I love writing as a way to get things off my chest (in this case pun intended). And I had an urge to write an open letter to my youngest son about my choice to nurse. My husband and I are done having children, so I knew stropping nursing would be a sad time for me. I wrote it August 16 when I thought I was coming to the time when I would stop nursing him, but as you can see by when I am actually publishing this, I stretched it 5 more weeks. So it ended up being way tougher than I imagined. I know, I totally milked it (yep, pun again).
In America, nursing seems to make people uncomfortable. I can’t wrap my head around this and think we need to do more to educate everyone and not just new moms. My mom sent me the following quote about our culture that reinforced why I should share my personal account:
Use breasts to sell everything from hamburgers to hot rods and people are fine with it. Use breasts to feed a baby in a public place and everyone is horrified!
A letter to my son on his last few days of nursing
I know one day, a day probably too soon in my opinion, you will be all grown and the days of me nursing you will be long gone. I will look back and fondly remember our special time together, but you will have no recollection it ever occurred. This letter is something I hope you can reference when that time comes because I want you to know in my words why this was important for me to do for you.
For these past nearly 14 months, I have been 100 percent committed to providing you with the most natural nutrition your little body needs from none other than my own body. This involved countless late nights, early mornings, 12 months of driving to and from your daycare for lunchtime feedings, and I would be remiss to not mention the countless pump breaks (all over the country might I add). I didn’t just do it for the obvious reason: nutrition, convenience, or saving money. And I promise, I do not write this for praise. While this might seem like a sacrifice of my freedom, I see it very differently. I’ll explain.
I know God put me on this earth to be your mother. When I was born, you were already set in the plans for my life. Every moment up until your birthday was prepping me to be exactly what I needed to be for you.
Becoming a mother is one of the most selfless things a woman does (blood or adoptive), it is saying, “I value this little thing more than myself and will do everything I can to ensure it not only survives but thrives.” And nursing is one of those ways.
It all started with my mother (your grandmother). She breastfed my two sisters (your aunts) and me for many months each. Her dedication seems even more remarkable to me, when I think about her commitment to my baby sister. My little sister spent the better half of the summer of 1994 in the NICU as a preemie. What did my mother do? Without question, she set a schedule to get fresh breast milk to the hospital for my sister every day, all day. She never questioned what she needed to do; she just did it. She didn’t receive any praise or accolades, though it was well deserved considering she was also parenting too preteens and living in a brand new city. However, she did receive something more meaningful to her, a healthy, happy baby who came home from the NICU still breastfeeding and ready to grow. The influence of my mother’s selfless example, subconsciously prepared me for my own journey into motherhood. She was candid about the process, allowing us to ask questions and learn about nursing. And as a 12-year impressionable teenager, she even let me watch. Having this frame of reference didn’t make it seem so foreign, it made it what it is supposed to be…natural. I am extremely grateful for this experience even though at the time I didn’t realize its impact.
16 years later, your father and I would find out we were expecting our first baby boy, your older brother. Holy smokes, did I struggle at the beginning with nursing him. It seemed anything but natural, how did my mom make it look so easy?!?! I truly believe, if my mom hadn’t been so open with us, I would have given up that first week. Instead, I set in my mind I wasn’t going to quit. Besides having an awesome support team, I sought help and discovered your brother was actually struggling to latch and he would need to have a procedure to fix it. Once we figured that out and I felt like I knew what I was doing, it all was falling into place. I went back to work after a three-month maternity leave, but visited him every day on lunch and pumped twice during the day to build up a nice supply. BUT it still felt overwhelming and I even cried…a lot. I would pray and ask for help from your dad or even Grandma and slowly after about four months, I no longer felt overwhelmed. It even started to become second nature, just part of my daily routine like brushing my teeth. I continued to nurse him until he was 13 months, even though I probably would have gone longer. Our moments together nursing were like nothing I had experienced in my life; a sweet, tender, uninterrupted partnership that was only ours. I cried the last feeding almost as much as the first day I saw his sweet face for the first time.
Fast forward again. Two years and two month later, on June 24, 2015, your birthday, your dad and I were once again blessed with a healthy “little” baby boy (you were pretty big actually). You surprised us two weeks early, but every single bit of you was perfect. Just like your brother, nursing was a struggle for you too, but this time I felt so much more equipped and empowered. I set up an appointment with the Lactation Consultant and from that day on, you have been an amazing eater. We even made it through my work trips, where I was away anywhere from a couple nights to a week at a time. A few times, you even decided you wanted to try biting me…and I threatened to quit. But that didn’t make you happy and you conceded.
So I know you are probably thinking, “Mom, this is way too much info” (I imagine you saying this to me while rolling your eyes with a cracking, sarcastic-in-tone teenager’s voice). There are two reasons I wrote this letter to you.
- You can be that guy:
I believe it is as important for men to understand the struggles and steadfast loyalty needed to nurse a baby as it is for females. You can, and should be, that support system for women in your life (and I don’t just mean you have to marry a woman). Friends, family, any nursing female can benefit from a supportive male to help her through tough nursing times. Most often in our society (and hopefully this is changing), it is the men who judge nursing woman because frankly, they just don’t relate. I want to make you aware and I want to be a resource for you. Your grandpa and your dad were both nothing but supportive. They would protect me from staring eyes when I fed you in public or were a shoulder to cry on when I felt defeated. This support was priceless. You can be that guy who reassures her that she is strong enough to continue.
- I needed you too:
While undoubtedly you needed me, nursing was also about me needing you. Our time together is so precious to me; I honestly am not ready for it end. You are eating normal table food and whole milk now, and lots of it. You probably don’t need me anymore. But I still need you. There are countless physical and medical reasons why nursing is beneficial for mothers, but for me it went beyond that. As my intro said, I never felt like I was sacrificing anything to feed you. I thanked you every day that you didn’t give up on me. Some moms don’t get to nurse, either their milk doesn’t come in or the baby doesn’t take to it. So it wasn’t just a choice I got to make, but even when I struggled to get you food, you stayed along for the ride. So, thank you for giving me this opportunity. It not only strengthened your little body, but strengthened my soul. It also empowered me as a mom, gave me a sense of purpose, and cultivated an unbreakable bond between us.
Don’t think I am picking on you; I created an open dialogue for your brother too. He was able to experience almost every time I nursed you or pumped (boy did he get a kick out of that). He asked questions about how his baby brother ate and why it was different than what he was eating, and I answered honestly and in real “non-kiddie” terms. It also allowed me to reminisce with him on his nursing experience. And what in the beginning seemed mysterious was soon ordinary.
While you won’t be able to experience it first hand like your brother, I hope this letter still empowers you. Not only to be a supportive man to a nursing mother, but also so you will be knowledgeable and an advocate on the topic. My heart is so full as I type these last few sentences, and if this letter does nothing else, I hope it at least makes you feel extremely loved.
I guess, I will slowly stop nursing you, but don’t worry it will unquestionably be harder on me than it is going to be on you.
PS- I forgive you for biting me.