs as she experiences them. Your breastfeeding goals, whatever they may be, are about you and your child, reach for them and don’t worry about what others think or say. Two weeks or two years (or more or less!), we support you.

For more on natural duration breastfeeding or breastfeeding beyond infancy, see what a toddler has to say here.

 

 

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Why I breastfed my baby on TV

 

 

guest post by Jennifer Borget, news reporter for Austin, YNN and blogger at The Baby Making Machine.

 

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It’s amazing how something as natural and innate as breastfeeding can be so misunderstood.

I didn’t see breastfeeding growing up. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I began to learn the benefits. I believe there’s a serious gap in awareness and knowledge about breastfeeding, and so many mothers—Especially in the minority community–don’t know what they’re missing.

I work as a news reporter and have a chance to help make an impact. In an effort to bring awareness to breastfeeding, and continue this important discussion, I sat down with two other mothers and conducted an interview with our babies latched-on, on-air.  (See the original segment here.)

It was bold, and something that required quite a bit of discussion and approval from people way above my pay grade, but in the end, it aired, and I was happy with the result.

Providing breast milk to my babies—What I consider to be the best nourishment for my children, hasn’t been a walk in the park.

First, I had to do my own research on the benefits and process. My mother tried to breastfeed me, but said it didn’t work out. I remember helping with my younger sisters formula bottles as I grew up.

All I knew was formula, and we were fine. I didn’t think it would be a big deal if breastfeeding “just didn’t work” for me either.

I took many of my questions to Twitter, and often found myself getting annoyed by self-proclaimed “lactavists” who told me to throw away my emergency can of formula, and seemed to have an answer for every excuse I had for why breastfeeding may not work for me.

At the time I felt like these tweeple were acting like “know it alls” who perceived formula as poison. To this day I’m still a little intimidated by overzealous lactavists, but then again, I wonder if I’ve become one myself.

I started with a goal to breastfeed through maternity leave. I pumped almost every day, multiple times a day. I stored more than 200 ounces of frozen milk to use as an emergency stash after I went back to work. I pumped every day at work, but some days I came up short, and the stash came in handy.

My husband was very supportive, making sure not to feed our daughter right before I left to come home. It was liquid gold we were rationing.

Three months went by, and I set a new goal to breastfeed until my daughter hit six months. That’s a lot of formula money saved—One of my big motivations at the time. Then I set another goal to continue nursing until her first birthday. By the time my daughter turned one, we had survived our own personal hiccups, and made it further breastfeeding than I had ever imagined. I continued to nurse my daughter until she was about 17 months. By then I had learned an immense amount of information about breastfeeding, and found myself on the giving end of breastfeeding support.

The Baby Making Machine

Jennifer and her children on set at her job.

Now, my daughter is three and I have a three-month-old nursing baby boy. I’m excited to talk about breastfeeding with anyone who will listen. I hope I don’t come across pushy. I’m really just excited to share a secret, the secret benefits, convenience, and enjoyment breastfeeding brings, that I didn’t know about when I was about to have my baby. Though they’re not really secrets, I just didn’t know about it at first.  This excitement is what drove me to do a news segment on breastfeeding, and with it being World Breastfeeding Week, there was no better time.

Here in Austin and in other locations around the world, nursing mothers are coming together for latch-on events, and nursing in unison. These events are made to start conversations about breastfeeding and nursing in public. One idea is the more we see women breastfeeding, the more normal it becomes, and the more people can learn about the benefits of breastfeeding. If I had seen women around me breastfeeding while I grew up, maybe I wouldn’t have been so hostile towards women who tried to inform me about it. Maybe then breastfeeding would have never been a question, but an automatic decision.

If I had seen women around me breastfeeding as I grew up...

 

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Have you found yourself becoming more of an advocate for breastfeeding?  How so?  Where you ever hostile towards those that tried to inform and encourage you to breastfeed?  If you’ve changed, what inspired that change?

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