The Internet is abuzz. It's a media feeding frenzy, all over this magazine cover, which has made the Breast Nazis very happy.
When I had my son, two women came into my hospital room, smiling so very pleasantly. I thought they were some of the various church volunteers that visit the sickly, otherwise I would have been more wary. These lovely women were actually from a breastfeeding society, and they proceeded to tell me all about how great breastfeeding is. My son would gain weight faster. He would be able to punch holes through brick walls. He would never be sick. He would be smarter than Stephen Hawking. And...as a special bonus, my breastfed child would be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! They were so effusive in their praise of breastfeeding(You can lose 40lbs in a day!) that I started looking for lobotomy scars or other evidence that they were Pod people.
I had researched breastfeeding, and indeed there are tons of health benefits for the baby, which do not include any superpowers. I had already decided that I wanted to breastfeed. I
didn't need these women, as pleasant as they were, to persuade me. I
started to speak several times, but they were not to be deterred from
their speech. So I just sat, nodding politely every now and then. Then things got weird. It would be a crime against humanity for me not to breastfeed, I was told. Charles Manson's mother didn't breastfeed, and look how he turned out! I would have to be the most horrible mother on Planet Earth not to breastfeed. Maybe these women did not say that outright, but that was the gist of their prepared speech. I must breastfeed! I started to feel bad about myself.
Except what if I physically couldn't breastfeed? Zane was early. What if that meant a strike at the milk manufacturing plants in my chest? I said as much, voicing my fears. Not to worry, these women told me. The milk would come, if I would just pump every two hours. Every two hours for how long? By the time they left, my head was spinning. I would not be a real woman, or a good mother, if I did not breastfeed. If I felt this way, how must other women feel, fresh from the physical trauma of childbirth?
I got angry at these Breast Nazis. Why should a woman be made to feel less than perfect just because she might be unable to breastfeed, or if she chooses not to breastfeed? Who decided this? Why make a new mother feel horrible about something that might be out of her control? What purpose does it serve for them to try to bully women this way? Over the years since Zane was born, it seems like some of the women who breastfeed tend to lord it over the women who don't or can't. The implication is that I am a terrible mom, that I am not "mom enough", because I was only able to breastfeed for six months.23 That the response to this magazine cover has been so extreme tells me that I am not the only mother who has experienced these feelings.
Here are MY feelings on the subject of breastfeeding a child over the
age of two: I don't think it is a good idea. I think that it can have
negative consequences for the child(in 18 years, when that boy is
looking for a job and his prospective employer googles him, for one),
and ultimately a negative effect on the attachment between mother and
child. After a certain point, I think that breastfeeding becomes more
about what the mother wants and not what the child needs. In the wild, weaning is done
pretty quickly; babies don't survive otherwise. That is how it is supposed to be; the child has to separate from the parent and learn some measure of independence. But let me make it clear that I have no interest in
forcing others to believe as I do. What works for one mother may not work for another, and while it may seem weird to me, I try to not to judge. However, I resent the idea that I am not "mom enough" because I am not still breastfeeding my 4 year old.
Being "mom enough" has nothing to do with how long you breastfeed. It has nothing to do with getting your picture on the cover of a magazine. It has nothing to do with everyone sleeping in the same bed, or keeping your child with you 24/7. Parenting has everything to do with love, and it is never about YOU. Once a mother understands that, she is "mom enough".