14 May 2012

Extended Breastfeeding. Or, as the Mamas call it: Breastfeeding.

Can we all just agree that the "Mommy Wars" are a gimmick created by corporate executives who want to get us all hot and bothered and sell things, especially magazines. Like this one:

Seriously, did they not search for the oldest looking 3 year-old (with the hottest mom) they could find?

How long you breastfeed should be in that same category of mundane personal choices like how long you keep your fingernails and how you take your coffee. Who cares? And why judge. Okay, I am a bit clueless about these things thanks to my removal from the Western world since before we were thinking babies.

But come on Mamas. It's time to pull it together and become secure in our choices, so that when some magazine executive thinks he can sell issues by asking, "Are You Mom Enough?" we see that's ridiculous and don't care. It's hard to wage a war with someone who doesn't care. Mommy wars over.

So I showed the cover to Mama Youyou. I can't lie. Her eyes doubled in size and her tongue hung out of her mouth. But then I asked how long Congo Mamas nurse and she said, "Well at least until Charlotte's age." Judgement intended. This speaks a bit to the sensationalism of the cover. Even if you think it's totally normal to nurse for several years, TIME still makes it look shocking.

Then she said, we keep 'em nursing for comfort, for convenience, for free birth control. (This is where I present Exhibit A: Our surprise 2nd baby conceived at the precise moment I stopped nursing Charlotte.)

Mamicho says she weaned her girls around 7 months-old so she could go to school. She admits this was WAY early. Ahh, now it makes sense why she thinks my breast pump is the second coming.

To find out more about Congo Mamas and their history of breastfeeding, I stumbled upon this fascinating article called "Le Bebe en Brousse" (or Babies in the Bush): European Women, African Birth Spacing and Colonial Intervention in Breast Feeding in the Belgian Congo. In sum, our Congo Mamas had a pretty good little system of extended breastfeeding, postpartum abstinence, and thoughtful family planning going until the wise ole Belgian missionaries showed up and introduced formula. And bribed them with gifts to deliver their babies in Belgian clinics. Oh and then fed their infants in mess halls and taught moms to sleep separate from their babies and wean early. Thank you, Belgians. You always knew what was best for Congo.

Thank goodness the Belgians left the Bonobos alone. They nurse their babies until they're 4 or 5 years-old and wean them when they're ready for more Bonobo babies.

I breastfed Charlotte for a little over 6 months. Then for a variety of reasons, stopped. I distinctly remember someone of the American variety saying, "Oh, stopped already? Couldn't hack it, huh?" So basically, stop too early and you're a wimp. Stop too late and you're weird.

The magical moment when you can wean without social commentary is nonexistent. So it's best to do whatever the hell you want. I'm currently still nursing Ani and hope she can let go by kindergarten. Her attachment was not by design, but Dr. Sears would be proud. Ani can nurse as long as she wants because I'm too lazy to think about weaning. And honestly, I appreciate the calorie burn. Go ahead and judge me, but my current motto is, I'd rather nurse all night than workout all day.

And based on that cover photo, I'm pretty sure that mom's rockin' bod is thanks to nearly 4 years of milk production. Fact is, we nurse and stop nursing for many reasons. Some selfless, some selfish. Certainly none worth warring over.


  1. What you say makes so much good sense, Sarah. Terrific post.

  2. Great post! And no wonder the Time Mom is so thin - that kid is sucking off bouzou calories! I have no idea how long I would have nursed my kids. They all just quit on their own, much to my disappointment, at 18 mo, 13 mo, and 12 mo.

  3. I get so heartbroken when I hear of Euros u=intervention in every other culture in the world! If I had a time machine...so much wisdom and goodness lost.


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