Apology to breastfeeding mothers

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It may surprise you to know that I was not always a fervent breastfeeding mom. In fact, Jesse admitted to me that he used to worry that I wouldn’t want to breastfeed our kids one day. (Haha!) When I was younger, and children weren’t yet even a glimmer in my eye, I thought that I would stop breastfeeding when my babies were “old enough to ask for it.” Where did I come up with that cut off? I have no idea, but it seemed proper to me. I thought breastfeeding was for tiny babies, not for older infants, and certainly not for *gasp* toddlers. My, how times have changed!

Once, when I was in my 20s, I was walking with a good friend of mine and his mom, who was in town visiting for the weekend. I really clicked with her – she is such a warm, funny, friendly person, and I really loved hanging out with her. As we strolled together, she regaled us with funny stories about when her son was little. She started telling us about a time when he was in her bed snuggling with her, breastfeeding. At one point, he drowsily said to her, “Other side, Mom…” At this, I erupted in laughter, shocked that my friend had been breastfeeding when he was old enough to ask for the “other side.” I laughed and laughed, poking my friend in the ribs, patently amused by the idea that my friend would possibly still be breastfeeding as an older child.

It mortifies me to recount that story now. I cannot believe I was that insensitive. I cannot believe that I couldn’t just listen to her story, and think about what a wonderful mother she was – and still is. To be fair, I was completely unexposed to breastfeeding at that stage of my life. I had seen a breastfeeding mother in person exactly one time – ONE! Shockingly, it was when I was a young girl, maybe 5 years old. A woman in our neighborhood had given birth, and my mother brought me with her to visit the baby. We were sitting with the new mother in her nursery, and the woman began to breastfeed her newborn. I remember being shocked, not knowing where to look, sure that I was seeing something I shouldn’t. I feel sad when I think about it, that as a child I thought breastfeeding was something inappropriate. It says a lot.

To all the breastfeeding mothers of the world – past, present, and future – I am sorry. It is no excuse, but I just didn’t know. I didn’t understand. I was too young, too naive. To my friend’s mother, who was telling a warm, loving story about nurturing her son, I am so sorry. I am sorry I was such a tittering fool. I’m sorry for my callous disregard of your feelings. I’m sorry I reduced your story of motherhood to potty humor. I didn’t know. I just didn’t know.

To all you breastfeeding moms, thank you for being part of the movement that is helping to normalize breastfeeding. Every time you nurse your baby in public, you’re helping to change how society sees breastfeeding mothers. To my friend’s mom, thank you for sharing your story with me, despite the fact that I was an insensitive young clod. Thank you for being gracious, and for not hating me for being naive. Thank you for trying to show me that breastfeeding is normal, even for older babies. (For the record, my 19 month old routinely asked me for the “other side.” 😀 )

To all the mothers out there, whether they breastfeed or not, keep up the amazing work! We are a tribe, a tribe of mothers, and we all need to support each other.

(Lead photo by Natasha Sweeney for Mama Mgeni. Thanks for the lovely shot!)

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