This isn’t going to be the post you think it is. Seriously. My boys’ current fascination with breasts has very little to do with the titillating prospect of female nudity. No, my boys’ current fascination with breasts is purely based in their function — just when I think I’ve learned everything I need to know about breastfeeding, my boys teach me something new.
I’m an avid supporter of breastfeeding. I started out nursing my oldest with the idea that I would do it as long as it was easy and convenient. Surprisingly to me, it was neither easy nor convenient for the first month or so as I struggled with bad advice, over-supply, a hair trigger let-down that could peel paint from the wall at 40 paces, and cracked and bleeding nipples. Watching Boy#1 grow at an amazing rate and knowing that it was all because of me helped me to work through those challenging early weeks and get past the initial hurdles I faced.
Around month 3, breastfeeding became easy. Dare I say that breastfeeding even became enjoyable? Watching Boy#1 make eyes at me while nursing, try to smile with a mouthful of nipple, and suck himself to sleep gave me days full of beautiful moments of connection with my baby. I started rocking that “new mama” glow and thinking about having a Boy#2. I felt like a super hero growing my Michelin Man baby.
Eventually, Boy#2 was on his way to becoming a reality. I nursed through my pregnancy, I nursed my toddler when I found out about unborn Boy#2’s kidney problems, I nursed while I grieved for the homebirth that wouldn’t happen, and I nursed both babies after Boy#2 was born. Tandem nursing a 20months old and a newborn was an interesting experience — one I would never have contemplated a few years earlier — but I persisted and many a time found myself with an armful of newborn and another armful of gymnastic toddler.
Eventually, though, I knew it was time to encourage Boy#1 to wean. With the help of a “Boobie Box” of candied contraband, Boy#1 stopped nursing at the grand old age of 27 months. Boy#2 continued to nurse. Boy#2 became “The Inflatibaby” — huge for his age. I found it hard to keep up my caloric intake and lost a lot of weight. Eating became a chore. My pants became too big as I became too small.
Boy#2 took me into more uncharted breastfeeding territory — that of extended breastfeeding. I tried to see it as an opportunity to educate people on the beauty of nursing a toddler/preschool/JK child. I suffered many dirty looks, ignorant comments, and eventually decided that breastfeeding was something we only did at home, then only something we did at bedtime, then… we were done. I would like to say I remember specifically the last time we nursed, but the truth is that I don’t. Our nursing cuddles had become few and far between by the end, and eventually they ceased.
There was no conscious decision to end — just a feeling that it was no longer needed. He was a busy, inquisitive 4 year old who no longer wanted to stop and nurse. He wanted to run, climb, explore, dance. He still has foggy memories of nursing and now likes to talk about them from time to time as I nurse his baby brother.
Yes, now I’m breastfeeding another baby boy. This will be another boy who understands that breasts have a function, a beautiful biological purpose — another boy for sleepy cuddles, milky smiles, and reinforcement of my feelings of super-heroism. This is the baby boy who provides a learning opportunity for his curious, scientific, 8 year old BigBrother#1 to ask questions about how breastfeeding works, what breast milk is made of, what I mean when I say “breast milk is a living food”, and why it’s so good for babies.
All of these teaching moments culminated one perfect evening, when Boy#1 informed me that women had “cooler” bodies than men. I asked him what he meant and he said, “because women can grow babies and breast milk is really cool.”
He’s right. Breast milk is really cool.