Breastfeeding

by Kathi Blackwell

Everything I do is always ‘by the book’. I like to plan each aspect of my life by researching exactly what is supposed to be done. We are expecting our first child and the path is perfectly planned out according to my extensive pregnancy and infant care library.

  • 9 month pregnancy…check.
  • 6 month maternity leave booked…check.

Great! Just as I expected.

  • Labour pains…check.
  • Pushing…check.
  • Healthy new baby…check.
  • Now for the nursing latch, right in the delivery room like it said on page 47…check.

I now go home and begin to nurse my baby for six weeks, at which time I introduce a bottle of breastmilk so he can get used to it… okay, maybe I’ll try again tomorrow… let’s give him another week, I think he has the sniffles, such a change is unfair when he is clearly unwell.

“He’ll take the bottle when he’s hungry enough!” I am told by many so very helpful friends and relatives. So we make him wait, one hour, two, three, trying the bottle at regular intervals, my husband trying when I am out of the room. Four hours, five hours…Okay, enough, he’s just not ready.

Four months old now, I should be weaning him slowly to a bottle in the event of my return to work.
Maybe we should try different bottles, that’s the ticket. $10 bottles, $20 bottles, $1 bottles. No way. I even get him nursing strongly, hold a warm bottle of breastmilk right beside my nipple, slowly insert the bottle into his sucking mouth beside my nipple, then gently extricate my nipple from…
No way.

Five months old now and he’s nursing happily, this pudgy new appendage of mine, and I look down at him and see my new path as plain as day. Maternity leave extension. Bottles given away. More nursing bras purchased. A practiced smile and nod when offered more lovely and so very helpful advice on how to wean my son.

Ahhh! Now this is living. By this time I can walk around the mall breastfeeding, with my son tucked up under my shirt, and no one even knows. I nurse my son for 12 months. I quit my job and open up a home daycare because I’m pregnant again anyway.

I look in my personal baby library for books that have a chapter about raising your baby without a bottle and find none. Time for a new personal baby library. I nurse my second baby for 13 months. She doesn’t seem interested in a rubber nipple either, but I still try once a month. I give up dairy products when she seems to be allergic to them.

By this time I can breastfeed while pushing kids on the swings and chatting with my friends. I smile and nod when the so very helpful advice indicates that I should try harder with this one, although I don’t complain about breastfeeding, not ever. I enjoy it.

I nurse my third baby for 14 months. This time I don’t even try a bottle, not once. I don’t smile and nod anymore when given not so very helpful advice. I just shrug my shoulders and say “Nope.”

By this time, I can breastfeed while pouring juice and talking on the phone. We’re all very happy. Contrary to some belief, my children were not ruined by our choice. My kids are really happy with their lunchtime juice box at school, and when I see them standing waiting to go in before the bell rings, I look up and down the line and try to figure out which kids took a bottle and which kids didn’t.
Funny, but I can’t tell.

 

© Kathi Blackwell

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

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* Gloria Steinem