I wasn’t a history major, but here’s what I know about breastfeeding: For most of time, it was the only way to feed a baby, so all babies were breastfed.
Then formula was invented and was considered something of a luxury good. If you could afford formula, you didn’t have to breastfeed, so breastfeeding was seen as lower class.
In the 1970s, as more women joined the workforce, breastfeeding was also seen as an inconvenience. So for a while, it went out of style, like bell bottoms or acid washed jeans. I was born into that time.
When my mother gave birth to me, not one doctor, nurse, friend or relative suggested she breastfeed. She remembers the pain in her breasts, which had swelled from a B-cup to a double D during pregnancy and were bursting with milk, yet it never occurred to her to try offering that milk to her baby. It just wasn’t what women were doing, at least according to my mom.
You know what was in style? Natural childbirth! She was all about the Lamaze method. I can’t believe she worked that hard to have her babies (I loved my epidurals) and didn’t even get to enjoy nursing them. How the pendulum swings.
My brother wonders if we would have had fewer ear infections or childhood illnesses if we’d been nursed, but I don’t think that’s the point. We were loved, cared for and fed. We both thrived, went to college, and lead happy lives. It didn’t truly matter whether or not our mother breastfed us. Yet I find myself feeling sad for her. Sad about what she missed.
I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but nursing my two babies was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. I will never forget the bonding, the closeness and the beauty of breastfeeding. I still miss it. Heck, my three-year-old still misses it, wondering aloud if there might be some milk left in my boobs (there isn’t).
I love my mom, so I can’t help but wish that she could have experienced the joys of breastfeeding. I know in my gut she would have loved it.
During this #BreastfeedingAwarenessMonth, I’m feeling so grateful to have become a mother during the resurgence of breastfeeding. It’s back in style, it’s out in the open (and finally legal in all 50 states!) and for the most part, it’s been normalized again.
I’m glad that there are photographs of me breastfeeding my little ones in our photo album; it’s part of our family’s story, and I like knowing my daughters will have my example in their minds if and when they become mothers some day.
Of course, it’s important for mothers to have options and to be able to make their own decisions about how to feed their babies. But I sincerely hope breastfeeding is always on the menu.