There is an episode of Sex and the City where the four women attend a baby shower. If I am obsessed with SATC now, I don’t even know what to call my relationship with the series when I was 19. Point being, I have probably seen that episode dozens of times, and I can remember the first time I watched it. Although the baby shower scene is great for the most part, there is a bit of dialogue between Carrie and Miranda that I cringe to remember. Not only because it is something I am so passionately against now, but because of my initial reaction. Here is the scene:
Carrie: There’s a woman in there breastfeeding a child who can chew steak.
Miranda: You know how I feel about that; If you’re old enough to ask for it, you’re probably too old to have it.
And the worst part: Me, nodding along. Not just nodding along, but turning to my roommate with a slight smirk and saying something like, “For real.”
I know, right.
But it is because of that clear memory that I have to honestly say that I get it when people are put off by nursing toddlers. I used to be ignorant too. I wrongly believed that being too attached to your child would turn them into a clingy adult. I assumed that my ex was a total mama’s boy as the result of too much coddling. Truth be told, I thought that breastfeeding an older child had to be doing something sexual for the mother, and I nodded along with Miranda as she blamed her men troubles on overly dedicated mothering.
In fact, parenting in an attached way (including breastfeeding past a year) actually promotes independent children. Research supports this. The strong bond between parent and child serves as a secure base, allowing the child to go out on their own and explore, confident that they have that safe place to return when they need it.
Boobs are a super power, for one. Rare is the trauma that cannot be completely soothed in mere minutes by the breast. When Sebastian burned his hand a couple of months ago, the ER doctor complimented me for keeping him so calm. The way she said it, it was clear that she had seen many inconsolable babies. I honestly do not know what I would have done had I not been able to breastfeed that day. Milkies are magic, energizing baby as needed, or serving as a sweet sedative.
Breastfeeding benefits go on for mamas as well, and do not stop after six weeks, or six months, or even a year. The longer a mother breastfeeds, the more she reduces her risk of many cancers. Breastfeeding can serve as birth control (I didn’t get my period for seven months). It burns calories. And it releases a chemical called oxytocin that frankly feels like a narcotic high.
Sebastian will be a year old in September and I have no doubt that we will continue breastfeeding well beyond that point. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least two years and that would be absolutely fine by me. I already get misty just thinking about weaning! Though technically still an infant, Sebastian is old enough to “ask for it.” Last week at the supermarket he reached up from the cart and popped a boob out of my sundress. I cannot wait until he can ask for it verbally. And I plan to keep nursing him in public when it’s convenient.
I may not be able to change our society’s view of “extended”* breastfeeding, but hopefully I will influence the opinion of those who see me feeding my sweet toddleby in public, and those who read this blog. As I’ve said before, some of my favorite comments are from readers without children who have enjoyed my baby-centric posts. And those are the readers I want to reach, the ones who are perhaps ignorant like I was, nodding in agreement when someone remarks that a walking, talking child is too old for the boob. Breastfeeding an older child is not unnatural, it is not pointless, and it is certainly not sexual. It is natural, normal, and creates smarter, healthier, and possibly more dateable adults.
* Although not common in our society, the natural age to stop breastfeeding is estimated at between two and seven years old. (Source)
Other breastfeeding on Sex and the City:
In season five, Miranda struggles (and succeeds) to get newborn Brady to latch.
Sarah Jessica Parker breastfed her son James on set.
I’m celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with Natural Parents Network!
You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.
(Visit NPN for the code to place on your blog.)