I Breastfed A Child Who Could Carry On A Conversation

Despite the side glances and rude comments I breastfed my toddler and I wouldn't change a thing

I’m always amazed by how we’re expected to just fumble through life, learning along the way. I can’t remember much general life advice given to me, but I can tell you that the very moment the world knew I was pregnant, advice rained down upon me like locusts in a plague.

It felt like nothing was simple, not even feeding my baby. There were rules for what I had to eat, rules for how to dress her, how to get her to sleep, how to comfort her. It was overwhelming, to say the least.

I spent a lot of time on online message boards trying to find information that would help me make good decisions for my baby. The debates raged on, because what’s more heated than how we choose to raise our children? There are so many opinions about what’s “best”, and let’s face it: none of it is easy. Being a parent is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.

I chose to breastfeed, but maybe not for the noblest of reasons: breastfeeding was free and money was tight. It wasn’t that I had anything against formula, it’s that I felt I could use what I had, so I did.

I can’t say breastfeeding was an easy journey for me. Those early days were filled with pain, frustration, cracked and bleeding nipples and tears. The world was polarized in its advice: “Give up! Happy mom, happy baby!” and “Keep trying! It’s natural, it’ll get easier!” echoed in my head. Wherever I went, I felt judged. Cover up! Don’t cover up! Nurse for this long! Introduce a bottle!

Parenting is a game you’ll never win.

For nearly two years, my daughter nursed. If people were awkward about my breastfeeding when she was an infant, they were positively hostile about nursing a toddler. I was told she’d have no confidence, I was told she’d be a picky eater, I was told a million things, but I let her decide when she was ready to wean. I cited the science behind it, but when an opinion is rooted that deeply, it’s hard to change someone else’s mind. And really, I didn’t have strong opinions about breastfeeding; it was just something that was finally a smooth part of parenting my daughter.

When my son was born, it was clear he had a lot of health challenges. He was born with extremely severe eczema and food allergies. We struggled to settle his skin and gastro system but it was clear that whatever was in my breast milk was negatively affecting him. Some doctors suggested allergen-free formula but I felt like eliminating foods from my own diet and offering my son the benefits of breast milk was worthwhile. One doctor we saw highly recommended breastfeeding for as long as possible, to try and boost my son’s immune system and pass along some of my own immunities to him.

And so, for more than 1000 days, I nursed my son. I nursed him through teething; I nursed him through learning to walk. I nursed him through learning to speak, even.  He could clearly communicate with me when he was hungry, when he wanted “milkies” and when he was wholly unimpressed with pretty much everything in life.

The debates raged on, and people gave me unsolicited advice constantly. Breastfeeding my children for a total of five years of my life is something I’ll always remember fondly and, also, something that I will never insist anyone else try to do. My only piece of advice to a new parent is to go with your gut. Ignore the debates, focus on the needs of your baby and yourself, and use the opinions out there only as a way to gain knowledge. 

Alex Durrell is a freelance writer, blogger, speaker and entrepreneur. She does in fact blog at I Don't Blog and she covers everything allergy-related at Irritated By Allergies.

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