On Nursing

He turned two years old yesterday.  Time to wean my baby.

A lot of people out there will think I’m pretty crazy when they read this… but the truth is that I’ve nursed all four of our kids to two years old.  Not a one of them ever had a bottle or a pacifier, and all that means is that I’ve logged twenty thousand hours sitting and rocking, singing and reading while holding our little ones.  In the last 9+ years (I like to think) my patience and self-control have been fine-tuned to works of art.  (Ha!  I’m definitely still a work in progress.)

I’ve always breastfed my babies because… well, it might seem weird to say this, but because it’s been easy for me.  Both physically and mentally.  Now, I’m very sensitive to the reality that nursing is NOT easy for many women, and if that’s your case, you’ll find no judgment here.  But here at the Blake house our parenting situation has made for an ideal nursing environment, and I’ve just kept at it because (after reading at least twenty books on the subject I now know that) nursing promotes brain health in babies, not to mention the ability to bond, and strong immune systems, and calmness and social confidence.

That said, though the educated part of my brain always knew I was giving great gifts to our children through breastfeeding, it wasn’t necessarily always easy for me to sit and miss out on the things I missed because I was tied down to a baby.  Many paragraphs I wrote bemoaning a missed opportunity to ride, or write, or sleep, or get away.  I see now, looking back, that at any moment I could’ve figured out how to mix up a bottle and trained my babies to depend on a babysitter and in that way enjoyed more freedom than I did.  But honestly, the work of washing bottles never seemed worth the trade!  And I would venture to guess that nothing I missed out on was as important as the time I invested in our children.  I suspect I will cherish rather than regret these years I’ve dedicated to them.

And now I have served my time.  The cuffs are off; the door is wide open to a different kind of future (one in which I can only hope I’ll get more sleep).  Perhaps it’s akin to running a marathon.  Nine years of pregnancy and nursing seemed a ridiculous goal to ask of myself at about Mile 22.  But I kept going because I figured I’d better.  And then I blinked… and I was at the finish line I thought I might never make.

As far as Beau and I are concerned, Muggins is our last baby.  So as of today the nursing stage of my life is officially over.  At his usual nap time I distracted Muggins with a sippy full of 2 percent.  At bedtime, in the rocking chair, I reminded him that he’s a big boy now.  Then we read “Good Night Cowboy” at least five times.  And finally I tucked him into his crib.  He was still wide awake; I’ve nursed him to sleep his entire life until now.  He looked at me with big, uncertain eyes.  And his lip trembled.  But he was a very brave little cowboy.  And I… well, I’m the one who teared up.  Part of me wonders where the time has gone; it seems like a couple months ago we were headed to the hospital to deliver our first.  And the other part of me wonders how I’ve survived four babies.

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A couple more notes on nursing before I enter the next dimension.

As a first-time mother I was extremely self-conscious about nursing in public places.  Coming from a conservative family, I knew full well that some folks would consider nursing to be embarrassing and maybe even gross.  And yet, because I’ve always mothered according to this instinctual voice in my head, there was nothing for me to do but nurse.

Neither my maternal grandmother nor my mom nursed their babies.  They were both defined by the post-World War II boom in the U.S., and I think they just kinda figured they had too much to do to sit around waiting on a baby.  Nursing, to them, probably seemed like a weird thing for someone to want to do.

That, and it was even a pre-World War II thing for Grandma.  She attended high school in Hardin, the little white town just on the edge of the Crow Reservation, and I suspect that in the ’30s and ’40s white/Crow bigotry was just part of the culture there.  Grandma has described for me, a time or two or three, a scene from those days which is evidently still vivid in her mind:  Crow women sitting at the edges of the streets in Hardin (were they leaning up against buildings?  were they sitting on street corners?  my mind wants to recreate it in greater detail) and openly nursing babies.  A product of her time, to this day Grandma shudders just in the remembering of it.

And so I never doubted, as I stepped into the world of mothering, that there are people who don’t approve of nursing.  But, strange enough, I also never doubted that nursing was right for me and my babies.  Throughout these years of breastfeeding I’ve attempted to be discreet and appropriate about nursing in public places, and the more I’ve gained experience the less I’ve worried about what others think.  In the end, my stance is this:

Let’s get real, people.  A woman breastfeeding a baby is as natural as any mammal feeding its offspring.  The Bible references breastfeeding over 20 times.  Clearly breastfeeding has been essential in the historical survival of the human race.  I don’t think God sent a care package to Adam and Eve with a bottle, a pacifier, a jug of formula, and little white correctional shoes inside of it with a note reading, “I didn’t think everything through on this one, so enclosed please find the supplies necessary for keeping the baby alive.”

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Okay.  Now that I’ve got that off my chest (no pun intended)…

 

Today’s Weather:  High of 39.  Low of 29.  A light sleet or rain fell all day and added up to 3/10 of an inch.

 

Today On The Ranch:  Beau was close to home and/or in his office all day, dealing with the little unseen details of running a business:  where to find tire rims to fit a 50-year-old cake trailer; how to get the tire machine running again; who does and doesn’t need time off.

As for me and the kids, science class looked like this:

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Little Neigh had an appointment with the vet this morning.  He came home a gelding.

 

And math class looked like this:

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The kids counted up all the extra change in the house… and found over $25!

© Tami Blake

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