Over the past couple of weeks, attachment parenting has gotten some serious attention. Some things that fall under the umbrella of attachment parenting -- probably most intensely, breastfeeding -- have been discussed over and over by lots of people I know, and I've been witness to and involved in those conversations both in real life and on the internet. I have cold unfriended some folks because educating them was not a high enough priority for me to deal with their ignorance in the meantime. That said, however, I'd be remiss to keep out of the fray because for all of the Psychology Today articles, the scientific studies on the nutritive benefits of breastfeeding past infancy, the anecdotal stories I can send you or post passively on Facebook, there is one point that nobody else can make, and I'm here to make it. I'm making it for you, girl with whom I attended high school, who said, "Just put it in a cup!" And for you, lady I used to work with, who said, "U know she's getting off on it, ew lol." For you, dude I don't even actually know, who instructed mothers to "save the boobs for the infants and men," and for you, guy from college who simply said, "perverted." Oh yeah, and you, lady who insisted that breastfed toddlers and preschoolers will grow up to be "creepy mama's boy"s. I'd like to have a word with allayou.
You see, you weren't talking directly to me. You were talking about another woman, another child (both of whom exist in the real world, incidentally, and have actual feelings, FYI) or the hypothetical offspring of hypothetical women. But I'd like you to meet my 29 month old. There he is! His name is George. You probably already know him, because you know me. That's him, breastfeeding. YES! He still nurses, twice a day or more, and he is nearly two and a half. I know it doesn't matter to you, because I've seen you dismiss this statistic with frankly pretty ballsy ethnocentricity, but he is still well below the worldwide average age for weaning.
You say having breastmilk is fine, but why not use a cup? Well, riddle me this: when I'm out to eat and some guy in his best polo shirt is trying to impress his date by attempting, but failing, to use chopsticks, do I approach him and say, excuse me, but for god's sake just use a fork? Do I mention that eating his dinner noodle by noodle takes so long that it can't have very much nutritional value? Do I suggest he has an Asian fetish? Of course not, because the way someone else eats doesn't affect me at all.
Next up, perversion. Are you really calling me perverted? Have you ever breastfed someone? I'd like you to come over at bedtime, watch my child nurse after we read stories and then call our nightime routine perverted. To my face. To his face. Right in our real-life faces. If you can't do that, kindly STFU.
Benefits? Not too long ago, George had a bug. It was gross. Real gross. We called the doctor, who advised us to start giving him Pedialyte. "He still nurses, so we've been doing that..." "OH!" said the doctor. "Just do that, then. Great!" If you'd care to, please feel free to stop by her office or make an appointment to challenge our family doctor (a regular ol' allopathic physician, so don't go accusing her of being one of those dreaded hippie naturopaths). Her name is Kellie Jacobs and every time we see her, she congratulates me for still giving my children the many benefits of breastmilk (high five, Dr. Jacobs!). Where did you get your immunology/medical degree again?
Now, as for raising someone who will turn into a lecherous cling-on, I suppose that remains to be seen. What do you think about George, though? Does he seem overly attached to you? When we ran into you at the grocery store, or the pizza place, or when we saw you at the park, did he strike you as a kid with no coping skills? Was he whiny and demanding, entitled (you know, more than a normal toddler)? Did he seem unhealthy? Or was he running around, singing Old McDonald to himself, addressing the waitstaff with pleases and thank yous, doling out hugs and pleasant conversation, eating "real food" and drinking water from a glass...? If you saw us, and felt worried for the way my son might turn out, you sure did hide it well! In fact, you (and you, and you) have commented many times on what a bright, happy, funny, beautiful, caring child he is. Thanks again; you were right!
My son has been able to "ask for it" since he began signing 'milk' at five months old (and before that, he "asked for it" by rooting, of course). By many people's stated standards, he should've weaned then. Rather than punish my kid for newfound communication skills, however, I encouraged him. I breathed a sigh of relief: one fewer thing to guess about among the many unsureties of parenthood. If your "ask for it" rule really only applies to kids who can say some clear version of "I need to nurse" (including "I want boobies," which is just fine whether you like it or not, because they aren't your boobies to get offended over), well, I'll leave you with this: You probably aren't someone who finds it easy to say, "I need a hug." That's an assumption I'm making because you come off as uncomfortable with close, open, mutually beneficial relationships. Whether or not that's true is kind of irrelevant, but if you said to me, "I need a hug," you know what? I'd give you one. I wouldn't say, hey man, you seem pretty in touch with your needs, so you can probably come up with a coping mechanism on your own. I wouldn't question your motives or assume you were trying to manipulate me. I wouldn't try to determine if you were really and truly sad enough to deserve a hug. As such, I take my son's needs at face value as well. And when he's ready to give up this coping skill, this source of nutrition and comfort and immunity, his body and his heart will tell him so. If it becomes a chore I can't bear before then, I'll be the one responsible for explaining that to him. Until then, however, I'll be damned if I let some busybody prude try to make me feel bad for breastfeeding my child.